Entry 6: Getting a PPS Number

So, let’s assume that you’ve arrived in Ireland, you’ve registered with GNIB/INIS, and now you’re on the hunt for a job. Let’s also assume that you’ve then been lucky enough to have a real Irish person offer you a job. Time to get a Personal Public Service Number (PPS Number) so you avoid getting taxed incorrectly/too much.

A PPS Number is a unique number that sets you apart from a generic tourist and enables you to access (some of) the government services that ordinary Irish residents can. We’re talking things like social welfare and public healthcare**.

** it’s worth noting that Ireland and Australia have a reciprocal healthcare agreement (see this page for more information) so, if I understand correctly, any Australian visitor – WHA or not – can access emergency hospital treatment/prescription drugs in Ireland as if they were an Irish resident. But, if you’re on a WHA, you’ll be a ‘resident’ in Ireland and – while I’m not 100% on this – I believe you’re eligible for free public hospital services (but would still have to pay in-patient and out-patient hospital charges). Have a read of this page for more info).

Although the healthcare benefits are significant, from a WHA point-of-view, by far the most critical reason to get a PPS Number is so that you can work and pay taxes correctly and legally. You don’t need a PPS Number when you’re looking for a job, but you should (and only can) apply for one when you get a job offer. You need to apply for a PPS Number because Irish residents legally must register every job they have with the Irish tax department (called ‘Revenue’) (so they’re taxed the correct amount) – and you can’t register a job without a PPS Number. Until you register your job with Revenue, you’ll be taxed on an “emergency” basis – and you’ll pay far more tax than you are required to do (don’t worry, you’ll get the difference back, read on in later posts…).

The process of getting a PPS Number isn’t actually too difficult, and you can work while you’re doing it*. Like the ‘registration’ you need to do with immigration, you can only apply for a PPS Number in person. The offices that issue these PPS Numbers are called (simply enough) ‘PPS Number allocation centres’, and they exist in every county. If you’re in County Dublin, you’ll need to book an appointment online, but (I think) for the other PPS Number allocation centres, you can either book online or you can just rock up in person (you need to go to the one closest to you). Either way, I just rocked up in Galway without a booking and it was fine, but I can’t guarantee the ‘rocking up’ option will always work (don’t say I didn’t warn you about this being a glorified diary with plenty of unhelpful personal anecdotes). Just call ahead if you’re unsure.

* I briefly mentioned this in my post about getting a job.

There are five things you need to bring with you to the PPS Number allocation centre, and – all things going well – the process should be pretty straightforward once you get there:

  1. Passport;
  2. The physical Working Holiday Authorisation document (that laminated thing you got before you came to Ireland);
  3. Either your ‘Certificate of Registration’ (the little card – I call it a GNIB card – that I talked about earlier that you pick up after you’ve registered with immigration, ie. GNIB or INIS) or the receipt from the GNIB registration payment (if you haven’t picked your ‘Certificate of Registration’ yet;
  4. Proof of your address. The proof of address required to get a PPS Number is stricter than the proof required to register with immigration. Basically, a letter from your landlord/co-tenant stating that you’re living at a certain address (which worked for me with GNIB) will not cut for these purposes unless that letter is accompanied by a household utility bill showing the landlord/co-tenants name and the same address. A full list of the proof of address documents that are acceptable can be found here; and
  5. A letter of employment or offer of employment from your new employer. The technical reason you need this is because under Irish law, you are only eligible for a PPS Number if you are required to enter into what’s called a ‘transaction with a specified body’. Remember when I said that when you get offered a job in Ireland, you are required to register the job with the Revenue (Tax) office? Well, this requirement to register with Revenue is classified as a ‘transaction with a specified body’. You’ll need this letter of employment or offer of employment to prove that you need to enter into a ‘transaction with a specified body’ (ie. that you need to register with the Revenue office). Sorry for how clumsy that sounded. Basically, you need to prove you have a job offer/job, and therefore that you need to register the job with Revenue, in order to get a PPS Number. My employer wrote me a two-line, ‘to whom it may concern’ letter on the workplace letterhead saying that I had been employed at this workplace on a full-time basis since 26/09/2016, and to contact him if there were any queries. That’s all you should need in this letter.

NOTE: Simply looking for a job is not a ‘transaction with a specified body’ – and that’s why you can only get a PPS Number when you actually have a job offer.

If it all runs smoothly (which it should, if you have all of those documents), you’ll have to fill in & sign an application form, sign an electronic keypad, and get your photo taken (thankfully there’s no fee for getting a PPS Number).

Once that’s all done, you have to wait for a letter in the mail, sent to the address you gave at the PPS Allocation Centre, from the ‘Client Identity Services’ arm of the Department of Social Protection (these guys are like Ireland’s welfare department & are in charge of issuing and administering PPS Numbers). This letter will tell you what your PPS Number is, and give you a little information about what the PPS Number is used for. Just so you have an idea of timelines, I applied for my PPS Number (I think) on 7 October 2016 and the letter I got was dated 11 October 2016 (so it usually takes about a week – give or take – between your application and when you get the letter containing your PPS number).

You’ll also get – usually on the same day as the letter containing your PPS Number – a second letter from the Department of Social Protection. This second letter will contain your Public Services Card. This card has your name, photo, signature, PPS Number, card number and card expiry date. For what it’s worth, during my entire WHA, not once did I ever use this card. But nonetheless, here is what it looks like:

Public services card front.png
Front of Public Services card
Public services card back.png
Back of Public Services card

So, assuming that all has so-far run smoothly (an enormous and probably false assumption), you’ll have registered with immigration, got a job offer (and probably started working), and now you have a PPS Number.

You should tell your employer your PPS Number as soon as you have it (they’ll need it later when you register your job with Revenue).

You’ve now got to register yourself and your first job with Revenue (the Irish tax department, the equivalent of the Australian Tax Office), so you can sort your tax out (see the next post…).


You should also now be able to open a bank account! (see separate post…).

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