Erin go Brad -- registering Irish citizenship

It’s St. Paddy’s day but I can celebrate a little harder this time. Two days ago, I got my notice of entry into Ireland’s Foreign Birth Registry, declaring me an Irish citizen. I’m able to do that because I have 3 Irish grandparents (2 born in Ireland.) Irish law declares that anybody born to somebody born in Ireland is automatically Irish. That made my father, whose parents were both born there, an Irish citizen even though he never got a passport. Because my father was an Irish citizen (not born on the Island) that also gives me the right to claim it, though I had to do the paperwork, it is not automatic. If I had children after this, they could also claim it, but if I had any before this registration, they would not.

I decided to do this for a few reasons. First, it will allow me to live, work and travel freely in Ireland or anywhere else in the E.U. The passport control lines for Canadians are not usually that long, but it’s nicer to not be quizzed. But in the last few years, I have encountered several situations where it would have been very useful to have a 2nd passport:

  • On a trip to Russia, I discovered there was a visa war between Canada and Russia, and Russia was making Canadians wait 21 days for a Visa while the rest of the world waited 6 or less. I had to change a flight over that and barely made my conference. It would have been handy to use an Irish passport then. (Update: Possibly not. Russia and others require you to use the passport which allows residence, and you must apply where you live. So my Irish documents are no good at the San Francisco consulate as I don’t live there using the Irish passport.)
  • Getting stamps in your passport for Israel or its border stations means some other countries won’t let you in. Israelis will stamp a piece of paper for you but resent it, and you can lose it. A 2nd passport is a nice solution. (For frequent visitors, I believe Canada and the USA both offer a 2nd passport valid only for travel to Israel.)
  • Described earlier, last year I lost my passport in Berlin. While I got tremendous service in passport replacement, this was only because my mother was in hospital. Otherwise I would have been stuck, unable to travel. With 2 passports, you can keep them in two places, carry one and leave one in the hotel safe etc. While Canada does have an emergency temporary passport, some countries only offer you a travel document to get you home, and you must cancel any other travel on your trip.
  • On entry to Zimbabwe, I found they charged Canadians $75 per entry, while most other nations paid $30 for 1 and $45 for two. Canada is charging Zimbabweans $75 so they reciprocate. Stupid External Affairs, I bet far more Canadians go to Zimbabwe than the other way around
  • On entry to Zambia, it was $50 to transit for most countries but free/no-visa for the Irish. I got my passport 1 week after this, sigh. Ireland has a visa abolition deal.
  • Argentina charges a $150 “reciprocity fee” to US and Canadian passports, good for 10 years. Free for Irish, though. Yay!

All great reasons to have two passports. I don’t have that yet, though. (Update: I got it in June) Even though I presume that the vast majority of those who do the Irish foreign birth registry immediately want a passport, it doesn’t work that way. After a 21 month wait, I have my FBR certificate, which I now must mail back to the same consulate that sent it, along with several of the same documents I used in getting the FBR like my original birth certificate. While it makes huge sense to do them together, it doesn’t work that way.

The process is quite opaque. You send in your papers and you don’t get anything — they don’t acknowledge they got them, they don’t do a cursory check. They just tell you processing takes 18-24 months. You can’t inquire as to the status or how far along things are. You just wait, and one day a Fedex arrives. I have suggested to them that they would cut down the number of inquiries for status if they just posted on their web site “We’re now sending out responses to requests filed in month of year and people could get a sense of it. Of course, even more ideally they would give you a file number and let you query it on the web. They don’t get big budgets to do fancy web stuff though.

Ireland is not alone. Canada also changed its laws recently to allow any child of a Canadian to be automatically Canadian. Their web site says when you file your paperwork, that in 4 months they will give you a receipt for your payment, and then 8 months after that you will get your citizen card — which you can send right back in to get a passport. I find the 4 months for the receipt amusing. When I buy on Amazon, I usually have the e-mail receipt for my order in my mailbox before the web page refreshes! Otherwise, though I remain impressed by my Berlin experience with the Canadian passport staff.

Another friend has a true nightmare story from Greece which also allows children and grandchildren to register as Greeks. Her story is dreadful, because they have the same 2 year turnaround time on applications. She’s been at it 15 years. She files an application, and 2 years later they point out some nit that is wrong in the application so she files again. 2 years later they point out another nit. And so on, and so on, often redoing things again and again. Sometimes changing them — she had kids — and sometimes having to do ridiculous things like having her Greek father annul his marriage because something was wrong in the paperwork and it’s better to have no marriage than one with the wrong paperwork. This makes the Irish experience a walk in the park.

