Obtaining dual citizenship – U.S. and Ireland

The United States allows dual citizenship with numerous countries, including Ireland.  A few years ago I found out Ireland offers citizenship by descent.  It is called “Citizenship through Foreign Births Registration (FBR)”.  The background work took me a couple of months and the whole process cost a few hundred dollars.  The FBR application took about 16-18 months to process.  I received my dual citizenship in May 2007.  I then applied for an Irish passport which I received in August 2007.

The rules:

One can become an Irish citizen by descent even if your parents were not Irish citizens.  If one of your grandparents was an Irish citizen you can apply for entry in the Foreign Births Register.  There is no requirement that you have ever stepped on Irish soil.  Since 1986, citizenship only takes effect as of the date of registration so any children born prior to your becoming a citizen are not automatically also citizens.

You need three forms of identification for your grandparent.  I sent in information for both my grandfather and grandmother just in case.  I used their Irish birth certificates, marriage certificate, and death certificates.  All these records can be obtained through contact information on the Internet.

Why:

I was interested in genealogy and had created a fairly extensive record of my family history in the Family Tree Maker tool based on the research my parents had done.  My father made copies of my grandparents’ birth records on a visit to Ireland but I never paid much attention to the details.  I decided to pursue Irish citizenship for the following reasons:

1. After my father died, I rekindled my interest in my family history.  I realized I could no longer get first hand answers to my questions and my children would have little hope of finding information if I did not document it.

2. I thought it would be easier to travel in Europe with an EU passport.  I found that to be true on a number of occasions, especially on a trip to London where my wife and I bypassed a long line at Heathrow.

3. I assumed this would be an advantage if I ever wanted to work in Ireland or somewhere else in Europe.

4. I thought it was something interesting to pursue.

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97 Responses to Obtaining dual citizenship – U.S. and Ireland

  1. Bill says:

    Hi Linda,

    Do you know the townland where they were born? If you also know the birth year from either the US citizenship or death certificate, then you are all set. Just go to http://www.groireland.ie/about_us.htm and follow the link to request a birth certificate.

    If you don’t know the townland, you should at least know the county and year from the immigration paperwork. Otherwise, depending on the year of birth you may be able to find out this information by searching ancestry.com.

    Good luck!

  2. Peg Leeking says:

    Both my maternal grandparents were born in Ireland. If I obtain the birth, marriage and death certificate of one of them can I apply for dual citizenship, or, do I need these for both grandparents?

  3. Bill says:

    Hi Peg,

    When I went through the process it only required validating 1 grandparent. I would say to go for the one where the required documents are easier to obtain. In my case, I sent in both sets just in case there was any question but I’m not sure that overkill mattered. Good luck!

  4. Anon123 says:

    hi bill, my wife grandma was irish but was born in east pakistan. im not sure if she was ever registered as irish citizen? can she claim irish heritage through her grandma if she was a register citizen?

  5. Bill says:

    If she was not born in Ireland and she didn’t get citizenship for her children, then I think the chain was broken. You can try, but it sounds to me like you would have to go back to great grandparents born in Ireland and that would not qualify.

  6. Carolyn says:

    Hi there,

    I have a question for you. My husband was born in Ireland. His mother was born there. She got married and moved to the US. When she was here her husband was in the War so it made sense for her to go home to be with family and the birth of her second child. He was born in 1970. He has a gailic birth cert too. When we had to get Married, I needed his original Irish Baptisimal certificate and went back to the chuch in Limerick where he was baptised for it. So, when they came back to America he was 2/3 years old. He was always told he could have dual citizenship but has never did it. His mother and father are still alive here in the US while his entire mothers side of the family is still in Ireland. Where can we start to obtain the dual citizenship for not only my husband but our 2 kids. thanks for your help!

  7. Bill says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    As I understand it, your husband and his children should be Irish Citizens automatically. I would think your husband can just apply for his Irish passport using his Irish birth certificate. Your 2 children might have to follow the Foreign Birth Registry process if they were born in the US (see the link at the top of this page). After they obtain the certificate, they can also get an Irish passport.

  8. Kelly says:

    My Great Great Grandfather was born in Ireland in 1854, including his wife. Am I able to apply based on them? He came to America in 1868 as an 18 year old and married here in the states. My Great Grandfather, Grandfather and father were all born here. I saw one site that mentioned great grandparents, but I am not sure how far back they go. Thank you

  9. Bill says:

    No, I have found nothing that allows you to obtain citizenship through a great grandfather or beyond. I wish there was. I became an Irish citizen after my children were born so they are out of luck.

  10. Denise says:

    Hello! My mother was born in Ireland. I received my Irish passport about 10 years ago for myself, but don’t ever remember getting anything other than that. Is it possible to get an Irish passport and not be considered an Irish citizen? Secondly, I would like to get my children and husband their dual citizenship. Can I do that as an Irish American with an Irish passport? Last I read was that we had to be married for at least three years. I that still the case? What about my children? Thank you!

