Nationality Policy Team
Operational Policy and Rules
PO Box 306
Mr John Kelly
11 April 2014
Dear Mr Kelly
Thank you for your request for information about British nationality law. Your request has
been treated as a routine enquiry, rather than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
as it the sort of request that we regularly deal with as part of our normal business.
1) How/if the UK government classifies Irish citizenship holders, i.e. does the UK
government classify Irish citizens who were born in the Republic of Ireland differently from
those who were born in Northern Ireland or in other parts of the world. The place of birth is
noted in the Irish passport.
2) If such a classification system does not exist, is it the opinion of the UK government that
all Irish citizenship holders (provided they don't hold another citizenship) are all equal in all
aspects of UK law?
I am only able to answer this question in terms of immigration and citizenship. If you wish
to know how Irish nationals are treated more widely across government you would need to
consult the relevant departments.
As Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, British citizenship can be obtained
through birth there, or acquired by descent from someone born there. British citizens are
entitled to certain rights in UK law. These include the right of abode in the United
Kingdom, the right to vote and stand for office in local and general elections and the
right/duty to perform jury service, eligibility for employment for some “reserved” posts in
the civil service and HM, eligibility for United Kingdom passport facilities and consular
assistance, and certain rights and duties under European Union law.
Irish nationals who are not British citizens are treated differently in immigration and
nationality law. It is, however, possible for them to acquire British citizenship in certain
Certain people who were born in the Republic of Ireland before 1949 are able to opt for
British subject status, which then entitles them to registration as a British citizen, based on
a period of five years residence in the United Kingdom. This is a provision which exists for
those who already hold some form of British nationality, and the requirements are less
stringent than those for naturalisation. Irish nationals born after 1949 can only become
British citizens through naturalisation. This is based on a period of continuous residence
in the United Kingdom, and there are requirements to have sufficient knowledge of English
and of life in the United Kingdom, and to be of good character. In this respect nationals of
the Republic of Ireland are not treated any differently to other foreign nationals.
In terms of immigration, the Republic of Ireland is a member state of the European
Economic Area, and Irish nationals are entitled to exercise a right of free movement in the
UK under Directive 2004/38/EC (the „free movement Directive‟) as a worker, self-employed
person, self-sufficient person or student. However, Irish nationals are entitled to reside in
the UK without engaging the Directive due to the historical relationship between the UK
Under the Ireland Act 1949, the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country for the purpose
of any law in force in the United Kingdom. Under the United Kingdom Immigration Law,
Irish nationals are treated as settled in the United Kingdom. Therefore, Irish nationals in
the UK are considered to be “present and settled” for the purposes of the Immigration
Rules, and may rely on this status to sponsor non-EEA family members under those
Irish nationals may also choose to sponsor family members under the Immigration (European
Economic Area) Regulations 2006 (as amended), which transpose the free movement Directive
into UK law. However, an Irish national wishing to rely on the Regulations for this purpose would
need to demonstrate that they are exercising free movement rights in one of the categories set
out above, or that they have acquired a right of permanent residence under the Regulations.
Further information can be found on the Gov.UK website:
I hope this is helpful for your research.
Operational Policy Team