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how to get irish citizenshipThere 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:

  1. Civil marriage certificate (if married)
  2. Final divorce decree (if divorced)
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. Civil marriage certificate (if married)
  2. Notarized photocopy of current passport (if they have one) or other photo identification (like a driver’s license). 
  3. If the parent is deceased, a certified copy of the death certificate.
  4. Full, long-form civil birth certificate of the parent showing your grandparents’ names, places of birth and ages at birth.

For you:

  1. Full, long-form civil birth certificate which shows your parents’ names, places of birth and ages at time of birth. 
  2. When there has been a change of name (e.g. marriage), supporting documentation must be provided (e.g. civil marriage certificate).
  3. Notarized photocopy of current passport (if you have one) or other photo identification (like a driver’s license). 
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  • Magistrate/Judge

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

Roots Ireland

Irish Genealogy

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

Wrap Up

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!


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Colin // RebelwithaPlan

Colin Ashby is the writer behind Rebel with a Plan, a website dedicated to people who choose to rebel against the norm of living in debt and feeling financially unenlightened. He believes everyone has an eccentric quality to embrace and that lattes are sometimes a necessity (despite what the personal finance community tells you).

Latest posts by Colin // RebelwithaPlan (see all)

38 Comments on A Guide on How to Get Irish Citizenship

  1. Millennial Boss
    October 2, 2018 at 1:09 am (3 years ago)

    Did your parent apply for citizenship too or just you?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 6, 2018 at 2:31 pm (3 years ago)

      Yes! Since my dad is the child of an Irish-born parent, he is already a citizen, so all he had to do was apply for the Irish passport. He submitted his mother’s documents, his documents, and 9 weeks later got the Irish passport! Relatively simple compared to my process.

  2. JC
    October 20, 2018 at 11:35 am (3 years ago)

    This was a really good and informative description of the process. So exciting! I just mailed citizenship applications for my 2 children, guess I shouldn’t expect to hear anything for 5 or 6 months but then we’ll all go apply for passports at the NY consulate. They hope to travel and work in Ireland/EU in their 20’s ☺
    My understanding is that first time applicants must do it in person, is that true?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 23, 2018 at 4:35 am (3 years ago)

      No, first-time applicants do not have to do it in person. As a first-time applicant, you can either do the paper mail-in application (request a copy from the NY consulate) or you can apply in person with your supporting documentation. I only chose to apply in-person at the Chicago consulate because it was slightly quicker (no waiting 2-4 weeks for the application to come in the mail) and I was itching for a trip to Chicago. Great to hear you sent off the citizenship applications!!

  3. Leopold
    May 9, 2019 at 6:06 pm (2 years ago)

    Does the online application have to have the same date as the paper application form? I was under the impression that as long as the paper application was dated by me and the witness on the same day it didn’t matter.

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      May 11, 2019 at 5:15 pm (2 years ago)

      No, it does not need to be same date. I just always recommend to do them on same day or within a few days of each other to avoid any potential processing delays.

      • Lee
        May 12, 2019 at 7:50 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks Colin, have done form and getting it witnessed tomorrow. Didn’t realise you needed a stamp on the back of the witnessed photos, seems a lot to fit on a passport photo with a date and signature

        • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
          May 12, 2019 at 11:51 pm (2 years ago)

          No. You do not need to have a stamp on the back of the 2 passport photos. You just need the date and the witness signature. The stamp/business card goes on the paper application.

  4. Daniel Starkey
    September 22, 2019 at 3:32 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Colin, just checking, do you need more than one witness?

    The form seems to say in section E. “One of the following must sign this certificate…” and then in the appendices it says that “a person from the list below must also witness your FBR application form”… the also bit is throwing me off.

    There appears to be room for two witness signatures and the list of potential witnesses is longer in the appendices so makes me assume that you need two.

    Any help much appreciated!

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      September 23, 2019 at 2:11 am (2 years ago)

      You only need one witness. The online and accompanying paper application can have some confusing descriptions at times, haha. I know that they did recently expand who can be classified as an acceptable witness, (I need to update this blog post on that). Now it includes a big assortment of professions, see here (click under ‘witnesses’ tab)

  5. Mike S
    September 23, 2019 at 9:19 pm (2 years ago)

    Colin, this is a great write up, thanks for taking the time to do it! I was wondering if you got your original documentation back after your registry application was approved? I can’t find anything about them returning the documents (like my grandfather’s birth certificate) after I send it off to them.


    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      February 25, 2020 at 7:16 am (1 year ago)

      Mike! Your comment slipped through and I didn’t see it. Long time since your comment, but to answer your question, YES they do return your original documentation. You get your original documentation mailed back to you in the same package as your new foreign birth registry paper/Irish citizenship documentation.

  6. Lauren
    February 12, 2020 at 2:28 pm (1 year ago)

    Really helpful post. Hoping you can help with my query. I am applying for citizenship via grandparent. Do you know if I can have different witnesses for my passport and my father’s? I am struggling to find a professional who knows us both, so I’m wondering if two different people would be okay. Thanks!

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      February 25, 2020 at 7:13 am (1 year ago)

      Hi Lauren! Yes, you can use different witnesses for your passport application and your father’s passport application. They do not have to be the same.

      • Lauren
        February 25, 2020 at 7:33 am (1 year ago)

        Great. Thank you!

  7. Kevin
    May 10, 2020 at 12:43 am (1 year ago)

    Hi Colin, the DFA states on their website that passport photos must be Minimum: 35mm x 45mm; Maximum: 38mm x 50mm. However, the Irish Consulate in Chicago’s website states that “Standard US passport 2″ x 2″ photos are acceptable.” Were you successful submitting standard US 2″ x 2″ passport photos with both your foreign birth registration and your passport application? Thanks!

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      July 12, 2020 at 9:27 pm (11 months ago)

      Yes, I was successful. My standard US 2 x 2 passport photos were accepted. I submitted 2 sets of passport photos (so four photos total).

  8. Sally
    May 10, 2020 at 6:28 pm (1 year ago)

    Hello, this is a serious long shot. My great grandparents were Irish but my father did not claim his passport/citizenship before he passed away. Is there ANY way forward for me and my siblings? Thank you

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      July 12, 2020 at 9:25 pm (11 months ago)

      Unfortunately, no. You can only claim Irish citizenship through great-grandparent if grandchild (your father) was in Foreign Birth Registry BEFORE your birth.

  9. Caitlin
    July 7, 2020 at 11:44 pm (11 months ago)

    Hi Colin – thanks for writing this up.

    If applying through a grandparent, do you need all the documentation for your grandparent as well as your parent? Or just the grandparent?

    Thank you!

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      July 12, 2020 at 9:19 pm (11 months ago)

      If applying through a grandparent, the documentation needed for your grandparent is a birth certificate (long form), marriage certificate, and death certificate (if deceased). The documentation you will need for your parent (even if applying for citizenship through descent via Irish-born grandparent) is a birth certificate (long form), marriage certificate, notarized copy of driver’s license or passport, and death certificate (if deceased).

  10. April
    July 31, 2020 at 4:16 pm (11 months ago)

    Hi, thanks so much for this! I’m a bit confused about what documents need to be witnessed. My husband is applying through the birth of his grandparent. So the following need to be witnessed:
    Husband’s passport
    Husband’s photos
    Husband’s mother’s passport
    Printed application

    Is that it? Do any of the other documents need to be witnessed?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      August 4, 2020 at 12:35 am (11 months ago)

      The only thing you mentioned that needs a witness is the actual foreign birth registration application and two (2) color passport photos. The witness will put their signature and date on back of color passport photos. The list of things you mentioned (husband passport, husband’s mother’s passport) need to be notarized by a notary public (different from getting witnessed). Refer to Irish Consulate Chicago information on it here:

  11. Christopher Carlucci
    August 2, 2020 at 3:06 pm (11 months ago)

    I don’t have an FBR number for my mother who was born here. What should I put on the application?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      August 4, 2020 at 12:39 am (11 months ago)

      You need your U.S. born mother’s foreign birth registration certificate. Without it, the Irish Consulate will not accept your application. You can try contacting an Irish Consulate that processes applications like the Irish Consulate Chicago, to see what else you can do.

