What are the Pitfalls to Avoid When Applying for Irish Citizenship by Descent?

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Applying for Irish citizenship by descent can seem relatively simple since the line of descent usually cannot go further back than grandparents, with some exceptions for applications involving great-grandparents. However, there are many specificities to be aware of in the application process. Not being meticulous in your documentation can lead to delays or even refusals that could have been avoided. In this article, we cover aspects of the application process you should be particularly aware of.

To be eligible for Irish citizenship by descent, at least one parent or grandparent must have been an Irish citizen at the time of your birth. If instead your Irish-born ancestor goes back to a great-grandparent, you can still get citizenship but only if your parent had registered in the Foreign Births Register before you were born.

Calculating the line of descent
The most important thing to be diligent about when applying for Irish citizenship by descent is being sure you’re eligible through your line of descent. In short, these are the situations in which you most likely can apply for Irish citizenship by descent:

– You were born in Ireland before January 1, 2005.

– You were born in Ireland on or after January 1, 2005 and at least one parent is Irish or British or had been legally residing in Ireland for three years before your birth.

– You are the child of someone born in Ireland before January 1, 2005 (even if you were born outside of Ireland).

– You have at least one grandparent who’s Irish, but you must first register in the Foreign Births Register.

– You have at least one great-grandparent who’s Irish, but you are only eligible if your parent registered in the Foreign Births Register before you were born.

Ireland does have a fairly short line of descent one can use to apply for citizenship, but as demonstrated in the qualifications above, there are timelines and exceptions to be aware of, particularly regarding the date you were born and in cases involving great-grandparents. Simply put, at least one parent or grandparent must have been Irish at the time of your birth.

The Foreign Births Register
Something else to be aware of, and understand when it applies to you, is the Foreign Births Register. If you are eligible for Irish citizenship and were born outside Ireland, you will most likely need to register in order to become an Irish citizen and, ultimately, apply for an Irish passport that will allow you to live and work in the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU. It is important to note that if you were born in Ireland and qualify for citizenship, you do not need to register in the Foreign Births Register.

If your parent was an Irish citizen when you were born but was not born in Ireland, then you will need to register with the Foreign Births Register. If, on the other hand, your Irish parent was born in Ireland, then you do not need to register, even if you were born outside of Ireland.

In order to register, you will need to gather all the appropriate documents (more on those below), and submit them online through the Department of Foreign Affairs. (You will also need to submit a paper copy). If the parent you are applying through also registered, you will need his or her Foreign Birth Registration Certificate too.

Note also that these applications are only processed in Dublin; you cannot apply through embassies or consulates outside of Ireland.

Mistakes in the documents
Mistakes in the application itself, particularly in the documents you include, can create an incomplete application, causing delays or even rejection of the application itself. For that reason, you will want to be especially meticulous when it comes to collecting your supporting documents. You can find a complete list of documents in one of our other articles.

In particular, you will want to be sure that all documents not issued in English are professionally translated and certified. You should also be aware of particular cases that require certain documents, such as naturalization or adoption certificates.

Finally, the print version of your application form and your passport photos must be witnessed. You can find a list of accepted professions for witnesses here.

Citizenship by association or special declaration
Irish citizenship by descent only applies to those who had a parent or grandparent who was an Irish citizen at the time of their birth. You can apply based on blood relation or adoption to an Irish citizen via another member of your family (such as an aunt or uncle or cousins), but the acceptance of such applications is solely at the discretion of the Minister for Justice. Generally, applications involving a great-grandparent or by “ascent” (e.g. being the parent of an Irish citizen) are refused.

For these applications, you must also be able to demonstrate that you have a strong tie to Ireland in the form of at least 3 years of residence. These applications also have a significantly longer waiting period, around 30 months.

There is also the possibility to apply for Irish citizenship based on special declaration. These are very specific exceptions for unique circumstances and include the following:

– You were born in Ireland between December 2, 1999 and December 31, 2004 to a non-Irish person entitled to diplomatic immunity.

– You were born between December 2, 1999 and December 31, 2004 to a non-Irish person in Irish sea or airspace.

– You want to resume previously revoked Irish citizenship.

Reasons Irish citizenship is refused
Up until recently, the Minister for Justice did not have to provide reasons for rejecting applications, but that changed after the Supreme Court case, Mallak vs. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (2012). In general, the following are the most common reasons Irish citizenship applications are refused. Note that the below reasons apply also to applications made for naturalization, and thus all do not affect descent applications.

One is not fulfilling the “good character” requirement/national security concerns. Unfortunately, this is a category that invites much ambiguity in its definition and is based off a number of factors, from criminal records to driving offenses, any ongoing investigations, and civil cases.

Another reason involves “reckonable residency.” Like the reason above, this one applies primarily to naturalization applications, though it is also necessary for citizenship by association applications. The qualifications for reckonable residence, i.e. residency that counts toward citizenship applications, are too involved to fully detail in this article, but the basics are you must both be legally living in Ireland and not be on a student visa. You also need to provide the correct number of documents to prove you maintained reckonable residence for the time period required for your application. Both the number of documents and the required years change depending on if you are applying through naturalization, marriage, or another circumstance. Along with this, you must maintain continuous residency for one year leading up to your application.

Finally, not providing enough documentation for your application is another reason to cause refusals. This is especially important when trying to establish a line of descent.

In this article, we have outlined the aspects of applying for Irish citizenship by descent to be particularly aware of. By being meticulous with your documents and paying attention to every fine detail, you can increase your chances of a smoother process and success. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@irishcitizenshipassistance.com.

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