The laws governing citizenship in Ireland are set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 2004 as amended.
These laws direct that a person can acquire Irish citizenship on one of the following ways:
- Citizenship by Birth: for persons born in the island of Ireland before 2005 or for those born after 2005 provided that certain criteria are fulfilled;
- Citizenship by Naturalisation: by fulfilling the statutory requirements of Section 15, 15A or 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended), including a specified length of residence in the State. Such applications are at the discretion of the Minister for Justice and Equality;
- Citizenship by Descent: Citizenship can be acquired through descent for applicants born abroad, through a parent, grandparent or great grandparent born in Ireland or through Foreign Birth Registration.
Citizenship By Birth
The law governing entitlement to citizenship by birth in Ireland is set out in Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956,as amended. Of particular relevance is Section 4 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, which inserts into Section 6A of the 1956 Act a new section, entitled “Citizenship of children of certain non-nationals”. The provisions of this section set out the entitlement of persons born to non-nationals in the State to be eligible for Irish citizenship from birth. Those children who meet the specified criteria are entitled to an Irish passport from birth.
The law is summarised as follows on the INIS website:
“A person born in the island of Ireland after 1 January 2005 to parents, at least one of whom was an Irish or British citizen or entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without any restrictions on his or her residence, has an entitlement of Irish citizenship. Otherwise, a person born in the island of Ireland after 1 January 2005 is entitled to Irish citizenship only if, during the four year period immediately preceding the person’s birth, one of the parents has been resident* in the island of Ireland for a period of not less than three years and neither parent was entitled to diplomatic immunity in the State.”
Section 6 B (4) of the 1956 Act, as amended by the 2004 Act sets out what is reckonable residence for the purposes of citizenship by birth.
“A period of residence in the State shall not be reckonable for the purposes of calculating a period of residence under section 6A if—
(a) it is in contravention of section 5(1) of the Act of 2004,
(b) it is in accordance with a permission given to a person under section 4 of the Act of 2004 for the purpose of enabling him or her to engage in a course of education or study in the State, or
In summary, reckonable residence is all lawful residence in the State with the exception of residence permission granted for purposes of study or time spent in the state in pursuance of a claim for asylum.
A person born in Ireland who meets the conditions for citizenship by birth is automatically entitled to citizenship, and is entitled to an Irish passport to evidence this. Unlike naturalisation, this is not a discretionary application.
Naturalisation is the process whereby a non Irish national can apply to become an Irish citizen.
An application for a certificate of naturalisation will be considered under the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 (as amended).
The Act provides that the Minister for Justice and Equality may, in her absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled.
Applicants should be aware that the granting of Irish Citizenship through naturalisation is deemed to be a privilege and not an entitlement.
The requirements for Naturalisation are as follows:
- You must be of full age (i.e. eighteen years or older);
- You must be of good character;
- You must have had a period of one (1) year’s continuous reckonable residence in the State immediately before the date of the application and,
- during the eight (8) years preceding that, have had a total reckonable residence in the State amounting to four (4) years. (Total amounting to five (5) years reckonable residence);
- You must intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation;
- You must make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State and undertake to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.
Applicants for Naturalisation are required to have fulfilled the relevant criteria for reckonable residence for Naturalisation at the time of application. The normal requirement is that an applicant has acquired five years of reckonable residency in the State.
However, in the case of applicants who are legally married to an Irish citizen, or who are recognised refugees or stateless persons, they are only to have three years reckonable residence in the State. These applicants still must meet the requirement to have a period of one year of continuous reckonable residence in the State immediately prior to the date of the application for naturalisation.
The calculation of reckonable residency is set out at Section 16 A of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956,as amended. In summary, the section provides that all lawful residence in the State shall be deemed reckonable with the exception of residence for the purposes of study (stamp 2 permission) or residence for the purposes of an asylum application.
Reckonable residence is calculated at the time of submitting the application, and not at the determination of it. The INIS provide a reckonable residency calculator, which must be completed and printed out and submitted with the application for naturalisation. Two ticks will appear on the calculator to confirm that the reckonable residency requirements have been fulfilled.
Under Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, the Minister also has power, in her absolute discretion, to waive one or more of the conditions where the applicant is of Irish associations. Irish associations is defined as follows;
(a) he or she is related by blood, affinity or adoption to, or is the civil partner of, a person who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen, or (b) he or she was related by blood, affinity or adoption to, or was the civil partner of, a person who is deceased and who, at the time of his or her death, was an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen.
It is stated on the INIS website that the Minister is not obliged to waive any condition and applicants are generally expected to have at least 3 years residency even where it is appropriate to consider applications under the provisions of Section 16.
Citizenship by Descent
Citizenship through descent is the process by which a person can acquire Irish citizenship through his/her parents/grandparents/great grandparents.
The entitlement to acquire citizenship by descent is summarised on the INIS website as follows;
“If either of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you are an Irish citizen, irrespective of your place of birth (unless one of the special conditions relating to birth outside Ireland applies; these are described below). If the parent through whom you derive Irish citizenship was not alive at the time of your birth, but would have been an Irish citizen if alive at that time, you are also an Irish citizen. You derive citizenship through an Irish parent whether or not your parents were married to each other at the time of your birth.
If you were born outside Ireland to an Irish citizen who was himself or herself born in Ireland, then you are an Irish citizen.
If you were born outside Ireland to an Irish citizen who was himself or herself born outside Ireland, and any of your grandparents were born in Ireland, then you are entitled to become an Irish citizen, and can do so by having your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register maintained by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. You can do this by applying to your nearest Irish embassy or consular office. A list of these is available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs at www.dfa.ie. If you are entitled to register, your Irish citizenship is effective from the date of registration.”
An applicant for citizenship through descent becomes an Irish citizen from the date of their registration on the Foreign Births Register and can apply for an Irish passport once they receive their certificate of Foreign Births Registration.
We assist clients in advising them of their entitlement to citizenship by descent, and assist in respect of the foreign birth registration applications.