People frequently ask me how I am able to live in the UK. A US or Canadian citizen can live here for six months as a visitor. In most of Europe only 90 days are allowed. Steve and I are both Irish citizens, which gives us the right to live in any of the European Union countries, including the UK.
My father was born in Ireland, lived there until his mid-20s, then moved to England where he married my British-born mother and they emigrated to Canada.
I was born in Canada, so am a Canadian citizen by birth. I lived in Canada until I was 32.
In the 1980s Ireland considered a person an Irish citizen if their father had been born in Ireland. I got my Irish passport from the Irish Embassy in Canada. To get it I had to show proof of my father’s birth in Ireland and of my birth in Canada.
In the late 1980s I won an Immigration Lottery held by the US which gave me a green card allowing me to move to the US. Steve won the same lottery a few months after me. (At that point we had been living together for eight years but were not legally married, so it was good that we both won the lottery.) This happened at a very good point in our lives. We had saved our money, quit our jobs and had been traveling for two years – one year traveling in the US and one year in Europe. We were back in Canada deciding what to do next when I got the notification that I had won. We moved to the US in 1989 and lived there for 20 years. We became US citizens ten years after we moved there.
Steve and I got married in 2000, on the anniversary of living together for 20 years (I have no idea why we waited so long). Steve was able to claim Irish citizenship because he was married to an Irish citizen. He had to be married for three years and no Irish residency was required (this has changed).
In 2010 we went to England with the idea of staying for a year. Five years later and we are still here. We are allowed to live here because of our Irish citizenship.
The United Kingdom allowed people with a British father to become citizens. Then the law changed to allow you to claim citizenship if your mother was a citizen, but only if you were born after 1975. Finally, around 2009, it changed again to allow a child of a British father or mother to claim British citizenship, so I claimed it in 2010 after we moved here.
Steve will become a British citizen in a ceremony next week. His application was based on being married to a British citizen (me!) and being resident for three years.
Do we have too many citizenships? No. We have citizenship for each country that we lived in – Canada, the US, the UK – plus the extra Irish one. It is not illegal to be a citizen of multiple countries. Each country decides if it allows citizen to have other nationalities. Very few countries do not allow this. The US did not allow this at one time, but the law was changed in the 1970s.
People ask me what I think of myself as. I think of myself as an American even though I don’t live there. It is where I spent the most important part of my life, from my 30s to my 50s. I look like an American and I sound like one. I think like one too. Maybe I will become more British as the years go by, but I don’t think I will ever speak like one. Cheers!