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There are around 33 million Americans who claim Irish heritage, either primarily or partially, according to the Pew Research Center. This number is seven times larger than the Republic of Ireland population, which is 4.7 million!
Ireland is more than just leprechauns and clovers. It’s a country with vivid green landscapes, old-time castles, beautiful cliffs, an abundance of pubs, and friendly people.
Americans who want to connect more with their Irish heritage are in luck. You might be able to claim Irish citizenship by descent. I was recently able to acquire my Irish citizenship this way.
Growing up, I never knew much about my paternal grandmother. Through the years, from stories told by my dad and aunt, I learned how much of a daring and drive woman she was. Born in Dublin, Ireland, she moved to America and swiftly started work at a factory, later meeting my paternal grandfather, and getting married. My dad was born nine months after they got married. Talk about fast timing! Haha.
My aunt had gotten her Irish citizenship years ago. She went on to live in Ireland for nearly two years. Because of this, I always wanted to finally get my Irish citizenship one day.
Back in 2002 when my older brother first tried to get his, the process was very long and tedious. Nowadays, thanks to the gift of technological advancement and more efficient mail service, getting your Irish citizenship doesn’t involve too much hassle.
Once I got all of my supporting documentation together, it only took five months from the date of applying to the date of confirmation to get my Irish citizenship. Afterward, I applied for my Irish passport, which took two months. The whole process took eight months altogther. Not too bad!
Are you interested in how to get Irish citizenship? Read on to find out how to claim it.
Irish Citizenship by Descent
This guide is mainly for people applying for citizenship through an Irish-born grandparent and people looking for information on how to obtain the necessary documentation for the Irish citizenship and Irish passport process.
The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1956 allows certain persons born outside of Ireland to claim Irish citizenship by descent.
Basically, if you have an Irish-born grandparent and/or an Irish born parent, then you are eligible for Irish citizenship.
Note: There are some instances where you can obtain Irish citizenship through your great-grandparent. This is only possible if your parent was granted Irish citizenship by descent prior to your birth. So if you’re a childless person right now claiming citizenship through your Irish-born grandparent, any future children you have will also be able to claim citizenship. But you have to get in the Foreign Birth Register before they are born.
Let’s focus on the main ways to claim Irish citizenship by descent.
Irish-born grandparent: Anyone born outside Ireland whose grandmother or grandfather, but not his or her parents, were born in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) may become an Irish citizen by registering in the Irish Foreign Births Register (FBR) at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin or at the nearest Irish Embassy or Consular Office.
Irish-born parent: Anyone born in Ireland prior to 1 January 2005, except for children of parents holding diplomatic immunity in Ireland, are automatically granted Irish citizenship. You would just need to apply for your Irish passport.
Citizenship by descent is not automatic and must be acquired through the application. Even for people who have Irish-born parents, you would still need to apply for an Irish passport in order to claim your citizenship.
How to Apply for Irish Citizenship by Descent
You need to get yourself put in the Ireland Foreign Births Register. To apply for registration in the Foreign Births Register, you will need to submit a completed and witnessed Foreign Birth Registration form. You do this by filling out the online application, printing it, getting it witnessed, and then mailing it to the address listed at the top of the printed application.
This address will usually be the Dublin office, the Cork office, or your nearest Irish Embassy or consulate. Along with your printed and witness application, you will send all the required supporting documentation (outlined below).
Important: Don’t fill out the online application until the day that you will go meet your witness in order to have your application witnessed. It’s a lot less hassle in case the witness becomes unavailable and you have a delay in finding another one (this happened to me).
When you fill out the online application, at the end of it there will be a button you can press to download or print a copy of the application. Download a copy to your computer and then go on to pay the processing fee and submit your online application. Open up the downloaded application on your computer and print it out. Have your witness sign the witness section and sign and date your two passport photos.
Once your application is processed and completed, you will be provided with a certificate confirming your entry in the Irish Register of Foreign Births. You will need this certificate to use as evidence of your Irish citizenship when applying for your Irish passport.
