Are you contemplating seeking citizenship and relocating to the captivating Emerald Isle? Ready to embark on a fresh journey in your ancestral homeland? Ireland, with its captivating charm, offers an incredible living experience. It’s, however, important to note that citizenship regulations for Northern Ireland are distinct. As outlined in the Belfast Agreement, individuals in Northern Ireland have the option to possess Irish citizenship, UK citizenship, or even both simultaneously. Prepare to discover the essential information for attaining citizenship in the Republic of Ireland, as that’s what we will focus on in this guide.
Advantages of being an Irish citizen
Irish citizenship, at its core, a legal concept, represents the official and acknowledged connection between a person and the Republic of Ireland. Individuals possessing this status are granted specific rights and obligations, or should we say advantages, according to the laws of Ireland. Some of the major benefits include the following;
In their home country, Irish passport holders are entitled to several fundamental rights as enshrined in the Irish Constitution. This includes access to free primary and secondary education, a cornerstone of societal development. Furthermore, the right to participate in the democratic process by voting in Irish elections and even seeking governmental roles adds a significant dimension to their civic engagement.
Another distinct advantage is the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement established between Ireland and the United Kingdom. It grants Irish passport holders the right to seamlessly reside, work, and study in the UK. This arrangement even extends to social welfare benefits and access to healthcare services in the UK. The bilateral understanding also strengthens the ties between the two nations and facilitates fluid movement for citizens between the two countries.
Thirdly, being a member of the European Union amplifies the advantages for Irish passport holders. They can not only live, work, and study in any of the 27 EU member states but also across the broader European Economic Area (EEA), which includes countries like Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The ability to partake in European elections empowers them to influence the broader EU governance. The provision of a European Health Insurance Card further ensures access to healthcare across the EU, EEA, and even in Switzerland.
Venturing beyond the European borders, Irish passport holders encounter smooth travel experiences. For instance, they can travel visa-free to the United States under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. Similarly, streamlined Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) processes for Australia and Canada facilitate entry into these countries.
A distinctive aspect of the Irish passport is its recognition of dual citizenship. Unlike certain nations, such as Singapore and Japan, which don’t allow holding citizenship from multiple countries simultaneously, Ireland permits its citizens to maintain citizenship in another country concurrently. This flexibility can be immensely beneficial for those with cross-border ties, allowing them to fully engage with and contribute to the cultural, economic, and social aspects of both nations.
Moreover, the convenience of renewing an Irish passport is noteworthy. Online services offer a swift, secure, and user-friendly platform for renewal, ensuring that passport holders can seamlessly continue to access their privileges without unnecessary administrative hurdles.
As an added convenience, Irish passport holders can opt for a passport card, which is a compact, credit-card-sized document. This card serves as a valid travel document within the EU, EEA, and Switzerland, offering a practical alternative to the traditional passport book. This innovation aligns with the broader trend of digitizing travel documents for increased convenience and efficiency.
How to become an Irish citizen
There are a number of ways through which you can gain Irish citizenship, which include the following;
Irish citizenship by birth
This is the most obvious route to becoming a citizen in Ireland. Irish citizenship through birth, referred to as “jus soli,” hinges on being born within Ireland’s geographical boundaries. For individuals born in the country before January 1, 2005, Irish citizenship is usually granted automatically. However, for those born after 2004, there are more criteria to fulfill: at least one parent must have been an Irish or British citizen, a resident with specific legal statuses in either region or entitled to unrestricted residency in Northern Ireland or the Irish State at the time of the child’s birth.
Citizenship by naturalization
Naturalization is a legal process that allows an individual to acquire citizenship of a country other than their birthplace or original nationality. This typically occurs after a person has lived in the new country for a specific period of time and meets certain eligibility criteria. The decision to seek naturalization is often driven by factors such as work, family, or personal circumstances that have led someone to establish a long-term residence in a foreign country.
With regard to Ireland, the Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) is responsible for evaluating all applications for becoming a naturalized citizen, acting on behalf of the Minister for Justice, who holds complete authority in deciding whether to approve or reject naturalization requests. The decision-making process involves a thorough assessment of various information to determine the outcome of each application.
What are the eligibility requirements?
For you to qualify, there are a number of eligibility requirements one must meet to even be considered. They are as follows:
- You must be 18 years or older – age is a very important factor for those looking to gain Irish citizenship, where the applicant is required to be over 18. As for kids under 18, the applicant can apply for them. However, the child must have been born in Ireland after January 1, 2005, but didn’t qualify for citizenship through birth, the child is of Irish descent, or the parent is already a citizen by naturalization.
- Good character – applicants must possess ‘good character,’ although there is no precise legal definition for this term. The Garda Síochána, Ireland’s national police force, conducts a background check, providing information about the following to the Minister:
- Any criminal record you may have
- Previous driving offenses you might have committed
- Ongoing investigations involving you
- Unresolved criminal cases awaiting court hearings
- Cautions or warnings issued by the Gardaí
- Relevant civil cases, like being under a barring order
The application form prompts you to disclose the above information, allowing you to clarify the circumstances leading to police or court involvement. The Citizenship division might also contact you later for more details about your history in the country. And as for applications involving children over 14, they must also demonstrate ‘good character.’ The same ‘good character’ assessment is applied to children under 14 if they’ve been charged with or convicted of a serious violent or sexual offense.
