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Irish Citizenship

Word of Warning

This site is not official. It is intended to be a helpful resource, but when you're dealing with Citizenship questions and immigration, the laws are complex and you had better go to the source. Contact your local Irish embassy!

Unexpected Bonus of Irish Citizenship

Irish Citizenship is a privilege which carries some unexpected bonuses. Because Ireland is a member of the European Union (EU), Irish citizens are free to live and work in any member country of the EU. No residence or work permits are necessary.

  • Purchase property in any country of the EU
  • Travel throughout the EU freely, using the same Passport as the citizens of France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and all of the other member nations.
  • Unemployment compensation, health insurance and pension rights also become available after working for a relatively short period in the EU.

Who is Eligible for Irish Citizenship

There are three ways that a person may qualify for citizenship.

  • Birth
  • Marriage to an Irish citizen
  • Residence


1. Anyone born in Ireland is an Irish citizen except children of diplomats with diplomatic immunity at the time. People born in Northern Ireland who are not Irish by descent must complete a special form before being considered Irish from birth.

2. If your mother or father was an Irish citizen born in Ireland, you are an Irish citizen even if born abroad.

But, if you were born outside Ireland, and your parent was an Irish citizen who was also born outside Ireland, you'll have to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs or an Irish embassy to become a citizen.

If you had an Irish-born grandparent, you may still become a citizen. But, you'll have to provide proof of direct kinship.

Documents which are used to establish Irish descent from parents and grandparents include their Irish birth, marriage, and death certificates. Of course, if your grandparents are still living, other documents such as passports and driving licenses may be filed instead of the death certificate. The Department of Foreign Affairs offers forms and full descriptions of the necessary documents. Contact them for the information you'll need.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform provides this handy chart summarizing citizenship by descent:

A (Born in Ireland) Irish Citizen
B (Child of A) Irish Citizen
C (Child of B grandchild of A) Must register to obtain Irish citizenship
D (Child of C great-grandchild of A) May register for Irish citizenship, provided that 'C' had registered by the time of 'D's' birth

Key Information

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service finally got it together and put a website online in 2007. For anyone looking for information on visas, immigration, citizenship, asylum and repatriation - this is the KEY resource on the web.


If you've been married for at least three years to an Irish citizen who has themselves been a citizen for at least three years, you can apply for citizenship. This application is made to the Department of Justice.

You'll need to provide a marriage certificate, proof that the Irish spouse is Irish by birth or descent, and a statement from the Irish partner confirming that you're really living together as man and wife. If you haven't been married for three years, but wish to return to Ireland with your spouse, your spouse has a presumed "right of residence."

In other words, barring unusual circumstances like felony convictions in the spouse's background, you may both move to Ireland and live here together. Under rules which came into effect in April 1999, the non-Irish spouse may work in Ireland without a work permit. If the spouse is an EU citizen, he or she must register with the authorities, but no work permit is required. Here's more on work permits.

CJ makes this important point: "As a US citizen married to an Irish national for over three years, I am entitled to Irish citizenship. The only reason I want to get the citizenship and passport is so that I could travel thru the EU at some later date. For day to day living in Ireland, if you are a dependent of an Irish or EU citizen, you do not need citizenship for anything else. You are still entitled to all the social benefits as a resident and can still work."

Spouses and Citizenship - 2005 and After

Under Irish law, the spouse of an Irish citizen may obtain Irish citizenship by making a declaration of acceptance of Irish citizenship The declaration may be made not earlier than three years after the marriage to the Irish spouse. In cases where the Irish spouse obtained Irish citizenship after the marriage by birth or descent, a further three years of marriage from the date of the granting of citizenship must elapse before the application may be made.

As a result of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2001, it will no longer be possible, after 30 November 2005, to become an Irish citizen by lodging a post-nuptial declaration at an Irish Embassy or Consulate. Instead, it will be necessary to apply to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in Ireland for a certificate of naturalisation based on marriage to an Irish citizen and subject to a number of conditions, including residency in Ireland.

Please note that residency part! For a spouse to become an Irish citizen it will now be necessary to reside in Ireland!