I distinctly remember getting the confirmation of my Irish citizenship. The initial email confirmation arrived in my inbox three days after St. Patrick’s Day. The paper certification arrived in the mail about two weeks after that. The piece of paper was literally just that, a single page that just states your name, address, and date of birth and says you’re now in the Foreign Birth Register.
I don’t know really know what else I was expecting. Maybe a rush of balloons to come out of the envelope? Haha.
One thing to remember is that Irish passport applications cannot be accepted at the same time as citizenship applications. They are two different processes.
Irish citizenship process (Foreign Birth Register)—–>Then, Irish passport process.
You need both your Foreign Birth Register certification and your Irish passport in order to fully be a citizen and be able to reap the benefits of your Irish citizenship which include living and working in Ireland and any European Union country including: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
Required Supporting Documentation
The supporting documentation required differs a bit if you’re applying through an Irish-born grandparent or thorough an Irish-born parent, so pay attention. Remember, if your parent was born in Ireland, then you are an Irish citizenship, and you just need to apply for your Irish passport (different process). For people with Irish-born grandparents, read on below.
More information on documentation can be found at the Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs website.
For your Irish born grandparent:
- Civil marriage certificate (if married)
- Final divorce decree (if divorced)
- A current passport of official photo identity document (e.g. passport) for the Irish born grandparent. If the grandparent is deceased, a certified copy of the death certificate is required.
- Official, long-form civil Irish birth certificate if born after 1864. Baptismal registers may be used to establish the grandparent’s date of birth if he/she was born prior to 1864, or with a search certificate from the General Register Office of Ireland stating that no Irish civil birth certificate exists.
For the parent:
- Civil marriage certificate (if married)
- Notarized photocopy of current passport (if they have one) or other photo identification (like a driver’s license).
- If the parent is deceased, a certified copy of the death certificate.
- Full, long-form civil birth certificate of the parent showing your grandparents’ names, places of birth and ages at birth.
- Full, long-form civil birth certificate which shows your parents’ names, places of birth and ages at time of birth.
- When there has been a change of name (e.g. marriage), supporting documentation must be provided (e.g. civil marriage certificate).
- Notarized photocopy of current passport (if you have one) or other photo identification (like a driver’s license).
- 3 Proof of address. Three documents such as a copy of a bank statement, utility bill, credit card statement, or auto insurance bill showing your present address. (The embassy seems to prefer actual print documents rather than internet printouts, so disable your paperless settings and sign up for papered statements.
- Two recent passport-type photographs which must be signed and dated on the back by the witness to section E of the application form at the same time as the form is witnessed. A notary public is NOT an acceptable witness for your Irish citizenship application.
Witnesses must be one of the following:
- Member of the Clergy
- Medical Doctor
- School Principal
- Bank Manager
- Solicitor/Lawyer/Commissioner for Oaths
- Police Officer
All official documents – birth, marriage and death certificates – must be original or official (certified) copies from the issuing authority. It is important to note that church certified baptismal and marriage certificates may be considered only if submitted with a statement from the relevant civil authority that they were unsuccessful in their search for a civil record. Hospital certified birth certificates are not acceptable. All other necessary supporting documents (e.g. proofs of identity) should be notarized copies of originals (your photo passport page, for example).
Once you have obtained all of the required supporting documentation, you will compile it together, complete the online application, print out a copy of the online application, have it witnessed, then mail it off with your supporting documentation (including one photocopy of each document) to the address listed at the top of the paper application.
I would strongly recommend sending it off by registered mail. When I did mine, I just went to the post office with my envelope of stuff and purchased a priority mail envelope to put it in. I got a tracking number and was able to track the shipment and see when it got to Dublin, Ireland.
Related: Helpful FAQ section on Irish citizenship by descent
How Do I Obtain All of These Records?
You’ve got your Irish-born grandparent and/or Irish-born parent, you’ve read through the supporting documentation you need to apply, and you’re ready to go! You’re probably thinking, “This is great! Irish citizenship here I come!”
But wait…how do you get all the required supporting documentation?