  12. Rosie
    August 6, 2020 at 3:09 pm (11 months ago)

    Hi, my partner is applying from a Irish born grandparent. However his parent doesn’t/isn’t a Irish citizen they were born in the US too. Is he still eligible?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      August 6, 2020 at 9:12 pm (11 months ago)

      Yes, he is eligible. Even though he is applying through Irish born grandparent, he will still need some documentation from his U.S. born parent: civil marriage certificate (if married), notarized copy of govt photo ID (passport or driver’s license), death certificate (if deceased), and full, LONG-FORM birth certificate showing Irish born grandparent name, date of birth, and ages at birth.

      • Ashley Sarah Pitts
        October 6, 2020 at 2:29 pm (8 months ago)

        Hi! Thanks for your post, I was reading through the comments and I’m hoping for some clarity.

        If my father doesn’t have FBR he needs it before I can get citizenship through my dads mum?

        I noticed when attempting the application that it is required.

        I’m wondering if there is another way?

        Thank you for your advice!

        • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
          October 7, 2020 at 12:31 am (8 months ago)


          Your father does not need to be in FBR (Foreign Birth Registry) before you can get citizenship. I was able to apply and get put in FBR while applying through my Irish grandmother (my dad’s mom) even though my dad had not yet gotten his Irish passport yet. Children of Irish-born people are already Irish citizens, they don’t need to be in FBR, they just need to apply for an Irish passport.

          • Ashley Sarah Pitts
            October 7, 2020 at 1:32 am (8 months ago)

            Thank you 🙏 I will look into it more!

  13. Jane
    August 13, 2020 at 1:45 pm (10 months ago)

    Hi Colin, Great blog! I am considering applying through grandparent descent, however I notice that you also need to collect quite a bit of info from the parent. What options do you have if you are no longer in contact with the parent but the separation is not through death?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 7, 2020 at 12:28 am (8 months ago)

      Hmm, I’m not really sure if it’s possible to move forward in the process and get Irish citizenship through grandparent if you don’t have parent’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, and notarized govt photo ID. I think the reason the Irish consulate requires this is to prove ancestry lineage. I would contact Irish Consulate Chicago to ask.

  14. Paul Cowper
    October 23, 2020 at 12:40 pm (8 months ago)

    Hi Colin, thanks for the very informative article. I have a question on a grandparents surname. My understanding (from a genealogist friend) is that it was common practice for migrants from Ireland to change the spelling of their surname when they were settled in their new country. My grandfather for example has a different surname (Cowper) on his English marriage certificate than on his Irish birth certificate (Cooper). Do you think this will be a problem for me if I apply for citizenship and there is no official record of a name change?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 25, 2020 at 11:58 pm (8 months ago)

      I asked about this to people at Irish Consulate of Chicago when I visited a few years ago and they said it was fine. Usually no additional documentation is required. If required, they will let you know.

  15. Whitney
    November 24, 2020 at 5:05 pm (7 months ago)

    Hi Colin, great info, thanks for sharing! I have Irish citizenship thanks to my grandmother. I had it before my kids were born and I’m now looking to get it for both of them. I know they are eligible since I did it before they were born.
    I did mine in person at the embassy in DC but it looks like you can’t do that anymore. Any clue if you are allowed to do it in person in Dublin? I hate to send off the required original birth certificates for my kids & my foreign birth registration – I fear I’d never see them again.

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      November 25, 2020 at 1:45 am (7 months ago)

      No, they do not have a public office. Applications must be sent by post to the address given on your printed application form.

      I understand the concern about sending off the originals by mail. However, I sent off originals three times (for myself and two other family members) and the originals were returned every time in the same condition. I did pay the extra to do recorded, expedited delivery every time for extra precaution.

  16. Sean
    December 15, 2020 at 8:19 pm (6 months ago)

    I applied for Irish citizenship/ passport by descent back in April (been a dream deferred for well over a decade). Really wanted it for a landmark birthday this July. I called my local consulate today and they are circulating another year a half!!! That seems ridiculous considering the time and money I put into the process. 6 months extra for Covid (ok), but not 2 years after sending it. Want to pass this down to my future kids. Do you know of any ways to expedite the process if you applied through the traditional mail method?

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      December 16, 2020 at 1:39 am (6 months ago)

      No, unfortunately, I do not. Priority for approving citizenship and new passports are low as they’re working to minimize people coming into Ireland.


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