One of the nice things about being Irish is you’re sure to be related to someone in Ireland (ok – you may have to go a long way back but work with me here). The trick is to find that someone and reestablish familial ties. Luckily for us, part of the process of Kathy getting her Irish citizenship when we were living in Germany was tracking and documenting her lineage back to her grandparents who were born in Ireland in County Mayo, a county in the west of Ireland just north of Galway. While Kathy had met her cousins previous to her application for citizenship, it was still very cool tracking down her roots to document her application. As the birth records in Ireland back in the 1800’s were spotty at best, we had to make a trip to the Dublin records archive to get birth certificates for Kathy’s grandparents. We had a year and month for her grandparents birth to get started looking in the record books or should I say tomes. The record books they brought out were huge (I’m talking Donald Trump huge here). We spent a good couple hours looking through these books and were lucky enough to find the birth records of both grandparents. Turns out the birth date we had for her grandmother was off by almost a year. Birth records were not very accurate in those days due to the proximity of families to town record offices. Most were documented in the churches way before they were done in the town or village nearby. Documenting births outside the church wasn’t a high priority in those days especially since most births occurred in the home.
The application for Irish citizenship required all the birth, marriage and death certificates of Kathy’s lineage back to her grandparents in Ireland. If you got all those documents proving you had a grandparent that was born in Ireland, you could apply for citizenship. It used to go back to great grandparents but that was changed many years ago for reasons I’m not sure of. Perhaps too many Americans were taking advantage of it. Were it still available, I would be able to apply as well since my great grandparents were born in Ireland. The nice thing was since we were living in Germany at the time of application, Kathy was able to apply through the Irish embassy in Berlin. And no surprise here, there weren’t a lot of Germans applying, so what would normally have taken months if not years back in the US, took literally days in Germany. Suffice to say, it can be a long process but if you have all the documents in order, it can be done and is well worth the time, in my humble opinion.
So what does Irish citizenship get you other than the cool factor of saying you are an Irish citizen you ask? For one thing, Kathy was able to get a European Union passport which allows for free travel throughout Europe, one of our favorite places to visit. It’s always nice to have a 2nd passport when you’re traveling in the world especially when you may be in a place where US citizens may not be looked to kindly on. But more importantly, it allows you to stay for as long as you want in Europe without getting a tag as an illegal alien. Because as the rock band Genesis once said, “It’s no fun being an illegal alien”. Follow the link below for a music video of the song – provided for your listening enjoyment: https://www.bing.com/search?q=its+no+fun+being+an+illegal+alien&form=EDGEAR&qs=PF&cvid=ed09fccdd90b430391518643635bdd18&pq=its+no+fun+being+an+illegal+alien&cc=US&setlang=en-US)
Just ask all those people in the US right now wondering what will happen to them given the new administration’s policies, but I digress…
To recap, Kathy has her Irish citizenship and EU passport which allows her to live pretty much anywhere in Europe. Me on the other end, not so lucky. But since I am married to an Irish citizen, the door is open for moving to Ireland courtesy of the Stamp 4 visa. What is that you may ask? As most people know, when you’re entering most western countries with your US passport, you’re automatically given a 90 day tourist visa, not that anyone normally stays that long. So when I arrived, I was automatically given approval to stay 90 days. After that 90 day period, I would either have to leave or take on the title of an illegal alien. Enter the Stamp 4 visa process. Since I am married to an Irish citizen, I am allowed to apply for a Stamp 4 visa available to spouses of Irish citizens which allows for stays up to 1 year with extensions after each year as long as you can prove you’re still married. They do require a certain duration of marriage in order to prevent people from getting sham marriages just to get approval for extended stays. As we’re married 29 years, we didn’t have that problem.
The process for the Stamp 4 visa was very easy. All I had to do was show up with Kathy at the county immigration office and present Kathy’s Irish birth certificate, our marriage certificate and my US passport. And the biggest surprise was no fee required. After 1 week, I went back and got my passport stamped for a year’s stay and given my Stamp 4 identification card. Voila, I am now legal to stay in Ireland for 1 year. And if I do decide to stay for a total of 3 years in a 5 year period, I will also be allowed to apply for Irish citizenship. Such a deal. Did I say, I love this country? Well, so far I have to say, I do!
As I’m an Irish lad myself, I thought I should write a little bit about my Irish heritage. On one of our trips to Ireland when we were living in Germany, we decided to do the typical American thing and try and find our Irish ancestors – on this trip we met two of my sisters for a whirlwind tour of Ireland. While we knew we had family in County Armagh in the North of Ireland near a small town called Newry, our information beyond that was pretty limited. We figured we would go into the nearest town, find a nice pub and start asking the publicans about our Irish cousins. Needless to say, it didn’t work out so well. As you can imagine, there are quite a few Murphy’s in Ireland. With our heads hung low (not really), we continued on our journey where we ended up in the town of Kilkenny, where another of our great grandparent’s was born. It just so happened that Kathy also has a cousin in Kilkenny who was able to make some calls and find our cousin up in Northern Ireland (seriously). Unfortunately, there was no such luck finding any relations in the Kilkenny area.
After some last minute changes, it was decided that my 2 sisters would head up to see our cousins in County Armagh and I would stay with Kathy and her cousin in Kilkenny. I would later visit our cousin and see the old house our great grandfather had grown up in. It turns out the old family homestead is still in the family. And let me tell you, the current owner, a cousin by the name of Kevin Murphy, is quite the historian. He has written a couple books and runs a cultural center in the area. He is quite literally a font of information as he will spew so much information your head will spin. The last time I visited, I actually videotaped him and another cousin, Brigit Quinn, so I could remember half of what they said. I later made a DVD of the video so I could provide it to the rest of my family. Seeing the old homestead and hearing all the stories of the Irish cousins was a great experience and was probably one of the draws that brought me back to Ireland. I know having Kathy’s cousins here has made the transition to Ireland easier for her.
So that was the process for me anyways coming to Ireland and staying legally. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to make a transition like this but my hope will be to share our journey and experience with you via this medium. And of course, you’re always welcome to avail yourself of the tourist visa and come for a visit to the Murphy estate in the Republic of Ireland. Until then, I will leave you with some Irish words to live by.
Tir gan teanga, tir gan anam
A country (land) without a language is a country without a soul
*For all you avid readers out there, just a note that the blog will be a little late next week due to a short trip to Venice to soak up some sun and enjoy the Italian food and drink. You gotta love Europe!
For other blog posts, follow the link below: