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Debbie McGoldrick

Immigration Q&A: Is Irish citizenship possible for my second wife?

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Debbie McGoldrick

Irish Citizenship

Query:

“I AM an Irish American/Irish citizen. My parents were born in Ireland, and they came to the U.S. many years ago. I have an Irish passport. I am married to my second wife, who is American with no Irish roots at all. My first wife also was not Irish.   In 1996 my first wife obtained her Irish passport through her marriage to me. We were married for 11 years at the time, and we have two kids who also have Irish passports.

“My questions – is my first wife’s Irish citizenship still valid, even though we are no longer married? Also, I would like to have my second wife obtain an Irish passport. Would this be possible as a non-Irish person has already obtained Irish citizenship through me? My wife and I are thinking about spending a good deal of time in Ireland when we reach retirement age, and having an Irish passport would make this easier, I imagine.”

Answer:

Even though you are divorced from your first wife, the Irish citizenship she obtained through you would absolutely still be valid for her to use. 

When non-Irish spouses obtained citizenship through marriage prior to November of 2005 the process was called post-nuptial declaration. Provided all the requirements were met – and in 1996, it was much easier for non-Irish spouses to obtain Irish citizenship than it is now, because a period of residence in Ireland was not required – then the citizenship will always remain legitimate.

It’s the same in the U.S., by the way. When a non-American spouse receives permanent resident status through marriage, and eventually U.S. citizenship, it does not get taken away if the marriage ends in divorce -- again, provided that all the rules have been followed, chief among them that the marriage wasn’t entered into for immigration-related reasons.

There’s nothing in Irish law stopping you from obtaining Irish citizenship for your second wife, but as mentioned above, it’s not as simple as it used to be.

When your first wife was granted her Irish citizenship, all the post-nuptial declaration really required was a marriage that was at least three years old before applying. Post-nuptial requests could be handled at the nearest Irish consular post to the applicant’s place of residence.

That has all changed, though. Since November of 2005, non-Irish spouses must go through the Irish naturalization process, albeit with less stringent requirements than others wishing to become citizens.

Now, prior to applying for Irish citizenship, the couple must have lived in Ireland continuously for the one-year period preceding the application. Also, during the four years prior to applying, the couple must have lived in Ireland for at least two years. The couple must also intend, in good faith, to keep living in Ireland after naturalization has been granted.

You say that you and your wife would like to spend an extended amount of time in Ireland after retirement, but the new naturalization requirements may well be more than you bargained for. But certainly, it will be possible for both of you to visit and enjoy Ireland.

Americans do not need visas to enter Ireland. They can be granted stays of up to three months at a time.

If you’re looking to remain longer, it’s possible for the spouse of an Irish citizen to obtain a visa for long-term residence. For information, visit the Irish government’s Naturalization and Immigration Service website at http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/WP09000003.

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