Ireland is the land of literary giants James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. It is the land of U2 and the Undertones, of Dublin, Cork and Belfast, of top-notch restaurants, party-on pubs and a foot-stomping live music scene.
It is a land of powerful politics and astonishing history—from countless medieval castles and early Christian monasteries to the largest concentrations of prehistoric monuments in Europe.
It is also a land of real beauty—lakes, mountains, sea, sky, and its lonely, windlashed wilderness coastline—and, of course, the marvelous Irish people themselves.
Last year the Irish government launched a new program, offering special residence visas to foreign individuals willing to invest in the country.
This investment can eventually lead to full citizenship, and Irish citizenship opens the door to full personal and commercial access to all 28 countries in the European Union. The Irish government’s aim is to attract both money and wealthy individuals from outside the European Union, who wish to take advantage of one of several new and existing investor schemes and immigrate to Ireland.
You have several choices through this program, each requires an investment. The minimum is €500,000 ($670,000).
However, there is a far more cost efficient way to get an Irish passport that may apply to you.
You may be eligible for an official Irish passport because of your family blood lines.
“We are all Irish today.” Those ritual words are repeated by American politicians each Saint Patrick’s Day to identify with the 40 million citizens of the U.S., nearly 12% of the population, who can trace their ancestry to Ireland—more than 10 times the number who live in Ireland.
Many millions of Irish emigrated to the U.S., beginning well before America’s Revolutionary War against Great Britain. In 1776, eight Irish Americans signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and 22 American presidents, from Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama were at least partly of Irish descent.
Even If You’ve Never Lived in Ireland—
You May Still Be Entitled to This Passport
Ireland values its foreign sons and daughters. And to maintain their ties, Irish law grants citizenship based on parentage and grand parentage. As a consequence, an Irish passport is one of the most sought-after travel documents in the world. Remarkably, with a resident population of only 4.7 million, Ireland has many millions of current passports in worldwide circulation.
When asked about the total number of Irish passports in circulation in 2006, the Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Irish Parliament that he could not give an exact number. However, between 1996 and 2005, about 4.7 million passports were issued.
In part, this large number of passport holders stems from the principle of Irish nationality law that views blood lines as determining a birthright to citizenship—even without ever having lived in the country.
Citizenship is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts of 1956 and 1986. These laws confer Irish nationality:
- By reason of one’s birth in Ireland;
- By Irish parentage or ancestry, and;
- By marriage to an Irish citizen.
Automatic citizenship by reason of birth within Ireland was limited in 2004 by a constitutional amendment that restricted that right to a child with at least one Irish citizen as a parent.
This reflected demands for limits on the many foreign immigrants, who came to Ireland to get welfare and other services for their born or unborn children. After January 1, 2005, citizenship and residence history of both parents and all grandparents was thereafter taken into account.
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.
There are two circumstances under which a great-grandchild is eligible to apply for Irish citizenship by descent:
- If the parent (the grandchild of the Irish born person) registered before the great-grandchild was born;
- If the parent (the grandchild of the Irish born person) registered before June 30, 1986 and the great-grandchild was born after July 17, 1956.
The Irish Consulate in New York explains that the parent would need to be registered in the “Foreign Birth Register,” which is held at the consulate, a listing of Irish citizens born abroad, who are entitled to citizenship because their births officially were “registered.”
Marriage to an Irish citizen also entitles a foreign spouse to Irish citizenship. To claim citizenship by marriage you must:
- Be married for at least three years;
- Have had one year of “continuous residence” in Ireland immediately before your application; and;
- Have been living in Ireland for at least two of the four years before the one year of continuous residence.
A foreign-born person who marries a person of Irish birth or descent may become an Irish citizen after three years of marriage by formally declaring acceptance of Irish citizenship. The marriage must continue at the time of application and grant of citizenship. A married applicant must file a notarized form at an Irish Consulate or Embassy within 30 days of its execution. Once Irish citizenship is established, an application for an official passport can be filed.
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