Here is the relevant paragraph of the The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act as amended in 2005:

Naturalisation of spouses of Irish citizens.
15A.31(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 15, the Minister may, in his or her absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation to the non-national spouse of an Irish citizen if satisfied that the applicant
(a) is of full age,
(b) is of good character,
(c) is married to that citizen for a period of not less than 3 years,
(d) is in a marriage recognised under the laws of the State as subsisting,
(e) and that citizen are living together as husband and wife and that citizen submits to the Minister an affidavit in the prescribed form to that effect,
(f) had immediately before the date of the application a period of one years continuous residence in the island of Ireland,
(g) had, during the 4 years immediately preceding that period, a total residence in the island of Ireland amounting to 2 years,
(h) intends in good faith to continue to reside in the island of Ireland after naturalisation, and
(i) has made, either before a judge of the District Court in open court or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

See below for the full text of the The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act.

Basically, it says that in 2005, they changed the rules. Now you have to be married to an Irish citizen for three years, prove you've been living together during that time via utility bills or bank statements in both your names, you have to live in Ireland for two years out of four and also during the year immediately preceding your application for citizenship and declare your loyalty to the state of Ireland. There's more - read it! (Two thumbs up! Funnier than Bob Hope meets the Three Stooges... just kidding. Scott)

Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act  (.pdf 52K)

For more information, contact the Department of Justice. Or telephone +353-1-602-8202 and ask for the immigration dept.

Vacation Time

Just as an addendum, one board poster (Nadia) worried that she couldn't travel abroad even for vacations while qualifying for her citizenship by marriage. The Justice Department is notorious for not answering their phones or e-mails, but Nadia persisted and spoke to a real live person at the Justice Department (Gasp! Amazing, but true!). This official confirmed that, yes, you can travel abroad during this application period. You just can't leave Ireland to take up "Residency" in another state.

Enough people have pestered the Department about this one that they put up a hedging sort of answer on their Frequently Asked Questions page:

Q.  What happens if I leave the State while my application is being processed?

A. If you are leaving the State on a temporary basis, it would be preferable that you advise the Department of the circumstances, so that officials will be aware of the situation if they need to contact you in relation to your application. The legal provisions governing naturalisation require that a naturalised person continue to reside in the State after naturalisation, and any long-term absences will be assessed in that light.

Residence and Naturalisation

If you don't qualify to become a citizen by birth or marriage, you can still apply for naturalisation if you've lived in Ireland for 5 years. Examples of people who might benefit from such a situation would be those who have been working here over a long period of time using work permits, or non-Irish dependents of Irish citizens. Specific information, once again, is available at the Department of Justice / Email: Department of Justice.

The following conditions must obtain before the Minister will confer citizenship on someone after meeting the residency requirements:

  • The applicant must be resident in the State
  • The applicant must be 18 years of age or older.
  • The applicant must have resided in the State for five of the nine years preceding the application. The last year of this period must have been one of continuous residence.
  • The applicant must satisfy the Minister that they are of good character.
  • The applicant must satisfy the Minister that they intend to reside in Ireland after naturalisation.
  • The applicant must make a formal declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the state.

Persons studying in Ireland may not make an application. Study periods DO NOT Count toward the five year reckonable residence requirement when applying for naturalisation.

It should be borne in mind that the Minister for Justice grants naturalisation at his or her "absolute discretion".

Maria's Big Warning about Reckonable Residence:

One thing that was pointed out to me by my lawyer was that any time that was not properly documented by the State doesn't count.

Good enough, I thought. I was fine till she went through my passports and noticed that on my first arrival in Ireland I didn't register with the immigration offials at the local Garda station & get my stamp for four months. So the 4 months time between the time I landed in Ireland and went to the Garda station doesn't count.

Needless to day I was slightly anrgy as I thought I had jumped through all the hoops beautifully. I thought that as I had a work permit which was stamped upon entering Ireland via Dublin immigration that I was grand. Not so! But as I was not told at the airport that I had to register, I didn't. Eventually the police phoned the hotel where I was working & requested that I go and register. Oops. They didn't seem bothered but I honestly wasn't aware I had to go.

