Irish-Americans are fiercely proud of their Irish heritage, as is evident in the number of Americans who apply for Irish citizenship and passports. Last year the Irish Consulate in New York received 1,200 applications for an Irish passport. However, with 40 million people claiming at least some Irish heritage in the United States alone, there are some constraints for issuing both the passport and the citizenship.
According to Christina McElwaine, the press officer for the New York Irish Consulate, there are three main ways to obtain Irish citizenship. Firstly, a U.S. citizen with one or more Irish-born parents can apply for an Irish passport.
The second way to apply for an Irish passport is through a Foreign Birth Registration (FBR). A person having at least one grandparent born in Ireland can apply for Irish citizenship through FBR.
Documentation must be presented to one of the five Irish consulates throughout the United States. McElwaine says, “to apply for citizenship through an Irish-born grandparent (FBR), the applicant must supply original documentation which demonstrates clearly the identity of the applicant and the relationship between the applicant, the parent and the Irish-born grandparent.” In order to do that, the applicant must show the Irish birth certificate (where not available, a baptismal certificate is accepted), along with a marriage certificate, and a death certificate, or if they are still alive, an identification card of some sort.
Finally, up until November 30, 2005, one will be able to obtain Irish citizenship through a process called Post Nuptial Citizenship (PNC). If a U.S. citizen is married to an Irish citizen (for at least three years), they are eligible to apply for citizenship. However, after November 30, people living outside Ireland will not be able to apply for citizenship through PNC.
There is better news for Irish seniors at least 65 years old. From August 1, Irish senior citizens may obtain an Irish passport free of charge. This includes seniors living abroad and Americans who wish to apply through the FBR. Dermot Ahern, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, said in a recent press release, “I am very pleased that the life-long contribution to society of our senior citizens is being further recognized by the introduction of free passports. This will benefit over 60,000 such persons annually — about ten percent of those who apply for passports annually.” ♦