I got my Irish Passport last week! That was the final step in my citizenship process and now I have what I consider to be a complete collection of passports – American, Italian and now, Irish. It’s a big deal for me and something I never dreamed would become a reality when I arrived in Ireland more than ten years ago.
Since I got my Italian citizenship 12 years ago, I get asked a lot of the same questions. And now with three citizenships (which, admittedly is very unusual) I get asked even more questions about the how and the why of it all. So I thought I’d put some of those answers here, for anyone who might find them interesting or useful.
You’re allowed to have three citizenships? Yes, I am. But that is a country-specific thing. Ireland, Italy and the US all allow for multiple citizenships. Some countries do not and one would have to renounce their previous citizenship as one of the requirements for citizenship in that country.
How did you get your Italian citizenship? I qualified for Italian citizenship through something called Jure Sanguinis, which literally means “right of blood” and is synonymous with “by descent.” This essentially means people with Italian-born ancestors may have had that ancestor’s Italian citizenship passed onto them through their bloodline, or by descent. There is a very involved process to prove that citizenship and the right to claim it. It took me two years to claim my Italian citizenship and it’s not for the faint of heart. My Italian citizenship is quite special and interesting because getting citizenship via Jure Sanguinis means that I have always been an Italian citizen – my application was to get that citizenship recognized. This is different from the birth-right citizenship I have from the US and the naturalization citizenship I have from Ireland.
Do you speak Italian? I do not, at all. This surprises some people because getting citizenship to a country often requires proving language proficiency. Since 2018, Italy has had a language proficiency requirement for citizenship but only for NEW citizens, so via naturalization or marriage for instance. But as I explained above, I was not a new Italian citizen. I was born with my Italian citizenship and my process was only to get it recognized therefore, Jure Sanguinis applicants do not have to prove any language proficiency.
How did you get your Irish citizenship? One qualifies for Irish citizenship by naturalization when you have five of the previous nine years of residency in Ireland, with the immediate year previous to the application needing to be resident in Ireland. I qualified for citizenship back in 2017 but then I moved to Paris in 2018, so I needed to get that one year of residency previous to my application in before submitting my application. I moved back to Ireland in April 2019 and my application was sent in September 2020. The application process is quite straightforward as long as you read everything carefully and follow the instructions to the letter. Ireland is probably one of the easier European countries in which to get residency-based citizenship.
Do you speak Irish? I do not, at all. Ireland does not have a language proficiency for English or Irish requirement as part of their naturalization application. Fun fact – Ireland is one of only three European countries that do not have a language proficiency requirement for citizenship. The other two are Cyprus and Sweden.
You already had your Italian citizenship, why bother getting your Irish? It’s true that already having an EU passport meant that getting my Irish citizenship wasn’t as crucial for me as for some people. I could live and work in Ireland on my Italian passport indefinitely. But my life is in Ireland and so I really wanted to have citizenship of the country where I’ve based my life. I also wanted to have full voting rights. As an EU passport holder I did have the right to vote in some elections here. But I was disappointed that I could not vote in, for instance, the historic referendums that legalized same-sex marriage and repealed the 8th. Also, Brexit. The agreement between the UK and Ireland predates the European Union so with an Irish passport I can still live and work in the UK if I wanted to but I cannot do that with my Italian passport anymore.
Would you ever give up your American citizenship? No, I don’t think so. I may not be a fan of many aspects of America right now, but it’s still the country where I was born and raised and may want to return to some day. It’s where my family is and I would never want there to be a limit on how long I was allowed to be with them. I’m American and I always will be.
Which passport do you use when? This can get tricky and confusing but it’s also not a huge deal. Essentially, I have to use my US passport when traveling to the US. I actually use it when traveling to Canada as well because then I don’t have to get an ETSA. I’ve always used my Italian passport when traveling anywhere else, but I will switch that to my Irish passport now unless that travel includes Italy. And for non-EU travel, while Ireland will be my default, the visa requirements could determine that it’s better to use one of my other passports. For instance, I was researching traveling to Vietnam and while US and Irish citizens need a tourist visa, Italian citizens do not – so in that case, the Italian passport makes the most sense.
Which is your favorite? I don’t play favorites! Haha! Right now, my Irish passport is all new and shiny and I’m very excited to use it for the first time so maybe it currently has a slight edge. But the truth is, each of my citizenships are special and important to me for different reasons. I love them all!