It may be hard to believe, but an estimated 33 million Americans are possibly eligible for Irish citizenship based on their ancestry alone. The reason the figure is so high dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries. Between 1820 and 1930, more than 4.5 million Irish citizens sailed across the Atlantic to settle in the United States. This large migration cycle started with the Great Famine at the beginning of the 19th century and ended a few years after the Irish War of Independence, which was spurred by centuries of hardship under British rule.
But why should Americans of Irish descent claim Irish citizenship? For one, the Irish passport is currently the world’s most valuable. This became the case after Brexit, as Irish citizens continue to benefit from the freedom to live and work throughout both the EU and the U.K., in addition to having visa-free access to many other destinations of the world, such as Australia and the U.S.
Claiming Irish citizenship by descent is well worth the time and process, which is relatively fast and affordable. The majority of applicants simply need to register themselves with Ireland’s Foreign Births Register. After about a year or two, successful applicants can have their Irish passports.
Irish Americans will find a lot to like about life in Ireland. It has a very favorable tax environment, and non-domiciled residents of the country are only taxed on their income made in Ireland, as well as what they remit there. This means the rest of their worldwide income, such as what they earn in the United States, is not taxed.
However, some Americans, wanting to avoid U.S. taxation altogether, are known to take the ultimate step of renouncing their U.S. citizenship and keeping only their Irish one once they have it. It is important to realize, however, that this shouldn’t be done without having another country to lay claim to. Of course, most Irish Americans will opt for Irish citizenship simply because they are proud of their heritage. Having the passport is maintaining that bond, and it’s something they can pass down to their children.
On that note, let’s dive into the ways you can become Irish.
Ways to obtain Irish citizenship by descent
There are four ways to obtain Irish citizenship by descent:
- If at least one of your parents was born in Ireland, you are an Irish citizen. You can apply via the Foreign Births Register.
- If your Irish parent was born outside of the Island, you will need to register via the Foreign Births Register.
- If one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, but neither of your parents was born in Ireland, you can become an Irish citizen. You’ll need to have your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register.
- If a great-grandparent was born in Ireland but none of his descendants were, you can qualify for fast-track naturalization under Irish descent or association. This requires having three years of residency in Ireland.
Details about Irish citizenship by descent options
Options No. 1, 2 and 3 are straightforward, but in some cases it may be a bit more complicated to obtain the required documentation. But once you’ve collected it, simply apply to the Foreign Births Register. After about a year or two, you will receive your citizenship certificate.
Option No. 4 is the most complicated, since you’ll have to gain residency in Ireland and hold that legal residency for at least three years. To gain residency, you’ll need to apply for a resident permit. It won’t be as easy as just showing up in Ireland. You’ll need to have a reason to apply, such as for a job offer. Businesspeople can apply for the self-employed or the immigrant investor programs.
The favored path is the immigrant investor route. It’s a Golden Visa-style offering, and as such it offers a lot of flexibility and benefits if you invest at least €500,000 in Ireland. After three years, you may petition the Minister to naturalize you at his discretion. The Minister must deem that you have a strong enough association with Ireland to qualify for citizenship, and if you had a negligible physical presence over those three years, this is not likely to pass muster.
Investing in Ireland strengthens that claim and can justify acceptance with a weaker physical presence in the country. This does not mean that you can spend a few days a year in Ireland and claim Irish citizenship after three years. A few months per year is recommended.
When the three years have passed, you will be sent your petition. But brace yourself: It can take 30 months to get a decision on your file. If the decision is positive, you will receive your citizenship certificate not long after. In any case, your children will automatically become Irish citizens the moment you become one. Your spouse will have to wait at least three years after you are naturalized to be able to apply for naturalization.
How much does it cost?
Applying to the Irish Foreign-Born Registry costs €278 per person. Nevertheless, this is just for the authorities to process your application. The costly part is retrieving all the documents needed for your application and authenticating them. You will need to find your ancestors’ birth certificate, marriage certificate, and death certificate. It’s costly and very time-consuming when you don’t know where to search.
If you want to save time and effort, Global RCG helps families apply for Irish citizenship by ancestry.
Their professional package varies from $5,000 to $10,000 and can include:
- eligibility assessment
- document retrieval
- document translation and authentication
- application form filing
If you are interesting in obtaining Irish citizenship by ancestry, you can get a free assessment from Global RCG of your eligibility.