Long wait times for appointments at consulates and seemingly impossible rules to follow can be discouraging to anyone seeking to obtain Italian dual citizenship. In the past when there weren't so many applicants (and there weren't budget cuts for Italian consulates), it was much easier to apply with your local Italian representative in the United States.
However, as time has passed more people have started to apply. The upswing in interest for Italian dual citizenship as well as the aforementioned budget cuts have made the situation very difficult for those seeking to apply at Italian consulates: requirements have tightened, applicants are turned away for even the most minor of discrepancies, and wait times are entering into the 3 and 4-year threshold just to obtain an appointment.
With this article, we hope to show you that it is not only possible but preferable to cut the consulate out entirely and apply for Italian dual citizenship directly in Italy. Even though we are a service provider of expedited Italian citizenship applications in Italy, we firmly believe that a person can and should be able to do this on his or her own without the assistance of a service provider. This article serves as a stepping stone and general guide towards DIY-ing it yourself for an Italian dual citizenship application in Italy.
A. The first thing you want to do is have a completed application. This includes all birth, marriage and naturalization certificates for every direct line ancestor. Make sure your documents are properly translated and apostilled.
B. The second thing you will want to do is give yourself plenty of time (months) to contact your Italian town of choice. Ask them if they handle Italian dual citizenship applications and let them know you will be coming there to live in order to elect residency.
C. If your comune of choice has been responsive and will take your application, be sure to send over your documents months in advance of your application. They will look it over and let you know if anything is missing. Occasionally, some Italian towns will request death certificates even though this is not required by law. Rarely will a comune request non-line ancestor documents but giving yourself months of time in advance means you have the time to obtain them if necessary.
D. Very important: you will want to find a place to live in Italy. When you do it yourself and apply in Italy rather than use an expedited service provider, you can expect to spend anywhere from 1-6 months (and possibly beyond) in Italy, so be sure to find a place which can either give you a declaration of hospitality or a valid rental contract. Before you arrive, have your landlord duly deposit and register either the declaration of hospitality or the rental contract, and be sure to obtain a copy of the same. You must find a place to live which can issue one of these two documents before arriving in Italy, so you do not waste time in finding a place to stay.
E. Make copies of your passport. Also, generate your Italian codice fiscale. There are numerous websites which can do this for you, but be sure to input your information exactly as it appears on your U.S. passport.
If you are flying to Italy direct from the U.S. or from another extra-Schengen Area country, make sure you get your passport stamped upon entry into Italy. However, if you are flying into Italy from a Schengen Area country or you have a layover first in a Schengen Area country, your passport will be stamped in that country (and not Italy). If that is the case, make sure that once you arrive in Italy you go to the local questura (police station) within 8 days of your arrival. There you will need to file a "dichiarazione di presenza" (declaration of presence) to make up for the lack of a stamp on your passport.
As soon as possible after you arrive at your comune of choice, you will want to file for residency. To do this, you will go to the ufficio anagrafe of the town of choice and fill out the forms for residency using the information contained on your declaration of hospitality or your validated and filed rental contract. You will also need to use your previously generated codice fiscale when filling out the information.
Within 2 days, your name and information will be listed among the registry of residents in the Italian town. They have up to 45 days to confirm that residency status, but will normally send an officer (vigile) to check much sooner. You will be visited by the vigile, who will check that you are living where you say you are. This is an informal visit and you will be notified when your residency is confirmed (and given a receipt).
Once your residency is confirmed by the vigile visit, you can then return to the town's offices to hand in your birth, marriage and naturalization documents for Italian dual citizenship. The town officer will review your file and issue a receipt once everything is taken.
The Italian town will then contact the consulate where you last lived (some towns will contact all the consulates under whose jurisdiction you have lived) to make sure that nobody in your family line has ever renounced his or her right to Italian dual citizenship. They will then transmit the results (known as the "attestato di non rinuncia") back to the comune. At that point, you are an official Italian citizen!
Your comune will then transcribe your records into their registry. You can then use these transcribed records to obtain your Italian passport and/or enroll in AIRE. Some Italian comuni will have the mayor issue a letter of citizenship, with which you can obtain registration in AIRE; then the Italian town will later transcribe your records so that you can obtain a passport. Not all Italian towns work in the same order.
You can in theory return to the U.S. at any time after you hand in your citizenship documents. If you wish to stay on in Italy, you can apply for a permesso di soggiorno in attesa della cittadinanza (permit to stay while awaiting citizenship). It can be renewed for however long as necessary while waiting for your Italian dual citizenship to be conferred.
Once you are back in the U.S. (and enrolled in AIRE) you can make an appointment for your passport. Alternatively, if you are still living in Italy, you can obtain your passport directly in Italy.
Applying in Italy on your own requires time and patience but can be a worthwhile experience. Not only will you get to apply on your own terms in a town of your choice (rather than being stuck with the consulate of your jurisdiction) it can provide a unique experience for personal growth. As Italian Americans we are offered extremely generous heritage citizenship laws by Italy, so being able to live in Italy legally while obtaining citizenship is a great privilege. Deciding to apply in Italy directly rather than go through the consulate can provide a life-changing experience beyond the practicality of obtaining a European passport.