“I was born in Chicago to Irish-born parents who had lived in the states for 10 years. When I was five we moved back to Ireland – that was 40 years ago. When I was 20 I returned to New York, lived there for 12 years and married an Irish girl. We have four kids – the first two were born in New York. We moved back to Ireland and now wish to return to the states. My wife was illegal when we were married, but then she got a green card which she surrendered when we moved home. I am concerned about her status when we return, and also that of my two Irish-born children. What would be the best way to proceed with moving back to the U.S. -- this time for good!”
Obviously you have a huge advantage because you’re a U.S. citizen who has spent a significant amount of time living here. Therefore, you and your family won’t have any problems legally returning to the U.S.
Your elder two children are all square, and it won’t take too much effort to sort out the younger two as they were automatically U.S. citizens at birth thanks to yourself.
There are several instances when U.S. citizenship can be transmitted at birth, depending on the date of birth of the child (even adult) in question. For those born on or after November 13, 1986 (your younger two children), citizenship is acquired if the child has one citizen parent who spent five years in the U.S., with two of the years occurring after the parent turned 14.
(Children born abroad to two citizen parents automatically acquire U.S. citizenship, provided one of the parents had, prior to the birth, been a resident of the U.S., with no specific time requirement.)
In order to verify your kids’ U.S. citizenship, you’ll have to contact the American Embassy in Dublin to file for a consular report of a birth abroad. It is recommended that this process take place as soon as possible after a child’s birth, but there are no penalties if this doesn’t happen – the only thing to bear in mind is that citizen births abroad cannot be registered if the child is over 18 years old.
The citizen parent will have to provide proof of U.S. residency, which can come in many forms – old passports, school transcripts, bank statements, employment records and documents of that nature.
The embassy’s website, specifically, http://dublin.usembassy.gov/service/special-consular-services/birth-registration.html, provides comprehensive information on how to successfully complete the registration process. You’ll need to schedule an appointment, and if everything is in order the consular report can be issued the same day.
Also bear in mind that when you’re at the embassy you’ll also be able to apply for U.S. passports for the children, which they’ll be needing in order to enter the country.
As for your wife, you’ll have to apply for a new green card on her behalf at the embassy, as the one she used to own is null and void. Be prepared for a wait of several months before her permanent resident status is confirmed, so you should start the process as soon as possible.
The embassy link for more information is http://dublin.usembassy.gov/filing_the_i130.html.
After having her green card for three years, your wife would be eligible to file for U.S. citizenship. She should strongly consider this, just in case your future plans take you back to Ireland, or elsewhere.