No, you cannot obtain Irish citizenship through genetic or DNA testing. However, there are various other ways in which you can become an Irish citizen – most notably if you have an Irish parent, grandparent, spouse or civil partner. You can also become an Irish citizen via a process called naturalisation, whereby you have lived in Ireland for a certain length of time.
If you are hoping to obtain Irish citizenship, the best approach will depend on your individual set of circumstances. Every case is unique. The immigration solicitors at Gibson & Associates can devise the right strategy for you.
How to become an Irish citizen
Following the Brexit referendum in 2016, increasing numbers of people have been applying for Irish citizenship. Doing so brings a number of benefits, including the ability to travel and work freely amongst EU member states, and vote in Irish elections.
If you also wish to apply, you must check whether you are eligible first.
The eligibility criteria for Irish citizenship is complex. There are various avenues to explore. One thing is for certain though – you cannot claim to be Irish based on a DNA test. Rather, you must show that you are eligible to Irish citizenship by birth, descent, naturalisation or marriage.
Irish citizenship by birth
If you were born in Ireland, you might wonder whether you are considered to be an Irish citizen. The answer to this depends on whether you were born before or after 1 January 2005.
Before 1 January 2005
If you were born in Ireland before 1 January 2005, you are automatically an Irish citizen. It does not matter where your parents are from originally, or whether they themselves have Irish citizenship.
The exception to this rule is children born in Ireland of parents holding diplomatic immunity. So, if you are born in Ireland and your parents are foreign ambassadors, for example, you have to claim Irish citizenship by completing a declaration form.
After 1 January 2005
If you were born in Ireland on or after 1 January 2005, you are automatically an Irish citizen if any of the following apply:
- You have at least one parent who was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth
- You have at least one parent who was entitled to live in Northern Ireland or the Irish State without a restriction on their residency at the time of your birth
- You have at least one parent who was granted refugee status in Ireland at the time of your birth
If none of these apply, then you are not automatically an Irish citizen. Even so, you may still be eligible to apply for citizenship if one of your parents lived in Ireland in the years preceding your birth. This is known as establishing ‘reckonable residence’.
For the purposes of getting citizenship, one of your parents must have lived in Ireland for three out of the four years immediately prior to your birth. So, if you were born in 2010, one of your parents must have lived in Ireland for a three-year period between 2006 and 2010. If you can establish this, it means that you have a genuine link to Ireland and can apply for citizenship.
Irish citizenship by descent
If you were not born in Ireland, but you have Irish relatives, then you may be able to claim Irish citizenship by descent. However, you can only obtain Irish citizenship if you have an Irish parent, grandparent or – in exceptional cases – a great-grandparent. You cannot point to the fact that you have Irish aunties, uncles and cousins. Nor can you rely on ancient ancestors to claim Irish citizenship.
The way in which you obtain citizenship by descent depends on who in your family is an Irish citizen, and whether he/she was born in Ireland.
Your parent is an Irish citizen born in Ireland
If one of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth – and that parent was born in Ireland – you automatically have Irish citizenship. For example, imagine your mother was born in Ireland and is an Irish citizen. She emigrated to Australia and gave birth to you. In this case, you are automatically an Irish citizen – even if you were born outside Ireland.
Your parent is an Irish citizen born outside Ireland
Things are slightly different if one of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, but that parent was not actually born in Ireland. In these scenarios, you are not automatically an Irish citizen, but you are entitled to apply for it.
So, let’s say that your father was born in Canada, but he was also an Irish citizen at the time of your birth. It does not matter where your birth happened – one of your parents was an Irish citizen, making you eligible for Irish citizenship.
Also, it does not matter whether your parents were married, or whether your Irish parent is deceased. If your parent would have been an Irish citizen, were he/she alive on the date of your birth, you are eligible for Irish citizenship.
However, because your parent was not born in Ireland, you are not automatically given Irish citizenship. Instead, you must register your birth with the Irish Foreign Births Register. To do this, you need to submit a completed application form, provide certain documents relating to you and your Irish parent, and pay a fee. If your registration is approved, you will become an Irish citizen, effective from the date of your registration.
