A-Z Irish Citizenship by Descent Guide

A-Z Irish Citizenship by Descent Guide

This A-Z guide will provide you with a comprehensive insight into the steps and stages needed to consider when applying for Irish citizenship by descent. We will answer the most fundamental questions, namely: what is Irish citizenship by descent? And how does a person qualify? We will also address the application process, documentation required and other key information that you need to know if you would like to pursue Irish citizenship by descent.
The purpose of this guide is to provide information and clarity to those seeking to claim Irish citizenship by descent.
This guide will cover:

  • What citizenship by descent is
  • Eligibility
  • The Foreign Births Register
  • Application Process
  • Timescales

The allure of the emerald island
The attraction of Ireland as a land is obvious. Its rich, rugged landscapes are vast and enchanting, its people warm and welcoming. If you have the possibility of obtaining Irish citizenship, then you have been afforded the opportunity to delve into your Irish heritage and reconnect with your roots.

Aside from the abundance of cultural charms Ireland offers, it should also be stated that there are many practical benefits of being an Irish citizen, most notably that Irish citizenship means you are formally recognized as a national of Ireland. Having Irish citizenship means you can carry an Irish passport, as well as reside and work permanently in Ireland.
Irish citizenship also gives the right to as vote in general elections and bestows on its citizens you the full protection of the legal apparatus of Ireland, both domestically and abroad.

Irish citizenship and the EU
Ireland is a member state of the European Union. With this considered, a further appealing prospect is that Irish citizenship also means you are a citizen of the European Union, which affords many rights at the EU level. These include the freedom to work, study, and reside anywhere within the Union, as well as to vote and stand in European Parliament and municipal elections.

The main benefits of Irish citizenship:

  • Unrestricted access within Europe: As an Irish citizen, you have freedom of movement, affording you the chance to live, work, and study in any of the 27 EU member states.
  • Passport: The Irish passport is respected around the world, enabling visa-free, or visa-on-arrival travel to many countries.
  • Education and healthcare access: You have able to access to the highly regarded education and healthcare of Ireland.
  • Business and economic prospects: The Irish economy is abundant with opportunities, providing many prospects for enterprise, industry and career progression. Access to the EU is a further factor that making Irish citizenship conducive to business growth.
  • Family connections: Irish citizenship gives the option for family members to join you in Ireland, building and strengthening family connections.
  • Participate in democratic institutions: With citizenship you acquire the right to vote in Irish, as well as European Parliament, elections. Giving you full participation in the politics of Ireland and Europe.
  • Protection at a global level: Being an Irish citizen means you have the protection of Irish consulates and embassies situated around the world.
  • Dual citizenship: Holding Irish citizenship as well as another nationality is permitted; affording you have the benefits of having two citizenships and two passports.
  • Cultural heritage: Practical benefits aside, reconnecting with your Irish heritage and culture can be an enriching and rewarding experience.

Key legislation and dates governing Irish citizenship
The primary law governing nationality of the Republic of Ireland is the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, which came into effect on 17 July 1956. There have been amendments and changes since, most notably the 27th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which ended the automatic right to citizenship by birth to everyone born in Ireland.

Who is an Irish citizen by birth?
If you were born on the island of Ireland, your right to Irish citizenship depends on certain factors. If you were born on the island of Ireland before January 1, 2005, you are entitled to be an Irish citizen.
If you were born in Northern Ireland before January 1, 2005, you are entitled to claim Irish citizenship. This means that you can choose to be an Irish citizen and apply for an Irish passport if you want to.
If you were born on the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005, your right to Irish citizenship depends on:

  • Your parents’ citizenship at the time of your birth.
  • The residency history of one of your parents before your birth.

Northern Ireland and Irish citizenship
The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 gave people born in Northern Ireland the right to obtain Irish citizenship if they chose to do so.
The Good Friday Agreement, which was signed between the British and Irish governments in 1998, stipulated that people born in Northern Ireland could choose to be either British or Irish citizens.
Since January 1, 2005, if you are born in Northern Ireland, you can claim Irish citizenship if your parent, or parents, are either British or Irish citizens, or if one of them has lived on the island of Ireland for at least 3 out of the 4 years immediately prior to your birth.
If you are born on or after 1 January 2005, your entitlement to Irish citizenship depends on the nationality or residence history of your parent or parents.