A few quirks: For my Irish application, you pick one grandparent, and I used my father’s mother because I knew her birth/death particulars more accurately, making it easier to get her certificates. She was born in Belfast, which as you might know, is not in the Republic of Ireland. (Though in 1898 when she was born there was no division.) The Irish constitution declares that anybody born on the Island counts, regardless of the U.K. possession of Ulster. When I got all her papers though, I found that her name had a slightly different form on all six! Her birth certificate used nicknames “Lizzie Maria” but when she got married she thought her formal name was “Elizabeth Marion” and then later my Father knew her as “Marion Elizabeth.” You have to submit a lot of documents:

  • The grandparent’s birth certificate
  • The marriage certificate of your grandparents
  • The grandparent’s death certificate or ID — yes, even for somebody born in 1889, man or woman, though no man has ever lived that long.
  • Your parent’s long form birth certificate (naming the grandparents)
  • Your parents’ marriage certificate
  • Your parent’s death certificate or ID
  • Your long form birth certificate
  • Your ID and various other things to prove your address

After seeing all the variations in my grandmother’s name, I started to wonder if I should have worked harder to find my grandfather’s papers, since his name would have stayed pretty constant, avoiding at least the change due to marriage. And he was born in Tipperary, which is in the Republic. They assured me that name variations are common, and that for this purpose, Tipperary is no better than Belfast. And indeed they were right. Still, it makes sense that if I had been able to file them both in the same form, then any problem with one of them (like the names) could have let them switch over to the other. The Canadian application lets you declare both parents (if both are Canadian) even though just one is needed.

This was all a fair bit of work, and cost about $500. Which would probably not be worth it just for easier passport control when going to Europe, but makes sense considering all the other factors. I heard a rumour that Ireland and some other countries were considering cutting back on this system because it was becoming too popular with Americans hoping to retire in Europe and get free health care. As a Canadian, I can already get that so it was not an incentive for me, but it did prompt me into doing it sooner. I have no idea if there is anything to the rumour.

What’s Irish and sits out in the yard? Me.

Two Passports

You make it sound as if it's easy to switch between two passports. If you're abroad this can cause problems with officials who see you with a passport that doesn't show you've legally entered the country. I've had several problems with this myself and know of plenty of others from people in similar situations.
I'm not suggesting two passports isn't a good idea. Of course it is. But stick with one unless it's absolutely necessary.

That is a good point

I have talked to people who have had problems even doing what you are supposed to do with multiple passports, because of computerized checking. For example, the law says I must not use my Irish passport to enter Canada, and I presume also that I must not use my Canadian one to enter Ireland as I think this is the norm. (Also I had better use my Canadian passport when entering the US as it has my visa in it.)

I’ve heard of trouble when people fly overseas because you show a passport at the exit airport both to leave and to assure the airline you will be able to enter the destination country. But you probably want, as you say, to show the passport you used to enter the country when you leave it (in the USA the airline employee removes the I94 from it) but you may want to use the other passport to enter the destination country.

In some cases, being a tourist (ie. with a foreign passport with a recent stamp) gets you certain benefits like not paying some taxes, or in other cases the reverse. So yes, if you show a passport without the stamp they might wonder. Though I certainly hope I don’t find myself wanting to show my non-EU passport on visits to the EU.

Not all countries demand a passport for exit of course, particularly at land borders. Fortunately the Canadian passport is one of the world’s best, in that it has low visa requirements compared to many countries. On the other hand, on my recent trip to French Polynesia the EU passport would have meant no visa concern at all.

As the number of multi-passport people grows, I expect the systems to become more used to this. Not long ago many nations denied dual citizenship entirely. Today it is fairly low risk, though in a few places it can put you at risk of conscription if you visit such a nation as a citizen, and some crazy countries like the USA tax their citizens no matter where they live in the world. One other catch — if you have two passports, treaty forbids one country from giving you diplomatic aid in the other. If I go to jail in Ireland, the Canadian embassy will give me no help. I can handle that.

And this is of interest to no one..

You seem to think that there is another human being in the world who cares about these details. Tone down the narcissism, Brad.

Narcissism is probably the main reason you are taking credit for the work of others in self-driving cars (which others have told you to stop doing, btw).


