Does My Irish Great Grandfather Qualify Me for an Irish Passport?

Peter C. Says:

Hi Ted,

I have a great-grandfather who was born a citizen in Ireland. Does that qualify me for an Irish passport?

Thanks, and stay safe!

IL’s Chief Global Diversification Expert,Ted Bauman Says:

Hi Peter,

Remarkably, with a population of just under 5 million, Ireland currently has at least 4 million official passports in worldwide circulation. In part, this large number of passport holders stems from the doctrine of jus sanguinis, or citizenship by descent, basic to Irish nationality law. It views bloodlines as determining a birthright to citizenship—even without ever having lived in the country. That makes millions who live around the world holders of Irish passports, including many of the 40 million U.S. citizens with Irish ancestry.

Persons born outside of Ireland who have an Irish national grandparent born in Ireland may obtain Irish citizenship through registration in the Foreign Births Register (maintained by Department of Foreign Affairs).

The case for great-grandparents is a little more complex. But it is possible. In fact, Ireland is one of the relatively few countries in the world that allows citizenship by ancestry as far back as your great-grandparents (most only go as far as grandparents).

As the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs puts it: “To become an Irish citizen, your great-grandparent's grandchild (your parent) who is of Irish descent must have registered in the Foreign Births Register between the years 1956 and 1986, or if you were born after 1986, they registered before you were born.”

The Foreign Births Register is essentially a record of those born outside of Ireland who became Irish citizens through their parents or grandparents. So, if your parent registered this way through their grandparent (your great-grandfather) then you’re entitled to an Irish passport.

If your parent did not register, you could still get your Irish passport through Irish associations. This isn’t an automatic guarantee like the one above, but rather decided by the Irish Minister for Justice, who has total discretion when granting citizenship.

Irish association means that you are related by blood or through adoption to an Irish citizen. Ireland’s Citizens Information service states that, “Applications based on descent from an Irish citizen going further back than a great-grandparent are generally refused.”

This implies that those going as far as a great-grandparent may be accepted. So, in this case your Irish great-grandfather could still get you a passport.

So, with your great-grandfather born a citizen in Ireland, you do have a route to Irish citizenship and the powerful EU passport that comes with it. It’s not automatic, but it is a clear route you can apply through.

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