Claiming Irish Citizenship Through Your Irish Ancestors

Have an Irish ancestors? You may be able to become and Irish Citizen

County Kerry, Ireland, landscape
Can you trace your ancestors back to Ireland?. Jorg Greuel / Getty

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).

What Irish Citizenship Means in the EU and Elsewhere

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, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The citizenship laws in some countries don't permit or place restrictions on holding dual citizenship, so be sure to be well acquainted with the laws in your present country before applying for any dual citizenship or passport.

Irish Citizenship by Birth

Anyone born in Ireland prior to January 1, 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 January 1, 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 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.

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 one or both of your parents 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.

How to Apply for Irish Citizenship by Descent

Citizenship by descent is not automatic and must be acquired through an application. To apply for registration in the Foreign Births Register you will need to submit a completed and witnessed Foreign Birth's Registration form (available from your local Consulate) along with supporting original documentation outlined below. There is a cost involved to apply for inclusion on the Foreign Births Register. Further information is available from your nearest Irish embassy or consulate and from the Foreign Births Register Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland

Expect it to take anywhere from three months to a year to have the Foreign Birth registered and the citizenship papers sent to you. (Due to a spike in demand that has occurred in response to Brexit, your wait may take even longer.)

Required Supporting Documentation:

For your Irish born grandparent:

  1. Civil marriage certificate (if married)
  2. Final divorce decree (if divorced)
  3. A current passport or official photo identity document (e.g. passport) for the Irish born grandparent. If the grandparent is deceased, a certified copy of the death certificate is required.
  4. Official, long-form civil Irish birth certificate if born after 1864. Baptismal registers may be used to establish the grandparent's date of birth if he/she was born prior to 1864, or with a search certificate from the General Register Office of Ireland stating that no Irish civil birth certificate exists.

For the parent from whom you are claiming Irish descent:

  1. Civil marriage certificate (if married)
  2. A current official photo I.D. (e.g. passport).
  3. If the parent is deceased, a certified copy of the death certificate.
  4. Full, long-form civil birth certificate of the parent showing your grandparents' names, places of birth and ages at birth.

For you:

  1. Full, long-form civil birth certificate which shows your parents' names, places of birth and ages at time of birth.
  2. When there has been a change of name (e.g. marriage), supporting documentation must be provided (e.g. civil marriage certificate).
  3. Notarized copy of current passport (if you have one) or identity document
  4. Proof of address. A copy of a bank statement/utility bill showing your present address.
  5. Two recent passport-type photographs which must be signed and dated on the back by the witness to section E of the application form at the same time as the form is witnessed.

All official documents—birth, marriage and death certificates—must be original or official (certified) copies from the issuing authority. It is important to note that church certified baptismal and marriage certificates may be considered only if submitted with a statement from the relevant civil authority that they were unsuccessful in their search for a civil record. Hospital certified birth certificates are not acceptable. All other necessary supporting documents (e.g. proofs of identity) should be notarized copies of originals.

At some point, after you've sent in your completed application for Irish citizenship by descent along with the supporting documents, the embassy will contact you to set up an interview. This is generally just a short formality.

How to Apply for an Irish Passport:

Once you've established your identity as an Irish citizen, you are eligible to apply for an Irish passport. For more information on obtaining an Irish passport, please see the Passport Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland.

(Disclaimer: The information in this article is not meant to be a legal guide. Please consult with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs or your nearest Irish embassy or consulate for official assistance.)

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Claiming Irish Citizenship Through Your Irish Ancestors." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). Claiming Irish Citizenship Through Your Irish Ancestors. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Claiming Irish Citizenship Through Your Irish Ancestors." ThoughtCo. (accessed August 2, 2021).