Irish citizenship through birth or descent is a complex area. This document aims to explain the law regarding Irish citizenship as clearly as possible. It includes information regarding children born to foreign nationals, foreign births and registration procedures. Information regarding Irish citizenship through birth, descent, naturalisation and following marriage is always available from your nearest Irish embassy or consulate.
If you were born in Ireland and your parent(s) were Irish citizens, then you are also an Irish citizen.
However, in certain circumstances some people born in Ireland have to claim Irish citizenship. You can find more details about claiming Irish citizenship through special declaration in 'Further information' below.
Children of foreign national parents
A child born in the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005 is entitled to Irish citizenship if they have a British parent or a parent who is entitled to live in Northern Ireland or the Irish State without restriction on their residency. A child born in Ireland to a parent who has been granted refugee status is also automatically entitled to Irish citizenship.
Under the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, children born of other foreign national parents in the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005 are not automatically entitled to Irish citizenship. These parents must prove that they have a genuine link to Ireland. This will be evidenced by their having 3 out of the previous 4 years reckonable residence in the island of Ireland immediately before the birth of the child. On proof of a genuine link to Ireland their child will be entitled to Irish citizenship and can apply for a certificate of nationality - see 'How to apply' below.
If either of your parents was an Irish citizen who was born in Ireland, then you are automatically an Irish citizen, irrespective of your place of birth.
Irish citizen parents born outside Ireland
If you were born outside Ireland to an Irish citizen who was himself or herself born outside Ireland, then you are entitled to become an Irish citizen. If your parent derived Irish citizenship in another manner, for example, through marriage, adoption or naturalisation, and was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you can become an Irish citizen.
However before you can claim Irish citizenship, you must have your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register, which is maintained by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - see 'How to apply' below. If you are entitled to register, your Irish citizenship is effective from the date of registration - not from the date when you were born.
If the parent through whom you derive Irish citizenship was deceased at the time of your birth, but would have been an Irish citizen if alive at that time, you are also an Irish citizen. Also, you derive citizenship through an Irish parent whether or not your parents were married to each other at the time of your birth.
If one of your grandparents is an Irish citizen who was born in Ireland, but none of your parents was born in Ireland, you may become an Irish citizen. You will need to have your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register.
If you are entitled to register, your Irish citizenship is effective from the date of registration. The Irish citizenship of successive generations may be maintained in this way by each generation ensuring their registration in the Foreign Births Register before the birth of the next generation.
Since 1 July 1986, a person registered in the Foreign Births Entry Book after 1986 is deemed to be an Irish citizen only from the date of his/her entry in the Register and not from the date of birth. This means that children born to that person before his/her date of entry in the Register are not entitled to citizenship.
People registered before July 1986 are deemed Irish citizens either from the date the original Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act came into force, that is, 17 July 1956, or their date of birth, whichever is later. Only children born after 17 July 1956 can claim citizenship in such cases.
Unless at least one parent or an Irish-born grandparent was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you cannot claim Irish citizenship on the basis of extended previous ancestry (that is, ancestors other than your parents or grandparents). In addition, you cannot claim Irish citizenship on the basis that relation such as a cousin, aunt or uncle was an Irish citizen if none of your parents or grandparents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth.
|If you are:||Then you are:|
|A||Born in the island of Ireland on or before 31 December 2004||Entitled to Irish citizenship or you are an Irish citizen|
|B||Born on the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005||Entitled to Irish citizenship if your parents are Irish. Entitled to Irish citizenship, if your parents are foreign nationals legally resident in the island of Ireland for 3 out of 4 years immediately prior to your birth.|
|C||Child of A, born outside the island of Ireland||An Irish citizen|
|D||Child of C and a grandchild of A, born outside the island of Ireland||Entitled to Irish citizenship, but you must first register in the Foreign Births Register|
|E||a child of D and a great-grandchild of A, born outside the island of Ireland||Entitled to Irish citizenship, by having your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register, but only if your parent D had registered by the time of your birth.|
Under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, if a child who is not an Irish citizen is adopted by an Irish citizen or a couple where either spouse is an Irish citizen, then the adopted child shall be an Irish citizen.
However, if the child is adopted from outside the State, immigration procedures must be observed. In order for the adopted child to enter the State, immigration clearance must be obtained in advance from the Department of Justice and Equality. This clearance will only be granted once the adoptive parent(s) proposing to adopt abroad have successfully completed the assessment procedure and have had a declaration made in their favour by the Adoption Authority of Ireland. This process is known as intercountry adoption.
Every deserted infant first found in Ireland will, unless the contrary is proved, (that is, the parents of the child come forward and clarify that the child is not Irish) be considered to have been born in Ireland.
There is a cost involved to apply for inclusion on the Foreign Births Register. Details of the fees are available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.
Since October 2012 if you wish to be included in the Foreign Births Register you must use the online application facility. You can find information about making an online application, the documents required and the photographic requirements on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Once you have completed the online form you must send your printed application and required supporting documentation to the Irish embassy or consulate for the country in which you live – see 'Where to apply' below. If you are resident in Ireland you must send your application to the Consular Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
Once the process is completed, the applicant will be provided with a certificate confirming his or her entry in the Irish Register of Foreign Births. This certificate can be used as proof of Irish citizenship when applying for an Irish passport.
Please note that Irish passport applications cannot be accepted at the same time as citizenship applications - these are 2 very distinct processes. There is further information on applying for or renewing an Irish passport.
Foreign national parents of a child born in the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005 may apply to the Citizenship Section of the Department of Justice and Equality for a certificate of Irish nationality for that child - see 'Where to apply'. The letter of application must be accompanied by evidence that the parent or parents have reckonable residence in the island of Ireland for at least 3 out of the previous 4 years immediately before the birth of the child. (Periods awaiting a decision on refugee status or residency granted specifically for the purpose of study are not counted as reckonable residence.) Further details are found in the Information Notice about the entitlement of children born in the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005 to Irish citizenship (pdf).
EEA and Swiss nationals
EEA and Swiss nationals must include the declaration form A (pdf) completed by the parent and a person such as a solicitor or teacher who knows the parent. If they wish to apply for a Irish passport for their child they do not need a certificate of nationality but they must include a completed Declaration Form A with the passport application.
Residence in Ireland: Non-EEA nationals must include a letter indicating the immigration stamps on their passport which provide evidence of residence. They do not need a certificate of nationality to apply for a Irish passport for their child but their passport application must include a letter listing their passport's immigration stamps which detail their residency in Ireland and their GNIB card.
Residence in Northern Ireland: Non-EEA nationals who have permission to live in the UK must complete declaration form C (pdf) which must be accompanied by 2 documents for each of the 3 years giving proof of address in Northern Ireland such as driving licence and utility bills. When the certificate of Irish nationality for the child has been received by the parents, they may then apply for an Irish passport for the child, using the certificate of nationality as proof of Irish citizenship.
Contact your nearest Irish embassy or consulate
Foreign Births Register
80 St Stephen's Green
Opening Hours:Monday to Friday, 10am - 1pm
Tel:+353 1 408 2555
Department of Justice Office
Opening Hours:Helpline: 10:00 am -12:30 pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays only
Tel:+353 62 32500
Locall:1890 25 28 54
Some people may only claim Irish citizenship by making a declaration on a special form. They include:
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.