  11. Bill says:

    I don’t think you could have gotten your passport without recognition that you were a citizen. If you registered for citizenship before your children were born they should be fine as far as I know. If not, you need to do some more digging. As for your husband, he might have to live there, but again I didn’t encounter these cases when I went through the process. Since your mother was born in Ireland it is probably different than for me since I had to go back to my grandparents.

  12. Mike says:

    I’m 43. My Father’s parents were both born in Ireland but met and married here in America. My Father was born here then the family returned to Ireland until he was 13 when the once again returned to the USA for good. My question is not so much about my access to dual citezenship, but rather…my children. It seems confusing. My Father is automatically a citizen. I am now pursuing mine…but what about my kids?

    Thanks.

  13. Bill says:

    I believe only children born after you become a citizen carry the citizenship forward.

  14. Cathy says:

    My grandmother was born in county Antrim before the split. I’m assuming that dual citizenship isn’t covered by the now Northern Ireland folks, even if it wasn’t when my grandmother was born?

  15. Bill says:

    I don’t know the rules for Northern Ireland, but I am not aware of being able to do something similar there.

  16. heather reilly says:

    Hi Bill, both my great grandparents were born in Ireland and my grandfather was born in Scotland. They all came over to the U.S. In 1930. Can dual citizenship go back to my great grandparents or just my grandfather who was born in Scotland.

  17. Kathleen says:

    Hi Bill
    I have dual citizenship US and Ireland. I recently had a son, could he receive his irish citizenship? Thanks for the help.
    Kathleen

  18. Bill says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    My understanding is that as long as you had your son after you became an Irish citizen, he will also be a citizen. I believe you just need to register him in the Foreign Birth Registry to make it official. They will send you a certificate which proves his citizenship. You can also use the certificate to get him an Irish passport.

  19. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for the quick reply, by any chance would you know how I would register his birth in the foriegn birth registry?

  20. Bill says:

    It is explained right on the top of this page – http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=88045
    From the site:
    A person born abroad to a parent who, although not born in Ireland, was otherwise an Irish citizen at the time of the person’s birth, can become an Irish citizen by applying for Foreign Births Registration. The online application is known as ‘Náisiún’. Once you have completed the online form you must send your printed application and required supporting documentation to the Irish Diplomatic and Consular Mission nearest to where you normally reside.

  21. Nancy McConnell says:

    I’m interested in finding out how to go about attaining Irish citizenship. I believe my paternal great-great grandfather was born around Letterkenny. Am still in the throws of finding this out. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  22. Bill says:

    I’m afraid you cannot go beyond your grandparents.

  23. Nancy McConnell says:

    OK. Thank you.

  24. Tom Donaghey says:

    I can answer Cathy’s question above, as I’m an Irish citizen (via Foreign Births Registration) thanks to a grandfather born in County Tyrone before the split. In fact anyone born anywhere on the island of Ireland before 2005 is entitled to Irish citizenship and can pass it on to children and grandchildren. Those born in the North have their choice of passport.

  25. Catherine Langan says:

    2nd generation Irish born in America, wanting to pursue Dual Citizanship with Ireland – would my daughters also be eligable?

  26. Catherine Langan says:

    Any advice appreciated!

  27. Bill says:

    Hi Catherine,

    If you have 3 pieces of evidence regarding one grandparent born in Ireland you can become a citizen registered in the Foreign Birth Registry. Your daughters are not eligible. Only children you have after becoming a citizen are granted citizenship.

    I wish I had done this before my daughters were born. I have not found any loophole.

  28. Catherine Langan says:

    Thanks for the information, Bill.

  29. Stephanie says:

    I am wanting to pursue dual citizenship as a granddaughter of Irish immigrants to the U.S. My father was born in the U.S. but I am wondering since he is eligible for citizenship as a child of Irish citizens, would that help my children’s chance of obtaining dual citizenship since? I saw where it wouldn’t apply to them through me since they are already born. Does that make sense?

  30. Bill says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I doubt it. If your father was born in the US and his father was an Irish citizen by birth in Ireland, does that automatically make your father a citizen? If it did, I see your question about your children applying with your father as the grandfather scenario. My guess is no, but you should certainly look at the required forms and on the web. If you father was not registered in the FBR, I don’t think he passed citizenship to you. Also, your grandfather may have become a US citizen and maybe that also broke the chain. Just a couple of ideas for you to follow. If this was true, wouldn’t that open up the great-grandfather scenario which is not allowed. I don’t think you found a loophole here, but I would love it if you did :-)

  31. Lesa says:

    My husband has his Irish Citizenship because his grandfather was born there. He had it before we were married, so can I apply as his wife?

