How to Apply for Your Irish Passport as an American

How to Apply for Your Irish Passport as an American

Before my second year teaching in Spain, I applied for my Irish passport. This was possibly the best decision I’ve made in my adult traveling life. If you have any connection to Ireland, APPLY FOR YOUR IRISH PASSPORT.


Getting this passport has opened me to a whole world of opportunities. I am now a citizen of one of the best countries in the world, I was able to live and work in Europe without a visa, and I recently was able to apply for a working visa in Australia in which I can extend my stay for up to 2 years.

These are just some of the perks, and if you have any connection I highly suggest taking the time to apply. You never know when you might need it (hint-hint those of you still upset by the recent presidential election).

So, my disclaimer: I know that this post is filled with a ton of logistics and it may seem overwhelming at first, but I am here to tell you that this process is almost scarily easy. It will seem frustrating and tedious, but it is WORTH IT. Follow these steps and you will be holding that passport in no time.

Step #1: Find your connection

The first time I went to Ireland, a few of my cousins told me I would probably be eligible to apply for my Irish passport. Once I got back to Spain, I decided to seriously research it.

During my research, I found that you are able to apply for an Irish passport if you fall under any of the following:

  • You were born outside Ireland to a parent born on the island of Ireland
  • If neither of your parents were born in Ireland but you can claim Irish Citizenship by descent (e.g. an Irish born grandparent)
  • If you are a naturalised Irish Citizen
  • Born Abroad and adopted under Irish Law
  • Post-Nuptial Citizenship

In my case, my mom was born in Ireland (shout-out to Adare). I always loved being able to say as a kid “my mom was born in Ireland”, but never did I imagine I could put this fact into practical use.

For this post, I am going to focus on if you were born to an Irish parent outside of Ireland or if you can claim citizenship through an Irish born grandparent. If you didn’t know where your parents or grandparents were born already, this would be a good time to give a call and ask.

Step #2: Get familiar with your embassy’s website

For the following steps, I am going to use the Irish Embassy in Chicago as my example.

A disclaimer: you do not have to be living in the States at the time to apply for this passport. When I applied for mine, I was living in Spain and did everything through the Irish Embassy in Madrid. If you are applying while living outside of the States, give yourself about 6 to 7 months of time from when you start applying to when you think you will get your passport by. No matter what embassy you are applying through, all the documents you will need will be the same.

So, along with this post use your embassy’s link as your guide and reference point.

Step #3: Claim your citizenship

If your parent was born in Ireland, you are automatically an Irish citizen. So, you can skip this step. Lucky you!

If you are not one of the lucky ones and you are applying for your passport through an Irish-born grandparent, you have to apply for citizenship before applying for the passport itself. You can do this through the Foreign Births Register.

Since I was automatically an Irish citizen through my mom, I am not going to get too much into this step. I won’t lie, this extra step seems a tad annoying and tedious, but do not let it discourage you.

Basically with this step you will have to go through more hoops to get your passport. You will have to pay more money (refer to step #7) because you are paying for your citizenship certification on top of your passport fees, and you will have dig up some extra documentation (refer to step #4) but again do NOT let this discourage you! I swear this passport is worth it.

Step #4: Buckle down and gather up your documents

Brace yourselves friends, here comes the fun part. Everyone needs to gather the following (remember these must be ORIGINAL or notarized photocopies):

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your marriage certificate (only if you have changed your last name)
  • 4 passport-sized photos (2 signed and witnessed) that are within the qualifications
  • Proof of name
    • License/US Passport/State ID
  • Proof of address
    • A bank statement, pay slip, or utility bill

Additional documents for people applying through their Irish-Born parent:

  • Your Irish-born parent’s birth certificate
  • The birth certificate and marriage certificate (if applicable) of your Irish-born parent

Additional documents for people applying through their Irish-born grandparent:

  • Your original Foreign Birth Registration Certification
    • When applying for this certification, you will need to gather the following:
      • Your Irish born Grandparent’s (through whom you are claiming citizenship):
        • Original Birth Certificate
        • Original Marriage Certificate
        • Original Divorce Decree (final) if Divorced and Current Civil Marriage Certificate (if remarried)
        • Declaration of Alienage (if they ever renounced their Irish citizenship)
        • Original Death Certificate if Deceased
        • Deed poll (if they ever changed their name)
        • Declaration of Alienage (if they ever renounced their Irish citizenship)

But Bridget… what if I don’t have my original documents?

Don’t have original documents? No problem. I didn’t think you had your grandparent’s original marriage certificate either. It costs some $$, but remember this money is WORTH IT.

Click here to order all of your original certificates (birth, marriage, or death certificates) from Ireland.

Click here to order all of your original certificates (birth, marriage, or death certificates) from the United States.

Step #5: The application

You cannot apply for this passport online. So, depending on where you are at the time, you can e-mail the nearest Irish embassy and request a passport application. When I e-mailed the Irish embassy in Madrid I had my application sent to me within the week.

Once you get your application, fill it out! It is very straightforward and has a list of directions on the front page. From what I remember, I am pretty sure you just have to make sure to fill it out in black ink and capital letters.

