Q: I returned to Ireland last week and am finding it hard to get a Personal Public Service number (PPSN) and to open a bank account. I have been working in New Zealand for the last 10 years but recently took up a job offer here. I don’t have a permanent address yet as I’m staying with friends until I can find a place to rent. This is making it difficult for me to get a PPSN – and to open a bank account. How can I sort this out quickly? Tom, Co Kildare
You don’t mention whether you previously lived or worked in Ireland. If you did work here or claimed any benefits in Ireland after 1979, it could well be that you may already have a valid PPSN in the system here already. So this is the first thing to check out. You can do this by contacting the Client Identity Services section of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. If you have a PPSN already, request that the department posts this out to you at your friend’s address.
If you do not have a PPSN, book an appointment with your nearest PPS registration centre by phone or by setting up an online account with mywelfare.ie. To complete the PPSN application process, you will have to attend a face-to-face meeting at the PPSN registration centre and bring along a number of documents. These include a valid photo ID, a reason why a PPSN is required, and proof of your address in Ireland.
I understand that you will have a difficulty in providing the proof of address (in your own name here in Ireland). However, the department will accept a utility bill in your friend’s name, at their address. This should also be accompanied by a short signed statement from your friend to confirm that you are residing at the address.
Be aware that the commencement of a new job is not considered a valid reason for a requirement to have a PPSN. So, evidence that you need a PPSN for a transaction with a specified Government body or department will be required. Some examples of proof of this that you could bring along (if relevant to you) include a copy of a council housing application form, an application for a medical card or GP visit card, or an application for a driver’s licence or learner permit.
The second part of your query relates to difficulties opening a bank account.
Due to Criminal Justice Legislation in Ireland (relating to the prevention of money laundering), anyone wishing to open a bank account in Ireland is required to provide valid photo ID and proof of address in Ireland.
In terms of proof of address, most banks here will require at least one form of proof of address (usually a recent utility bill in your own name at your Irish address). However, if, as in your case, the person seeking to open the account does not have a utility bill, some banks will accept a letter from a Government body, sent to them at their Irish address.
Therefore once you have written confirmation of your PPSN (to your friend’s address), you can try approaching the banks again to see if it will open the account for you. Another possible alternative for proof of address, is, once you have details of your PPSN, you can set up an online account with the Revenue Commissioners (via revenue.ie). As part of the registration process, the Revenue Commissioners will need to send you a PIN number in the post. The letter from Revenue to you at your friend’s address in Ireland may also be accepted as proof of address.
Carer’s allowance woes
Q: I returned to Ireland from France recently so that I can care for my brother, who has special needs. I worked in France for many years. My husband, who is French, is due to move to Ireland shortly too – once he secures a job over here. I’ve been turned down for a carer’s allowance here because the Department of Social Protection is of the opinion that I am not habitually resident in Ireland. I still have a bank account in France. My husband and I also own a property in France – which we are planning to rent out when he moves over here. How do prove that I’m habitually resident in Ireland? Emer, Co Kerry
To be eligible for the carer’s allowance, one of the conditions is that the applicant must be considered habitually resident in the State. There are a number of factors that are used to assess if applicants are habitually resident in the State for the purposes of certain social welfare schemes, including the carer’s allowance. These include the length and continuity of residence in Ireland, the length and purpose of any absence from Ireland, their nature and pattern of employment, their main centre of interest, and the applicant’s future intentions to live in Ireland (as it appears from evidence).
It is not clear from your query whether you have yet exhausted the appeals process for your carer’s allowance claim. The decision letter from the carer’s allowance section should have clearly outlined why you were not considered habitually resident in the State. If you still have leave to appeal, and you can provide any new or additional information to counteract the points raised in the decision letter, you should go down this route as soon as possible.
From what you have outlined, the following are likely to have played a significant part in the negative outcome of your application: first, your spouse is still resident in France; second, you have a family home in France; and third: you still have bank account open in France. It is worth noting that departmental guidelines state that having a spouse still resident overseas is not, in and of itself, sufficient grounds for a claim to be disallowed on habitual residency grounds – however, we expect that based on the combination of the factors above, a decision was made that your ‘centre of interest’ is still in France.
If the decision that has been reached is a final one, having gone through the appeals process, all is not lost. You mention that your husband plans to join you in Ireland and that it is your intention to rent out your home in France in the future. Once this is in place and your husband has joined you in Ireland, we would suggest that you reapply for the carer’s allowance.
Certainly any income earned from renting your home abroad will be taken into account in the means-testing side of things (when determining your eligibility for the carer’s allowance). However, the fact that your home is in France and you have a bank account there should not be sufficient grounds for your claim to be denied.
If submitting a new claim for the carer’s allowance down the line, you should provide as much back up documentation as you can to show that you and your husband have established yourselves in Ireland and that it is your intention to remain here for the foreseeable future. Proof that you have a car registered here, are registered with a GP, have bank accounts open here, or are on the electoral register, are some examples of how you can demonstrate this.
While all of the above is ongoing, you may wish to look into applying for the standalone Carers Support Grant (formerly know as the Respite Grant).
Karen McHugh is chief executive of Safe Home Ireland (safehomeireland.com); email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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