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Claiming Irish Citizenship Through Your Irish Ancestors

Steps to Becoming an Irish Citizen and Obtaining an Irish Passport


Boy (8-9) photographing girl (12-13) in front of castle
Laurence Monneret/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Can you think of a better way to honor your Irish family heritage than by becoming an Irish citizen? If you have at least one parent, grandparent or, possibly, a great-grandparent who was born in Ireland then you may be eligible to apply for Irish citizenship. Dual citizenship is permitted under Irish law, as well as under the laws of many other countries such as the United States, so you may be able to claim Irish citizenship without surrendering your current citizenship (dual citizenship). However citizenship laws in certain countries do not permit the holding of another citizenship alongside their own, or place restrictions on the holding of more than one citizenship, so be sure you are well acquainted with the law in your present country of citizenship.

Once you become an Irish citizen any children born to you (after your citizenship is granted) will also be eligible for citizenship. Citizenship also allows you the right to apply for an Irish passport which grants you membership in the European Union and the right to travel, live or work in any of its twenty-eight member states: Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Irish Citizenship by Birth

Anyone born in Ireland prior to 1 January 2005, except for children of parents holding diplomatic immunity in Ireland, are automatically granted Irish citizenship. You are also automatically considered an Irish citizen if you were born outside of Ireland between 1956 and 2004 to a parent (mother and/or father) who was an Irish citizen born in Ireland. A person born in Northern Ireland after December 1922 with a parent or grandparent born in Ireland prior to December 1922 is also automatically an Irish citizen. Individuals born in Ireland to non-Irish nationals after 1 January 2005 (after the enactment of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2004) are not automatically entitled to Irish citizenship—additional information is available from the Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Irish Citizenship by Descent (Parents & Grandparents)

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956 provides that certain persons born outside of Ireland may claim Irish citizenship by descent. Anyone born outside Ireland whose grandmother or grandfather, but not his or her parents, were born in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) may become an Irish citizen by registering in the Irish Foreign Births Register (FBR) at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin or at the nearest Irish Embassy or Consular Office. You can also apply for Foreign Births Registration if you were born abroad to a parent who, while not born in Ireland, was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth.

There are also certain exceptional cases where you may be eligible to obtain Irish citizenship through your great-grandmother or great-grandfather. This can be a bit complicated, but basically if your great-grandparent was born in Ireland and your parent used that relationship to apply for and have been granted Irish Citizen by Descent prior to your birth, then you are also eligible to register for Irish citizenship.

Citizenship by descent is not automatic and must be acquired through application.

Irish or British?

Even if you always assumed that your grandparents were English, you might want to check their birth records to learn if they really meant England - or if they were possibly born in one of the six counties of Ulster which became known as Northern Ireland. Although the area was occupied by the British and its residents were considered British subjects, the Irish constitution claims Northern Ireland to be part of the Republic of Ireland, therefore most people born in Northern Ireland prior to 1922 are considered Irish by birth. If this applies to your parent or grandparent, then you are also considered to be an Irish citizen by birth if born in Ireland, and may be eligible for Irish citizenship by descent if born outside of Ireland.

Next page > How to Apply for Irish Citizenship by Descent

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