Registration as British for Irish citizens

The political relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland dates back to the 16th century. Being the closest geographical neighbour, Ireland is the most important UK’s economic, trade, investment and tourism partner. Both countries form a part of the Common Travel Area which allows British and Irish citizens to move freely and reside in either country without restrictions, including the right to study or work.


In light of the UK’s exit from the European Union in 2020, the rights of Irish citizens in the UK remained protected. It was, however, possible for Irish citizens, as for any EU nationals, to apply for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme and even apply after the 30th of June 2021 deadline if there are reasonable grounds for making a late application.


The immigration relationship between Ireland and the UK, however, has not always been tranquil. Recently, there have been tensions over migration in the wake of the UK-Rwanda Agreement as there has been an influx of migrants arriving in Ireland from Northern Ireland, which forms a part of the United Kingdom.

For those Irish citizens, who wish to obtain British nationality, there have been several routes to do so. The most common route is naturalisation. Other than this, Irish citizens can become British by birth, descent or double descent.


This year, one more route has been introduced with the passing of the British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Act 2024. The Act makes provisions for Irish citizens to become British by registration having lived in the UK for 5 years and without sitting a citizenship (Life in the UK) and/or English language test, as required under the naturalisation process. The two-section Act sets out the absences limit that has to be met along with the non-previous breaching of immigration laws rule. In special circumstances, the Secretary of State may treat these requirements as being satisfied where they are not.


The relevant provisions set out in the Illegal Migration Act 2023 are preserved in this new Act, which restricts certain persons from applying based on the initial irregular arrival to the UK.  Notably, however, there are no restrictions on the time that an applicant must hold Irish citizenship before submitting the registration application. As such,  an applicant commencing residence in the UK as a non-Irish citizen and later acquiring Irish citizenship can be eligible to apply as long as the overall time spent in the UK before the date of application is at least 5 years.


The Act makes a welcome addition to the current legislation framework. The demand for British citizenship from Irish nationals is, however, yet to be seen.


This article is provided  for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact us using the contact form or email us on