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Greencard - US / Irish Immigration Questions
Reclaiming Irish Citizenship
October 15, 2008
GreenCard by Debbie McGoldrick
“MY son is in his twenties, and was born in Ireland. Our family moved to the U.S. in 1992 with Morrison visas. All of us – myself, my husband, and our son and daughter – eventually became U.S. citizens, and we will happily live here the rest of our lives. My son joined the U.S. Air Force four years ago, and at the time he required a security clearance which required him giving up his Irish citizenship. He will not be in the military forever, though, and I was wondering about the possibility of him getting his Irish citizenship back. Is this possible? I have heard that it is likely gone for good, which is a shame as he is Irish-born, and may want to return to Ireland himself in the future.”
WHEN he joined the U.S. military, your son would have been required to obtain a security clearance intended to absolve him of any allegiances to foreign countries, including the country of his birth. Such clearances are generally required for those enlisting for military service, and others who have access to classified data, such as employees of defense contractors working for the government, and those working in the U.S. foreign service.
As we’ve said in this column before, when it comes to matters of U.S. citizenship, it’s difficult to acquire if a person isn’t born here, and even more difficult to give up once it is obtained. Though it’s certainly easier to acquire Irish citizenship – those with Irish-born parents and grandparents can do so – it’s also hard to surrender after it’s been obtained.
Someone who wants to relinquish Irish citizenship would have to file a document called a “declaration of alienage” at the Irish consular office nearest to the applicant’s place of residence. After the paperwork is completed it is forwarded on to the Department of Justice in Ireland. Once the application is approved by the department a letter is sent to the Irish citizen confirming that citizenship has been revoked.
Before an Irish citizen undertakes this process, it is urged, obviously, that the decision to renounce citizenship is taken after much careful thought and consideration. Once it is revoked, it is extremely difficult to reclaim – but not impossible.
Clearly, as your son had his mind made up about enlisting in the U.S. military, the decision to renounce was more or less made for him. According to the Irish Department of Justice, it would be possible for him to reclaim his citizenship, and there is a process in place for doing so. The first step, again, would be to contact the local Irish consular office for further guidance.
One interesting note – while it is possible for Irish-born citizens to reclaim citizenship after renunciation, those who acquire Irish citizenship through inheritance (parent, grandparent, marriage) cannot reclaim citizenship if it is renounced.
There is plenty of case law regarding the surrender of dual citizenship for purposes of working for the U.S. government. One particularly interesting case centering on a woman who obtained Irish citizenship through a grandparent, who did not want to surrender it to continue with her job working for a defense contractor, was settled in her favor when an administrative judge ruled that the woman never did anything to actually behave as an Irish citizen, such as obtain an Irish passport. (The case can be found at
Another site of interest regarding dual citizenship and how it affects those seeking careers at the U.S. State Department can be found at
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