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

  1. Adam says:

    Thank you for making your experience available here. It’s a very helpful resource. I’m in the process (anyone else find that marriage records from New York City are much harder to get than birth or death records? – this seems strange to me).

  2. Maureen Nantista says:

    Do I need apostilles if I have NYC birth, death and marriage certificates with raised seals? I’ve already obtained the long form of my grandparent’s Irish birth record. Thanks.

  3. Bill says:

    Hi Maureen, I did my citizenship application over 10 years ago. I got the apostilles for my records from RI. I don’t know if it is required.

  4. Bill says:

    Adam, maybe Maureen can help? Sounds like she is getting the same records from NYC. I got all my records from RI.

  5. Angela says:

    My husband and I have finished our applications and required documentation (wasn’t real clean since my grandparents applied for a marriage license but never completed the license after getting married, so no certified copy was available!!). It has all been mailed to Dublin and I assume it was all received. Do we just wait 16-18 months now? Or will we hear anything from them prior to that. Seems like such a long time to wait! Thanks.

  6. Bill says:

    Hi Angela, my brother did this last year about this time and it was much faster than that. Then he got his Irish passport.

    Check your email in case they find any problems. Other than that, it is a waiting game.

  7. Bill says:

    Good to see there are still comments in 2017 on this 2009 article. The only document I am missing in my application for dual citizenship is my grandmother’s marriage record. Somewhere in NY or Mass where her first child was born in 1923. I have even found their parent’s records for marriage. If anyone has any suggestions, I would appreciate it. Thx, -Bill

  8. Bill says:

    Hi Bill,

    Do you have access to ancestry.com or another genealogy search tool? Have you searched there and still not finding it? There are also genealogy facebook pages where I’ve see people put in the details of a question like this and others jump in to help. Try the Irish Genealogy group on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2231876262/

    If you put the details of your search here, I’d be happy to take a quick look as well.

  9. Bill says:

    Thanks for the reply. I didn’t think about Facebook but have joined that group and will look for others.
    My family still lives on the farm my Grandmother was born on in County Galway. I have her birth certificate. She arrived in the US via Ellis Island on March 23, 1920 saying she will be staying with a nun in NYC. The next record I have is she gave birth to her first son June 7, 1923 in Shirley, Mass. Her husband was a first generation American from English parents and he was born in Fall River, Mass. The next record I had from my grandparents is they had their second child in New York City in ’29 and continued to live there thru the late 1950s.
    I am on Ancestry and also the LDS site to search records. Most of my searches are civil records and not sure how to go about doing church records. My main searches have been in Mass and NY but also have looked into Conn., RI, NJ and Penn.
    I am new to genealogy and have learned a lot but I still dont possess the required skills to find all records. It is very exciting when I come across a record that I didnt know about and the family tree can grow quickly in lots of direction.
    I am just stumped on this one marriage record. Once I have this record, I can submit my paperwork to Ireland.
    Thx for any guidance on this Bill. -Bill

  10. Bill says:

    What are your grandmother and grandfather’s full names?

  11. Bill says:

    Sara(h) Cecelia Ann Sheridan and William Patrick Burns. My grandfather’s birth index in Mass. says his last name is Byrne and spelled like his parents James E and Mary J Byrne.

  12. Bill says:

    You would think you have the difficult information and the marriage in this country would be the easy part. I did some searches and didn’t find anything. Maybe you’ll have better luck in facebook groups.

    One other idea would be to pay a genealogist in MA or NY. I would think a skilled person with access to the right sources should be able to find this.

    Also, I wonder if another document would suffice. What is she wasn’t married? Wouldn’t there be some other official document accepted.

  13. Bill says:

    Thank you so much for looking into this, Bill. I am some what new at this but I know I don’t know a lot about genealogy searches. I think maybe a paid genealogist might be the way to go.
    Here are the requirements stated by http://www.dfa.ie for “Registering a Foreign Birth.”

