For Americans who have an Irish grandparent getting an Irish passport is still fairly easy. But first, you'll need to get citizenship
Some European countries have recently tightened up their rules on giving citizenship to outsiders. But if you have a grandparent who was born in Ireland, you'll find it's still relatively simple and inexpensive to get an Irish passport. Ireland seems very unlikely to start shutting out Americans, in particular, any time soon because of the tremendous economic ties between the two countries.
Getting your passport easy, that is, if you can obtain the right documents. Your best first step is to call the Irish Embassy or Consular office in your area and have them send an application to you (at most Irish consulates here in the U.S., you'll be simply leaving your name and address on a phone machine.
Click here for a complete listing of Irish consular offices and phone numbers in the US (this website also offers a detailed explanation of documents you need to get for your application).
The first thing you'll need to work on is not an application for an Irish passport but your Irish citizenship papers. You need to obtain that citizenship before you can even apply for your Irish passport.
If your ancestral connection to Ireland is through a grandparent, you should apply for citizenship of Ireland "by descent." The current charge is $178, and the documents you will have to get are:
1. Your grandparent’s birth certificate from Ireland. If nobody in your family has a copy, you can obtain one by applying to the General Register Office (Convent Road, Roscommon).
The €26 fee can be handled by credit card over the phone (+353 (0) 90 6632900).
Click here to visit Ireland General Register Office.
Be aware that you may need to get the certificate from the Superintendent Registrar in the Irish district where your grandparent was born. The General Register Office is the best place to start.
2. Your grandparent's certificate of marriage.
3. Your parents' birth and marriage certificates.
4. A death certificate for any of these relatives who have passed away. Be aware that you need to get originals of your American documents -- copies will not be accepted.
You must also obtain "long form" marriage and birth certificates from local or state agencies. Marriage certificates from churches are not generally accepted.
To get ahold of the Irish documents, you need to know exactly when and where your Irish grandparent was born. If you don't have any older folks in the family who remember, you have a genealogical detective job to do.
The Irish have maintained birth records nationally since 1864. In cases where the grandparent was born earlier than that, there are a wide variety of resources you can search on, including ancestry.com and other commercial genealogy companies. A free information source that can be a good place to start is the “about us” page at www.groireland.ie.
The Church disappears?
All sorts of things can complicate this process. Many 19th century births, for example, never got registered with any civil authority. If you run into that problem, your best bet is to find a church record.
Some genealogists, however, find that their grandparents' church burned years ago, destroying all birth and death records in the process.
If you do succeed in obtaining your required documents, you can expect to get your citizenship papers in approximately 18 months. Then, it’s time to do your application for the Irish passport application. With a passport fee of $98, and you should be able to get the passport in 12 to 16 weeks from application.
The rest of the family tree
Passing your Irish citizenship on to other members of your family is a lot more tricky.
Kids: If you've got American kids, you can't gain Irish citizenship and then pass it to them. However, if you get your Irish citizenship and then have children here in America, you will be able to pass it on to them.
Husbands and Wives: It used to be possible to pass your Irish citizenship on to a spouse, even if he or she had no Irish ancestry. Unfortunately, this is no longer allowed.
Great-Grandparents Born In Ireland: If a great-grandparent is your nearest relative born in Ireland, you can only get citizenship if one of your parents has already applied and obtained it.
Parents Born In Ireland: If you have a parent who was born in Ireland, reading this article hasn't been a good use of your time! You are already a citizen of Ireland. All you have to do is apply for your Irish passport.
US governmnent view
If you get your dual citizenship, you must still use your American passport to leave and reenter the United States.
The one potential downside for an American with a dual citizenship, the US State Department says, is that in some circumstances, the Irish government may view you only as a Irish citizen.
If you get arrested in Ireland, for instance, you may not be eligible to get help from the US Consulate there. For further information, visit www.travel.state.gov.