Joshua asked a great question:
"I'll admit that I know absolutely nothing about the labor laws of Ireland, so I'm still confused why you can't work. Especially because it sounds like Branden will be able to work once he's done with school. Can you talk about that sometime?"
It is a bit confusing so let me try and break it down for you. Basically, it all comes down to the fact that we are not EU citizens. If I was an EU citizen, then I could work here and move here for whatever reason I wanted, with little issue. Since I am not an EU citizen, then I only have a few ways that I am allowed to live here. I could either move here with a work visa, put in by a company that is wanting to hire me (but is limited to only a handful of professions in the medical field, IT, and University positions, and the permit costs 1000 Euros per year), or I could be a student, or as in my case, the spouse of a student (but even that is limited to spouses of PhD students only). So if Branden had been a master's student, I would not be allowed to come with him. Since I am only allowed to live here based on my spouse being a PhD student, my visa lists me as a dependent, which gives me as many rights as if I were just his child. His student visa limits him to only be able to work part time during the school year and he can work full time during school breaks, which is a bit silly since PhD's are year round.
Since I am basically considered by the government to be no more than a child, I have a big stamp in my passport that reads:
"Permitted to remain in Ireland on conditions that the holder does not enter employment, does not engage in any business or profession, and does not remain later than *date of visa renewal."
So I am not able to attain a work permit and get a different visa because non-EU people can't just get work permits for "any old" type of job. Everything I am qualified to do is not allowed because I would be limited to get a job only in the specified fields I mentioned above. This does works out for when Branden is no longer a student and wants to get a job because he wants to be a professor and that's a field that allows for non-EU work permits. PhD students are also allowed a year long visa to find employment after they graduate. This will be helpful.
The Irish government was in the process of amending their immigration laws right as we were trying to move. The international student office was certain that the laws would change in my favor since Ireland wants international PhD students, but when we got here, the law didn't change. We were told our only hope would be to write to the Department of Justice, plead our case, and hope for an exception. They wrote us back basically saying that they already recently went over their immigration laws and if they didn't amend it now, they weren't planning on amending it again anytime soon. So "too bad, so sad" basically.
We even aren't allowed to start our own businesses until we have EU citizenship, and getting EU citizenship will take us at least 8 years. Normally it's 5 years, but unfortunately they currently don't count the 3 years Branden's studying as time put into living in Ireland. We even looked into me becoming a student just so I could work part time too, but non-EU citizens pay double the University fees so the part time job allowance wouldn't cancel out the cost of paying to study. Luckily Branden has a scholarship that makes it so he only pays EU University fees, so we are saving half in tuition costs.
A lot of people here reassure me that I could get a job and that no one ever checks for work permits for visas. I have seen that this is true, but I can't do it with a clear conscious, knowing that I've got that big nasty stamp in my passport. Plus, since we are in a recession, it just takes someone to get a fire underneath them to decide to crackdown on illegals taking the jobs from Irish citizens, and I could, by random chance, get caught. Then what? I would be kicked out and probably not allowed to come back. That's not worth it to me since we are planning on living here permanently. Also, that could bust me with the US government as well, since even though we don't pay taxes on our money we make over here, we still have to report it to the IRS every year. So potentially, I could have 2 countries crack down on me and that's just not worth it. I don't want to go against the law just because that's just how people do it over here, and I want to ensure that I don't jeopardize my future of living here.
In so many ways, not being allowed to work has been a huge blessing. We have been able to see an incredible amount of love and support poured out over us from our friends and family back home. It's been very humbling and I have found how much more fulfilled I am by using my time in whatever way God leads me, instead of within the confines of an 8-5 job. The flexibility and the opportunities to volunteer have been priceless, so no matter how tough an tight things may be financially, there has been nothing to hold me back spiritually, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.