Dateline: Belgrade, Serbia
Ireland is one of my favorite countries on earth, and for good reason.
I first came to Dublin over seven years ago and, in the eight or nine visits since, I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone here who was difficult to talk to. The Irish have a well-earned reputation for being some of the most friendly people in the world.
And when it comes to the kind of offshore strategies we talk about here, Ireland ticks a lot of boxes. It has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe and is a country that simply doesn’t take itself too seriously.
There’s a reason you’ve never seen an Irish Empire.
Ireland is also one of the easiest places in the world to get a second citizenship if you’re lucky enough to have parents, grandparents, or — in some cases — great grandparents who were Irish citizens.
Those seeking a second passport should know they are in good company considering the population of Ireland is all of 4.5 million, yet nearly 15 million Irish passports are in circulation.
The country has a very open policy of granting citizenship to those whose family tree includes ancestors from Ireland. In fact, there are 10 million non-resident passport holders taking advantage of dual citizenship from the Emerald Isle.
In reality, there are millions of Americans alone who qualify for citizenship in Ireland and all of the benefits that come with it.
Benefits of being an Irish citizen
But what exactly are the benefits? For starters, Irish citizens are also citizens of the European Union. This gives them the ability to travel, live, and work freely around the EU.
Another plus is that, unlike with the US passport, Irish passport holders have no obligation to live in Ireland at all. Once you have Irish citizenship, you could live anywhere in the world or become a nomad with few or no tax issues. For example, if you don’t plan on living in Ireland, having an EU citizenship will allow you to take advantage of Europe’s zero-tax residency programs.
And, of course, the Irish passport is one of the best you can get. It is ranked as the third most powerful passport in the world, offering visa-free access to 175 countries, including the United States and Canada (the most difficult ones) and freedom of movement around Europe.
Not only that, but the passport is one of the lowest risk passports you can find. I mean, who doesn’t like Ireland? The country’s geographic location as an island, alone, reduces the geopolitical risks common in other EU countries. More importantly, it has the backing of the EU and is one of the friendliest countries around.
Obviously, there are other ways to attain Irish citizenship beyond ancestral ties. For instance, you can qualify for citizenship by running a business. While Ireland is a pretty business-friendly place in general, you would have to live in there to qualify. For a lot of people who aren’t looking to live in Ireland for the next five years, that would be a difficult situation.
That’s why the citizenship by descent option is so attractive.
In the wake of Brexit, the Irish passport is bound to grow in importance as well. It could afford many UK citizens with Irish ancestry the chance to maintain their status as EU citizens. But the passport isn’t just a good deal for the British, it is a great opportunity for an EU passport for anyone who qualifies.
Who qualifies for Irish citizenship by descent?
On the whole, Ireland’s citizenship program is straightforward. In fact, I’d say it’s the only citizenship by descent program that is. Italy’s program is pretty straightforward in terms of their requirements, but there is so much bureaucracy that it makes the process more difficult. All the other programs are a mess and involve loads of paperwork just to see if you qualify.
Thankfully, they made things pretty simple in Ireland. If you fit one of the following, you are automatically considered an Irish citizen:
- You were born on the island of Ireland to an Irish Citizen
- You were born on the island of Ireland to a non-Irish citizen who satisfied certain conditions (i.e. 3-4 years residence in Ireland) at the time of your birth
- You were born outside of Ireland to Irish citizens born in Ireland
You are also entitled to Irish citizenship (and can gain the status by registering with the Foreign Births Register) if you fit one of the following situations:
- You were born outside of Ireland to Irish citizens also born outside of Ireland, and your grandparents were Irish citizens born in Ireland
- Your were born outside of Ireland, your parents were born outside of Ireland but were registered on the Foreign Births Register before you were born, and your grandparents were born outside of Ireland to your great-grandparents who were born in Ireland.
Put more simply, if each generation has Irish citizenship, it doesn’t matter that no one has lived in Ireland since your great grandparents.
It’s also important to note that, if your parent obtained Irish citizenship through marriage, adoption or naturalization, but was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you can still obtain Irish citizenship. It also doesn’t matter if your parents were married or whether or not the ancestor connecting you to Ireland was alive at the time of your birth.
You cannot claim Irish citizenship based on ancestors other than your parents or grandparents, such as cousins or aunts and uncles.
Finally, if you were born in Northern Ireland after January 1, 2005 and one of your parents was an Irish or British citizen with permission to live in Ireland or Northern Ireland, then you are entitled to Irish citizenship.
How to register for Irish citizenship
If you believe you qualify for Irish citizenship by descent and would like to get the process started, I have an excellent relationship with a lawyer who is not only very good at the process but who has actually obtained Irish citizenship himself. (He’s also quite affordable.)
As someone who believes time is money, I would prefer to hire someone at minimal cost to help me get any citizenship by descent considering the amount of bureaucracy and waiting involved. If you’d like help getting your Irish passport, let me know here.
If you want to cheap it out, there are a few basic steps you should follow. Most importantly, before you can claim Irish citizenship you must register your birth in the Foreign Births Register. To do so, follow the “How to Register a Foreign Birth” guide found here. The guide will walk you through the different birth and marriage certificates you will need, as well as other relevant records that confirm your citizenship.
When that is done, fill out the application form online, print it out and mail it in along with your documents, photos and fee. You can find a list of Irish embassies abroad where you can mail your application here1.
Once your citizenship is granted, you will receive a certificate confirming your registration in the Irish Register of Foreign Births. Your citizenship will be effective from the date of registration and you can then pass down Irish citizenship to the next generation.
How to get your Irish passport
Your citizenship does not automatically come with an Irish passport, although it does qualify you for one. To obtain your passport, you must take a few additional steps.
You cannot apply for a passport, nor download the application, online. Instead, if you are in Ireland, you can apply through Passport Express or in person at a Passport Office. If your are abroad, you can apply through the post with your nearest Irish embassy or consulate.
If you were born abroad to an Irish-born parent, you should include your birth certificate, your civil marriage or partnership certificate, your Irish-born parent’s birth certificate, and your parents’ civil marriage certificate.
If you obtained citizenship through the foreign birth registration, you should include the previously mentioned birth registration certificate, your birth certificate, your civil marriage or partnership certificate and your passport.
A standard 10-year, 32-page passport will cost you €80, while the larger 66-page passport will cost €110. For full instructions, see the Irish government’s passport application and renewal page, here.
If you qualify, obtaining Irish citizenship by descent is an amazing opportunity. Anyone has the option to pay large sums to buy an economic citizenship or get residence somewhere and camp out until they are naturalized. However, both will take considerable amounts of your time or money. If you are lucky enough to have ancestors from Ireland, it’s worth the relatively small amount of time and money required to obtain a second citizenship all thanks to your ancestry.