In the US, 33 million Americans have Irish ancestry, and the vast majority of them can claim Irish citizenship by descent. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of Irish people fled from their homeland to the US to escape the Potato Famine and the Irish War of Independence. Sadly, many perished along the way. Irish-Americans have an important place in American culture, and many monuments and events are dedicated to them. Due to their history of hardship and resilience, Irish-Americans remain close to their roots, and many of them proudly seek to claim their Irish citizenship – especially since Brexit, which made the Irish passport the most valuable in the world.
In the last few years, many Americans have sought second citizenship, especially European citizenship, often paying a million dollars or more in the process. Whether it’s for ease of banking, investing in crypto exchanges, facilitating travel, or for investment purposes, people worldwide view multiple citizenships as a valuable asset. All Passport Indexes rate the Irish passport as more valuable than its US counterpart.As mentioned, it is currently deemed the most valuable passport in the world. This is mainly due to the fact that EU passports enable their holders to live and work freely anywhere in the Union. If you have an EU passport, you can choose your desired climate, tax rates, and political system out of 27 European countries. And since Brexit, Irish nationals are the only ones who enjoy freedom of movement in both the EU and the UK.
How to know if you’re eligible for Irish citizenship by descent
Most Irish-Americans are eligible for Irish citizenship, but not all paths to it are the same. There are direct and indirect paths. If your only Irish ancestor is a great-great-grandparent, you are unfortunately not eligible. Irish citizenship by descent claims end at great-grandparents.
The direct path to Irish citizenship by descent is done via the Irish Foreign Birth Registry. This is where you register yourself (or your child) if:
- at least one of your parents was Irish at the time of your birth, or
- at least one of your grandparents was born in Ireland.
If you can’t claim Irish citizenship by descent via the direct path, you still qualify for a simplified process to naturalization due to your Irish heritage. Ireland’s government acknowledges your special connection to the country and allows you to apply for naturalization after only 3 years of residence instead of 5 years. First, you will need to apply for residency, which can be done easily via the Ireland Immigrant Investor Programme or a student visa.
What is the process to apply for Irish citizenship by descent?
All applications must be made to the Irish Foreign Birth Registry. You must first pay for your application online to receive the application package. All documents and forms must be sent to Ireland.
The length of that process normally depends on how long it will take you to gather the right documents. Typically, the process will be as follows:
- Confirm your eligibility for the direct path
- Pay and get the application package from the Irish Foreign Birth Registry
- Gather all the documents and complete the forms
- Send your application to the Irish Foreign Birth Registry in Ireland
- Get your Irish birth certificate
- Get your Irish citizenship certificate and passport from your nearest Irish consulate.
The Irish Foreign Birth Registry will generally process your application in 18 to 24 months, but since Covid, their operations have been halted and applications have piled up. The authorities have promised to bring the processing time back to an acceptable timeline.
This indirect path will require you to first apply for residency in Ireland. You need to choose a path that will allow you to spend 3 years in Ireland. Choosing the Golden Visa will provide you with more flexibility in terms of how many days a year you need to be present in the country:
- Apply for legal residency in Ireland and get approved
- Land in Ireland and register your address
- Collect all the documents needed to prove your Irish ancestry
- After 3 years, apply for simplified naturalization
- After 2 years of processing, if approved, you will receive your Irish citizenship certificate.
Expect this process to take 5 years.
What documents are required to apply for Irish citizenship by ancestry?
Depending on how far you need to go back in your family tree, the document retrieval can be simple or very complicated. If one of your parents is an Irish-born citizen, the process is pretty simple, but the further back your ancestral relationship to Ireland goes, the harder the process gets. Here are the typical documents you will need:
- For each relevant ancestor, their birth certificate showing the parents’ names, marriage certificate (if applicable), and death certificate (if applicable).
- You also need to provide certain documents yourself and have your application ”witnessed” by an authorized person.
The most challenging aspect is retrieving documents of ancestors you have limited information about. Not everyone knows where their great-grandfather was born! Some states like New York will release birth certificates of deceased individuals only on a court order. Without the court order, New York will only issue copies that cannot be apostilled. These will be refused by the Irish authorities.
This process, if you do it on your own, can take a few years and lead to many dead ends. Retrieving documents from state archives and other government organizations will cost you time, so do apostilles.
How can I get professional help for my Irish citizenship by ancestry application?
Many Irish nationals abroad register their newborn children on their own. It’s not a simple process, but it’s not complicated, either. It can become complicated when you need to retrieve documents of deceased grandparents or great-grandparents about whom you have limited information.
Going at it on your own will not be inexpensive. Budget $2,000 -$3,000 to retrieve the documents from the authorities and legalize them.
You also have the application package to complete and additional documents and forms to fill out. It might take you a year or two to retrieve the proper documents. You don’t want to make an error on your application due to the already slow process at the Foreign Birth Registry.
If you have children you want to pass through your application, expect more complexity.
When you have professional help, the process is streamlined for you. Global RCG specializes in European citizenship by ancestry, and we can often determine eligibility to additional European citizenships by ancestry.
Our fees for direct Irish citizenship by ancestry start at $5,000 and rise to $10,000 if the case is complex. Those fees can include:
- eligibility assessment
- finding the best path
- genealogy mapping
- all document retrieval
- all document legalization
- help with completing and sending the application package
- assistance with obtaining your citizenship certificate and passport
The entire process can be done remotely by our legal team. The document retrieval by our team of genealogists is fast but may take 3-6 months if your case is complex. The length of the process depends on the Foreign Birth Registry.
Do you think our fees are high? Many of our clients split them with other family members like parents, siblings, and cousins and get a family package! We also offer financing at 0% interest.
If you’re interested in learning more and finding out whether you’re eligible for Irish citizenship, reach out to us. We’ll set up a free call with one of our specialists.