Irish or UK parent
If either one of your parents was an Irish or UK citizen at the time of your birth, you are automatically an Irish citizen if you were born in Ireland. If you were born in Northern Ireland to an Irish or British parent, you can choose to be an Irish citizen.

If your Irish or UK citizen parent died before you were born, you are an Irish citizen by birth.

Citizenship of parent:
If one of your parents is an Irish citizen (regardless of their birthplace), and you were born outside Ireland, you can apply for Irish citizenship through the Foreign Births Register, which we will cover extensively in this guide.
If you were born outside of Ireland and your parent (who was also born outside of Ireland) was an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, then you have the right to become an Irish citizen.

Parent from outside Ireland and UK
If you were born in Ireland on or after 1 January 2005 and neither of your parents were Irish or UK citizens, your entitlement to Irish citizenship by birth depends on the residence status and history of your parent/s. One of your parents must have:

  • Lived in Ireland or Northern Ireland for 3 out of the 4 years before you were born, or
  • Have the right to live in Ireland or Northern Ireland without any restriction on their period of residence.

Born outside Ireland to an Irish parent
If you were born outside Ireland, you may be entitled to Irish citizenship.
You are automatically an Irish citizen if one of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth and was born on the island of Ireland. If this is the case, you do not need to apply to become an Irish citizen.

You can become an Irish citizen if:

  1. One of your grandparents was born on the island of Ireland, or
  2. One of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, even though they were not born on the island of Ireland.

In these examples, you can become an Irish citizen through Foreign Birth Registration.

Please find below a table to make clear the pathways to citizenship

  IF YOU ARE THEN POTENTIALLY YOU MAY BE NEXT STEP
A  

Born in the island of Ireland on, or before 31 December 2004

Entitled to Irish citizenship, or you are an Irish citizen Apply for Irish passport.
B Born on the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005

 

You are entitled to Irish citizenship if one or both of your parents:

·      Is Irish

·      Is British or entitled to live in Northern Ireland or the Irish State without restriction on their residency.

·      Is a foreign national legally resident in the island of Ireland for 3 out of 4 years immediately prior to your birth.

Apply for Irish passport.

 

C Child of A, born outside the island of Ireland An Irish citizen Apply for Irish passport.
D  

Child of C and a grandchild of A, born outside the island of Ireland

 

You have a right to Irish citizenship, but you must first register in the Foreign Births Register.

 

 

 

Apply to be entered into the Foreign Births Register. Once registered, you become an Irish citizen (on the date of registration).

You can then apply for an Irish passport.

E Child of D and a great-grandchild of A, born outside the island of Ireland

 

You have a right to Irish citizenship, by having your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register, but only if your parent D had registered by the time of you were born.

 

 

To become an Irish citizen, your great-grandparent’s grandchild (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, they registered before you were born.

The Foreign Births Register
Foreign Births Registration (known as citizenship by descent) is in essence a record of those born outside of Ireland who became Irish citizens through their parents or grandparents. So, if your parent registered this way through their grandparent (your great-grandfather) then you have a right to claim Irish citizenship. The Foreign Births Register is for people who can apply to become Irish citizens through their Irish-born grandparents, or their parent who was an Irish citizen at the time of their birth, but the parent was not born in Ireland.
Irish citizenship is granted on the date of registration, and once the details of a person are entered onto the Foreign Births Register, they are an Irish citizen and entitled to apply for an Irish passport.
If your parent did not register, it is still feasible that could pursue Irish citizenship through Irish associations. However, it should be noted that in these cases there can be no guarantees, as the Irish Minister for Justice has absolute discretion when granting citizenship in relation to cases made via association.

Irish citizenship by descent – pertaining to an ancestor who is a great-grandparent
If you are the great-grandchild of someone born in Ireland and all your grandparents, parents and you were born outside of Ireland, you may still be able to obtain Irish citizenship, but only if your parents had already registered with the Foreign Births Register before your birth. If you meet the criteria, then you also must register with the Foreign Births Register.

