Overview of Irish Citizenship by Descent
The conditions for Irish citizenship were set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act (1956), which determined that descendants of those born in Ireland could apply for Irish citizenship. It also established the Foreign Births Register, which keeps track of Irish descendants who are born abroad.
This pathway to citizenship opened up a range of rights for people of Irish descent. Primarily, they could now carry an Irish passport and live and work freely in Ireland or the EU.
Citizenship by descent allows the Irish government to waive certain citizenship requirements, as would be the case if you were applying for citizenship through naturalisation. However, there are still a number of criteria for eligibility and requirements that you must meet to benefit from this pathway to citizenship.
Eligibility Criteria for Irish Citizenship by Descent
Before you can apply for an Irish citizenship by descent, giving you the chance to have certain requirements waived, you must meet the eligibility criteria for citizenship by descent. These include the following:
- A tangible connection to Ireland usually shown through three years of being legally resident in Ireland.
- Your descent should not go back further than an Irish great-grandparent.
- You cannot apply by “ascent” (being the parent or sibling of an Irish citizen).
Therefore, the forms of permissible Irish descent require one or both of your parents to be the following:
- Irish, entitled to Irish citizenship or was British when you were born.
- Irish or a British citizen but died before you were born.
- Had entitlement to live in Ireland or Northern Ireland without any restriction on their period of residency.
- Were legal residents in Ireland for three out of the four years before you were born. Note this doesn’t include residence through a student visa or an international protection decision.
To check if you are eligible, the Department of Foreign Affairs will consult the Foreign Births Register. This database will verify that your claims of Irish descent are legitimate.
Foreign birth registration comes with many required documents. This varies depending on the exact circumstances of your application, but it will require the following original copies across up to three generations of descent:
- Birth certificates.
- Marriage certificates.
- Death certificates.
- Photocopy of your parent or grandparent’s current state ID document, such as a passport, driving licence, or national identity card.
Please note that you will not need to provide your relatives’ state ID document if they have died. Instead, you will need to provide the original death certificate.
You will also need to provide a range of documents that relate to yourself, including the following:
- A completed, signed, and witnessed application form.
- Two proofs of address.
- Four colour photographs of yourself. The witness will need to sign and date two of the photographs.
While any form of proof of address is permissible for adult applicants, a child’s application must have a letter from their school or family doctor, which includes their address. Furthermore, the application must be made by the Irish citizen relative on the child’s behalf and must include the four photos of the parent, all of which should be signed and dated by the parent and the witness.
If your parent and grandparent were not born an Irish citizen, you will need to provide the documentation that shows the means by which they gained citizenship. Make sure to provide the original of the following document that applies most to your parent or grandparent’s circumstances:
- Irish naturalisation certificate.
- Foreign birth registration certificate.
- Post-nuptial citizenship certificate.
- Proof of Irish citizenship at the date of adoption.
To apply for citizenship by descent, you will need to apply to be entered into the foreign births register by working with the Department for Foreign Affairs. You will need to send in the documentation detailed above and a completed application form. Note that a different application form is required, depending on whether you are over or under 18. This form is digitised, and you must complete it online in conjunction with sending in physical originals of the required documentation.
There are two fees that you will need to pay when you apply for this form of citizenship:
- “Registration plus Certificate”: 270 euros for adults and 145 euros for minors.
- “Non-refundable postage and handling fee”: 8 euros for adults and minors.
Citizenship by descent is one of the longest forms of citizenship for the Irish government to process. You can expect it to usually take a maximum of 30 months to process.
This takes such a long period of time because the Irish government runs extensive identity and financial checks on applicants for citizenship. These checks aim to identify people with a background in money laundering, criminality, terrorism, or who will be a risk to Irish citizens. If there are discrepancies that emerge during these checks, it could substantially extend the processing time.
If you have an alternative pathway to citizenship available, it might be worth exploring that route as it may have a shorter processing time.
Irish citizenship comes with a huge variety of benefits, and it is easier to access if you can make a case for your Irish descent. However, it is still a complicated process that requires you to pull together a great variety of documentation.
IAS has helped many people to fulfill their dream of Irish citizenship. When you get in touch, you will be paired with an expert immigration lawyer who has the right experience for your case. They can help you throughout the application process. Our service does not stop once your application has been submitted, as we keep in touch with immigration services to keep you updated on your application process.
If you decide that you want our help, please call us today at +353 061 518 025 to speak to our immigration advisors. You can also reach us online.
Last modified on December 15th, 2023 at 11:42 am
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When you complete your application, you will need a witness to verify that you have completed your own application. This person must be personally known by you but cannot be a relative.
Only certain professions are permissible to witness a citizenship application. These include the following:
- Police officer.
- Member of the clergy.
- Certain medical professionals, such as a medical doctor, nurse, or dentist.
- Legal professional.
- Peace commissioner.
- Certain banking and finance professionals, such as accountants and bank managers.
- Elected public representative.
- Chartered engineer.
Note that some professions do not give the witness access to an official stamp to verify their profession. In this case, you can supply the witness’ business card alongside their application.
Irish citizenship is so popular because of the great number of benefits that are associated with it. The primary benefits to consider include the following:
- Freedom to reside anywhere in the world without risking losing your citizenship.
- Visa-free travel to 185 nations, including free movement within the EU.
- The Irish passport is considered one of the most powerful in the world.
- Complete rights and protections under Irish laws, allowing you to live and work in Ireland and the EU indefinitely without having to worry about visas.
- Ability to vote in elections or stand for office.
The lengthy application process can be problematic for expectant parents who want to be Irish citizens before their child is born. This would mean that the child is automatically entitled to Irish citizenship by birth.
Applications for Irish citizenship are processed in the strict order in which they are received, and the only exception is when expectant parents make an urgent request. You will need to contact the Passport Service Customer Service Hub at +353 1 568 3331 to do so.
Having been Irish citizens, some people choose to seek citizenship in a different country. This will usually require you to renounce your citizenship so that you can begin citizenship in a different country. Doing so will require you to complete a “declaration of alienage,” which will cease the rights that you held as an Irish citizen.