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How to Get Irish Citizenship by Descent

Irish Citizenship by Descent

Have you ever dreamed of living in Ireland? Imagine enjoying the endless green rolling hills in the bucolic countryside, or picture yourself in the midst of the cheerful hustle and bustle of Dublin or Galway. Do you happen to have  parents or grandparents that were born on The Emerald Isle? If so, you may qualify for an Irish passport!


And if that wasn’t enough an Irish passport will give you access to the entire European Union as a citizen of Europe! The best part is, it’s fairly simple, straightforward and potentially quick! Read on to find out how to qualify, what happens next…and have the coveted maroon passport in your mailbox sooner than you’d think!

What is citizenship by descent?

If you’ve got ancestors from Ireland, you may qualify for citizenship by descent. But…what does that mean? Citizenship by descent is a way to obtain citizenship and then obtain a passport from a country where your parents, grand-parents or even great-grand parents were born.

Each European country has its own requirements, restrictions and rules on how to qualify and how to apply, but you’ve got the Luck of the Irish on your side! You’ll be glad to know it’s fairly easy to obtain if you want to give it a lash— or “go for it”, as the Irish say!

If you don’t qualify for citizenship by descent but still want to make Ireland your home, learn about the many visa options available for Ireland (and 17 other countries in Europe!)

Can I get Irish citizenship if my parents or grandparents were Irish?

Yes! If your parents or your grandparents – on either side – were born in Ireland or are Irish citizens, you’re in like FlynnThe absolute easiest way to qualify is if your mother or father was born in Ireland. If your parent was born on the Emerald Isle before 2005, you already are an Irish citizen!  You are considered an Irish citizen by birth, even if you were born in another country. You do not have to register your birth in Ireland or do anything special to qualify.  You can simply apply for your Irish passport. Easy peasy! 

small church in ireland

If one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, but neither of your parents was born in Ireland, you may still become an Irish citizen. This is a two step process – you will need to have your birth registered in Ireland with the Foreign Births Register and then after you’ve been “recognized” as an Irish citizen, you can apply for your passport.


 NOTE: The Foreign Birth Register turnaround time is approximately 2 years after submittal, as of this writing. 

Can I get Irish citizenship through my great-grandparents?

If your great-grandparent was born in Ireland, your parents must have registered on the Foreign Births Registrar before you were born in order for you to be eligible to apply for Irish citizenship. You must also register your birth with the Registry before applying for citizenship. Do your due diligence to see if these official steps have been taken to see if you qualify. And note that applications based on descent from an Irish citizen going further back than a great-grandparent are generally refused. 

Irish citizenship requirements

You’ll need to collect and submit some official documents to prove your right to Irish citizenship and then apply for a passport.  At the very least you’ll need to provide: 

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your Irish-born parent’s birth certificate (you’ll need an official “long form” that you can request from Ireland, which will show the parents and child’s names, place of birth, etc.)
  • Your parent’s marriage certificate.

As previously mentioned, if you are applying through a grandparent’s lineage, you’ll need to register your birth on the Foreign Birth Registry and you’ll need to do that prior to applying for your passport. Please note,  the turnaround time for the Registry is approximately 2 years. 

How to get an Irish passport by descent

Once you’ve been recognized as a citizen, either through having a parent born in Ireland or by registering on the Foreign Birth Registry and being approved, it’s fairly straightforward to apply for the actual passport itself. 


On the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs Passport Online website is where you will create your application, answer some questions, pay a fee and submit a photo. For your photo you can use an online passport generator; it’s inexpensive and stress-free! A recommended site is Visa Foto.  

cork, ireland

After these steps are complete, Passport Online will generate an application number and a checklist of the documentation you’ll need to print out and send to the officials in Dublin. 


Depending on your specific situation, documents can include your birth certificate, your parent/grandparent’s birth certificates, your parent’s marriage certificate, copies of your American passport, proof of your current address (utility bills, bank statements and such) and a sworn and signed statement from a “professional” such as an attorney, banker, teacher etc. stating that you are you and that you’ve signed the paper application form in their presence. After submitting your documents by mail, you can track your application status online and get real time updates on the progress. 

How long does it take to get Irish citizenship and a passport?

If your connection to Éire is through your Irish-born parent, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll have that gold-harp embossed passport in your hand! Simply apply online, gather the proper documents and send them to Ireland, and you could have your shiny new passport in a matter of weeks—an average turnaround time of merely 8 weeks!

If applying through grandparents you’ll first need to register on the Foreign Birth Registry, where it will take approximately two years to be recognized as an Irish citizen. Once you’ve been recognized you can then apply for your passport online and experience similar timing (approximately 8 weeks).

Benefits of Irish citizenship

So what benefits come with Irish citizenship? Here’s a list of some of the main perks you’ll be entitled to as a citizen of Éire

  • Ireland allows dual citizenship, which means that you can become an Irish citizen and remain a citizen of another country if your country allows it – the USA and Canada do, for example. 
  • You are formally recognized as a national of Ireland and a citizen of the European Union.
  • As an Irish citizen, you will pass along to your children—those were born after you were granted citizenship—the ability to become a citizen of Ireland as well

As a Hibernian (Irish) citizen, you can:

  • 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

Irish citizenship through descent

Applying for Irish citizenship is straightforward, relatively simple and in some circumstances, you can received your Irish passport in a matter of weeks! If you need to register with the Foreign Birth Registry first, it will take longer… but as far as citizenship processing and turnaround time, it’s still fast! It’s an uncomplicated route to becoming an Irish citizen and receiving that beautiful maroon passport and enjoying life on The Olde Sod—or anywhere in the European Union! 


Go n-eirí an t-ádh leat! (good luck!)

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