Italian dual citizenship: all about the 1948 rule

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If you have maternal Italian ancestry or a female Italian ancestor somewhere down your line, you may have heard the term “1948 case.” At first glance, people who have 1948 cases appear not to qualify for Italian dual citizenship. However, there are ways to get around this roadblock and end up with an Italian passport after all.

This post will serve to explain what/who is a 1948 case, why there are 1948 cases, and what to do about them.

What is the 1948 rule?

Before January 1, 1948, Italian woman could not pass on citizenship to their children save for very few exceptions.

On January 1, 1948 Italy’s modern constitution came into force. For the first time, Italian women were granted the right to pass on citizenship to their children. Before this date, Italian citizenship was largely passed down to children from their father.

This means that people who descend from an Italian woman cannot obtain citizenship through her unless she had her child on or after January 1, 1948. The “1948 rule” has a curious consequence: it means that two siblings born to an Italian mother—one born before January 1, 1948 and one born after—may end up with two different paths to citizenship. The child born after that date can apply through a consulate as normal, while the child born before cannot.

The status of women in Italy has always been secondary to that of a man

Before January 1, 1948 women could also lose their Italian citizenship if they married a foreign man. Additionally, all children born to an Italian woman and a foreign man were granted their father’s citizenship. For example, if an Italian woman married a Tunisian man she not only lost her Italian citizenship, but she could not pass on her Italian citizenship to her children—thus, the children were born Tunisian citizens. As an aside the Italian Corte Costituzionale declared unconstitutional Article 10 of Law no. 555 of 1912—the article stipulating an Italian woman’s loss of Italian citizenship when marrying a foreign man. Following this, Law no. 151 of 1975 established that any woman who lost her citizenship due to marrying a foreign man could re-acquire citizenship by declaring her intent to do so.

A history of challenging the 1948 rule

Italy has always seen the 1948 rule as problematic, but there has been little in the way of actual codified laws to remedy it. However, there has been one key sentence and one law which have laid the groundwork for applicants to obtain citizenship via their maternal lines.

On February 9, 1983 the Italian Corte Costituzionale issued a sentence declaring unconstitutional the Articles 1, Section 1 and 2; and Article 2, Section 2 of Law no. 555 of 1912. These articles did not specify that anyone born to an Italian mother is an Italian citizen. The sentence of 1983 coupled with the above 1973 law served to lay the groundwork for a watershed moment in Italian dual citizenship history.

In 2009, the Corte di Cassazione issued sentence no. 4466 recognizing the efficacy of the above 1983 sentence and 1973 law, and calling “1948 cases” discriminatory. The original Italian reads as follows:

“La titolarità della cittadinanza italiana va riconosciuta in sede giudiziaria, indipendentemente dalla dichiarazione resa dall’interessata ai sensi dell’art. 219 della Legge n. 151 del 1975, alla donna che l’ha perduta per essere coniugata con cittadino straniero anteriormente al 1° gennaio 1948, in quanto la perdita senza la volontà della titolare della cittadinanza è effetto perdurante, dopo la data indicata, della norma incostituzionale, effetto che contrasta con il principio della parità dei sessi e della eguaglianza giuridica e morale dei coniugi (artt. 3 e 29 Cost.).

Per lo stesso principio, riacquista la cittadinanza italiana dal 1° gennaio 1948, anche il figlio di donna nella situazione descritta, nato prima di tale data e nel vigore della legge n. 555 del 1912, determinando il rapporto di filiazione, dopo l’entrata in vigore della Costituzione, la trasmissione a lui dello stato di cittadino, che gli sarebbe spettato di diritto senza la legge discriminatoria”.

In English, it reads: “The possession of Italian citizenship must be recognized in court, regardless of a declaration made by an interested party pursuant to Article 219 of Law no. 151 of 1975, for an Italian woman who lost citizenship due to being married to a foreign citizen before January 1, 1948, as such unwilling loss of citizenship holds lasting effect, after the indicated date, and is unconstitutional in contract with the principles of gender equality and the legal and moral equality of spouses (Articles 3 and 29, Italian Constitution).

Under the same principle, Italian citizenship is reacquired after January 1, 1948 by a child of the woman in the aforementioned situation, born before that date and during the entry into force of Law no. 555 of 1912, determining a relationship of filiation, after the entry into force of the Constitution and thereby being conferred with the status of citizen, as s/he would be entitled as of right without such discriminatory law.”

Even though this 2009 sentence clearly spells out the discriminatory nature of the “1948 rule,” Italian public administration has not yet codified it into law. This means that consulates and comuni are not legally required to accept 1948 cases.

What to do if you have a 1948 case

If you descend from an Italian woman who falls under the 1948 case umbrella, not all hope is lost! Though you cannot apply via a consulate or directly in Italy, you can still obtain an Italian passport by going an alternative route. This is known in Italian as “cittadinanza in via giudiziaria” or “cittadinanza jure sanguinis per discendenza materna.”

You can hire an Italian attorney to petition the courts of Rome on your behalf. There has been an almost 100% success rate in doing this, and you do not need to physically be present in Italy for your case to be tried. Additionally, more than one family member at a time may petition the courts, so multiple family members can be placed on the same case to save money.

We recommend using the services of Luigi Paiano, one of Italy’s pioneering lawyers when it comes to 1948 cases, as well as Antonio Rossi and Donatella Lenoci, both competent attorneys with excellent feedback that we wholeheartedly recommend. Additionally, you can watch this YouTube video for further information.

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