“We are all Irish today.” That’s a ritual saying U.S. politicians repeat each St Patrick’s Day. They’re identifying with the nearly 40 million citizens of the United States, nearly 12% of the total, who trace their ancestry to Ireland.
Indeed, many millions of Irish have emigrated to the U.S., beginning well before America’s Revolutionary War. Ireland values its foreign sons and daughters. To maintain its ties with them, Irish law goes well beyond what Abraham Lincoln once eloquently referred to as “bonds of affection” and “mystic chords of memory.”
And because of those laws, an Irish passport is one of the most sought-after travel documents in the world.
In part, the large number of passport-holders stems from the doctrine of jus sanguinis, which is a principle of Irish nationality law. This doctrine holds that blood lines determine your birthright to citizenship—even when you’ve never lived there.
If you were born outside of Ireland and your parent, grandparent, or in some cases, your great-grandparent was an Irish citizen then you may be entitled to Irish citizenship.
Aside from joining the country of your ancestors, there is a good practical use of an Irish passport. It entitles the holder to live, work, and travel freely in any of the 27 countries in the European Union to which Ireland belongs.
Other EU countries that issue passports based on ancestry are Italy, Spain, Poland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Greece. You don’t need a work permit, and after you work in an EU country for a certain length of time, you are entitled to unemployment compensation, health care, and pension rights.
Editor’s note: Many public records were destroyed during the Irish Civil War of the 1920s, so finding proof of Irish ancestry can be a problem. Yet it can be easier than you think—you just need to know two things. We reveal what they are in the September issue of International Living magazine. Plus, we give details on the three ways you might be able to use Irish law to get Irish nationality. Subscribe to IL now and get instant access to the September issue, including the full version of this Irish Passport and Citizenship article.