- Residence in the country – to be eligible for naturalization, you need to fulfill specific residency requirements in Ireland, which include;
- You must have a continuous period of 365 days (1 year) of reckonable residence in Ireland just before applying for naturalization.
- Over the 8 years before that, your total reckonable residence in Ireland should amount to 1,460 days (4 years).
During each year, you’re allowed to be outside Ireland for up to 70 days without it affecting your resident status for that year. If you exceed 70 days in a single year, this period should not be included in your reckonable residence calculations. In certain situations, an extra 30-day period can be considered if you had to leave Ireland due to exceptional circumstances, such as health issues, family matters, employment, or education. If this is the case, be sure to provide a detailed explanation in your application.
In addition, if you spend over 70 days outside Ireland in the year immediately before applying for naturalization for reasons other than exceptional circumstances, you might need to wait until the following year to submit your application. In total, you must have 5 years (5 x 365 days) of reckonable residence within the last 9 years. Remember to add an extra day for any period, including February 29 (leap year). In some cases, certain categories of applicants can apply after just 3 years of residence in Ireland.
- Reckonable residence signifies the time spent living in Ireland that qualifies for meeting the conditions of applying for naturalization. Those married to Irish citizens can also include legal residence in Northern Ireland. Non-EEA, UK, and Swiss applicants can count specific residency periods for reckonable residence, including employment permit time, Stamp 4 status, dependency under Stamp 3, and more. Notable exceptions are student visa periods, undocumented stay, and international protection application duration.
In determining eligibility, the Immigration Service Delivery website offers an online residency calculator. This calculator printout, along with other residency proofs, is needed for your application unless you’re a UK, Swiss, EEA citizen or an Irish refugee. Generally, registration with immigration serves as proof of legal residence satisfying naturalization residency terms. The COVID-19 pandemic saw automatic immigration permission extensions, which can be considered as reckonable residence, contingent on meeting criteria before the extension. For instance, a Stamp 4 holder’s extension until May 31, 2022, counts if requirements were met prior, but actual residence during this time must also be proven.
- If you hold citizenship in an EEA country, Switzerland, or the UK, you are not required to submit a ‘reckonable residence’ calculation as part of your application for naturalization in Ireland. Instead, you need to provide documentary proof of your residence history in Ireland. The application form provides a list of acceptable documents for this purpose. In addition, the obligation to obtain an Irish Residence Permit is waived for citizens of the EEA, Switzerland, or the UK. All periods of residence in Ireland are considered for the naturalization process. You are not obligated to include a printout from the reckonable residence calculator when submitting your application.
- Future intentions – You must genuinely plan to remain living in Ireland after being granted naturalization. In the event that your application is successful and you relocate from Ireland, you are required to fill out Form 5 (PDF), which outlines your commitment to maintaining your Irish citizenship while temporarily residing abroad. Upon approval of your application, you are mandated to make a declaration affirming your allegiance to the country and loyalty to the State. Additionally, you must pledge to abide by Ireland’s laws and uphold its democratic principles. These declarations are typically made during a citizenship ceremony.
How to apply?
The application system is quite straightforward, to say the least. There are only a few steps, which are as follows;
Check your eligibility – first, ensure that you have met all the requirements, as discussed above.
Fill out the application form – the next step would be to fill out the application form. First, ensure that you utilize the current versions of the application forms found on the Immigration Service Delivery website. Thoroughly review the attached notes on the forms, and ensure all questions are addressed without any blanks. If a question doesn’t pertain to your situation, indicate ‘N/A’ (not applicable), and if there is an error, cross it out and initial it for clarification, avoiding the use of correction fluid. Employing a solicitor is optional for form completion but could be necessary. When hiring one, make sure you seek multiple quotes from different law firms, as that can be cost-effective.
Gather all the documentation – you will also need to submit all the required supporting documents, which will depend on your situation. These documents will include the following;
- Proof of identity, which can include a national ID or your passport
- Evidence of Residence in Ireland
- A police clearance certificate to prove good character
- A certified color photocopy of the biometric page of your current passport. This photocopy must be certified by a commissioner for oaths, a solicitor, a peace commissioner, or a notary public.
If you are having a hard time gathering all the documents or can’t find some of the documents, you need to explain why. Under such cases, you might be required to produce affidavits stating that you cannot find the documents.
