Citizenship by Birth or by Descent
We have recently seen an increase in queries from people with Irish ancestry who want to know if they qualify for Irish citizenship because they were born in Ireland or because they have an Irish ancestor. The Department of Justice now have a useful online questionnaire to help you check if you are an Irish citizen by birth or descent.
Citizenship through birth
If you were born on the island of Ireland on or before 31st December 2004, you automatically qualify for Irish citizenship. After this date, the criteria for citizenship changed and Irish citizenship was no longer automatically granted to everyone born in Ireland. From 01st January 2005, to qualify for birthright Irish citizen you must meet one of the following criteria:
- One or more of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth regardless of the place of your birth;
- One or more of your parents was a British citizen or had an unrestricted right to live in Northern Ireland at the time of your birth and you were born on the island of Ireland;
- One or more of your parents had refugee status in Ireland at the time of your birth and you were born on the island of Ireland;
- One or more of your parents was legally resident in the Irish State (except as a student or as an asylum seeker) for three of the four years before your birth and you were born on the island of Ireland Ireland.
Case Study 1: Johanna was born on February 2005 in Limerick. Johanna's parents both held employment permits and had been resident in the State for 2 years and 11 months at the time of Johanna's birth. Johanna's parents did not have sufficient residency in the State for Johanna to qualify as an Irish citizen by birth.
Citizenship through descent (family)
You may qualify for Irish citizenship if you were born outside the island of Ireland if, at the time of your birth if:
- One or more of your parents is/was an Irish citizen;
- One or more of your grandparents is/was an Irish citizen and born on the island of Ireland.
Case Study 2: Sara was born in Argentina. She and her family have always been proud of their Irish heritage. Sara would like to move to Ireland with her husband and children so she checks her family tree and finds out that her last relative born in Ireland was her maternal grandmother, Nellie who was born in Dublin in 1920. Sara checks with her mother and finds out that her mother has not registered on the foreign birth registry. Sara herself qualifies for Irish citizenship because she has a grandparent born on the island of Ireland and she can now register herself as an Irish citizen through the Foreign Births Register. Sara's children who were born in Argentina before Sara registers as an Irish citizen do not qualify for Irish citizenship as their closest Irish citizen relative at the time of their birth is their great-grandmother Nellie.
Case Study 3: Giorgi is a naturalised Irish citizen. He moved to Ireland without his children. His adult son, living in Georgia, has recently had a baby. Giorgi wants to know if his grandson Vasili might qualify for Irish citizenship as Vasili was born in Georgia after Giorgi became an Irish citizen. Vasili doesn't qualify for Irish citizenship based on his relationship with Giorgi. Only a grandparent born in Ireland and not a naturalised Irish citizen grandparent can pass on their Irish citizenship to their grandchildren.
Foreign Birth Registration
If you meet one of the criteria to qualify as an Irish citizen by descent and you would like to apply for an Irish passport, you will need to register on the Irish Foreign Birth Register first. This process involves completing an online form and submitting documents to your Irish embassy/consulate.
The process itself takes 6 months or longer (depending on where you live) and costs in the region of €278 for adults and €153 for children. For more information and for the online form see the Department of Foreign Affairs website.
Naturalisation based on Irish descent or Irish associations
If you don't qualify for Irish citizenship based on the criteria outlined above, you may wish to learn more about applying for naturalisation based on Irish descent or associations.
Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended gives the Minister the absolute discretion to waive the statutory conditions otherwise necessary to make an application for naturalisation in certain circumstances, including where the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish associations (defined as related through blood, affinity or adoption to a person who is or is entitled to be an Irish citizen). You can read more about this process on the Immigration Service Delivery website.