By Isabel Togoh
If latest figures are anything to go by, 2018 looks set to be the busiest year for Irish passport applications from British citizens.
With less than five months to go until Britain leaves the EU, it has emerged that nearly 45,000 people applied for the document in the first half of the year – almost as many seen in the whole of 2015, according to the Irish embassy in London.
Neale Richmond, chairman of the Brexit committee in the Irish Senate, said the numbers showed “no sign of the rush for Irish passports abating”.
Whether you’re thinking of joining the scramble, or you’re just curious about the process, here’s what you need to know.
Why The Rush For Irish Passports?
Ireland will remain a member of the European Union once the UK leaves the bloc at the end of March 2019.
It is hoped that opting to become an Irish citizen and owning an Irish passport will shield those eligible from potential changes to travel and regulation that British residents are likely to face post-Brexit.
Taylor Heyman, a journalist living in London, has close links to the country through her maternal grandparents.
She told HuffPost UK that the process is something she has always wanted to do, but that the vote to leave accelerated her decision.
“I spent almost every summer as a kid at my grandparents’ near Limerick and I wanted to reconnect with Ireland,” she said.
“When it’s in the news all the time…it’s reminding you that you should do it. My mum was on me to do it as well, so the whole family is doing it.
“It feels like jumping on the bandwagon to some extent – I know lots of other people are doing it. But my family links are so strong there that it’s something I wanted to do anyway.”
Heyman, 29, sent off her application this week and was motivated by a number of factors, including freedom of movement post-Brexit, and her job.
“I want to ensure that I will be able to travel elsewhere in Europe, but Ireland is a priority – I want to be sure that I can visit Ireland when I want to go. Also, I do a lot of travel to different countries – I think as a journalist, having two passports is always a useful thing.
“In general, it’s just exciting to have a new passport and I feel a lot more connected with Ireland in a way that I hadn’t before. I’ve been following Irish language a lot more, and just from doing the application, it’s made me feel more Irish and it’s made me investigate my heritage a bit more.
“I’m more interested in Irish politics and being aware of what’s going on there because if I’m going to be a citizen, then I should be a bit more engaged.”
For recent graduate Declan Maher, the process came about after he lost his UK passport and felt the smart thing to do would be to apply for an Irish one instead.
The 21-year-old recent graduate from Chorley, Lancashire, is an eligible citizen thanks to his dad, who is Irish.
He told HuffPost UK: “I applied because I lost my UK passport, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to apply for an Irish one. I also have a lot of Irish family that I’m quite close to.
“When applying for a new one I didn’t see any reason not to, because even if there were no changes to UK system after Brexit, I wouldn’t be at a disadvantage with an Irish passport, but if there were changes I’d still have freedom of movement.”
He added: “It’ll make my life easier if I don’t have to pay visa fees when travelling abroad!”
How Many People Have Applied For An Irish Passport So Far?
Some 44,962 people applied in the first half of 2018, according to the Irish embassy in London.
Numbers have surged since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
In the year before the vote, there were 46,229 applications in 2015, while 2016 saw a jump to 63,453.
The embassy saw a “whopping” 80,752 in 2017, according to Richmond.
Among them was Luke Rose, a front-of-house staff member at a spa in Kent.
The 30-year-old was able to apply for citizenship as his grandfather was Irish. He then applied for a passport.
“I already knew I was eligible for the passport before the Brexit vote, but didn’t feel it was necessary,” he said.
“When the UK voted to leave the EU I knew I had to start the process to get the passport. I believe being able to remain part of the EU will allow me more opportunities for working in other EU countries and will make it easier to visit friends I have all across Europe.
“I also like the idea of belonging to the EU as a way to unite all people and make us feel part of something, instead of feeling like an isolationist,” he added.
So…Am I Eligible?
If you want an Irish passport, you must first be an Irish citizen.
If an individual is not born Irish, they can obtain citizenship if they have at least one parent who was an Irish citizen born in the country.
You may also be eligible if one of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, even if they were not born in Ireland. Applications of this kind are usually made through an Irish-born grandparent.
At least one-in-10 UK residents, excluding Northern Ireland, are believed to be eligible to apply.
Individuals cannot claim Irish citizenship through any other relation as a substitute.
It’s not as easy as people think it is, just sending off one form and everyone’s getting an Irish passport
Those eligible through a grandparent must have their birth registered in the Foreign Births Register.
Alternatively, an individual can be naturalised as a citizen once they have spent five out of nine years of “reckonable residence” in the country, i.e. types of residence considered for citizenship.
This must include one full year of reckonable residence in the year up to the application.
Citizens Information has published a wealth of useful information – find out if your situation applies here.
But the process is not cheap – an application will set you back at least €175 (£155).
“The cost of registering a foreign birth is quite a serious commitment, and I think people who are thinking ‘Brits are just going off and getting these passports’ –you really do have to consider if you want to spend that amount of money on it, and then pay for a passport on top of that,” Heyman said.
“It’s not as easy as people think it is, just sending off one form and everyone’s getting an Irish passport.”
Mat Keeling lives on Guernsey, and says his decision was a direct response to Brexit.
The 39-year-old, whose mother is Irish, told HuffPost UK: “I’m looking at purchasing a property in Spain and I fear that a hard Brexit could have an adverse effect on British passport holders wishing to buy and maintain property in an EU country.”
Keeling, who is married with two children, added: “It will also benefit travel around the EU. My children will also be getting an Irish passport but my wife, who is Welsh, isn’t able to.”
How Can I Get One?
Okay, so once you’ve secured your Irish citizenship you can apply for a passport if you are aged 18 or over (parent/guardian consent is needed for under-18s).
You can apply at a passport office, by post, or online.
Documents including an original birth certificate, photo, proof of name and address will be required.
Fees vary according to requirements, but a standard 10-year document will cost €80.