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.


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

  1. Bill says:

    Hi Kyle, I don’t know of any downside like you are asking. However, I am no expert so you should probably do some more checking to get a better opinion than mine.

  2. gretchen says:

    I have everything but the marriage certificate of my Irish grandmother and I have searched extensively with no luck. I have no idea where or when they got married so I had to guess I searched several counties over 10 years around the year of my dad’s birth, with no luck. You would think my lineage would be proven by the birth cerificates but, for some reason, that is not enough. If anyone has any suggestions…..

  3. Bill says:

    Have you called to see if there is something else that would be accepted? Cork office (if you live in Munster) Tel: 021 494 4763 (10am – 1pm)
    Our Dublin office (if you live elsewhere in Ireland) Tel: 01 408 2555 (10am – 1pm). Maybe they could help you?

  4. chris tierney says:

    i was wondering if Ireland would make exceptions in cases of possible Olympic athletes. My great great grandparents where from Ireland and my son in a professional snowboarder in the US and i wanted to see if that is even a possibility of gaining a dual citizenship to give him that option if he ever wanted it..thanks for any inormation

  5. Bill says:

    I don’t know. I suppose it is possible, but the normal rules would say no. Great Great grandparents are quite far removed.

  6. Erin Gorey says:

    Hi Bill- Im in the process of applying for foreign birth registration. I have collected my Irish born grandmothers’ birth cert, her marriage cert, her death cert,my fathers birth cert ( born in Chicago…who also had Irish citizenship-and a Irish passport) fathers death cert, my birth cert and marriage cert. That should be everything I will need. My question is this: Cook County, (Chicago) can only supply me with copies of my grandmothers marriage cert and my fathers birth cert ( stamped for genealogical purposes only). Everything else is certified embossed forms. Do you know if that will be an issue? Are the “certified copies” on the FB1A form referring to MY birth and marriage certificate? Thanks for any guidance you can provide!

  7. Erin Gorey says:

    re: my last post: The FB1A actually uses the term “originals” must be submitted. (not “certified” as I stated above) Because my grandmothers marriage was in 1921 and my fathers birth was 1931, I guess they cannot send “originals” too old I guess????

  8. Ed says:

    Hi Bill,

    I am quite impressed with you keeping tabs on this blog entry for 5 years. I have a question.

    Do any of the documents need a letters of exemplification or apostille or can I just use a certified long form civil copy of the originals. Already received a certified long form copy of my grandfather’s birth certificate. 🙂

  9. Bill says:

    Hi Erin and Ed,

    I didn’t have any “originals”. I had the official long forms from Ireland. For the marriage and deaths in the states, I had the apostille letter attached to each item from the Providence, RI. I believe those letters had an embossed seal.

    It seems like both of you are in good shape with documentation, but I have no idea what they are accepting these days. I did this about 8 years ago. My brother just submitted his with my documentation, so I will see if it is still accepted as is.

    Good luck!

  10. Erin says:

    I learned today on the Cook Cty (Chicago) clerks office website that is “Illinois Law” that birth certificates > 75 yrs and marriage certs > 50 yrs are considered “genealogical”, and therefore can not be certified. I have an email into the Irish Consulate to see if copies of the originals will be acceptable documentation for these two pieces of the puzzle. Ugh, hope this isn’t a final road block. Best wishes to your brother and thanks for your info. Fingers crossed!

  11. Erin says:

    Update and question.
    Re the above comment about “certified” documents. The Irish Consulate recommends sending the genealogical documents with the packet and they will make a decision based on the rest. At least I know its not an automatic rejection!
    Can anyone explain the difference between what the application fee and the certification fee? It seems that most people infer that they paid the 175 EU app fee then applied for passports. But what’s this 950EU certification fee that one can pay after application is approved all about? Did you pay that? and if so or of not, why? I’d like to maybe become an expat some day either full or part time and wondering if that gives one the rights to purchase property, have insur benefits etc.
    That’s a hefty fee. Thanks for your help!

  12. Bill says:

    I paid an application fee, but do not recall any other fee. Certainly not a large fee. The web page says the current fees were established in November, 2011. You might want to search to find out if the fee is required for the FBR. The fees may also vary by country. If I find out anything, I’ll post it here.

    http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/Citizenship fees

    Another cost from someone else – http://thebillfold.com/2014/07/the-cost-of-dual-citizenship/

    I am guessing it might be the difference between naturalisation and FBR.