To be eligible to be able to make a for claim Irish citizenship through a great-grandparent, the following criteria must be met:

  • The applicant’s great-grandparent was born in Ireland.
  • The parent of the applicant obtained Irish citizenship because their grandparent (the great-grandparent of the applicant) was an Irish citizen; and
  • The parent of the applicant obtained Irish citizenship by the time he/she was born (if born after 1986) or between 1956 and 1986.

It should be noted that applications made via an ancestor who is a great-grandparent need to be filed through the Department of Justice, and final decisions are ultimately at the discretion of the Irish Minister for Justice.

Expectant parents
An expectant parent who is making an application to be entered on the Foreign Birth Register must mark this clearly on your application. If an expectant parent is not on the Foreign Births Register when the child is born, the child will not be entitled to Irish citizenship.

Registering your birth
Registering your birth on the Foreign Births Register comprises of the following:

  • Gather all documentation (original copies).
  • Complete application form online.
  • Print a copy of your application and make online payment.
  • A witness (professional who is known to you, but not a relative) must certify “as a true copy of the original” documents and photos.
  • Send form, with all required supporting documents, photos, and checklist to either the specified Irish embassy/consulate, or PO Box address in Ireland or Foreign Births Registration department.

Documents Requirements for Irish Citizenship by Descent
Foreign Births Registration requires that you submit official documentation relating to three generations that may have been issued by multiple jurisdictions. It is important that all state-issued (original copy) documentation, including birth, marriage and death certificates, are included with your application.

Documents needed for Irish citizenship by descent applications- adult applicant applying through an Irish born grandparent
Documents relating to the applicant (originals must be submitted, unless otherwise directed):

  • Completed, signed and witnessed application form.
  • Original civil birth certificate (that shows parental details).
  • Original civil marriage certificate (if applicable) OR other change of name document (if applicable).
  • Photocopy of current state-issued ID document (i.e., passport, driver’s license, national identity card) certified as a true copy of the original by application form witness.
  • 2 separate original proofs of address.
  • 4 color photographs (2 must be witnessed).

Documents in relation to the Irish citizen parent (originals must be submitted, unless otherwise directed):

  • Original civil birth certificate of Irish citizen parent (that show parental details).
  • Original civil marriage certificate of Irish citizen parent (if applicable) OR other change of name document (if applicable).
  • Photocopy of current state-issued ID document (i.e., passport, driver’s license, national identity card). Must be certified as a true copy of the original by a professional from the list of witnesses OR original civil death certificate (if applicable).

Documents regarding the grandparent born in Ireland (originals must be submitted, unless otherwise directed):

  • Original civil birth certificate of Irish born grandparent (that shows details of parent).
  • Original civil marriage certificate of Irish born grandparent (if applicable) OR other change of name document (if applicable).
  • Photocopy of current state-issued ID document (i.e., passport, driver’s license, national identity card) certified as a true copy of the original by a professional from the list of witnesses OR original civil death certificate (if applicable).

Each application requires specific documentation depending on the category under which you apply, so it is important to consult the application guidelines to ensure accuracy. 

Return of documents
Once your application and registration have been processed, your documents will be returned to you. With that said, it is advised to make some copies before sending the originals. You will not need to include a pre-paid envelope, as the documentation will be sent to you by recorded delivery and you will need to sign for them upon receipt.

How long does it take?
The Foreign Birth Registration department process applications in strict date order, applications take approximately 9 months to process. Applications that require further clarification, or more documentation, may take longer, and incomplete applications cause delays.

Step by step guide
1: Collect vital records/documents
Identify and gather records, and all relevant family members that prove relation to your Irish ancestor. You should collect all the required original documents prior to completing the online form.

2: Complete application
Once you have gathered the records, you can begin to complete the citizenship/ foreign birth registry application which is online.

3: Professional witness
The witness is someone known to you, but not a relation. The person must certify a photocopy of the identity document of the applicant as a true copy of the original. If the witness cannot provide an official stamp, a business card should be included with the application so their details can be verified if needed. A reminder, the witness is known to you (but not a relative), and currently practicing in one of the professions: police officer, school principal, medical doctor, dentist or bank Manager.

For the full list of professionals who can serve as witness it is advised you refer to the guidance in application.

