Irish citizenship means that you are legally recognised as being a national of Ireland and a citizen of the European Union. All Irish citizens (and EU citizens) living in Ireland enjoy certain guaranteed rights and privileges under the Irish Constitution, including equality before the law, freedom to travel, freedom of expression and religious liberty.
Irish citizens are entitled to carry an Irish passport and leave Ireland to travel abroad, to vote in Irish elections and to live, work and travel within the European Union and European Economic Area. Irish citizens living outside Ireland are also entitled to an Irish passport, as well as diplomatic support from Irish embassies and consulates abroad.
Most Irish citizens obtain their citizenship through birth or descent. If you and your parents were born in Britain but you have Irish grandparents, or at least one of your parents was born in Ireland (whatever your nationality), you are entitled to Irish citizenship by descent, but you must first register your birth in the Foreign Births Register. If you are a foreign national married to an Irish citizen, you can apply for Irish citizenship by naturalisation, although there is no longer an absolute entitlement to Irish citizenship through marriage. There is also no automatic right for non-EEA nationals who are family members of Irish citizens to move to Ireland on a long-term basis.
Irish citizens may hold dual citizenship, or citizenship of another country, but Irish citizenship does not relieve citizens of another country of requirements such as military service. If you are an Irish citizen, you may hold citizenship of another country if that country permits. Irish citizens living abroad who apply for citizenship of another country may have to renounce their Irish citizenship. However, people who were born in Ireland and do this may resume their Irish citizenship by making a declaration.
Irish citizenship through birth or descent
If you were born in Ireland and at least one of your parents was an Irish citizen, then you are also an Irish citizen. However, under the provisions of the 2004 Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, children born of certain foreign national parents since 1 January 2005 are not automatically entitled to Irish citizenship.
Children born on the island of Ireland since 1 January 2005 whose parents are British or who have refugee status are entitled to Irish citizenship. Other foreign national parents of children born in the island of Ireland since 1 January 2005 must show a genuine link to Ireland by proving that they have been resident legally in Ireland for at least three of the four years immediately before the birth of the child. If they can prove a genuine link to Ireland, their child will be entitled to Irish citizenship and can apply for a certificate of nationality.
If either of your parents was an Irish citizen when you were born, you are automatically an Irish citizen, wherever you were born. If your father was an Irish citizen but died before you were born, you are also an Irish citizen. It does not matter whether your parents were married or not. If your parent became an Irish citizen through marriage, adoption or naturalisation, inquire at your nearest Irish embassy or consulate.
If you were born outside Ireland to an Irish citizen who was born outside Ireland, and if any of your grandparents was born in Ireland, you are entitled to become an Irish citizen after registering your birth in the Foreign Births Register at the Department of Foreign Affairs or your nearest Irish embassy or consulate. Anyone born outside the island of Ireland, and where the parent through whom Irish citizenship is to be obtained was also born outside Ireland, must be registered on the Foreign Births Register to become an Irish citizen and entitled to apply for an Irish passport. Write to the Department of Foreign Affairs Consular Section, 80 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland, marking your envelope ‘Foreign Births Register’. The phone number is +353 1 4082555. Details of the documents and online fee of €270 required (for an adult) are available on the department’s website, together with a number of frequently asked questiuons.
If you live outside Ireland, your birth must be registered through your local Irish embassy or consular office. If you are entitled to register, your Irish citizenship begins on the date of registration, not the date of your birth. The registration process can take up to six months.
If one of your grandparents is an Irish citizen but neither of your parents was born in Ireland, you may become an Irish citizen by having your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register. The Irish citizenship of future generations may thus be maintained by each generation ensuring that they are registered in the Foreign Births Register before the next generation is born.
Since 1 July 1986, children born to citizens who have not yet registered are not entitled to citizenship. People registered before July 1986 are considered Irish citizens from 17 July 1956 or their date of birth, whichever is later. Only children born after 17 July 1956 can claim citizenship in such cases.
At least one of your parents or grandparents must have been an Irish citizen at the time of your birth for you to claim Irish citizenship. You cannot claim to be an Irish citizen on the basis of other relations, such as a cousin, aunt or uncle. If you are claiming Irish citizenship because one of your great-grandparents was born on the island of Ireland, your parent (who is of Irish descent) must have registered in the Foreign Births Register between the years 1956 and 1986 or, if you were born after 1986, he or she registered before you were born. The Foreign Births Register is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Irish citizenship through adoption
Under the 1956 Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, if a child who is not an Irish citizen is adopted by an Irish citizen, the adopted child becomes an Irish citizen. However, if the child is adopted outside the state, immigration clearance must be obtained in advance for the child to enter the state. This clearance will only be granted after the prospective adoptive parent(s) have been assessed and approved by the Adoption Board of Ireland.
