It was a dark and stormy night in Shanghai. J and I were wandering the streets when the grey clouds rolled in and the rain started to pour. We were looking for an escape to hide from the cold and, hopefully, get a drink.
And like a gift from God, the Irish pub appeared in the distance.
We walked into the warm and cozy Irish pub and immediately waltzed to the wooden counter where we saw that familiar harp of Guinness calling our names. J and I grabbed our Guinness and clanked our glasses together in cheers.
Soon one Guinness turned into three, and before we knew it J and I somehow found ourselves in conversation with real Irishmen that happened to wander into the pub.
“You’re Irish!?” I grinned as the Guinness started to hit me hard. “Me too!”
“But are you really Irish?”
“Of course!” I cried defensively. “My grandmother was born in Galway!”
“So your grandmother was really born there?”
“Did you know,” he leaned in. “You can become an Irish citizen. All you need to do is apply.”
“No way,” I gulped down more Guinness in disbelief. “You’re just pulling my leg.”
“Go look yourself,” he smiled. “In the meantime, let’s have another pint!”
Despite the hangover the next day, I still remembered the words of my fellow Irishman. Curious, I asked the almighty Google if becoming an Irish citizen was actually possible.
And hot damn, it is. If your parent, grandparent or even great grandparent was born in Ireland, you are eligible for Irish citizenship.
So I’m writing this for fellow Irish folk that are unaware of this great opportunity, or simply need help to fill out the form.
First thing’s First: Are you Eligible?
If your parent was born in Ireland, then you’re automatically an Irish citizen. Talk about easy.
If your grandparent was born in Ireland (like in my case) it’s a little trickier to get your citizenship, but let’s just say it’s far easier than doing your taxes.
When you delve into great grandparent lineage, things start to get hazy. While it is not impossible to claim citizenship from a great grandparent that was born in Ireland, let’s just say it’s harder to find the necessary paperwork to prove that, well, your ancestor was born there.
You can look at official Irish citizenship by descent homepage to see if you qualify to become an Irish citizen.
Even if you’re not Irish, don’t despair–you may still have a chance at claiming European citizenship! I have heard tales of various travelers and friend claiming Italian, Spanish and Portuguese citizenship successfully. Keep in mind, however, each process varies by nation, so what works for Ireland may not work for the others.
Keep in Mind…
America allows dual citizenship with Ireland–you will not have to give up your American citizenship to become Irish. You will also not have to pay any additional taxes if you become Irish unless you work there and start to make income in Ireland.
(FYI, America is the only country that taxes its citizens even if they aren’t living or working in the U.S…. talk about the shaft!).
How to Apply
Believe it or not, applying for Irish citizenship is ridiculously easy. In fact, it was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had with government in any country ever.
So first thing’s first:
- Get Your Documents in Order
I emailed the consulate of Ireland in Los Angeles inquiring about Irish citizenship, expecting a reply in ten months or maybe none at all.
Imagine my surprise when the next day a Mr. Finbar (yes, that’s his real name) emailed me with directions on how to claim my citizenship. It’s all nicely detailed on the Embassy’s website.
The hardest part about applying is getting all of the paperwork to prove that your grandparent was, indeed, born in Ireland. You’ll need…
- ORIGINAL Birth Certificate of your Grandparent
- ORIGINAL Marriage Certificate of your Grandparent
- ORIGINAL Death Certificate of your grandparent (if applicable)
- ORIGINAL Divorce Certificate (if applicable)
- ORIGINAL Birth Certificate of your Irish parent
- ORIGINAL Marriage Certificate of your Irish parent
- ORIGINAL Death Certificate of your Irish parent (if applicable)
- ORIGINAL Divorce Certificate of your Irish parent (if applicable)
- COPY of their passport or other ID (I used my dad’s drivers license) ** Must be notarized at bank
And of course…
- COPY of your passport/ID **Must be notarized at bank
- Your ORIGINAL birth certificate
- Your ORIGINAL marriage certificate
- Your ORIGINAL divorce papers
- Three ORIGINAL Bills Showing Proof of Residence (I used bank, car, and car insurance payment)
- 2 Passport sized photos (this NEEDS to be signed by your witness)
The thought of mailing in so many original documents is frightening, right?
Well, have no fear, THE IRISH GOVERNMENT WILL RETURN ALL OF YOUR DOCUMENTS. Relax.
I know, it’s a lot of work. I mean, seriously, who still has the original birth certificate of their grandparent born in Ireland?
Surprisingly, my aunt told me she had my grandmother’s birth certificate and mailed it to me upon request. The certificate was so old I thought the paper would disintegrate if I unfolded it. In addition, I had the church certificate of my grandparent’s marriage in Boston, as well as my grandmother’s death certificate. It was very eerie to have my grandmother’s whole life in my hands.