  32. Bill says:

    Hi Lesa,
    Children born after obtaining citizenship can apply. However, it is my understanding that a spouse must satisfy certain residency requirements under the naturalization process. Prior to 2005, it was easier.

    See – http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/irish_citizenship/becoming_an_irish_citizen_through_marriage.html

  33. Kelly says:

    Hi Bill,

    I have dual citizenship because of my paternal grandparents, both from Ireland. My children were born after I obtained citizenship. Can you help me find the route I need to take to claim their citizenship?

    I saw your message to Kathleen, where you sited she can find information through the following link: http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=88045
    This link is now broken and when I search for the information on their new site, I’m unable to find what I think I’m looking for.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thank you! :)

  34. Bill says:

    Hi Kelly,

    I am in the same boat. I have found no path to citizenship for my kids based on my status. I haven’t looked in over a year, but I think it dies with me :-(

  35. Kelly says:

    Bill,

    The link doesn’t work from my PC, but does work from my phone. I believe they can declare dual citizenship as we’d be considered their parents who have obtained citizenship through naturalisation.

    I’m excited to start the process for my kids. Thanks for posting this blog post.

    All the best,
    Kelly

  36. Bill says:

    Hi Kelly,

    If you find you can do that, please come back here and share what you’ve learned. Lots of people would be interested. Thanks.

  37. Bill says:

    Hi Kelly,

    Please research it for yourself, but I thought you became a citizen in the Foreign Birth Registry, not through Naturalization. If you lived in Ireland then you might be right. Here’s a simple summary paragraph from the INIS web site FAQ regarding FBR:
    “A person whose father or mother was an Irish citizen at the time of his/her birth is automatically an Irish citizen. A person whose grandfather or grandmother was born in Ireland may become an Irish citizen by registering in the Foreign Births Register at an Irish Embassy or Consular Office or at the Department of Foreign Affairs. A person whose great-grandfather or great-grandmother was born in Ireland may register for Irish citizenship provided that their parents had registered in the Foreign Births Register at the time of the person’s birth.”

  38. Tom says:

    Hello Bill,

    My Great Great Grandfather was born in Ireland. I know that my Grandfather got Dual Citizenship because of this. This being the case, do you know if it is possible for me to apply for Dual Citizenship as well?

  39. Bill says:

    Hi Tom,

    You’ll need to research that one. I don’t know how the rules have changed over the years. I’m amazed it even goes that far back. By current rules, citizenship can be passed down to children not yet born at the time of FBR registry. So, the first question might be did your grandfather do it before or after your father was born. If it was after, the chain is broken. If it was before, you might have a shot. Good luck.

  40. Pattie Beers says:

    Hi Bill,
    Both of my parents were born in Ireland Mom Mayo Dad Tipperary. I was born here would I be considered an Irish Citizen? Or do I still have to go through the rigmarole lol as my mom used to say.lol

  41. Bill says:

    Hi Pattie,

    I assume you were born in the US so you are a US citizen. I think since your parents were born in Ireland you are automatically entitled to Irish citizen, but you might have to register in the Foreign Birth Registry. It should be a fairly easy process to document it. See this web site – https://www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/citizenship/born-abroad/registering-a-foreign-birth/

  42. Valerie Kitt says:

    I am trying to obtain dual citizenship with Ireland. I got my grandfathers’s birth certificate from Ireland but I am having trouble with the death certificate. He died in San Francisco in 1936. He was killed buidling the Golden Gate Bridge and is buried at the Presidio. San Francisco County Clerk Death records and the State of California’s vital records show no results. Any suggestions how I might obtain this?

  43. Bill says:

    Hi Valerie,

    Do you have a marriage certificate for your grandfather? I’m not sure if you need the death certificate if you have the birth and marriage. If you do need the death certificate, I would suggest contacting a local genealogist. Also, can you find the information at the cemetery? Good luck.

  44. Christine says:

    I am 20, and was born here in the US. My mother was born here in the US as well in 1965 to parents both born in Ireland in the early 30s. I am not sure if her parents were citizens at the time of her birth (isn’t that a requirement?) so that she’d be an Irish citizen… I know she holds a US passport but I don’t believe she has registered for foreign birth. Is there some way I can obtain dual citizenship through this lineage?

  45. Bill says:

    Hi Christine,
    That is similar to my situation. You just need to show the records that connect your mother to her parents. Then, that one of her parents (your grandparents) where born in Ireland. I recommend doing it now so that any future children will inherit citizenship through you. I did it after my children were born and now they have no way to continue it. Go for it!

  46. Brad Hill says:

    Bill-

    My Great Grandmother was born in Ireland and my Uncle (mother’s brother) recently went through the process and received his Irish citizenship. Is there any way that I can become an Irish citizen?

  47. Bill says:

    Hi Brad,

    Other than living and working in Ireland, I don’t know of any path once you go beyond your grandparent.

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