Deserted infants found in Ireland will be considered to have been born in Ireland, unless one of the child’s parents can proves that the child is not Irish.
Foreign national parents of a child born in the island of Ireland since 1 January 2005 may apply to the citizenship section of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for a certificate of Irish nationality for that child. The application must be accompanied by evidence that a parent was legally resident in Ireland for at least three of the four years immediately before the child’s birth.
Becoming an Irish citizen through naturalisation
You can apply for naturalisation when you have legally lived in the state for at least five of the last nine years, including the last full year before you apply. At least three years "e;reckonable residence"e; in the state is required if you are married to an Irish citizen.) To apply for naturalisation, you must have been physically resident in Ireland for a certain period. All applications to become a naturalised Irish citizen are decided by the Minister for Justice, who has absolute discretion in the matter.
If you wish to become an Irish citizen through naturalisation, you must:
- Be aged 18 or older (you must be married if you are under the age of 18) or be a minor born in the State (from 1 January 2005),
- Be of good character - the Garda Síochána (Ireland’s police) will be asked to provide a report about your background. Details of any criminal or civil proceedings in any country must be disclosed in your application,
- Have had one year’s continuous reckonable residence in the state immediately before the application for naturalisation, plus a total reckonable residence of four years in the state in the preceding eight years (a total of five years’ reckonable residence in the last nine years),
- Genuinely intend to continue living in the state after naturalisation and
- Declare fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.
The Minister for Justice can waive any of these conditions if:
- you are of Irish descent or have Irish associations, or are a parent or guardian applying on behalf of a minor child of Irish descent or Irish associations,
- you are a naturalised parent applying on behalf of a minor child,
- you have been resident abroad in the public service or
- you are recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Geneva Convention, or a stateless person under the 1954 UN Convention.
Certain periods may be excluded from ‘reckonable residence’, such as periods when your presence in the state was not properly documented or, in certain cases, periods when you were on a student visa or claiming asylum. Any time that a EEA or Swiss citizen has spent in the state is reckonable for naturalisation purposes, as EEA and Swiss citizens do not need to have residence permits. If you are not an EEA or Swiss citizen, any period where you required permission to remain in the state but did not have such permission, will not be reckoned.
Your application and accompanying documents will normally be acknowledged and you will be informed by registered post as soon as a decision has been made.
Before the certificate of naturalisation can be issued, you must swear an oath of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the state (usually before a District Judge) and pay the fee. There is a fee of €175 for each application and, if the application is successful, there is a fee for the certificate of naturalisation of €950 for an adult (or €200 for a child or the spouse of a deceased Irish citizen. (There is no charge for refugees or stateless people.) Forms and guidance notes are on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website. You are an Irish citizen from the date the certificate is issued and can apply for an Irish passport any time after that date.
Application forms are available from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). Supporting documentation required will include evidence of your identity and nationality (long-form birth certificate and passport, national identity card or travel document) and marriage certificate, if married. You also need to produce documents relating to your status and the duration of your stay in the state (Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) registration certificate, declaration of refugee status, or the like). If you are a non-EEA national applying for naturalisation, your GNIB residency stamps are the only evidence which provide proof of your reckonable residence.
If your application for naturalisation is based on your relationship to an Irish citizen, you will need to produce the documents needed to show that person’s status and your relationship to that person (such as the birth or naturalisation certificate of an Irish spouse and marriage certificate).
As well as these, you must produce documents about your financial and employment status (copies of payslips and bank statements for the previous three months, employment permit) and confirmation of your income tax situation. The original documents must be produced during the examination of your application. Any inaccuracies in the documentation will lead to delays in ruling on your application. Do not sign the form until you are in the presence of the witness.
The Minister for Justice and Equality can revoke your certificate of naturalisation if:
- you obtained it through fraud, misrepresentation or concealing material facts or circumstances,
- you have failed in your duty of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the state,
- you were ordinarily resident outside Ireland (other than in public service) for a seven-year period and did not declare your intention to retain Irish citizenship with an Irish diplomatic mission or consular office, or with the Minister for Justice and Equality annually,
- you are also a citizen of a country at war with the State,
- you have voluntarily become a citizen of another country, other than by marriage.
If you ask the minister for an inquiry into the reasons for the revocation of your naturalisation certificate, s/he will refer your case to a committee of inquiry, which will report back to the minister. Notice of the revocation will be published in Iris Oifigiúil, Ireland’s official state gazette.
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