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“Kathleen, Would I Qualify For Irish Citizenship?”…

“Kathleen, I am English. I live in Panama. I am able to return to England for 90 days in any financial year. I have one or two questions for you on the subject of an Irish passport.

“Firstly, my great grandmother was Irish. Would this qualify me for Irish citizenship? If I held an Irish passport, how would I use it? Would I leave Panama using my British one and then arrive in England showing the Irish one? If I was flying Continental and passing through Newark, which one would I show to the American authorities? Would using the Irish passport to arrive in England extend my stay?

“As you can tell I have little idea how this would work in practice. Thanks very much for any insights you can offer.”

Jack G., Panama

In fact, no, you won’t be able to acquire Irish citizenship based on your great-grandmother having been born in Ireland. One of your parents would have to have obtained Irish citizenship using your great-grandmother. Then you could acquire citizenship through them.
Regarding travel logistics, if you have more than one passport, you’d leave Panama on whichever one you used to enter Panama.

Then, when you arrive in your destination country, you’d show whichever passport you wanted them to use to register your visit. Arriving in the U.K., for example, I’d imagine you’d show your Irish passport.

Note, though, that Ireland and the U.K. have complimentary immigration and tax laws. It’s quite possible that, even if you were to obtain an Irish passport, that status wouldn’t help with the 90-day physical presence restriction for tax purposes in the U.K.

As for transiting the United States, I don’t think it would matter if you were to use your Irish or your British passport. Both are U.S. visa-waiver countries. Remember that you must register on some website with U.S. immigration before flying to the States to take advantage of the visa waiver program, and it may be that you can register only one passport/country. You’d have to check.

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