There are over 15.7 million people in the United States who identify as Italian American. That makes up nearly 6% of the U.S. population, many of whom can obtain dual Italian citizenship. Figuring out if you are among those who qualify for Italian dual citizenship is literally as easy as 1-2-3. Here are 3 rules for qualifying for Italian dual citizenship (aka Italian citizenship jure sanguinis).
1. When was your ancestor born and when did he die?
It does not matter what year your ancestor was born,as long as he was alive—anywhere in the world—at least on or after March 17, 1861. Before that date, Italy was not a country as we know it today. At that time, the Italian peninsula was home to various different city states and governments. On March 17, 1861 Italy became Italy. Therefore, if your ancestor died before the date of Italian unification, he never had the chance to become an Italian citizen. If he was alive on that date (and not yet naturalized as a citizen of any other country) he automatically received Italian citizenship, which he was able to pass on to his children.
2. Do you have any women in your direct line leading back to your last Italian-born ancestor?
On January 1, 1948, Italy’s modern constitution came into effect. Before this date, Italian women could not pass on citizenship to their children.So, check if there are any women in your direct line leading back to your last Italian-born ancestor. If any child (male or female) in your family was born to a woman before January 1, 1948, that child could not receive Italian citizenship through their mom. Said in another way, unless the child was born on or after January 1, 1948, you will have to find a different way to qualify. A practical example is two children born to the same Italian mother—one in 1947 and one in 1952. The older child could not receive citizenship from his mom but the younger child could.
Note that this rule is commonly referred to as the “1948 rule” and has been successfully challenged in court many times. If you wish to fight this rule, you must hire an Italian attorney.
3. When did your ancestor lose his Italian citizenship/naturalize?
Under Italian citizenship law, the right to obtain recognition of citizenship can pass on indefinitely as long as the chain is not “broken.” This chain is broken when the original Italian ancestor naturalizes. However, if a parent naturalizes after the birth of a child born on United States soil, that child not only gets born with U.S. citizenship, he or she also inherits the right to obtain Italian dual citizenship even if his or her parent naturalizes at any time after their birth.
As long as your last Italian-born ancestor naturalized after the birth of his or her child born in the U.S., the chain is not broken. The same goes for an ancestor who never naturalizes at all.
One more thing: the 1912 rule
There’s one more bonus rule you need to know about: the dreaded 1912 rule. Italian citizenship law as we know it came into effect on July 1, 1912 (read this law here in Italian). This law set forth the current rules for Italian citizenship that we still follow today. These rules allow(ed) a parent to pass on citizenship jure sanguinis to their child. Consulates do not apply this law retroactively. So, if you apply for recognition of Italian citizenship at a consulate, the consulates say that citizens naturalized before July 1, 1912 cannot transmit Italian citizenship to their children regardless of when they were born.
There are two exceptions to this rule:
1. If the child was still residing in Italy when the father naturalized.
2. If the child reached legal adulthood before the father’s naturalization (age 21 before March 10, 1975 and age 18 after that).
Putting all the rules about qualifying for Italian dual citizenship together
So, now you’re an expert on how to qualify for Italian dual citizenship! Let’s recap the rules one by one.
1. Your ancestor must have been alive anywhere in the world on March 17, 1861
2. Your ancestor must not have naturalized before July 1, 1912 (save for the 2 exceptions listed above)
3. Your ancestor or direct line ascendant, if female, must have had her child on or after February 1, 1948
4. Your ancestor must have still been an Italian citizen at the time of his or her child’s birth