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How to get an Irish passport

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An Irish passport is one of the most sought-after travel documents in the world.

I have both Irish and English citizenship and have always used the Irish passport in preference.

It's kitschy but true; being Irish is seen as being more, well, likeable or something.

The easiest way to get an Irish passport of course is to be born in Ireland.

But, if you drew the short straw on that one, you're going to need an Irish parent or an Irish grandparent.

If you have an Irish great-grandparent you need to satisfy the following requirements;

There are two circumstances under which a great-grandchild is eligible to apply for Irish citizenship by descent:

  1. If the parent (the grandchild of the Irish born person) registered before the great-grandchild was born; or
  2. If the parent (the grandchild of the Irish born person) registered before the 30th June 1986 and the great-grandchild was born after 17 July 1956.

The Irish Consulate in New York explained that the parent would need to be registered in the "Foreign Birth Register" which is held at the Consulate, effectively a listing of those of Irish citizens born abroad who are entitled to Irish citizenship who have their births "registered."

A practical use of an Irish passport is that you will be entitled to work and travel freely in any of the 27 countries in the European Union.

You won’t need a work permit for this – and once you have worked in a European Union county for a certain length of time, you will be entitled to unemployment compensation, health care and pension rights.

How else then can you get an Irish passport? Getting a passport is really the easy part – it’s getting Irish citizenship that takes a little time.

Born in Ireland

To get an Irish passport, you must first become an Irish citizen. Fortunately, Americans can hold dual citizenship, as can Irish, so there’s no conflict there.

Let’s look at the scenarios that allow you to claim Irish citizenship.

Anyone born in Ireland before January 1, 2005 is an Irish citizen. After that date, it is not automatic, and the citizenship and residency history of both parents is taken into account.

Marriage to Irish citizen

You are also entitled to Irish citizenship if you are married to an Irish citizen.

To claim citizenship by marriage, you must meet the following conditions: you must be married to an Irish citizen for at least three years; you must have had one year of  "continuous residence" on the island of Ireland immediately before the date of your application; and finally, you must have been living on the island of Ireland for at least two of the four years before that year of continuous residence.

If you were born outside of Ireland and either your mother or father (or both) was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, then you are entitled to Irish citizenship.

Permanent residency

If you have been a permanent resident in Ireland, you can try to become a citizen through naturalization.  You will need to have lived permanently in Ireland for the previous five years, be over 18 and not have a criminal record.

But let’s face it – living in Ireland for five years is a lot of effort just to get that Irish passport. A much better way to get an Irish passport is to have at least one Irish grandparent. And by Irish, we mean an Irish grandparent who was or is an Irish citizen. 

Irish grandparents

What to do next? 

After getting an Irish grandparent, the next thing to do is to call an Irish consulate and ask them to send you an application form. There are Irish consulates in most of the major U.S cities. They should also be able to advise you on getting the right documentation in order for your application.

You’ll need a copy of your grandparent’s birth certificate from Ireland. If you don’t have a copy you can get one from the General Registry Office in Dublin. (Click here to go to their Web site.)

You will also need: Your grandparent's certificate of marriage; your parents' birth and marriage certificates; and an original death certificate for any of these relatives who have passed away. If the grandparent is deceased, you’ll need to show a certified copy of their death certificate, and if alive, a current official I.D. (such as a driver’s license or passport.)

To access the Irish documents, it will help you to know as much information about where and when your Irish grandparent was born, which may involve some genealogy research.

If one of your parents is Irish, and you would like to get an Irish passport, the process is easier. You need: their marriage certificate; a current official I.D; a copy of their death certificate if your Irish parent has passed away, a full long-form birth certificate of your Irish parent, showing your grandparents’ names, places of birth and ages at birth.

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