Brad: is it *entirely* not necessary for you to leave this gent's comments posted. While it's himself they make look bad, they do leave a bad taste in the mouth, and I personally wouldn't be at all concerned if you deleted them.

PS: Blakely? You overdid

PS: Blakely? You overdid the rhetoric: I'm another person. I'm in the world. And I'm interested in these details. So, bugger off, would you please?

Can I Use My Certified Paternal And maternal Irish DNA History?

Can I Use My Certified Paternal And Maternal Irish DNA History to get into the Irish Birth Registry and obtain an Irish Passport / Irish Citizenship?

Irish law declares that anybody born to somebody born in Ireland is automatically Irish.

Submitting paperwork versus DNA seems so 1950ish.

Brad says:

You have to submit a lot of documents:

The grandparent’s birth certificate
The marriage certificate of your grandparents
The grandparent’s death certificate or ID — yes, even for somebody born in 1889, man or woman, though no man has ever lived that long.
Your parent’s long form birth certificate (naming the grandparents)
Your parents marriage certificate
Your parent’s death certificate or ID
Your long form birth certificate
Your ID and various other things to prove your address

Not too likely

Governments are big on paper trails. And DNA ancestry is not good enough to do this yet, and indeed will never be good enough to tell if you parent or grandparent was born in a country, your DNA is decided only by your parents, not the particular location of your birth, or your grandparent’s birth.

It’s pretty much impossible to come up with a good rigid definition of DNA patterns for a country, or even an ethnic group. There’s too much interbreeding. Yes, it seems you can tell things like how Jewish you are, but never accurately enough to use it as a citizenship test.

irish foreign birth registry in canada

This is a reply concerning Irish FBR in Canada.When I applied ,I was told the application was to take up to 18 months to process!! That was 30 months ago!!
I contacted the embassy on several occasions & was told in a couple of months on 4 different occasions & was also told that my application was up to date & my certificate was to be sent to me ,It has never arrived ..I contacted the embassy one more time & was told the same winded story about the passport office having to many applications,My Grandparent was born in Ireland so if they dont want to respect the irish immigration law ,they should change it!! This is to forewarn
Irish Canadians from applying for Foreign Birth registration from the Irish Embassy in ottawa Canada!!! It seems to be a form of identity theft that you have
to pay for!!

When I did it

The wait in Ottawa was supposedly shorter than the one in San Francisco, but they said you had to apply where you were currently living. SF took about 20 months as I recall, though you get no status updates, no way to query. Just one day it shows up by courier. To my annoyance, mine showed up on St. Patrick’s Day but the paperwork said it had been done in November, and I would have been able to use it on a trip and saved some bucks if it had come when it was done.

Ireland is broke, of course, so don’t expect much improvement!

San Francisco must have a

San Francisco must have a larger staff?The lady`s I spoke too in Ottawa were very nice but will not let you know one way or another when your certificate is to be issued, If at all. They have changed from 6-8 months to up to 18 months, now it has been changed to 24 months minimum waiting time!,And yes this also applies
to people that have applied 36 months ago on a up to 18 month application.Very misleading!!.I wonder if all applications end up in Dublin for approval??

registering irish citizenship

All applications end up in the Bank of Ireland!!!! It is a Scam!!


It is very likely that the embassy in ottawa canada is ignoring applicants of foriegn birth registration,taking peoples money and information!6-38 months is not normal or lawful.

Recent Update

There has been an update and now apparently the Irish embassy in Ottawa is switching to an electronic system for the Foreign Births Registration process. Their website is now quoting 6-10 months. I submitted my application before the change so I'm not sure how it will affect wait times or how accurate the 6-10 month wait is now. I must say the embassy was very quick to get my original documents back to me (just over a week) so perhaps the process has been streamlined now. They were also very prompt in answering my questions. I can't say the same for Canadian immigration - my Irish friends are trying to get PR here in Canada and the process is a gong show.

I will second Brad's comment that you do qualify if you have a grandparent born in Northern Ireland, as this was the case with me (I was worried it wouldn't count). His Canadian documents list his ethnicity as 'Irish' and not British, even though he came to Canada on a British passport.


Hey Brad, because you seem slightly more knowledgeable than me:

My dad was adopted by my Irish granddad. The Irish consular said that if I provide proof of adoption along with the birth records, it should be fine.

How long did the total process take for you? I assume mine may be a bit quicker because my granddad is alive and well, but the adoption thing throws a wrench into the cogs (so I take that as balancing out).