Well, from that point onward, immediately after the arrival of my renewal work permit, I marched down to the Garda station and got my passport stamped asap.

The lawyer was not suprised at all that I had no knowledge of the Garda registration. As she put it: "Sure no one tells anyone anything in this country, so how WOULD you know?"

Oh well, it's all worked out fine, just annoying that I have to wait an extra few months to apply. Ah sure, what can you do? Good luck with it all, it'll be worth it in the end!

Dual citizenship

Ireland does not require foreign citizenship to be dropped in order to get an Irish passport. In other words, Ireland allows you to be simultaneously a citizen of Ireland and of another country. This dual citizenenship has, of course, many advantages, in that you can readily enter and exit both nations.

However, as a word of warning, many non-Irish governments do not allow dual citizenship, so you might have to give up your native citizenship to become an Irish citizen. Check with your native country's foreign affairs department for the rules that apply to you. Most notably, you can be a dual citizen of the United States and Ireland.


There are costs to handling the necessary paperwork. These prices are raised from time to time. In 2009, the government decided to take the solid whack of €950 - less for kids, widows and refugees.

If this represents the true cost of employing civil servants, it's easy to see why Ireland is having trouble balancing its budget.

Back in the 1990's a substantial investment in the region of a million pounds could legally buy you Irish citizenship. One scandal too many saw the demise of this little money-spinner. But, at the rates they're charging now, it begins to feel a lot like 1996.

Up-to-date fees are listed in the Immigration Service site at http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/WP08000088.

Subscriber R. gives his opinion:

Your website helped my wife and I settle here, start a business, buy a house etc.  My wife is Irish, from Dublin, and I am American. 

We moved here with our first daughter in September 2001.  In March 2008 I applied for my Irish citizenship because I thought it would be easier to travel around Europe on an Irish passport and my understanding is that I wouldn't need to give up my American citizenship.  I requested the forms to file for Irish citizenship and in March of 2008 filed the forms with all necessary details. 

Today (March 2010!) I received confirmation that my application has been accepted and that I need to declare myself in a district court.  I had expected some application fee but up until today nothing had been noted or requested by the INIS.  I expected a normal application fee of between 100 to 200 Euro.  At the bottom of my letter, it stated that the declaration (stamped in court) along with €950 would be required to complete my application for citizenship through naturalization. 

I said to my wife that this must be a typo and perhaps it is 95.  I tried to ring the department but realized that they are striking and therefore not answering the phones.  You've probably heard about this on the radio regarding passport offices.  I checked out their website which indicates that in September 2008 new fees in the amount of 950 were introduced.  My letter also indicates that the price could change and that I would be responsible to pay the price when the declaration was finally sent in.
What has happened to this country?  Are other EU countries charging such an amount? Is this amount against EU law?  It's like buying your citizenship.  Shouldn't this large fee be mentioned to applicants before they apply? I would have certainly made note of such an amount.  I have three young daughters, an ever increasing mortgage, increasing taxes and general cost of living.

Note from Scott: The one silver lining is that applications for children cost only €200.

Where to apply:

Generally, all the paperwork is handled by the Embassy or Consulate where you normally reside. So, it's no use showing up on Ireland's green shores and expecting to live here happily ever after. You'll usually need to deal with the paperwork before you move.

Irish Department of Foreign Affairs
For embassies and consulates worldwide, look for the link on the home page. (They've moved this link around so much I've given up trying to track it.)


One other urgent message came from D. "Tell people they need to get their long form birth certificates and marriage certificates to apply for Irish Citizenship and passports. They will not accept the regular ones. Also, you need your children's long form birth certificates to sign them up for children's allowance. The process only takes a few weeks in Dublin but it takes much longer in the States.

An important note: when requesting your documents make sure you specify the "long" form."

"A certified copy of your birth certificate has a stamp or seal on it. This is not a notarized copy, and it will cost you about $2-$20 depending upon what state you were born. (Of course, those of you living in other nations won't be paying in dollars, but the same warnings apply.) You can still get these documents while living abroad, it will just cost you more postage, time and possibly inconvience if the state in question asks for a money order instead of a U.S. personal check." CJ

Tracking Down Official Irish Documents

For years I've been recommending genealogist and record agent Hilda McGauley. Her website is Records Ireland.

