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EU UK Referendum: FAQs - Citizenship, Passports & residency entitlements

Citizenship and Passports

The withdrawal of the UK from the EU will take a considerable amount of time and negotiation before any changes will be effected – possibly over two years. During this period, UK passport holders continue to enjoy the rights of EU citizens including free movement within the EU.

There will be no changes during this period or for the foreseeable future to the entitlement to Irish passports including for people born on the island of Ireland, and for those persons who were born outside Ireland but have Irish-born parents or grandparents.

There is no urgent need therefore for UK passport holders (whether based in the UK or elsewhere) to look into applying for an Irish passport at this time. Potential applicants should take time to establish the facts in relation to their entitlement.

I was born in Great Britain and I am of Irish heritage. Am I entitled to Irish citizenship/passport?

It depends. If you were born outside the island of Ireland and if either of your parents was an Irish citizen who was born in the island of Ireland, then you are entitled to Irish citizenship, and entitled to apply for an Irish passport under Irish law, irrespective of where you reside.

You can also apply for Irish citizenship if one of your parents, while not born in the island of Ireland, was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth. In most cases applications of this type are made through a grandparent who was born in Ireland. You may also qualify if one of your parents obtained Irish citizenship through Naturalisation or Foreign Birth Registration before you were born. In these cases, Irish citizenship can be passed on to the next generation as the parent was an Irish citizen at the time of the applicant’s birth. Citizenship by Foreign Births Registration applies only from the date of registration.

Only Irish citizens may hold an Irish passport, but it is not necessary to have an Irish passport to be an Irish citizen.

Click here for more information on the Foreign Births Register.

Will there be increased interest in Irish passports among potentially eligible passport holders in the UK? If so, will this cause delays in renewal times for existing passport holders?

Most applicants for Irish passports are in fact renewing previously issued ones. These represent the vast majority of all applications and they involve less passport entitlement checking under the Passports Act, 2008. Furthermore new online passport adult renewals means they can avail of this faster option. Therefore, the decision by the UK to leave the European Union should not have a significant impact on turnaround times for Irish citizens renewing their existing passports.

The decision by the UK to leave the European Union does not mean that the UK has now left the EU – the exit process is expected to take at least two years, during which time UK passport holders retain all rights which they currently enjoy as citizens of the EU. Therefore, as there is no urgent need for UK passport holders to look into applying for a passport from another EU member state, it is hoped there will not be any significant impact on turnaround times for Irish citizens renewing their existing passports. Nonetheless, due to current high demand worldwide for a variety of reasons, the Passport Office strongly advises all applicants in the UK to check the validity of their current Irish passports (if renewing) at least three months ahead of travel and to apply for renewal of a passport at least seven weeks in advance of travel.

I was born in Northern Ireland. Will a UK exit mean that I am no longer entitled to Irish citizenship or an Irish passport?

A UK exit from the EU does not change anything regarding entitlement to Irish citizenship.

The essential legal position remains as follows:

If you were born on the island of Ireland before 1 January 2005, you are entitled to be an Irish citizen.

If you were born on the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005, your right to Irish citizenship depends on your parents’ citizenship at the time of your birth and the residency history of at least one of your parents before your birth. Further information on this is available on our website.

I am a British citizen living in Ireland. Can I get citizenship and a passport based on my residence here?

Detailed information on Irish citizenship and citizenship through naturalisation is available on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) website. Naturalisation is a process whereby a non-Irish national can apply, partly based on residence, to become an Irish citizen.

How do I get an Irish passport for the first time and how long will it take?

This online guide will help you identify which option is most suitable for you.

First time passport applications take longer to process than passport renewals due to the additional security checks and documentation required. If you live in Ireland, a first time application can take four weeks - or more. If you are resident outside Ireland, this process may take eight weeks or more.

Please ensure you are eligible for Irish citizenship before starting the application process.

Residency entitlements

What is the position now regarding Irish citizens in the UK?

Irish citizens living in the UK are legally resident in the UK. Current rules governing the residence rights of Irish citizens in the UK remain in place.

The detail of the UK’s exit from the EU will be worked out over a negotiation period that is likely to take a minimum of 2 years. We are fully aware of the importance of ensuring the continuance of the unique position of the Irish in the UK and will work closely with our UK counterparts, EU partners and others to protect the interests of Irish people living in the UK.

What is the position now of UK citizens resident in Ireland?

Rules governing the residence rights of UK citizens in Ireland remain in place. Further information can be accessed at Citizensinformation.ie

Are there implications for people working or studying in the UK?

The withdrawal of the UK from the EU is expected to take a considerable amount of time (possibly at least two years from the commencement of negotiations) and during that time the UK will remain a member state and there will be no changes to the current entitlements of EU citizens to travel and work between Ireland and the UK. Every effort will be made to minimize any changes to these arrangements insofar as Ireland and the UK are concerned and in any event people will be fully informed in advance of any changes eventually made.

Are visas now required for travelling from Ireland to the UK, or from the UK to Ireland?

No. There are no visa requirements for Irish, UK or EU citizens travelling between Ireland and the UK. Nationals from countries outside the EU should check visa requirements for entry into Ireland, and the UK, as always.

I am a British citizen who wants to move to Ireland. What do I do?

Current rules governing the residence rights of UK citizens in Ireland remain in place. Further information can be accessed at Citizensinformation.ie

What exactly is the Common Travel Area?

The Common Travel Area has been in existence between Ireland and the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) since Irish independence. The Common Travel Area operates across a range of areas, including allowing for free movement between Ireland and the UK.

There are no passport controls in operation for Irish and UK citizens travelling within the Common Travel Area i.e. between Ireland and the UK. However, as regular passengers would be aware, all air and sea carriers require some form of identification and some carriers regard a passport as the only valid identification. Immigration authorities may also require you to have valid official photo-identification which shows your nationality.

What will be the effect of a UK exit on the Common Travel Area? Will Irish citizens continue to be able to travel freely between Ireland and the UK, to work or for leisure purposes?

Withdrawal of the UK from the EU is expected to take a considerable amount of time and detailed negotiation will take place before any changes will be effected. The Common Travel Area remains in operation and is an arrangement that is highly valued on both islands. We will prioritise preserving the benefits of the Common Travel Area in the context of negotiating new terms and conditions for the EU’s relationship with the UK, and in our bilateral discussions with the British Government.

What is the size of the Irish community in Britain?

According to 2011 Census for England and Wales and 2011 Census for Scotland, there are a total of 430,000 Irish-born people resident in Britain (407,000 in England and Wales; 23,000 in Scotland). Estimates vary as to how many second and later generation Irish people live in Britain.

Data sourced from official census figures.