Got Grandparents? You could become an Irish citizen.

March 15, 2012
Santiago, Chile

In advance of St. Patrick’s day coming up this weekend, I thought I’d spend some time today talking about the second best thing to come out of Ireland– its nationality law.

There’s no insurance policy quite like having a second citizenship. Sure, it would be great if we could roam around the world without having to brand ourselves by arbitrary political boundaries. I’m Mexican. You’re Canadian. He’s British. Big deal.  They’re irrelevant lines on a map that change with every war.

However, since we can’t really exist in the world without citizenship, the better option is to have as many of them as possible. If you are beholden to a single country, then your entire livelihood is tied to that government. You literally have all of your eggs in one basket.

Think about it. Are you comfortable being completely tied to your government?

Now… there are a number of ways to obtain second citizenship. If you include bribery and coercion, the opportunities are boundless. The simplest, easiest, most cost effective way, though, is for a fortunate group of folks who are part of the lucky sperm club.

Certain countries– Ireland, Italy, Poland, etc. grant citizenship to descendants of their natural born citizens, and the process is pretty painless. Let’s explore Ireland:

First of all, Ireland is a great travel document. You can live anywhere in the European Union, come and go from the United States and Canada without a visa, and travel to dozens of other countries around the world with very little hassle.

At the moment, non-resident Irish citizens have very little burden. There is no compulsory military service to worry about, no worldwide taxation, and dual nationality is allowed.

According to Ireland’s most recent nationality law, a person is an Irish citizen at birth if “either parent was an Irish citizen, or would, if alive, have been an Irish citizen.” This is where it gets a little bit tricky.

Ireland’s old nationality law used to grant citizenship to anyone born within Ireland. Therefore, if you have at least one parent who was born in Ireland, s/he was automatically an Irish citizen at birth. As such, you would also be an Irish citizen, no matter where you were born.

If this is the case, you can apply for citizenship directly to the Passport Office at your nearest consulate.

So what about grandparents?

Well, the same logic follows. If you have at least one grandparent who was born in Ireland, s/he would have been a citizen. Moreover, his/her children (i.e. one of your parents) would have been automatically entitled to Irish citizenship regardless of where they were born… and so would you.

The process works a bit differently in this case– you would have to go through something called a Foreign Birth Registration. There are a few hoops to jump through, but it’s all doable.

Every applicant for Foreign Births Registration must provide certain documentation about the grandparent from whom the citizenship is being claimed. Specifically:

1) Birth certificate including place of birth, date of birth, full name
2) Marriage certificate, if applicable
3) Copy of passport (if alive) or death certificate (if deceased)

Then you’ll need some documentation on your parent through whom the citizenship is being claimed. Specifically:

1) Birth certificate (indicating details of his/her parents)
2) Marriage certificate, if applicable
3) Copy of passport (if alive) or death certificate (if deceased)

And finally you’ll need some documents for yourself, including:

1) Birth certificate (including the details of your parents)
2) Marriage certificate, if applicable
3) Passport copy
4) Two photographs
5) Proof of address (bank statement, utility bill)
6) Application form (which you can download here)

All of the documentation, together with the application, must be submitted to your nearest Irish consular mission.

And what if you have children of your own? If you’re claiming citizenship through your grandparents, your children can only become citizens if you registered with the Irish government before their birth. In other words, once you become a citizen through your grandparents, future children can also claim citizenship.

If you’re claiming citizenship through your parents, however, all of your children can claim citizenship.

So where can you obtain all of these records? Well, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer and you have enough information, you can contact the Government Records Office ( directly. They have records of births, deaths, and marriages since 1864.

There are also services out there like and that do most of the heavy lifting for you in accessing the records.

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