If there's a piece of official paper that you want to find, Hilda's your gal.

Non-EU, non Irish citizens wishing to move to Ireland

Click here for Work Permit Information. If you want to stay in Ireland even without a job or EU citizenship, check out the Residence Registration page.

EU Citizens

Click here for EU Citizen Information

Time Line

Start early! It takes from 12 to 24 months for the paperwork to be processed before you can expect your shiny new Irish passport to arrive in the mail. One subscriber happily reports that, after her application based on marriage to an Irish citizen, the process took only 9 months. Still, you could have a baby faster so, in the words of family counselors, plan ahead. Don't count on the happy experiece of A. whose husband's citizenship papers came in with a sprint in 6 months.

"I originally filed my papers for post nuptial citizenship back in late 2005. Late June of 2007 the consulate mailed me instructions to send on my money to Dublin...process still continues....after 1.5 years." (S)

But, apparently people living in Boston have a special divine dispensation. Here is the June 2007 post by Andy:

"I just wanted people to know that I was able to obtain Irish citizenship in a shorter time frame than I was told was possible. I live in the United States and applied for citizenship in February. My grandfather was born in Ireland so I obtained the necessary birth, marriage and death certificates to show that I am descended from him. I turned in the certificates and paperwork in February to the Irish consulate in Boston. I received my citizenship certificate today. Also, I didn't know anyone special who had the process hurried up for me. Just wanted everyone to know that it is possible for this to happen so fast."

And John reports the same thing:

My brother Richard and I applied for Irish citizenship within a few weeks of each other in March, 2008.  He through Boston, I through New York.  I put together both applications, documents, etc.  He received citizenship notification by the end of April and his passport was processed in six weeks.  I am still waiting for citizenship.....


Once you have the citizenship papers in hand, you can apply for a passport. This too will take time to reach you. How long? Here's the response from several people when this became a topic on the bulletin board:

I applied for mine at the NY office in April and received it in July.

When I applied for my new passport from the consulate in N.Y. it took 8 weeks. Not sure why it takes so long as I was born in Ireland. Consider it a portent of things to come.

Spoke with the NY Consulate & they said there is a huge backlog & it is now taking at least five months!

A. gives this warning: "We applied for the passport in early May; this time the process involved obtaining a signature & seal of a lawyer personally known to you (the other options were a bank manager, policeman, priest or school principal but they have to be personally known to you). The consulate said the passport would arrive within 4 months & we thought that was a conservative estimate. But it’s now September & we still haven’t received it yet.

You have to really have to want this citizenship because they really don’t make it easy for you at all. I found the US citizenship process (which I went through last year) a lot less complicated & this includes the history exam. Good luck with your process..."

Two different subscribers reported that Foreign Birth Registry took 10 months to process from start until receipt of the FBR certificate. Both applied through the Washington embassy. Mary was told the process would take 18 months so she was pleasantly surprised when it happened in a little over half that time.

Deirdre reports: "Registered my children through foreign births last year and it only took a few weeks. They also received their citizenship through their grandparents. It's much quicker and easier when you do it in Ireland. If you're living in the states, however, you are required to apply in the states. So this won't help anyone who is living there. If you are planning on moving over to Ireland, you are better off waiting until you are in Ireland to apply since it is much faster."

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act

In 2004 a constitutional amendment concerning citizenship rights was passed by the Irish people in a referendum. Following this, the Department of Justice released an "unofficial consolidation" of the 1956 and 2005 Citizenship Acts. They might list it as "unofficial" for legal reasons (at the time it still had to be rubber-stamped by the Dail/Parliament). But, you may take it as the law of the land on this issue.

I include a .pdf version of this consolidation here for your reference. It's a lawyerly, sometimes confusing document, with occasional footnoted references to subclauses and previous Acts. Nonetheless, when it gets into the nitty-gritty it's reasonably straight-forward. Assuming you to be of sound mind and advanced law degree qualifications, I am including it here for those of you wanting to see precisely what's stated.

