The benefits of being an Irish citizen
There are many benefits to being an Irish citizen, not least that you acquire the right to remain on the Emerald Isle indefinitely. You also have the right to carry an Irish passport, travel without restrictions across the European Union, and vote in Irish elections.
Some of the benefits of being an Irish citizen are that you can:
- Enjoy fundamental rights as set out in the Irish Constitution
- Live, work, study and travel in Ireland and the UK
- Live, work, study and travel in the EU/EAA
- Access free education
- Vote in Irish and European elections
- Be elected to government
- Enjoy diplomatic support outside of Ireland
- Hold dual/multiple citizenship
- Pass Irish citizenship to your children
We explore each of these benefits in greater detail below.
When you become an Irish citizen, you are guaranteed certain fundamental rights under the Irish Constitution. These are many and varied, but work to protect you, your family and your freedom. These rights include:
- Equality before the law
- The right to life
- Personal liberty
- Freedom of expression
- Religious freedom
- Freedom to travel in Ireland
- Property rights
- The right to privacy
- Family rights
It is easy to take these fundamental rights for granted, but they are by no means available in every country. People face persecution and oppression across the globe, perhaps because they have tried to speak out against a regime, or perhaps because of their religious choices.
The Irish Constitution ensures you are entitled to the freedom to travel, the freedom of expression, equality before the law and religious freedom. This makes Ireland a safe space in which to live, work and raise a family.
Along with the fundamental rights outlined in the Constitution, there have been legislative changes in recent years that indicate Ireland’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. One example is the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.
Live, work, study and travel in Ireland and the UK
Although you are allowed to live, work, study and travel in Ireland as a non-citizen, your ability to do so will always be dictated by your visa requirements. This can make it hard to put down roots and fulfil your ambitions.
As an Irish citizen, these kinds of restrictions are lifted. You can buy a property, knowing that you have the right to reside in Ireland indefinitely. You can apply for jobs, confident that your visa will not expire. And, you can travel across the island as you please.
Irish citizens also enjoy the right to reside in the UK. This is a reciprocal agreement that pre-dates the UK’s entry into the European Union. Consequently, the agreement will continue following Brexit, giving Irish citizens permanent permission to remain in the UK.
The only time your Irish citizenship can be revoked is if you provide false or misleading information as part of your application. So long as this does not apply to your case, you can feel confident in the knowledge that Ireland is your home – and will be for as long as you choose.
Live, work, study and travel in the EU/EEA
Because Ireland is a member of the European Union, Irish citizens also have the freedom to live, work, study and travel in other EU member states without visas or restrictions. There are now 27 countries in the EU, following the UK’s exit earlier in January 2020.
This freedom of movement is a major draw for many people hoping to obtain Irish citizenship. This is particularly true of British passport holders who fear their ability to travel and work across Europe will now be hindered in the wake of Brexit.
Having unrestricted access to other EU member states opens up a world of possibilities, allowing Irish citizens to explore overseas job opportunities, emigrate and travel freely between borders.
Irish citizens can also apply for a European Health Insurance Card. This enables access to state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in an EU member state, Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland.
In addition to the EU/EEA, Ireland holds agreements with other countries, allowing Irish citizens to travel to those destinations without visas.
Primary and secondary school education is free for all children residing in Ireland, regardless of whether or not they are citizens. However, higher education (including university) is not free unless you qualify for the Free Fees Initiative.
To be eligible for the Free Fees Initiative, there are various criteria you must meet. For instance, you must have permission to reside in Ireland. You must also be a citizen of an EU or EEA member state, or a Swiss citizen.
You must also show that you:
- Are attending an undergraduate course for the first time
- Are studying full-time and the course lasts for at least two years
- Have lived in an EU/EEA member state or Switzerland for at least three out of the previous five years
Therefore, you may be content to remain in Ireland as a resident. But if you obtain Irish citizenship, it could actually be your passport to a free university education.
It is worth noting that under the Free Fees Initiative, you may be asked to make a student contribution fee, but this is capped at €3,000. As an Irish citizen, you are also entitled to study in other EU countries, many of which offer free higher education.
Vote in Irish elections
Irish citizens have the right to vote in European and Irish elections, including general elections, local elections, presidential elections and referendums. This right is not extended to all residents of Ireland. For example, non-EU citizens can only vote in local elections.
By obtaining Irish citizenship, you acquire the full complement of voting rights. This gives you the chance to exercise your democratic rights, and to have a say as to how the country is run. This will be important if you have made (or intend to make) Ireland your home.
Be elected to government
Irish citizens are also allowed to be elected to government in Ireland and the European Union. This opportunity is not open to non-Irish citizens (or non-EU citizens, in the case of the European Parliament).
Diplomatic support outside Ireland
If you travel abroad as an Irish citizen, you enjoy the diplomatic support of Irish embassies and consulates located across the world. They can provide advice, assistance and protection if you encounter difficulties while travelling or residing overseas.
Ireland permits citizens to hold multiple citizenship. This means that if you obtain Irish citizenship, you do not necessarily have to renounce your citizenship of another country. So, you could in theory have an Irish and a British passport.
However, different countries have different rules. For example, Japan, China and India are amongst some countries which forbid dual nationality. If you are currently a citizen of one of these countries, you will have to renounce your citizenship in order to become an Irish citizen.
Otherwise, Ireland does not require that you give up any previous nationalities. You can have dual citizenship or even triple citizenship. This offers greater flexibility, as you can hold numerous passports and retain your rights in each country.
Pass Irish citizenship to your children
If you are an Irish citizen at the time of your child’s birth, he/she can become an Irish citizen too. In some cases, this is automatically passed on – for instance, if your child is born in Ireland and has one parent who is an Irish citizen. Or, citizenship can be acquired. This will be necessary if one parent is an Irish citizen, but both the parent and the child are born outside of Ireland.
Who can become an Irish citizen?
Becoming an Irish citizen opens the door to a life of opportunity. Your right to reside in Ireland is assured, allowing you to enjoy the economic, cultural and social benefits of Ireland – without any restrictions hanging over your head. An Irish passport also provides you freedom to travel and work across Europe, if you wish.
Given these benefits, it is hardly surprising that the number of citizenship applications has increased in recent years. So, who exactly can obtain Irish citizenship?
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. It depends on where and when you were born, whether you have any Irish relatives, and how long you (or your parent/s) have lived in Ireland.
You may be eligible if:
- You have a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent who is/was an Irish citizen
- You were born in Ireland
- You have lived in Ireland for five out of the previous nine years
- You’re a naturalized parent applying on behalf of a child
- You’re the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen or naturalized person
- You’ve been a resident abroad in the public service
- You’re recognized as a refugee or a stateless person
The way in which you acquire Irish citizenship also depends on your circumstances. If you are applying for citizenship by descent, then you need to prove that your relative was an Irish citizen, thereby giving you the right to become a citizen. If you are applying for citizenship by naturalization, you will need to prove that you have lived in Ireland for a certain amount of time.
Speak to our immigration solicitors
If you want to become an Irish citizen, we are here to help you achieve your goal. Our immigration solicitors can examine your eligibility, recommending the best approach in your particular case. We can then manage the application process on your behalf, working hard to secure you Irish citizenship – and the many benefits that come with it.