4: Submission of application
Once the online application has been completed, you will need to print it and return it to the address listed on the application form. Please do refer to the guidance in your application to know which applies to you.

Remember that original copies of all records and documents must be sent along with the application form.

What is the cost/the fees of an application?
If you are 18 years of age and over the registration plus certificate cost is €270. There is also a non-refundable postage and handling fee of €8.
For those under 18 years of age the cost of registration plus certificate is €145, plus the non-refundable postage and handling fee of €8.
Payment is made online when you complete your application.

Timescales- how long does it take to process an application?
As noted previously, the Foreign Birth Registration department process applications in strict date order. The reviewing and processing period is currently taking approximately 9 months.

What happens once your application has been processed?
Once your application has been approved you will receive your official Irish Birth Registration (FBR) via mail. Unless otherwise requested or agreed. This means you are then able to apply for your Irish passport.

How else do I become an Irish Citizen?
As mentioned before, if you are not eligible to gain Irish citizenship via the foreign birth registration, the other option may be to apply for Irish citizenship through associations.

Citizenship by applications based on Irish associations
You may also be eligible to apply for Irish citizenship if you are of Irish descent or have Irish associations. Irish association means that you are related through blood, affinity or adoption to a person who has a right to be an Irish citizen. It can also apply to those who have been resident abroad in the Irish public service, or to those who have refugee status as defined by law.
Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 states:
A person is of Irish associations if:

 (a) he or she is related by blood, affinity or adoption to, or is the civil partner of, a person who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen, or

 (b) he or she was related by blood, affinity or adoption to, or was the civil partner of, a person who is deceased and who, at the time of his or her death, was an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen.

Minister’s discretion in cases of Irish descent or Irish associations
The applicant often seeks the Minister to exercise absolute discretion under Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956. An Irish association through a great-grandparent, and where there is no reckonable residency would, in general, be deemed insufficient to warrant the Minister to exercise absolute discretion.

Reckonable residence
Applicants who seek citizenship via association are expected to have a reasonable period of lawful residence in Ireland of around 3 years. This is to show they have a tangible and meaningful connection with the State, Irish culture and society.

Citizenship based on an Irish born child/parent or close affinity
If you have a child born in Ireland who is an Irish citizen, you can apply for citizenship after 3 years of residency because you are related by blood or affinity to an Irish citizen. In these cases, people can submit an application for citizenship, where they are the parent of an Irish citizen child, or based on Irish associations, by asking the Minister to use his discretion to waive the residency condition contained in section 15 of the 1956 Act.

Association via great-grandparent
Irish citizenship by triple descent for those who want to become an Irish citizen through your great-grandparent, this being the first time claim for citizenship in your family, the following criteria must be met:

  • A parent must have registered in the Foreign Births Register between 17 July 1956 and 1 July 1986; or
  • If you were born after 1986 a parent was registered before you were born in the Foreign Births Register.

If your parent did not register in the Foreign Births Register before your birth, you may be able to apply for citizenship by association after 2-3 years of residency.
If you are contemplating making an application based on Irish descent or association, you should note the following:

  • You should have a reasonable period of legal residence in Ireland (at least 3 years) to show that you have established a connection to Ireland.
  • Applications based on being the parent or grandparent of an Irish citizen (by ‘ascent’), or a sibling, or other relative of an Irish citizen are generally refused.
  • Applications based on Irish descent or associations can take up to 30 months to process.

Conclusion
This guide has been created to give you an understanding of the eligibility requirements, processes and options regarding Irish citizenship by descent. It has highlighted the routes that one can take if eligible to apply by descent, and the steps needed to have your details recorded in the Foreign Birth Register. This guide has also outlined some of the other ways applications may be made, namely those by association, and highlighted the alternative avenues to explore if you are seeking Irish citizenship by descent.

We understand that the process may at first seem daunting, and this guide should give clarity and alleviate any worries you may have. If you would like more information, you can reach out to our team of friendly advisors who are ready to provide you with personalized, specialist support. If you have any further queries regarding Irish citizenship, or want to know more about our services, then please do not hesitate to contact us at Irish Citizenship Assistance and one of our experts will be in touch with you.

 

 

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