I unearthed it from the Department of Justice site where it's buried deep. I haven't altered it in any way. Just be aware that whatever you think you're reading, the personnel at the embassies, consulates and Justice Department have the final say on any citizenship applications. If you don't like their decision, then it's time to examine the depths of your wallet and consult a lawyer. I, on the other hand, am NOT a lawyer. I just do my best to dig out information which you can mull over.

This is a .pdf formatted document. If you can't read it, then you need to download the free Acrobat reader from Adobe.

Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act  (.pdf 52K)

The Duck Lady's Blog - Citizenship by Descent

An interesting new blog has gone online at http://www.irishblogger.com . It contains news about the emerald isle and the occasional article of immediate usefulness. In particular, the Duck Lady has two excellent articles about dual citizenship, applying for Irish citizenship and related topics. And, there’s the true, must-read love affair of Mr. Bunny and Miss Chicken. Parental discretion is not advised. With her permission, I include here the results of the Duck Lady's research into Citizenship by descent.


There are several main avenues to becoming an Irish citizen, including birth, marriage, residency or descent. Descent is what most US citizens of Irish heritage mean when they speak of obtaining dual citizenship. It is clearly the route of most interest to the Duck Lady's admittedly small circle of readers.

The following information is not meant to be a legal guide. Please consult with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs http://www.dfa.ie or your nearest Irish embassy or consulate for the final word on these matters.

Citizenship by descent registers your birth in the Irish Register of Foreign Births. Happily, neither the US nor Ireland objects to this form of dual citizenship. It is a relatively simple procedure, once you procure the proper documents. Briefly, you must establish a chain of lineage from you to your Irish-born parent or grandparent. This starts with your own birth certificate and your parents' birth, death and marriage certificates. If you are applying on the basis of an Irish-born grandparent, you must provide the same set of documents for that grandparent.

The first step in this process is to request an application form and fact sheet from your nearest Irish embassy or consulate if you reside outside the Republic or at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin if you are living in Ireland. It is important to deal with the embassy that covers the geographic region in which you live as some of the documentary requirements may vary from office to office. The Irish Embassy in Washington, DC does an excellent job in describing the overall citizenship process on their website: http://www.embassyofireland.org/home/index.aspx?id=30818

All documents used to apply for citizenship must be original or official copies from the issuing authority, properly sealed and stamped. Any supporting documents, such as proofs of identity, must be originals or notarized copies of originals.

Start with yourself and get an official copy of your own birth cert. Request a long or expanded version. After that, or at the same time, get official copies of your relevant parent's birth, marriage and/or death certificates. These documents should yield some information about their own or their parent's birth place and date, perhaps more than you'd imagined.

This information probably will enable you to The General Registry Office at http://www.gro.ie/. Be aware Irish birth certificates come in two forms, a long and a short. You will need the long form for a citizenship application.

If you run out of gas, hit a dead end or have money to burn you can always hire a professional genealogist to help you track down a missing document. Contact the state or local historical society in the geographic area under question in either country for a referral.

The US-based Board for Certification of Genealogists http://www.bcgcertification.org maintains a database of certified genealogists in the US, as does the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland. There are also many excellent non-certified genealogists. The Code of Ethics for the US Board http://www.bcgcertification.org/aboutbcg/code.html can provide guidance in what to look for when hiring a professional.

Some time after you've sent in your completed application and the appropriate documents the embassy will contact you to set up an interview. I paid about $150. My interview took about five minutes and was a very relaxed affair. About six weeks later--sooner than I'd been led to believe--I received my Irish citizenship paper in the mail. It was a very emotional moment for me.

Many people feel stumped or overwhelmed at the prospect of obtaining a copy of their grandparent's Irish birth or other certificates. Often they have no idea where or when their grandparents were born. They may believe they have to go to Ireland to get a copy of their parent's or grandparent's birth certificate. Not so. Take it one step at a time and don't get discouraged. You may surprise yourself. I did and it was well worth the effort.


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