Welcome back! In Part 1 of our series on obtaining Italian dual citizenship, we discussed the background and laws regarding jure sanguinis. In Part 2 in a series on how to obtain Italian dual citizenship. In this blog post, we will discuss the general Italian citizenship laws and how to determine whether or not you qualify for Italian dual citizenship.
As we discussed in our last post, Italian citizenship is transmitted by way of “jure sanguinis” (Latin for “right of the blood”). This means that if an Italian citizen has a child—no matter where he or she lives—that Italian citizen parent transmits Italian citizenship to the child. Fortunately, the Italian government allows this Italian citizenship (along with the right to obtain Italian citizenship) to pass down as many generations it can without limit, as long as the person qualifies. Confused yet? Don’t be. It’s simple!
When it comes to Italian dual citizenship, there are four main rules to keep in mind when determining if you qualify. In order for you to qualify, your ancestor must meet every single requirement. They are as follows:
1. Your Italian ancestor must have died at any time after March 17, 1861... and s/he must have still been an Italian citizen at any time after that date.
Because the country of Italy did not actually exist until March 17, 1861. It’s pretty amazing to think that Italy is a younger country than the U.S., but it’s true! Because Italy was not a unified nation until March 17, 1861, there was no such thing as an Italian citizen until that date. On the date of unification, the majority of the people living in the territories that would become Italy would go on to automatically obtain Italian citizenship. Thus, it stands to reason: if your ancestor was never able to obtain Italian citizenship because she or he was either deceased when Italy became a country or because he or she became a citizen of another country before the date of Italian unification... then she or he could not possibly pass on Italian citizenship.
2. Your ancestor must have either never naturalized or naturalized after the birth of his or her child. Let’s illustrate this with an example:
Giovanni Russo was born in Italy in 1900 and in 1930 he moved to New York with his wife.
In 1930, he had a son in New York named Salvatore.
In 1935, he naturalized as an American citizen.
In 1937, he had a second son in New York named Pietro.
Based on the above information, we know that Giovanni was still an Italian citizen at the time his son Salvatore was born. This means Salvatore is eligible for Italian citizenship, and can pass on this right to citizenship to his children (and his children’s children and so on). However, since Giovanni’s second son Pietro was born after Giovanni naturalized, neither Pietro nor any of his children or anyone descended from him qualifies for Italian dual citizenship.
Because of the right of jure sanguinis. In order to obtain dual citizenship or to be eligible for dual citizenship, a child must be born to an Italian citizen parent. Because Pietro was born after Giovanni became American, he could not obtain Italian citizenship from his father. But because Salvatore was born before Giovanni became American, Salvatore was born with both U.S. citizenship and the right to obtain Italian dual citizenship. Salvatore can pass on this right to all his children, and their children, and their children’s children, and so on.
Your ancestor must not have naturalized before July 1, 1912. This rule is a controversial one—it used to be that Italian consulates in the U.S. did not care when a person’s ancestor naturalized as long as it was after Italian unification and before the birth of his or her child. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.
Law no. 555 of 1912 (governing Italian citizenship) came into effect on July 1, 1912, and thus Italian consulates do not apply it retroactively. For those who descend from an Italian citizen who naturalized before this date but otherwise qualifies, applying directly in Italy may be an option (more on that later).
4. Women could not pass on Italian citizenship until January 1, 1948. This is the date that the Italian constitution came into effect, in which women were finally granted the right to pass on citizenship. Before that date, a child’s citizenship status was inherited from his father with few exceptions.
If you have women in your “direct line,” those women must have had their children on or after that date to be able to pass on Italian citizenship to them. There is no restriction on women receiving citizenship before that date, just passing it down. For example, a woman could receive citizenship from her father before that date, but her mother could not pass on citizenship to a child before that date.
However, not all hope is lost. People with what is known as a “1948 case” or “cittadinanza per via materna” can still obtain Italian dual citizenship. They cannot, however, apply directly in Italy or directly at a consulate. They must instead hire an Italian attorney to petition the courts in Rome and challenge the unconstitutionality of the law due to its discriminatory nature against women. To date, hundreds and hundreds of people have obtained Italian citizenship this way and the odds are good that if you have a 1948 case, you will prevail.
If you would like more information about learning if you qualify for Italian dual citizenship, click here to take our handy Italian dual citizenship eligibility questionnaire. Next time, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of applying at an Italian consulate in the United States versus going directly to Italy. Join us then!