Entitlement to Irish citizenship

Introduction

Ireland is a sovereign, independent country and has rules and laws about who is entitled to Irish citizenship.

Most Irish citizens were automatically Irish when they were born. Before 1 January 2005, everyone born on the island of Ireland was an Irish citizen by birth. Following an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, citizenship by birth is no longer an automatic entitlement to everyone born on the island of Ireland.

If you are born abroad, you are entitled to Irish citizenship if your parent was born in Ireland. If your grandparents were born in Ireland, you may also be able to claim citizenship through the Foreign Births Register.

Residents of Ireland who have come from abroad can apply to become Irish citizens through naturalisation.

Citizens of Ireland are also EU citizens, which means that they can live, work and study in any other EU member state.

This document describes who can claim or apply for Irish citizenship, the rights that Irish citizens enjoy and answers some general questions on Irish citizenship law.

Irish citizenship and the law

Irish citizenship in the Constitution of Ireland

The Constitution of Ireland is the basic law of the State and was adopted in 1937. It replaced the Constitution of the Irish Free State.

The Constitution of the Irish Free State granted citizenship to anyone living in the territory of the Irish Free State who:

  • At the time of the enacting of the constitution lived in the territory of the Irish Free State

    and

  • Was born in Ireland, or was the son or daughter of someone who was born in Ireland or
  • Lived in Ireland for 7 years or more

It did not give citizenship rights to anyone born after the enacting of the Constitution of the Irish Free State. Instead, it said that this would be set out in law.

When this was replaced by the Constitution of Ireland, anyone who was granted citizenship of the Irish Free State under the provisions of the previous Constitution became a citizen of Ireland. Article 9 of the Irish Constitution says that the future “acquisition and loss” or Irish citizenship would be done in accordance with law.

The 19th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was passed following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This put the right to citizenship by birth in the Constitution.

The 27th Amendment of the Irish Constitution was passed by referendum in 2004. This removed the automatic right to citizenship by birth for anyone born in Ireland after 1 January 2005 and gave authority back to the Oireachtas (the Irish parliament) to decide on laws about citizenship by birth.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts

The Constitution of Ireland allows the Oireachtas to make laws to decide who can become an Irish citizen after the enactment of the Constitution (in 1937). The most important citizenship law that was passed after 1937 was the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956.

This Act had a number of important provisions:

  • Anyone born in Ireland was automatically an Irish citizen. People who were born in Northern Ireland were entitled to be Irish citizens if they chose it.
  • A Foreign Births Register was established for descendants of Irish citizens born abroad.
  • Wives of Irish citizens (but not husbands) could claim Irish citizenship by signing a post-nuptial declaration. This practice ended in 2005.
  • Rules for naturalisation were set out.

The Act was amended a number of times, most importantly in 2004, following the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. This removed the automatic right to Irish citizenship by birth to all those born in Ireland.

Northern Ireland and Irish Citizenship

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 gave people born in Northern Ireland the right to claim Irish citizenship if they chose to do so.

The Good Friday Agreement, which was signed between the Irish and British governments in 1998, confirmed that people born in Northern Ireland could choose to be either British or Irish citizens.

Since 1 January 2005, if you are born in Northern Ireland, you can claim Irish citizenship if your parent (or parents) are either British or Irish citizens, or one of them has lived on the island of Ireland for at least 3 out of the 4 years immediately before your birth.

You can read more about citizenship by birth or descent.

Who is entitled to Irish citizenship?

You are entitled to claim Irish citizenship if any one of the following applies:

1.You were born in Ireland or Northern Ireland before 1 January 2005

2.You were born in Ireland or Northern Ireland after 31 December 2004

and

One (or both) of your parents was an Irish or entitled to be an Irish citizen or a British citizen at the time of your birth

Or

One (or both) of your parents was an Irish or British citizen and died before you were born

Or

One (or both) of your parents was entitled to live in Ireland or Northern Ireland without any restriction on his or her period of residency

Or

One (or both) of your parents was legally resident on the island of Ireland for 3 out of the 4 years immediately before your birth (this does not include residence on a student visa, or residence while awaiting an international protection decision)

3.You were born abroad

and

One (or both of your parents) was born in Ireland and was entitled to Irish citizenship

Or

Your grandparent was born in Ireland and you have entered your birth on the Foreign Births Register

Or

At the time of your birth, your parent had become an Irish citizen by registering with the Foreign Births Register or by naturalisation

4. You were born in Ireland and are not entitled to be a citizen of any other country.

You can read about citizenship by birth.

Who is entitled to apply for Irish citizenship by naturalisation?

In this section, legal residence (or reckonable residence) does not include time spent on a student visa or time spent while waiting for a decision on International Protection.

In addition to the below conditions, you must also be of good character. Citizenship by naturalisation is granted at the discretion of the Minister for Justice.

If you are not entitled to citizenship by birth or descent, you can apply to become an Irish citizen by naturalisation if:

1.You have lived in Ireland legally for 5 out of the last 9 years ending on the day before your application

And

You have resided in Ireland legally for the 12 month period before your application

And

You are over 18

2.You received a declaration as a refugee from the Minister for Justice

And

You have lived legally in Ireland for 3 years ending on the day of your application

And

You have resided in Ireland legally for the 12 month period before your application

And

You are over 18

3.You are a child born in Ireland who is not entitled to citizenship by birth

And

Both you and one (or both) of your parents has lived in Ireland legally for 5 out of the 9 years ending on the day of your application

And

Both you and one (or both) of your parents have resided in Ireland legally for the 12 month period before your application

OR

Your parent has become a naturalised Irish citizen

And

You have resided in Ireland for at least 3 years before your application

4.You are currently married to or a civil partner of an Irish citizen

And

You have lived in Ireland legally for 3 out of the 5 years before the day of your application

And

You have resided in Ireland legally for the 12 month period before your application

And

You have been married and living together for 3 years

Dual citizenship

Ireland allows dual citizenship, which means that you can become an Irish citizens and remain a citizen of another country.

Some countries do not allow dual citizenship and you should check the citizenship rules of your country of nationality if you are considering applying for Irish citizenship.

If you are a dual citizen, you can apply to have your non-Irish passport stamped with a Without Condition Endorsement (also called Stamp 6). This stamp says that you have a right to live in Ireland without any time conditions.

Rights of Irish citizens

If you are an Irish citizen, you are entitled to

  • Carry an Irish passport
  • Live and work in Ireland without restriction
  • Vote in a general election, constitutional referendum or presidential election
  • Be elected to government in Ireland and in the European Union.
  • Live, travel and work within the European Union
  • Serve on a jury, unless you are disqualified or ineligible
  • Receive diplomatic assistance abroad from an Irish or EU embassy

Renouncing Irish citizenship

If you are an Irish citizen living abroad, and you wish to apply for citizenship of another country you may have to renounce your Irish citizenship.

You do this by making a declaration of alienage.

If you were an Irish citizen by birth, you can resume your Irish citizenship by making a declaration of citizenship (pdf).

Further information

You can read about:

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) website has more information about Irish citizenship. You can also email INIS at citizenshipinfo@justice.ie.

Page edited: 3 December 2020