Speed is uncertain

I doubt it will go any faster in one situation or another, as long as you have all the papers. They want proof the adoption was done in a manner compatible with Irish law. Of course if it happened in Ireland that’s a no brainer but most other adoptions in the USA or Canada will also be fine but you should check.

The slow speed is just the backlog, not too much that some take more than others. There are reports of the process speeding up.

I used all dead people (my father and his Irish parents are both deceased) and it worked fine. I would guess that living people would probably eliminate much doubt, though you have to get copies of the living folk’s IDs, rather than (fortunately) their death certs!

If your dad was adopted in Ireland you may be automatic Irish as I understand it. If he was adopted outside Ireland then it’s more like mine.

Birth certificates & other paper work

Hi Brad Thanks for your post. I am tentatively looking into this. But my big concern is the birth certificates, death&marriage ect. They want the originals? That means (in my case) I send all my original certificates to the New York consulate and they hold on to them for up to a year? I could be without the originals for up to a year?
Am I misunderstanding this? I hope you respond -I could use some clarification.
Thanks so much


They do want originals. If you go in person, you can bring the originals and copies, and they will confirm the copies are legit and take only the copies. If you submit by mail, you can submit originals and copies and people have reported they send the originals back reasonably soon, not years later. You have to make the copies, which seems odd but that’s how it works.


Thank you so much- your response has been a real help. I was very nervous( in paticular) about sending out my grandparents documents. Thanks again.

Foreign Birth Registry

Hi Brad,
Thankyou very much for starting this blog. I started the process of getting my Irish citizenship in Nov. 2009 and am just finishing now and awaiting my certificate. Now, not all of that time was waiting for the Irish Embassy Most of it was because The Canadian Registrer General's Office takes forever to get certificates to you. Min. 6 wks! And god forbid you should make a mistake because they will take that 6 weeks to inform you of your mistake and then another 6 weeks to reply. I had the misfortune of birthdate problems for my dad. (his mother was born in County Waterford) His birth registry stated July 20 1908 his marriage and death registry stated July 19 1908. So I had to have the conflicting certificates dates changed; which involves having original certificates, a letter from the person who witnessed his death certificate stating they were aware I was changing data on the certificate as well as baptismal certificate etc. The applications had to be noterized by one of their officers. I made a mistake on one of the papers by using whiteout and it took 6 wks for them to send it back saying it was unacceptable. I had to wait a further 6 weeks for new papers to fill out and go through it all again. I have been going through the Embassy in Ottawa and have found them very pleasent and helpful. The person working on my application was prompt with callbacks. I am really hoping to have my certificate before the new year but I won't ho;d my breath.

FBR - different name

Hi Brad
Thanks for writing this up, very interesting. I am about to go through the FBR process myself and also have a name discrepancy, my grandmother is called 'May Cathleen' on her birth certificate but only ever used Mary Catherine thereafter. I hope that difference is small enough to be accepted, I won't know until I try. What I wondered is which version to use on the form, or to use both (although that seems to trigger need for a deed poll which doesn't exist). Just wondered, what did you do about this in your case where you had alternative versions of the name?


Based on my experience that should be nothing at all. I can’t recall which name I used, probably the birth cert name


Thanks Brad, hopefully it will all go smoothly then, that was my main worry. Fingers crossed!!

Foreign Births

I started the process in October 2012. I am a Canadian citizen with one grandparent born in Ireland in 1919, at that point in time it was considered one country but my Granda was born in Derry in the North.

For me the process was pretty good. I had to obtain my grandpas birth cert. from Ireland which came within a week, to get all of the long form birth, marriage and death certificates is very easy in Ontario and once ordered online I had within a couple weeks.

I sent my entire package to Ottawa in early February and they have cleared the cheque but I am still waiting to here anything back.

When I went through the app as someone mentioned above the FBR was all online so I am hoping my application is wrapped up within the next couple of months.


Update end of April received letter from Ottawa that my application is in order and received back original documents. Letter states that my application is sent for "final approval" and will be printed and sent to me, anyone have an idea of how long this takes? I'm wondering if they sent it over to Ireland?

I am also collecting the actually passport application to get that ready for when my FBR certificate comes back.

What about maintenance?

I've been thinking about putting the work in to do this myself, but in my asking around I spoke with a woman who thought there were stipulations on maintaining the citizenship. She was under the impression that there was a required amount of time that must be spent in Ireland every some odd years to maintain the citizenship. I haven't put much time into researching this, but wasn't able to come up with anything along these lines in my limited research.



