Today, there are millions of people living in the United States that are of Irish heritage but most of them aren’t aware that they are eligible for Irish Citizenship. Many years ago, millions of Irish immigrants made their way to the US in search of a better life, and in so doing, they created a unique opportunity for nationals looking to gain Irish citizenship.
According to the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956, individuals who are born outside Ireland, and have parents or grandparents who are Irish citizens can obtain citizenship through descent.
Become a citizen through birth or descent
You are eligible for Irish citizenship if:
- You were born in Ireland to an Irish citizen, either through marriage or naturalisation.
- You were born in Ireland to a non-Irish citizen who had satisfied specific citizenship conditions – have lived in Ireland for 3 or more years – at the time of your birth.
- You were born outside Ireland to parents who were Irish citizens
- You were born outside Ireland to non-Irish parents, but your grandparents were Irish citizens.
- You were born in Northern Ireland after January 1, 2005, where one of your parents was a British or Irish citizen and had permission to live either in Ireland or Northern Ireland.
- You were born outside Ireland to your parents and grandparents who were born outside Ireland as well but were registered in the Foreign Births Register at the time of your birth, all born to your great grandparents who were born in Ireland.
Irish citizenship through parents
If either of your parents were Irish citizens at the time of your birth, then you automatically become an Irish citizen yourself. And if the parent who was the Irish citizen – let’s say your father – was deceased at the time of your birth, then you are eligible for Irish citizenship.
To claim citizenship, you will be needed to register your birth in the Foreign Births Register – that is unless your parents were abroad in the public service when you were being born. If you are entitled to register, then your citizenship becomes effective after the registration – and not from your birth date.
Irish citizenship through grandparents
If one or both of your grandparents were born in Ireland, but neither of your parents was, you are still eligible for Irish citizenship. You will need to register your birth in the Foreign Birth Register first though.
Irish citizenship through great grandparents
You are also entitled to Irish citizenship if your great grand-parent was an Irish citizen. But you may be required to have a reasonable reckonable residence in Ireland, just to show some substantial and tangible connection with the Irish society as well as the state. Also, you need to ensure that your birth has been registered in the Foreign Birth Register.
How do you apply?
If you have ascertained your eligibility for Irish citizenship by descent, then you can commence your application process. It’s a step-by-step process.
Step one – Gather the documents
For starters, you will need to gather all the documents that establish the proof of lineage. They include:
- The original birth or marriage certificate of either your parents or grandparents. And if they are dead, bring their death certificate as well.
- Your parents’ or grandparents’ notarised passport or ID
- A copy of your passport and/or ID
- Your birth certificate
- Original documents that show proof of current residence – bank statements, lease or utility bills
- Passport photos
Step two – Submit the application
Once all the documents are ready, now you can fill out the citizenship, which can be done online, on the INIS website. You will then submit the application electronically to the Irish government. You will also be required to print out the application form which you will mail together with all the required documents later on in the process.
Step three – Find a witness
You are also required to have a legal witness to help you in the application process. They fill out section E of the application form, signs at the back of your passport photos, witness you sign the application, and must also provide their contact details in case a follow-up is needed.
The witness can be:
- Police officer
- School Principal
- Medical doctor
- Bank manager, or
Step four – Mail your application to Ireland
This is the step where you mail the application, which includes all the required documents. This step can be a bit nerve-wracking given the fact that you are sending a bunch of super sensitive original documents to Dublin. So, you need to choose wisely how you are going to send everything to Ireland safely.
If you don’t want to send the application by mail, the other option is to take it to Ireland in person. Provided the application reaches the immigration department.
Step five – Apply for an Irish passport
If your application is approved, you will be notified through an Irish Foreign Birth Registration (FBR) notification in your mail. You will need this document to apply for an Irish passport. Here is how the process goes:
- Fill out the passport application form
- Have a witness present when signing it
- Provide 4 passports, where 2 of them are signed by the same witness
- Your birth certificate
- Your Irish Foreign Birth Registration
- A copy of your passport/ID
- Proof of residency document – utility bills, lease, or bank statements.
- Application fee of around EUR 80 for a standard passport, while a larger passport costs around EUR 110
Minister’s discretions in citizenship applications
According to the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, section 16, the Minister for Justice has absolute discretion to waive any statutory requirements in particular circumstances, which includes Irish citizenship by descent or Irish associations. However, you should note that the fact this discretion is provided for in the Act doesn’t make it a policy. What this means is that there is no entitlement or right to have any statutory conditions waived despite your circumstances. It is in the Minister’s full discretion to use this discretion under the most exceptional and compelling circumstances.
Any application made under Section 16 and relies on Irish associations needs to be supported by strong documents to support your claim and ones that would be rendered by the minister as exceptional. Basically, you need to make a strong case that even the Evaluation committee, who acts on behalf of the minister will deem appropriate. You should take note of the following before making your application:
- You should have a reckonable residence of at least 3 years in Ireland in order to prove that you have a connection to Ireland.
- Applications that are based on descent going further back than a great grandparent are rejected.
- Any applications based on ‘ascent’ – being a parent or a grandparent or a sibling to an Irish citizen – are generally rejected
- Applications based on Irish descent or associations may take up to 3 years to be processed.
Become an Irish citizen through adoption
According to the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, any non-Irish child who gets adopted by an Irish citizen, or a couple where one of them is an Irish citizen, then the child becomes an Irish citizen as well. And if an Irish citizen living outside of Ireland decides to adopt a non-Irish child, an application should be made to enter the adoption in the Register of Intercountry Adoptions. This registration means that the adoption will have the same legal status as that adoption made in Ireland.
Moreover, an Irish citizen living in the country and is trying to have a foreign adoption recognised in Ireland, there are a number of immigration procedures that have to be observed. And for the adopted child to be allowed back into the country, the Department of Justice must be notified in advance to get the immigration clearance. Also, for this clearance to be granted, the adoptive parent(s) have to successfully complete an assessment procedure and have the Adoption Authority of Ireland make a declaration in their favour.
Citizenship through declaration
There are those individuals who can claim Irish citizenship by making a declaration. They include the following;
- An individual born in Ireland between December 2nd, 1999 and December 31st, 2004 to a non-Irish citizen who, at the time of the birth, was entitled to diplomatic immunity within Ireland.
- An individual born between December 2nd, 1999 and December 31st, 2004 within Irish air space or sea to a non-Irish nationals, either on a foreign ship or aircraft.
- Any individual born in Ireland and had made a declaration of alienage provided for under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, Section 21 – that is an individual who has already declared that they cease to be an Irish citizen. That individual can regain citizenship back by making a declaration using form 1.
If you are eligible to obtain Irish citizenship by descent, then that’s an amazing opportunity. Anyone across the world can get citizenship as well, but it will be after spending a lot of money and years for them to qualify for the naturalization process. But if you are lucky enough to have family members – parents, grandparents, and great grandparents – born in Ireland, then you should do everything possible to take advantage of that opportunity, having only to spend a minimum amount of time and money on it.