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Acquiring Citizenship of Ireland - Not so easy these days

by Hugh Oram

The four traditional main methods of obtaining Irish citizenship remain the same: Through birth; by descent; through marriage to an Irish citizen or by going through the Naturalisation process. These basically remain in place, but there are some changes.The rules for getting Irish citizenship have become tighter now, mainly because of the influx of refugees and asylum seekers into the country. These days, it is not as easy as it used to be to become an Irish citizen merely by marrying one. For a baby born in Ireland, it is no longer possible to assume that he or she will automatically become an Irish citizen. Citizenship nowadays is an "entitlement."

Post nuptial declaration:
Until late in 2002, if a non-Irish citizen married an Irish citizen, he or she could make a simple post-nuptial declaration to obtain citizenship and that was that. Now, anyone who married an Irish citizen on or after November 30, 2002, can only get Irish citizenship by going through the naturalization process. If someone was married to an Irish citizen before November 30, 2002, they can still opt for a post-nuptial declaration, but only up to November 29, 2005.After that date, they too will have to follow the naturalisation process.Neither can anyone get Irish citizenship by marrying an EU national; there is no EU legislation entitling anyone to obtain Irish citizenship by marriage.

Naturalisation:

For anyone seeking naturalization, the rules haven't really changed. Someone who has lived in the State for the past five years and is of good character can apply to the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for a declaration of naturalisation. People applying for naturalisation have to have had one year's continuous residence in the State prior to their application and then a total of four years' reckonable residence during the previous eight years. After naturalisation, you have to intend living in the State.

Some of the conditions for naturalization, including residency, can be waived depending on circumstances, and while your application is going through, you can leave the State, provided that you tell Department officials where you can be contacted. Residential requirements are less arduous if you are an EU national, and best of all for a UK citizen, for whom all the time spent in the State is considered reckonable. But if you're a non-European Economic Area national, you can't count the time you may have spent here (for example) studying.

If you're a refugee or stateless person, then there are no fees for naturalisation. In most other cases the fee is 126.97, but in some instances, the fee is expensive, 634.87. People who already hold citizenship from another country are advised to check whether taking out Irish citizenship will deprive them of the rights that go with their original citizenship

Birth
The other area where there has been a big change is in the citizenship rights through birth. Until quite recently, if someone was born in Ireland or on an Irish aircraft or ship, Irish citizenship, although never automatically granted, was almost inevitably a "given." Again, as a result of the 2001 Irish Nationality & Citizenship Act, someone born in Ireland is merely "entitled" to Irish citizenship. The rules have become tighter because some immigrants have been coming to Ireland specifically to give birth to children, hoping that the children would be granted Irish citizenship by virtue of their place of birth, and that the parents would therefore be entitled to stay until the child is 18; but that is not necessarily the case any longer.

In general, you are entitled to become an Irish citizen if you were born on the island of Ireland and that includes Northern Ireland. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform gives some examples of who is eligible for Irish citizenship:
If you were born in Ireland as Child A, you should get Irish citizenship all right, but there have been cases with immigrants where it was refused. The new legislation and recent legal cases also mean that if parents from abroad have a child born in Ireland, that doesn't automatically mean that the parents can stay in Ireland until the child is 18.

If you are B, a child of A, born outside Ireland, you are also entitled to Irish citizenship. In the case of C, a child of B and a grandchild of A born outside Ireland, you must register with the Foreign Births Register that is kept in all Irish embassies and consulates, so that you become entitled to Irish citizenship.

In the case of D, if you're a child of C and a great-grandchild of A and have been born outside Ireland, you are entitled to Irish citizenship provided that you are registered with the Foreign Births Register, but only if one of your parents had been registered at the time of your birth. The Irish citizenship of successive generations can be maintained through each generation by registration on the Foreign Births Register.

A version of the Irish Nationality & Citizenship Act 1956 and all amendments up to 2001 can be seen on the Department of Justice's website, www.justice.ie. This website also has extensive details about the process of acquiring Irish citizenship.

Acts and regulations up to 1998 can be seen on the Attorney General's website, www.irlgov.ie/ag
Acts from 1999 onwards can be seen on the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) website, www.irlgov.ie/oireachtas
Details of the Foreign Births Register and your nearest embassy or consulate can be seen on the Department of Foreign Affairs website, at www.irlgov.ie/iveagh

The address for the citizenship section in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is now at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, (which used to be the old Irish Press building). From outside Ireland, the phone number is: +353 1 616 7700. Fax: +353 1 616 7701. Email: info@justice.ie

The Department runs a helpline for queries that is open from 10.30am until 12.30pm,Tuesdays and Thursdays only, on the same phone number.

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