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Can I Get Irish Citizenship through My Irish Great-Grandfather?    

Can I Get Irish Citizenship through My Irish Great-Grandfather? 

Are you one of the countless individuals worldwide who proudly claim Irish heritage? Delving into your family history can be an exhilarating journey, and for many, the prospect of obtaining Irish citizenship through their great-grandfather sparks intrigue. While the process may seem like an elusive quest, it is undeniably worth exploring. With a rich history steeped in tradition, Ireland holds a special place in the hearts of many across the globe. The allure of acquiring Irish citizenship is not only a testament to your ancestral roots but also offers the prospect of new opportunities, from studying and working in Ireland to enjoying the privileges of an EU passport. In this article, we unveil the truths and challenges behind claiming Irish citizenship through your great-grandfather. Read on to find out more:

Can you qualify for citizenship through your great-grandfather?

Yes, you definitely can! The thing is, Ireland, a nation with a population of just under 5 million, has issued over 4 million official passports currently circulating worldwide. This extraordinary number of passports can be attributed, in part, to the enduring doctrine of jus sanguinis, or citizenship by descent, which forms the bedrock of Irish nationality law. This principle grants individuals the right to claim Irish citizenship based on their ancestral bloodlines, even if they have never set foot in the country. Embracing this inclusive perspective, Ireland extends its citizenship beyond territorial borders, enabling millions of people globally, including majority of the 40 million U.S. citizens with Irish ancestry, to become holders of Irish passports.

Ireland’s approach to citizenship by ancestry is indeed distinctive and accommodating. For individuals born outside of Ireland, having an Irish national grandparent born in the country opens the door to acquiring Irish citizenship through registration in the Foreign Births Register, which is maintained by the Department of Foreign Affairs. This registration process serves as a pathway for those with Irish ancestry to establish a formal link to their Irish heritage and gain citizenship rights. It reflects Ireland’s recognition and appreciation of the significance of familial connections in determining one’s national identity. What sets Ireland apart even further is its consideration of individuals with Irish national great-grandparents. While this scenario is more complex, it remains possible to obtain Irish citizenship under certain circumstances. In contrast to most countries, which typically limit citizenship by ancestry to grandparents, Ireland extends this privilege all the way to the great-grandparent level.

The Foreign Births Register, maintained by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, plays a pivotal role in granting Irish citizenship to individuals born outside of Ireland who have Irish ancestry. For you to become an Irish citizen through this process, specific criteria must be met. According to the guidelines set by the Department, your great-grandparent’s grandchild (your parent) must have registered in the Foreign Births Register between the years 1956 and 1986. Alternatively, if you were born after 1986, your parent should have registered before your birth. The Foreign Births Register essentially acts as a historical record, documenting the lineage of those who gained Irish citizenship through their parents or grandparents. When an individual’s parent successfully registers through their grandparent (the great-grandparent of the applicant), it confirms their entitlement to Irish citizenship.

Some of the things you need to keep in mind as you apply

If you have an Irish great-grandparent and you are planning to apply for Irish citizenship, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind. They include;

  • Eligibility criteria – for starters, as we mentioned earlier, to be eligible for citizenship, you must demonstrate a direct lineage to the great-grandparent, which typically involves providing birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other relevant documents to establish the chain of descent. Finding and verifying these documents can be challenging, especially if the great-grandparents lived in different countries with varying record-keeping practices, but it is absolutely necessary. So, you need to gather all the required documents before proceeding with the application.
  • Lengthy processing time – when you submit your application, you need to know that processing might take time depending on the volume of applications, the complexity of individual cases, or administrative backlogs. Largely, they can take up to 30 months. So, you need not to be in a hurry!
  • Changes in Citizenship Law – Irish citizenship laws have evolved over time, and the requirements for citizenship through descent have changed in the past. What might have been acceptable in the past may not meet current requirements. It’s essential to remain up to date with the latest laws and regulations to ensure you are applying correctly.
  • Proof of Continuous Descent – to claim Irish citizenship through descent, you may need to prove that there has been an unbroken chain of citizenship from your great-grandparents to you. This can be challenging if there are name changes, adoptions, or other situations that may complicate the evidence of direct lineage.
  • Language Barrier – most of the official documents and communications during the application process will be in English. If you do not speak English or Irish, you may encounter difficulties in understanding the requirements, filling out the forms, and communicating with the relevant authorities.
  • Professional assistance – given the complexities involved, it may be beneficial to seek legal advice or assistance from professionals who specialize in Irish citizenship applications. They can guide you through the process, help gather the required documents, and ensure that your application meets all the necessary criteria.

What documents do you need?

