Irish citizenship through birth or descent
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. Further information regarding Irish citizenship through birth, descent, naturalisation and following marriage is available from your nearest Irish embassy or consulate – see 'Where to apply' below.
Born in Ireland
If you were born on the island of Ireland before 1 January 2005, you are entitled to be an Irish citizen.
Irish citizen parent
If you were born in Ireland after 1 January 2005 and your parent(s) was an Irish citizen, 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.
Foreign national parent
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 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 they can apply for an Irish passport for their child - see 'How to apply' below.
Born outside Ireland
If you were born outside Ireland, your entitlement to Irish citizenship through descent will depend on whether your parent was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth.
Irish citizen parent born in Ireland
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. If you are an Irish citizen, you can apply for an Irish passport. You do not need an Irish passport in order to be an Irish citizen but having an Irish passport is evidence that you are an Irish citizen.
Irish citizen parent born outside Ireland
If you were born outside of Ireland and your parent (who was also born outside of Ireland) was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, then you are entitled to become an Irish citizen.
If the parent through whom you are entitled to 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.
Claiming Irish citizenship: To claim Irish citizenship, you must have your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register – see 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.
Citizenship through descent from Irish grandparent
If one of your grandparents is an Irish citizen who was born in Ireland, but neither 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 – see below.
Other Irish ancestors
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 a 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.
The following table may help to explain the situation:
|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 one or both of your parents:
|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.|
You can use the online tool on the INIS website to check if you are an Irish citizen by birth or decent.
Irish citizenship through adoption
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.
If an Irish citizen who is living abroad adopts child abroad, they should apply for the adoption to be entered in the Register of Intercountry Adoptions. Once it is registered, the adoption has the same legal status as if the adoption was made in the State.
If an Irish citizen living in the State adopts a child 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.
Foreign Births Register
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains the Foreign Births Register where people who are eligible to become Irish citizens can register their birth. If you have a grandparent born in Ireland or if your parent was granted Irish citizenship or was deemed to be an Irish citizen before you were born, then you can apply to register in the Foreign Births Register – see ‘How to apply’ below.
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 their entry in the Register and not from the date of birth. This means that children born to that person before their 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.
How to apply
Foreign Births Register
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, the photographic requirements and the fees 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, you will be provided with a certificate confirming your 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.
Passport for an Irish-born child of foreign national parents
Residence in Ireland: Non-EEA nationals must provide evidence of residence. Their passport application must include a letter listing their passport's immigration stamps which detail their residence in Ireland and their Certificate of Registration (GNIB card).
Residence in Northern Ireland: Non-EEA nationals who have permission to live in the UK must apply to the Department of Justice and Equality for a certificate of nationality for their Irish-born child. The letter of application must be accompanied by a completed declaration form C (pdf) together with 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.
EEA and Swiss nationals
EEA and Swiss nationals who wish to apply for an Irish passport for their child do not need a certificate of nationality. The passport application must include a declaration form A (pdf) completed by the parent and a person such as a solicitor or teacher who knows the parent.
Where to apply
Contact your nearest Irish embassy or consulate
Claiming Irish citizenship through special declaration
Some people may only claim Irish citizenship by making a declaration on a special form. They include:
- A person born on the island of Ireland to a foreign national who at the time of that person's birth was entitled to diplomatic immunity within the State (for example, a foreign ambassador)
- A person born in Irish sea or air space to a foreign national on a foreign ship or in a foreign aircraft
- A person born on the island of Ireland who has made a declaration of alienage on form 13 (pdf) under Section 21 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (that is, a person who has declared that they are no longer an Irish citizen). Such a person can resume Irish citizenship by making a declaration using form 1 (pdf).