I am not aware of this, let me know if you find out more.

FBR Application Ottawa

Just wondering if anyone has applied to the Ottawa Embassy this year, I recently applied (about 3 months ago) and on the website there is nothing listed for processing times. I know this can take a really long time just curious if anyone has received their certificate recently and how long it took.



I just recently got my entry

I just recently got my entry into the Foreign Births. Processing time was about 5-6 months from the time I sent in the application to the time I received my FBR paperwork. After about 1 month I got all the birth certificates, etc. back and was notified my application was complete and I had to just wait for the special paperwork.

Well that's awesome...except

Well that's awesome...except I wonder what it means that I haven't received my original documents back in over 3 months :( Hopefully all is well.

I just used my brain power

I just used my brain power and remembered I had 2 applications with my original documents (myself and my brother) so likely that would be why mine will take longer to come back as they have to process 2 applications with the same doc's I will try to refrain from having panic attacks in the future LOL

Original documents

Thanks for writing this! Putting together my application but very hesitant to send so many original documents in the mail (and my parents are hesitant to let go of their marriage certificate, birth certificates, etc), is there a way around this? If I go directly to the Ottawa Embassy do you know if I can get them back immediately?

Thank you,


Generally yes

I went to the consulate (no need to go to the embassy but that may vary by consulate) and brought quality copies of all the documents. They then examine the copies to assure they match the documents, and return the originals to you. (This seems silly to me, why don’t they just make the copies, and then they can be sure they match. But they do have to check for authenticity.)

Indeed, if you give them the originals, reportedly they will make copies themselves and send you back the originals — but in a few months.


So happy to see so many people getting their Irish citizenship.

As an Irish (and British) citizen by birth, I'd urge you guys to hold on in's a slow process (things are often very inefficient in Ireland to be honest)...but it will bring you some great benefits in the future!

Good luck

At the risk of becoming

At the risk of becoming extremely unpopular, I put my application into the office in Cork and got my registration papers within a week!


Hi, how can I get my great grand parents certifications if I'm not in Ireland? Is there a place online where I pay for these documents and have them ship to my country? Also both of my great grand parents were Irish but my grandpa was born in another country, he died many years ago and I'm not sure if he was ever registered in the foreign birth register in Ireland. But as I was researching about this and it seems that if both of your parents were Irish you automatically become one even though you weren't born in Ireland. It's a little confusing. Can you help me with is??? THANKS!

Not great-grandparents

Your great-grandparents don’t really factor into it, other than that your parent (father or mother) could have used them to get into the FBR. You can’t use them.

Your grandfather was automatically Irish, but without the ability to pass it on without the paperwork. So if he, or your parent, registered your parent in the FBR before you were born, you can also register in the FBR. If your parent was not in the FBR at the time of your birth, you are probably out of luck.

Thank you Brad.

Thank you Brad.

Citizenship through Grandparent.

Hi. My grandfather was born in Tipperary in 1865 and emigrated to New Zealand where my father was born. His birth was not registered in the Foreign Birth Registry in Ireland. Does this affect my ability to apply for Irish Citizenship? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

You're good

My Grandfather was also born in Tipperary (though I used my grandmother.)

You’re good, if you can get all the birth, death and marriage certificates.

Time for processing when docs sent to Ireland?

I filled out the application on line, and was directed to send all the documents directly to Ireland (which I understand is the updated process for many areas, rather than applying to consulate.) Does anybody have experience with this? Any idea what the time frame is? I sent me documentation in about 2 months ago, and I just now was charged the fee. Which I guess may mean that they just now got around to even looking at the application.

Applying for multiple people

Hi, my mother was born in Ireland, which makes me an Irish citizen by decent. It is my understanding, (and I'd love clarification) that I do not need to register. My plan was to apply for an Irish passport based on this info. Also, I have two children and a husband whom I would like to register. Has anyone completed this process for their children or spouse? Can I send the documentation for all of us at once instead of waiting for it to be returned for my passport? My experience with the Irish consulate in Ottawa has always been frustrating. When I was in school in Ottawa I attempted the process, but found it SO frustrating as they would only respond to snail mail. Now I understand there is an online application, but all of the links on the embassy website are broken and the person is away on leave until next week.

Also, I was wondering if it would be faster, or possible to have an aunt or uncle go to the embassy for me with the documentation in Ireland.

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