    Your Irish-born grandparent’s details

    • Original Long form Civil Birth Certificate
    • Original Civil Marriage Certificate (if applicable). If not married, both of grandparents’ Birth Certificates are required
    • Certified/Notarised Copy of current passport or identity document (e.g. Driver’s Licence)
    • Original Civil Death Certificate (if applicable)

  14. Ryan says:

    Any idea where to find the “Original Civil Marriage Certificate” of the deceased grandparent that dual citizenship is being obtained through? I spoke with the Parish where my grandparents were married but all they can provide is the original “Church Certificate”, which doesn’t look like is acceptable. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  15. Bill says:

    Hi Ryan,
    I believe you are correct that the Church Certificate will not be accepted. I found this on the Internet and can’t say if it will do the trick, but they do offer a “Certificate with Apostille Stamp – Full Printed Certificate with Stamp”. https://www.birthsdeathsmarriages.ie/product/marriage-certificate/ Maybe you can do a little searching and see if this will suffice. Good luck!

  16. Shawnna L Connolly says:

    I received my Foreign Birth Certificate from Ireland about a month ago and have applied for a passport. My paternal grandmother was born in Leitrim, Ireland. What I discovered was she was known as “Nellie” on all the records I could find, except her given name in Ireland was “Ellen”. Once I expanded my search to focus on last name and approximate dates of birth and/or marriage, I was able to narrow things down such that I found her original birth certificate through church records.

    My reasons for doing this now (I’m 63) are almost the same as the original blogger. With the decline of the USA now, I want options. Having dual citizenship with Ireland gives me options.

  17. Joseph Vetter says:

    I just mailed my documents off! It really made me nervous to send all of this paperwork. Does anyone have any experiences where they requested further documentation? Did they confirm at some point that they received the application?
    Does the passport come with the approval or will I need to apply for it separately?

  18. Bill says:

    My brother was asked for a follow-up via email and everything went smoothly after that. You need to apply for a passport separately after you receive your FBR.

  19. Liam Driscoll says:

    Hi Bill,

    I’m a true novice to this process but have been able to track down my grandmother’s original birth certificate (from 1936!!) and other pertinent documents, like her passport. My question is – do I need to send these documents in the mail to Dublin? the birth certificate is in poor condition – all the information is clear but the paper is barely held together. Similarly, does the passport just get sent to them?

    I could probably ask them at the consulate – just thought this might be quicker. Also, I happen to be traveling to dublin in November – do you think there is any benefit in delivering the documents in person?

    Thanks in advance – Liam

  20. Bill says:

    Hi Liam,

    I did this back in 2007. In fact, I just renewed my passport after 10 years. I haven’t looked at the forms lately, but when I did it you needed to go through the local embassy. I think the forms also say if you need to send the originals, probably, or a notarized copy perhaps. I sent all my original documents and they returned them to me early in the processing cycle. Something tells me my brother sent forms to Dublin last year. I remember they contacted him with something he had to correct and he was able to talk to them on the phone. They were very responsive.

    Good luck.

  21. Christine O'Shea says:

    I am in the process of collecting documents for foreign birth registry since both of my grandparents were born in Ireland and I would like to have more options for retirement. My question is: do I need apostille certification on any or all documents? The FBR website says original long form birth certificate, original marriage, death certificates, etc.
    Any information would be great. thx

  22. Bill says:

    It’s been years since I submitted my materials. For US documents, I had the apostille letters attached to each document. For the documents from Ireland, I did not do anything special.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    I am currently in the process of applying for the FBR. I am getting apostilles for all of the original certified documents that I collected from the city and state governments. The question I have is, do I need an apostille for the notarized copy of my father’s and my own driver licenses? If so, where do I go to get the letter of certification attached to the notarized copy?

  24. Bill says:

    I don’t believe you need to do that. I think I just used copies with a notary from my local bank.

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