Make a declaration – After you’ve filled out the application form and are prepared to submit it along with the necessary documents, you’ll need to create a statutory declaration. This is a formal way of affirming the truth of a statement, and as a written document, it requires validation from an authorized witness, such as;
- A solicitor
- A commissioner for oaths
- A notary public
- A peace commissioner
Every adult applicant is required to complete this declaration. In case your application is centered on your marriage or civil partnership with an Irish citizen, your Irish citizen spouse or partner must also provide a declaration. And if you opt to have a solicitor validate your statutory declaration, a fee will be involved. Additionally, you should request your witness to sign and date the reverse side of the two-color passport photos that you are required to include with your application.
Submit your application together with the required fee – prior to submitting your form, ensure it’s thoroughly reviewed, and all required documents are copied and enclosed. The form includes a comprehensive checklist that you should adhere to. A payment of €175 is obligatory for the application. This payment must be in the form of a banker’s draft; no other payment methods are accepted. You can obtain a banker’s draft from any bank, even if you don’t hold an account there. The draft should be made out to the Secretary-General, Department of Justice. It’s important to note that the payment will not be refunded if your application is declined. Dispatch your application to the address specified on the form.
Citizenship by descent
Irish citizenship through descent, also known as “jus sanguinis,” offers a pathway to citizenship for individuals with ancestral ties to Ireland. This route enables those with an Irish parent or grandparent to acquire Irish citizenship, regardless of whether they have ever been to Ireland.
- You are eligible if one or both of your parents were Irish citizens when you were born.
- Alternatively, if one of your grandparents holds Irish citizenship, you are qualified to assert your right to citizenship.
The parent or grandparent through whom you claim citizenship must have been registered in the Foreign Births Register before your birth, except if the grandparent is your maternal grandmother.
- Birth certificates for yourself and your Irish parents/grandparents (through whom you seek citizenship).
- Marriage certificates, if applicable.
- Evidence of your parent’s and grandparent’s nationality at the time of your birth.
Citizenship by marriage
Gaining Irish citizenship through marriage or a civil partnership offers a pathway for individuals either married to an Irish citizen or are in a recognized civil partnership with one. This process, commonly referred to as ‘citizenship by marriage,’ comes with specific prerequisites.
- The applicant must be married to an Irish citizen or be in a legally recognized civil partnership with an Irish citizen for at least three years.
- The applicant should have maintained continuous reckonable residence on the island of Ireland for one year immediately before the application date. Additionally, during the 4 years leading up to that, the applicant must have accumulated a total reckonable residence on the island of Ireland equivalent to 2 years.
- Marriage certificate or official document confirming the civil partnership registration
- Proof of the Irish citizenship of the partner (e.g., passport or birth certificate)
- Documentation indicating a shared address (e.g., utility bills or a lease agreement)
- Evidence of reckonable residence, including documents like P60s, payslips, and bank statements.
Tips for a successful Irish citizenship application
To ensure that you have a smooth application process, there are a few things that you can do, which include the following;
Acquaint yourself with legal terminology – It’s important to familiarize yourself with legal terms such as ‘reckonable residence,’ descent, and ‘naturalization’ since they have specific legal meanings. With these meanings at your fingertips, you will have much more clarity throughout the application process.
Develop knowledge about Ireland – the other thing would be to research more about the country to gain insights into Irish history, culture, and societal norms, which can be extremely valuable, primarily if you aim for naturalization. This way, you can integrate into the community more effectively.
Seek Advice from legal experts – The thing about citizenship application is that it can be a complicated process. So, we would recommend seeking guidance from a local immigration lawyer or consultant who will be able to help you navigate potential challenges and ensure that you’re on the right track.
Anticipate the time commitment – applying to become a citizen in any country, let alone Ireland, often involves a significant amount of time. With that said, be prepared for a lengthy process. However, what the goal is, it is totally worth it!
Provide accurate and truthful information: in your application, you must ensure that all the information is accurate and honest. Always keep in mind that misinformation or inaccuracies can result in delays or even rejection of your application.
Stay informed about laws – Immigration and citizenship laws keep changing, so staying updated on the latest regulations and requirements is important. This is vital as it ensures that you’re aware of any adjustments that might affect your application.
Integrate culturally – if you are living in Ireland, engaging with local communities, participating in local events, and embracing the Irish way of life can aid your cultural integration and enhance your connection to the country.
Maintain records – keep thorough records of all your interactions related to your citizenship application. This includes retaining receipts, correspondence, and copies of submitted forms. These records can be crucial for reference and documentation purposes throughout the process.
The Irish government offers various routes for foreign nationals to acquire Irish citizenship. These pathways include birth, ancestry, and naturalization. If you are married to an existing Irish citizen, the naturalization process can be expedited. Ireland also permits dual citizenship, enabling you to keep your original passport while enjoying the travel privileges of an Irish one.
Living costs in Ireland, particularly in major cities, can be high. However, expenses like heating and satellite TV are relatively affordable compared to the United States. While many expatriates opt for international major medical insurance in Ireland, there’s a socialized or subsidized healthcare system in place.
It’s important to note that obtaining Irish citizenship doesn’t automatically confer British citizenship. Both countries allow dual citizenship, but a separate application for British citizenship would be required.