If you are looking to apply for Irish citizenship, there are numerous documents you will be required to produce. They include the following;

Documents relating to the applicant;

  • Original birth certificate showing your full details, including those of your parents
  • Original marriage certificate, if married
  • Original divorce decree, if divorced
  • A copy of your passport certified by the relevant Embassy/High Commission
  • If you are over 18, you will need documents to prove your residence in your country

Documents relating to the parent linked to the grandparent;

  • Original birth certificate with the parents’ details as well as those of the grandparents
  • Original marriage certificate, if married, or a Divorce Decree if divorced
  • Copy of their passports
  • And if deceased, the original death certificate will be needed

Documents relating to the grandparents and the great-grandparents will be the exact same as the ones for your parents. Basically, all these documents will be used to try and establish a clear lineage, which is a major requirement if you are to be approved for Irish citizenship.

The application process

Obtaining Irish citizenship through your great-grandparent is a process that involves several steps. Here’s a detailed explanation of each step to ensure a smooth and successful application process:

  • Register Your Birth – the first step is registering your birth in the Foreign Births Register. This is essential to establish your eligibility for Irish citizenship by descent. You will need to provide all relevant certificates and records pertaining to your birth, such as your birth certificate, those of your great-grandparents (who are Irish citizens), and any other required documentation. This step verifies your connection to an Irish citizen ancestor and serves as the foundation for your citizenship application.
  • Gather Required Documents – the next step is to collect all the necessary documents to support your application. They include the documents we discussed above, plus any other documents specified by the Irish authorities.
  • Complete Application Form – the next step would be to fill out the appropriate application form. This form can usually be obtained from the Irish embassy or consulate or online from the official Irish government website. Ensure that you complete the form accurately and provide all necessary information.
  • Submit application – compile all the required documents along with the completed application form. Make sure that all documents are properly attested, translated if necessary, and meet the specified requirements. Submit your application to the relevant Irish authorities through a local Irish embassy or consulate or by following the online submission process.
  • Application Review – your application will undergo a review process where the authorities will verify the authenticity of the provided documents and your eligibility for Irish citizenship by descent. This may take some time, so be prepared for a lengthy waiting period.
  • Receive Approval Certificate – if your application is approved, you will receive a certificate confirming your registration in the Irish Register of Foreign Births. This certificate officially recognizes your status as an Irish citizen by descent. It is an important legal document that you should keep in a safe place.
  • Apply for an Irish Passport – while the approval certificate confirms your Irish citizenship, you will need an Irish passport to enjoy the full benefits and privileges of being an Irish citizen, such as travel within the European Union and other countries that have agreements with Ireland. To obtain your Irish passport, you need to apply separately through the passport application process. You will need to provide your approval certificate and photographs and also meet other passport-specific requirements.
  • Enjoy Irish Citizenship Benefits – once you have your Irish passport, you can fully enjoy the benefits of Irish citizenship, including the right to live and work in Ireland and other European Union countries, access to social services and healthcare, and participation in the democratic process through voting and other civic activities.


In conclusion, while the path to obtaining Irish citizenship through your Irish great-grandfather may seem intricate, it offers a remarkable opportunity to connect with your ancestral heritage and embrace the privileges of Irish citizenship. The process requires meticulous attention to detail, from registering your birth in the Foreign Births Register to obtaining your Irish passport. Through each step, you weave a story that spans generations, bridging the past with the present. With that said, given how complex the process can be, you can get help from an Irish immigration solicitor as he/she can guide you on the relevant documents needed as well as the entire application process. 

2 thoughts on “Can I Get Irish Citizenship through My Irish Great-Grandfather?    ”

  1. Hello, i have an Irish great grandmother born in 1864. I’ve been working on my ancestry and have a fair amount of info on her emigration to US, marriage, placed lived in New York state, copy of her Civil War widow benefits, but no luck finding her birth record and the hand written logs of births are very difficult to read dud to hand writing being unclear. Can you advise how I might proceed? Does Ireland have National Archives with family genealogist I could Zoom meet gor a fee? Thank you, Nancy Olsen. (P.s., I am interested in applying for Irish citizenship.)

  2. Hi there,
    I am enquiring about getting citizenship via descent, however I am running into some issues. I just wanted to clarify a few things so I can understand better.
    Am I able to apply if my great grandparent (my grandmum’s mum and dad) were born in Ireland? The issue that I am having is neither my grandmum nor my mum registered their births after my great grandparents came to Canada. I am not sure they were even aware they could do so! I am wondering if that will be an issue trying in trying to do this whole process?
    If someone could please get back to me, that would be greatly appreciated
    Thank you,

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