For those that aren’t as lucky (and actually I wasn’t, the birth certificate turned out to be a baptismal certificate), you can request an Irish birth certificate and marriage certificate online with ease.
Get your grandparent’s Irish birth certificate here for the affordable price of 20 Euros.
Get your parent’s marriage certificate from any church in the United States here for the not-so-affordable price of $120 USD.
2. Fill out the Application
After you get all your paperwork in order (and only after), fill out the application online. It’s a pretty easy one.
Once you’re finished, your application will be submitted to the Irish government immediately. In the meantime, they’ll give you a PDF version that you must print out and sign. You’ll also have to..
3. Have a Witness Handy When You Sign Your Paperwork
So basically, you’ll need a legal witness to 1. Fill out Section E of the application 2. Sign your passport photos 3. Witness you sign the application and 4. Provide a business work address.
The only people qualified to be a witness to your application are:
- Member of the clergy
- Medical Doctor
- School Principal
- Bank Manager
- Police Officer
Since I already had to go to the bank to notarize the copy of my passport and my father’s driver’s license, I had my local “bank manager” be my witness and do all of the dirty work above. Bank workers are actually quite accustomed to notarizing and signing documents such as this, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting this done. Whether you’re buddy buddy with your teller or not, I think this is a duty the bank has to perform for you regardless.
4. Mail it in and Pay Up
The application fee will be automatically deducted from your credit or debit card only after the application has processed. The total application fee is 270 euros.
After gathering all of the documents above and finishing up your application, you’ll have to put your trust into the postal system and mail out extremely personal and confidential documents that make up your entire life.
Oh, and you’re not mailing it to the embassy in the USA. Oh no. You’re mailing it straight to Ireland (address included in application).
I used hella expensive shipping to get my documents across the Atlantic, which cost me a good $40-50 bucks. Expensive, but still, better safe than sorry.
5. Wait (but not that long)
I mailed all of my documents in January 2015 and expected not to hear anything for six months minimum. I heard various stories online, but it seemed like six months was the norm for most applicants.
Imagine my surprise when in March I received an email from a Tom Flannery in Ireland, personally addressing me about my citizenship application. He informed me that some of my documents were off (like the baptismal certificate) and gave me very easy and precise instructions for fixing the problem and getting my application approved ASAP.
I was truly blown away by the service of Tom. Good ‘ol Tom would respond to my emails mere hours after I sent it. I don’t know whether the Irish government is super organized or bored to tears, but either way it was a very nice change of pace. When it comes to contacting the American government, I would probably have more luck sending a bottled message out to sea than trying to reach them by phone or email.
So being able to talk to Tom and ask him in-depth questions about my application made me feel very safe and confident about my application. I was truly astonished at how efficient, polite and kind the Irish government was in handling my citizenship.
And then one day in early May, I received a package from Ireland with all of my documents and a shiny new Irish birth certificate. Woo-hoo! So easy!
So…Why Did You Get Irish Citizenship?
When I told fellow Americans that I became Irish, instead of congratulate me with a pint of Guinness they merely cocked their head and asked with alarm:
…. Why would you do that?
Why not, I say. Sure, it was kind of expensive (with all of the document request fees included, the total cost added up to about 500 bucks), but I still think it was totally worth it.
Mainly because Ireland is a part of the EU; which means I can live anywhere in Europe, essentially.
I don’t know if I’ll ever move to the EU. I don’t know if I’ll ever move to Ireland. It’s hard to say–but it’s nice to have the option, no?
And dammit, I’m proud to be Irish. My grandmother was so Irish, she kept her Irish accent all the way to her deathbed. She used to shoot whiskey every morning, go to church everyday like the good Irish catholic she was, and made a mean corned beef and cabbage every St. Patty’s Day and Easter. I have nothing but fond memories of my Irish grandmother and my jolly Irish father.
And on a random note…
Did you know that Irish is an actual language?
As I went to all these crazy Irish government websites, I saw that they had not only an English option–but an Irish option. Imagine my surprise when I found that all Irish documents are written in English AND Irish– a strange, pig-latin like text that sounds like gibberish.
After much research, I realized that Irish was not Gaelic. In fact, Gaelic is a language that is more closely connected to Scotland than Ireland. While Irish and Gaelic are extremely similar, they do have their differences (almost like varying dialects).
Although the Irish mainly use English to communicate, I’m really impressed at how the country is trying to push the Irish language back into their society. For example, Irish is a mandatory class in school. They have Irish-only channels on TV.
Just take a look at this–everyone knows Irish!
This article, although a bit old, is also extremely fascinating. A journalist tries to travel through Ireland using ONLY the Irish language!
Anyway, I hope this page helps all the other Irish-wannabe hopefuls out there. Please email me if you have any questions about claiming Irish citizenship!