Well, there are some resources you can use. The first stop is the Government Records Office of Ireland. They have records of births, deaths, and marriages for all of Ireland (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) from 1864 to 1921 and Records from the Republic of Ireland from 1922 and on.
You can apply in person, by postal mail, or online.
Irish Birth Records
Available as far back as 1864.
Request the “full certificate”, which contains the date and place of birth, given name, sex, father’s name and occupation, mother’s name, the informant of birth, date of registration, and the signature of the Registrar.
Apply for Irish birth certificate.
Irish Death Records
Available as far back as 1864.
Request a “full certificate” of the original death record, which contains date and place of death, name of deceased, sex, age (sometimes approximate), occupation, cause of death, informant of death (not necessarily a relative), date of registration and Registrar’s name.
Application for an Irish Death Certificate.
Irish Marriage Records
Available as far back as 1845 (Protestant marriages) and from 1864 (Roman Catholic marriages).
Marriage records in the Government Register Office are cross-listed under the surname of both the bride and groom. Be sure to request a “full certificate” of the original marriage record, which contains the date and place of marriage, names of bride and groom, age, marital status (spinster, bachelor, widow, widower), occupation, place of residence at time of marriage, name and occupation of father of bride and groom, witnesses to marriage and clergyman who performed the ceremony.
After 1950, additional information provided on marriage records includes the dates of birth for the bride and groom, mother’s names, and a future address.
Application for an Irish Marriage Certificate.
Additional Helpful Resources
Can I obtain citizenship through marriage?
Let’s say you are able to claim Irish citizenship by descent. Can your partner claim citizenship as well, even if they don’t have Irish heritage/Irish-born family? Short answer, yes. Long answer, it’s a bit complex.
You can apply for Irish citizenship on the basis of your marriage to an Irish citizen. Find out more information by clicking here. In short, you have to have been married to an Irish citizen for three years and have lived in Ireland for a few years.
I don’t know much about this, so you’ll have to research more about it on your own.
Fees and Costs
When it was all said and done, I ended up spending around $600 USD to get my Irish citizenship and Irish passport. This cost is comprised of the application fees, getting passport photos, having copies made at UPS, and paying for priority/trackable mail to send the application.
The current fee for applying for your Irish citizenship and getting in the Foreign Birth Register for a person age 18 or older is €270 euros.
How Long Does the Process Take?
Applications for Foreign Birth Register take approximately six (6) months to process.
Applications for Irish passports take approximately 8-10 weeks to process.
Applying for an Irish Passport
Once you receive your Foreign Birth Register certificate, you are able to apply for an Irish passport. You need to apply for an Irish passport in order to fully become an Irish citizen and be able to live, work, and travel around European Union countries.
As a first-time applicant, you have to do the paper application. Visit the Irish passport website, click on the “how to apply for a passport”, and you will be provided with a list of Irish consulates near you.
Submit an online query to ones close to you and ask if they process passport applications and if so, you would like a paper application mailed to you. Include your address.
For my situation, my address is in Texas and even though there are Irish consulates here, I had to apply to the Chicago consulate since they processed passports and the Texas ones didn’t. The frustrating part of this process was that they send the paper application by regular mail.
It was a bummer because it took forever for the application to come in the mail. Four weeks to be exact. When my application had finally come, it was only one. I had requested two (one for me, one for my dad). After contacting them again, they sent another one in the mail but after the application never ended up coming in the mail! Ugh. Since I was already itching for a getaway to somewhere, I decided to make a trip up to Chicago and picked up the application in person.
Related: How to Apply for a Passport
Related: Irish Passport FAQs
Whew! That was a lot. Hopefully, this guide will be helpful on how to get Irish citizenship. I’m so glad I finally completed the process. It feels great to have the ability and opportunity to live and work in Ireland or other European Union countries if I ever desire.
Both Ireland and the United States allow for people to retain their original citizenship when getting citizenship to another country. So, once you get your Irish citizenship, you will be a dual citizen!
I have still never been to Ireland, can you believe that? I have citizenship in a country I’ve never even been to. Although that will soon change. A trip to the emerald wonderland is happening soon!