By: Debbie McGoldrick | Published Thursday, June 17, 2010, 6:55 PM | Updated Sunday, August 4, 2013, 12:03 AM
“I am an Irish American whose maternal grandparents were born in Ireland. I have all of their birth and marriage records from a previous trip I took over there. I know that I can become an Irish citizen, but I’m hesitant to do so because a friend (a non-Irish one) told me that if I pursued citizenship of another country, my U.S. citizenship could be affected and even taken away from me. While I’m dearly proud of my Irish roots, I would never want anything like this to happen. Is this true or not? I’m sure many others out there would wonder as well.”
REST assured, your U.S. citizenship will be 100% safe and secure if you pursue the Irish citizenship that you are entitled to as the grandchild of an Irish-born citizen.
U.S. law recognizes that American citizens can in many instances lay claim to other foreign citizenships. For example, those who have one parent born in Ireland are automatically considered by the Irish government to be Irish citizens at birth, no matter where the birth takes place. U.S. law takes this to account, and does not penalize American citizens in any way because of it.
“U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship,” says a State Department advisory on the matter.
Are there instances when an American citizen can risk losing citizenship by becoming a citizen of another country? Yes, but a very specific set of requirements for doing so must be followed.
Losing U.S. citizenship isn’t easy. The law requires that the American citizen must apply for the new foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice and with the definite intention of surrendering U.S. citizenship.
Applying for an Irish passport based on a grandparent’s citizenship definitely does not show intent to surrender U.S. citizenship. Intent can be demonstrated in the following ways – formally renouncing citizenship either before a court in the U.S. or at a consular post abroad (this requires much more than just showing up and saying that American citizenship is no longer wanted), conviction for an act of treason against the U.S., or entering the armed forces of a country engaged in hostilities with the U.S.
There are instances, however, when a U.S. citizen’s dual nationality could cause problems – for instance, when a security clearance is required for those employed by the U.S. military or the State Department. If a clearance is required, a dual citizen’s prospects for obtaining it are evaluated on a case by case basis.
“(The State Department) will continue adjudicating security clearances pursuant to the ‘whole person’ concept. The fact that a person holds citizenship with another country, as well as citizenship with the U.S., does not automatically result in a security clearance denial,” according to a State Department memorandum on the matter.
“Conversely, the simple renunciation of foreign citizenship would not necessarily result in granting a clearance. An individual must demonstrate unquestioned allegiance to the U.S., preference for the U.S. over any other country, and also be free from any undue foreign influence. If this cannot be established, a security clearance cannot be granted.”