Passports for kids

“I am writing to you from Ireland. I am an American-born citizen, but moved back to Ireland with my family when I was eight. I returned to the U.S. in my twenties, married an Irish girl and eventually moved back to Ireland. We had a daughter born in New Jersey, and three more children born in Ireland who are now 11, nine and six.

“What I would like to know is how would I get a U.S. passport for my Irish children? Are they even entitled? And would my wife also be entitled to one? Though we have no plans to relocate to the U.S., I want my children to have the option in the future, and I’m not sure if we would have to do that after getting passports for everyone.”

From the information you provided, it seems your Irish-born children definitely acquired automatic U.S. citizenship at birth.

The laws for the transmission of U.S. citizenship vary depending on the date the child was born. The law for those born on or after November 14, 1986 until the present is as follows:

If both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of birth and at least one had a prior residence in the U.S., the child automatically acquires U.S. citizenship at birth with no requirements for retaining it.

If only one parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, the parent must have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, with two of those years coming after the parent turned 14 years old.

As you’ve lived in the U.S. for at least five years, with two of them occurring after your 14th birthday, your children meet the standard for becoming U.S. citizens.

You’re going to have to prove this, though, in order to obtain passports for the kids. But it’s not difficult.

You’ll first have to contact the American Embassy in Dublin to file an application for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad. If you’re not living in Dublin you should plan a trip there, as the application can only be filed with a personal appointment.

You’ll need the usual documents – birth certificates for you and the children, marriage certificate (those claiming U.S. citizenship through a father via an illegitimate birth have an extra hoop to jump through, which is why this document is essential), evidence of identity, and a $65 fee.

Also expect to provide proof that you were resident in the U.S. during the required timeframe. You could do this easily enough with old documents such as school report cards, bank statements, an old passport, a tax return or items of that nature.

For more information on how to get started, visit

As for your wife, she is not entitled to U.S. citizenship at this time. Citizenship cannot be passed from spouse to spouse. In order for your wife to become a citizen, she would have to first file for permanent residency – a green card – and hold it in good standing for three years before starting the citizenship application process.

Green card holders must maintain their primary residence in the U.S. As your family has no plans to return here, it won’t be possible for her to pursue legal residency or U.S. citizenship.


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