Your grandparent is an Irish citizen born in Ireland
If your grandparent is an Irish citizen and was born in Ireland or Northern Ireland, then you can apply for Irish citizenship. The process is the same as the one described above – namely that you must register your birth with the Irish Foreign Births Register. If your registration is successful, you become an Irish citizen, after which you can apply for an Irish passport.
If you are going to obtain Irish citizenship via your grandparent, then he/she must have been born in Ireland. This differs to the rules regarding obtaining Irish citizenship through a parent, who may or may not have been born in Ireland. Again, you need to provide supporting documentation relating to both you and your grandparent, including your grandparent’s official birth certificate.
You have an Irish great-grandparent
It is also possible to obtain Irish citizenship if your great-grandparent was an Irish citizen. However, you can only do this if:
- Your great-grandparent was born in Ireland, and
- Your mother/father has obtained Irish citizenship based on the fact that their grandparent (your great-grandparent) was an Irish citizen, and
- Your mother/father had obtained Irish citizenship by the time you were born (if you were born after 1986) or between 1956 and 1986
If you meet the eligibility criteria, you must register your birth with the Irish Foreign Births Register. Once registered, you are considered an Irish citizen.
Irish citizenship by naturalisation
Naturalisation is when you have lived in Ireland for a certain amount of time, making you eligible to acquire Irish citizenship. This is the best option for anyone who is not entitled to Irish citizenship through birth or descent.
To be eligible, most applicants must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be of good character – which evidenced with a police report
- Have remained in Ireland for one continuous year before the application (aside from reasonable absences that must not exceed six weeks in total)
- Have lived in Ireland for five years out of the past nine years
- Have the intention to remain living in Ireland
However, the rules do vary depending on the applicant. For example, those who are granted refugee status can apply for Irish citizenship after three years of residency. Also, certain conditions may be waived if:
- You are of Irish descent/associations
- You were born in Ireland
- You have been living abroad due to public service
- You are a naturalised parent applying on behalf of a minor
- You are a parent or guardian applying on behalf of a minor of Irish descent/associations
When applying for naturalisation, you must take care to calculate your reckonable residence correctly. This is the amount of time you have been living in Ireland. If you are a non-EEA/Swiss national, then certain periods may be excluded, even if you were still in the country at the time. This might happen if you remain in the State without permission to do so, or your permission to remain is granted for study purposes only.
You must submit evidence that proves the length of your residence in Ireland. If these documents do not show that you have a sufficient length of reckonable residence, your application could be rejected.
If your naturalisation application is approved, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony. There, you will be asked to make a declaration of fidelity and loyalty to the State.
Irish citizenship by marriage
If you are married to an Irish citizen, or you are in a civil partnership with an Irish citizen, you can yourself apply to become an Irish citizen. This is the same as naturalisation, but the requirements are slightly different.
To become an Irish citizen via marriage or civil partnership, you must show that:
- Your marriage is legally valid and recognised in Ireland
- You have been married or in a civil partnership for at least three years
- You have been living in Ireland for one continuous year prior to your application
- You have been living in Ireland for a total of three years during the previous five years
- You and your spouse/civil partner live together
- You intend to remain living in Ireland
- You are of good character
Like any other naturalisation application, you will need to submit proof of all of the above, including your reckonable residence in Ireland.
Speak to an immigration solicitor
Therefore, you cannot attain Irish citizenship by genetic testing. Nevertheless, you can obtain Irish citizenship by proving that your parent, grandparent or great-grandparent was an Irish citizen. You must evidence this by using official documents such as passports and birth certificates.
Even if you do not have any Irish relatives, you can apply for Irish citizenship if you have lived in the country for a certain amount of time, and/or you are married to an Irish citizen.
The question of whether or not you are eligible to get Irish citizenship – and the best way to obtain it – is a complicated one. It depends on various factors. Even if you meet the eligibility criteria, you must provide evidence in support of your application. Any errors could mean that it is rejected.
Because of the complexities involved, it is beneficial to instruct a specialist immigration solicitor to help you. At Gibson & Associates LLP, our immigration lawyers can advise you on the best approach in your particular case.