Also, with your application you will receive an application tracking number. This tracking number is crucial so whatever you do DO NOT lose it. Write it down, tattoo it to your body, do whatever you have to do to remember it. This number will allow you to track your passport progress and finally see when it is going to be approved.

Step #6: Finding a witness

Once you get to section 9 of your application, you will notice that you need a witness. Your witness is basically just someone who can verify that you are the person in your passport photos.

According to the embassy, here are the witness guidelines:

A member of one of the professions listed below can witness your passport application form as long as they are satisfied as to your identify and that your four photos are a true likeness of you. Make sure you bring photo identification with you and be aware that the witness may ask you for more proof of identification – this is at their discretion.

  • Police officer
  • Member of clergy
  • Medical doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Bank manager/assistant bank manager
  • Elected public representative
  • Notary public/commissioner for oaths
  • Peace commissioner
  • School principal/vice principal
  • Accountant

This isn’t as worrisome as you may think. I used the principal at the school I worked at in Spain, whom I probably spoke to twice, to be mine. Make sure this witness signs section 9 of your application form and also signs the back of two of your passport photos.

Step #7: The cost

Here’s the not-so-fun part. A standard 10-year passport for people over the age of 18 will cost you $120. If you also needed to get your Foreign Births Registration certification, you have to pay $285 (if you are over 18).

You can find more information on fees here.

Step #8: Send in your application!

Yay! You’ve almost made it. When you send in your application, you will be sending all of your original documents with it. You have the choice to either have these mailed back to you once your Irish passport is approved or to pick them up in person at the embassy you applied through. If you have your passport mailed to you, you will have to send a pre-paid return envelope with your application.

With this, PLEASE spend the extra money for a tracking number. You are literally sending your life to these embassies and you don’t want to risk losing that in the mail (especially after all the work you did to get the documents in the first place).

Step #9: Processing time

This step can seem like the hardest, but remember all good things take time.

If you are an Irish citizen already, the process will take 6-8 weeks. If you are applying through your Irish grandparent, the process can take up to six to eight months (since you have to register for your citizenship first).

During this time is when the embassy can e-mail you asking for further documentation or tell you the mistakes you made and need to correct. When I applied for mine, I forgot to send in my parent’s marriage certificate and had to wait patiently for my mom to send it to me from the States. Luckily this was the only problem I ran into and I had my passport approved right after that was sent in.

According to the Chicago embassy website, these are the top 4 mistakes made by applicants:

  1. To avoid fraud, we only accept Money or Postal orders

          or Bank Drafts as payment. Personal checks and credit

          cards are not accepted.

  1. For 1st time applicants: make sure you include a notarised

          copy of your ID. Photocopies of ID are not sufficient.

  1. Please note carefully in the instructions where you need

          to send ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS. Photocopies are not

          sufficient in these cases.

  1. Check the Photograph Guidelines carefully. Test your

          photo and ensure it meets the guidelines. Photographs

         which don’t meet the test will not be accepted.

When your passport is finally approved, you will get an e-mail. Depending on what you chose to do in step #8, your passport will be mailed back to you with your original documents or you will go and pick up your passport in person.

Step #10: Your passport is approved…you did it!

Congratulations, you are now a member of the European Union and a citizen of possibly my favorite country in the world (besides the States of course…). Take a breather, grab a pint of Guinness, and start putting that passport to good use!

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6 thoughts on “How to Apply for Your Irish Passport as an American”

  • 1
    Elizabthe Collins on November 27, 2016 Reply

    There is somethings similar if you have Italian parents or grandparents but their rules are.a.little more difficult. Google it and you will find information or look online at the Italian embassy closest to you! I didn’t qualify as a great granddaughter but others might!

  • 2
    Jay Riordan on November 29, 2016 Reply

    Hi Bridgey, it’s your Uncle Jay. I just got my Irish passport. Can I now travel direct from Chicago (O’Hare) to Cuba with my Irish passport? Are there any travel restrictions that you are aware of?

    Thanks and I hope you are doing well……we missed you on Thanksgiving!

    Love ya’.


  • 3
    Hanna Jobes on December 9, 2016 Reply

    My great-grandfather is Irish. Would that be eligible?!

  • 4
    John walsh on June 8, 2017 Reply

    Thanks for a well written document. I just finished this 2 year journey for me and my children. I say two years but that could have been compressed. My parents were born in Ireland, I was not nor were my children. So because my eldest decided to go to university in Ireland, and I didn’t want to pay €300 every 90 days, it was cheaper to get citizenship. The process is slow but the forms are straight forward and the required documents are readily attainable (assumming you know your family). One my child was registered in the FBR we applied for a passport. From beginning to end it took a year. In early Nov last year I decided to add my two other children to the FBR and get passports for them and for myself. Without much trouble , or rush on my part i expect to receive the three passports next week. (So I actually got more done since Nov than DT did😩) thanks again, I wish I had your blog when I started.

    • 5
      Finding Bridget on June 13, 2017 Reply

      Hi John, thanks for your comment! So glad to hear that you guys got citizenship! I am glad it worked out because I will definitely want my kids to get their citizenship one day. It is such a great passport to have. 🙂

  • 6
    Cory Anderson on August 21, 2017 Reply

    what if I can prove I had a great great great grandmother and grandfather from ireland? would I qualify??

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