The beautiful Irish countryside offers a lovely place to retire.

Irish natives who have lived outside the country for a long time often dream of retiring to Ireland, contemplating a better quality of life, a chance to reunite with old friends and family or to simply live out their golden years in a less frantic society. If you fulfill the residency requirements established by the Irish authorities or you are already an Irish citizen, you are eligible to retire in Ireland and to reap the benefits that country has to offer seniors.

Log onto the Citizens Information website, operated by the Citizens Information Board, to determine if indeed you are eligible to retire in Ireland. If you are an Irish citizen, you are allowed to move in and out of Ireland freely and to live there permanently if you wish.

If you are not a citizen of either a European Union country or a native Swiss, you must have permission to remain in Ireland if your intended stay is longer than three months. If your intention is to retire in Ireland, you must obtain such permission by registering with the local immigration registration officer in the county where you intend to reside. This should be done shortly after arriving in Ireland.

Housing is expensive in Ireland, so it is best to find a rental property at first. Do all of the legwork before leaving your current country of residence. Housing is generally cheaper in the West of Ireland, most expensive in the Dublin city area. If you are an older Irish-born emigrant currently living in rented accommodation in your current country of residence, and you are thinking of retiring to Ireland, find out about the Safe-Home program, a special initiative set up by the Irish government.

Find out about your entitlement to health services. Even if you intend to retire in Ireland for a portion of the year, you will certainly need health coverage. If you are under 70 and your earnings are below a certain range, you may be eligible for a medical card, which will entitle you to health services at no cost. Other retirees take out private insurance, which is less expensive than private insurance in the U.S.

Before retiring to Ireland, find out about the social security system there. Also know that Ireland has special social security agreements with specific countries outside of the EU, including the United States. This agreement protects the pension rights of people who have worked and paid social security contributions in both Ireland and the U.S., thereby allowing social security contributions paid in one country to be counted towards qualifying for certain payments in the other country. This means retirees could be entitled to receive state pensions, invalidity pensions, widow/widower's pensions and guardian's pensions. Retirees may also qualify for free fuel, free travel and a household benefits package, which includes electricity/natural gas/bottled gas refill allowance, free TV license and telephone allowance.

If you intend to drive when you retire to Ireland, you should be able to buy a used car for a very reasonable price. Over the past few years, the Irish car market has been flooded with used cars as buyers bought new cars more frequently. There are numerous websites in Ireland where you can view advertisements for used cars. If you'd rather wait until you move to Ireland, looking in your local newspaper is always a good idea. You could also import your own car into Ireland, but before you drive it, you must pay vehicle registration tax (VRT), motor tax and motor insurance. You are exempt from paying VRT if you purchase a new vehicle six months before leaving your current country of residence and then ship it to Ireland.

If you have a pet you'd like to bring to Ireland with you, know that there are specific regulations about bringing animals into the country. See also the Citizens Information website for more information.