  13. Erin says:

    Thank you, Bill. If you click on the link that you sent from INIS then scroll down to fees, you will see that there is a 175EU fee to apply, then a 950EU fee that you must pay once your application is accepted. I’m just wondering what that 950 is for. What I think it may be is that; those who pay the 175, and whose applications are accepted, then are actually Citizenship “eligible”, and can therefore apply for a passport.
    I cannot find anywhere what the 950 is actually for. On the INIS site it says “Where an application is successful a certification fee is payable upon the issue of a certificate of naturalization” (950 EU-)
    It’s really confusing though because other people who write about their experience don’t mention paying that, such as yourself.
    I’m digging into it throughout the consulate in Chicago and will let you all know! I hope I’m reading into it too much…it’s a mighty steep fee. Cheers!

  14. Erin says:

    and I don’t think I understand the difference between FBR and naturalization perhaps

  15. Bill says:

    I’m not sure either, but this article seems to indicate FBR is not a type of naturalisation because it is not based on living in Ireland?


  16. Erin says:

    Thanks again. Got my answer from the consulate! Naturalization is only for those who have been living in Ireland for 4 years. When application for FBR is accepted, you are an Irish citizen. You don’t pay the 950 EU, just the 175EU. ( Woohoo!) Hope this clears things up four anyone who might also be confused about this in the future. The INIS website groups application and naturalization fees together and its a bit confusing…. 🙂

  17. Melissa Cahir says:

    I am just now going through the same process. Did you have to get everything from Providence apostilled? Also, it is through my grandmother. I have her birth cert from IRL, I’m waiting on her marriage cert from Belfast, and her death cert from RI. What else do I need to send? Thanks!


  18. Bill says:

    Yes, everything I had from Providence had an apostille letter attached. I’m not sure if that was required, but I did it just in case. Sounds you are on your way with all the documents. Birth, death, and marriage from your grandmother. Other required records for yourself and your parent that connects you to your grandmother. Good luck! You will be glad you did it.

  19. Maureen Laughead says:

    My sisters and I are trying to obtain dual citizenship based on my grandmother’s birth in Ireland in 1880. We have hit our first roadblock because she was born at home and there is no birth certificate. Evidently she did not have to have one to come through Ellis Island. Do you know of any alternate way that we can take care of this?

  20. Bill says:

    I would think being born at home was the norm in those days. Have you exhausted sources for the birth registration? Do you know date and the townland where she was born? Can you search on the names of other relatives in an effort to trace back to your grandmother? My guess is you will need this document.

    Depending on how much you know and how badly you want to get the dual citizenship, you could pay a genealogist in Ireland to search for you. I would shop around and pay only a fixed price for a certain number of hours so you know what you are getting into. Just a thought.

    Good luck!

  21. Jill Gianatasio says:

    My mom was born in Ireland and came to the US when she was 18 . She married my dad and had myself and my 2 sisters . My parents are now divorced . My question is , you said we need 3 forms of identification for her . Besides her birth certificate and my parents marriage certificate what else can I use ? She is still alive . Thanks for your help .

  22. Bill says:

    Hi Jill,

    Since your mother was an Irish citizen, you are an Irish citizen. I guess you still need to prove it and register in the FBR. See https://www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/citizenship/born-abroad/ and follow these instructions – https://www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/citizenship/born-abroad/registering-a-foreign-birth/ In the instructions, it says you can use your mother’s divorce decree or her notarized passport/drivers license.

  23. dominic says:

    can you tell me when all papers have been sent to irish embassy . how long would it take for it to be processed and . how long to get citizenship /passport do you think ?

  24. Bill says:

    I submitted mine a long time ago, so I don’t think that will help. My brother just submitted his and I think he was told 6-8 weeks to get your documents back and I think about 18 months to get your citizenship. I don’t know the current time for a passport. I assume 2-3 months, but haven’t checked. If you look at the web site, it probably gives a guess of some sort.

  25. Ana Cruz says:

    I have a brother that is a citizen can he help me get a residence or citizenship? If I want to visit him, do I need a special visa? How long can I visit him for? Thank you!!!

  26. Bill says:

    I assume you are a US citizen. I don’t think having a brother as a citizen helps, but I really don’t know. There is a provision for short stays of less than 3 months. I suggest you check out this web site – http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/Home . Good luck!

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