There’s More Than One Way to Become an Irish Citizen

by Steven Bustin

Photo Courtesy of the Embassy of Ireland, USA

Are you Irish?

If you’re a member of the Irish American Baseball Society, there is a good chance you’re answer to the above question is a resounding, “YES!”

You’re not alone! It’s estimated that there are at least 40 million Americans that claim some Irish heritage — and you can be sure that number doubles every St. Patrick’s Day!

Many Americans are familiar with their Irish heritage thanks to family stories that are handed down through the years. Others may be aware of their ancestral ties to the Emerald Isle through an Irish surname.

But family stories and Irish last names aren’t enough to make you a citizen of Ireland. To become an Irish citizen, you’ll need to do a bit of research and, if you meet the requirements, fill out the necessary paperwork.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s more than one way to become an Irish citizen. In this article, we’ll look at these pathways to Irish citizenship:

  • Foreign Birth Registration (FBR)
  • Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)
  • Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)

Why Do Irish Americans Apply for Irish Citizenship?

Often, a seminal event will trigger a new focus on learning more about one’s Irish ancestry — a grandparent passing, a trip to Ireland, or simply reading a book on Irish history. We begin asking more questions of older relatives, digging into research on genealogical sites and generally exhibiting a greater interest in Ireland. With more research, our ancestors of the past form personalities and we begin to feel a greater connection. Those Irish ancestors become real people when we know their dates of immigration to America, their occupation, and even baptism and marriage records.

Margaret Hayes, circa 1920

Personally, I have always known a great deal about my family history, but it was only after I learned about the hardships of my great-grandmother, Margaret Hayes from County Cork, that I was inspired to begin the process of obtaining my Irish citizenship.

Margaret’s story was not uncommon for her time — at the age of 17, she traveled, alone, to America. She sailed back-and-forth several times to bring more of her family to America. During her many journeys, she was arrested twice by British authorities!

After learning Margaret’s story, I decided to honor her and my other Irish ancestors by becoming an Irish citizen. Truth be told, I found I could not devote the necessary time to the project, so I enlisted the help of an Irish law firm that specializes in helping people navigate the Irish citizenship application process. My application is still in process, but I already feel a great sense of pride because I’ve started my citizenship journey.

The Benefits of Irish Citizenship For Irish Americans

Irish citizenship has many benefits. Irish citizens can live, work and travel within Ireland and the EU without restrictions. Irish citizens can also vote in Irish elections and pass on Irish citizenship to their children.

For many, the pride of knowing they are an Irish citizen is its own reward.

How to Qualify for Irish Citizenship Through Foreign Birth Registration

Foreign Birth Registration (FBR) is the process of obtaining Irish citizenship for individuals who have Irish ancestry but were born outside of Ireland. FBR is by far the most common pathway to Irish citizenship for Irish Americans. In order to qualify for Irish citizenship via Foreign Birth Registration, at least one of the following statements must be true:

  • One of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth
  • One of your parents or grandparents was born in Ireland

The Foreign Birth Registration process can sometimes take up to a year or longer. During the process, you will be asked for documents related to yourself and the parent or grandparent through whom you are claiming citizenship. Luckily, the Irish government makes it easier to locate some of the required documents through the HSE website.

Required Documents From the Citizenship Applicant

  1. Original Long-form Civil Birth Certificate
  2. Certified/Notarized copy of the photograph page of current passport or state-issued identity document (e.g. Driver’s Licence)
  3. Two separate documents showing proof of Residence e.g. phone bill, gas/electricity bill.
  4. Original Civil Marriage Certificate (if married) – Church certificates are NOT acceptable

Documents from Applicant’s Irish Parent or Grandparent

  1. Original Long-form Civil Birth Certificate
  2. Original Civil Marriage Certificate (if married) – Church certificates are NOT acceptable
  3. Original Divorce Decree (final) if Divorced and Current Civil Marriage Certificate ( if remarried)
  4. Certified/Notarized copy of the photograph page of current passport or state-issued identity document (e.g. Driver’s Licence)
  5. Original Death Certificate (if Deceased)
  6. Deed poll (if they ever changed their name). Original must be submitted and must have been valid for at least two years. Two documents showing proof of usage in the newly acquired name – e.g. Bank Statements, Utility Bills that are at least two years old – must also accompany the deed poll.

Document requirements are subject to change, please refer to the Foreign Birth Registration website for current guidelines.

How to Obtain Irish Citizenship Through the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)

If you don’t qualify for Irish citizenship through the FBR pathway, there are other options to consider. One of those options is the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP). According to the Irish government, the STEP pathway allows “innovative entrepreneurs to apply for permission to establish their business and reside in Ireland on a full-time basis.”

To qualify for STEP, a start-up venture must meet the following requirements:

  • Introducing a new or innovative product or service to international markets
  • Involved in manufacturing or internationally traded services
  • Capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million in sales within three to four years of starting up
  • Led by an experienced management team
  • Headquartered and controlled in Ireland
  • Less than 5 years old

You may apply for STEP if you:

  • Are a person of good character
  • Have not been convicted of criminal offences in any jurisdiction
  • Have the required €50,000 funding available
  • Have an innovative business proposal

Successful applicants to the STEP program and their families are granted a two-year residency. After two years, the residency can be renewed for an additional three years. After five years, the entrepreneur and their family may apply for long-term residence.

How to Obtain Irish Citizenship Through the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)

Yet another way to obtain Irish citizenship is through the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP). This method of citizenship requires a bit more capital and risk but it has proven to be a very popular program. According to the Irish government:

The Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) is open to non-EEA nationals who commit to an approved investment in Ireland. The Immigrant Investor Programme requires a minimum investment of €1m, from the applicants own resources and not financed through a loan or other such facility, which must be committed for a minimum of three years.

There are many reasons to become an Irish citizen and there’s more than one way to make the dream of becoming an Irish citizen a reality. Whatever your reason and whatever path you choose, I wish you the best of luck!

About the Author

Steven Bustin is a marketing executive based in the San Franciso Bay area.  He works as a freelance consultant for Gibson and Associates LLP, a Dublin-based law firm that works with Irish Americans seeking to become citizens of Ireland. Steven is a proud member of the Irish American Baseball Society


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