Do I qualify for Italian dual citizenship?
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. Italian Americans are the nation’s fourth largest European ancestry group after Germans, Irish, and English.
And many of us qualify for Italian dual citizenship!
Actually, the word qualify is a bit misleading. If you meet the requirements for Italian dual citizenship, you’ve been an Italian citizen since birth. You just don’t know it yet! Instead of qualifying, you’d be asking the Italian government to formally recognize the citizenship you’ve possessed since birth.
Think of Italian citizenship jure sanguinis as your birthright, as long as you meet the key requirements. Figuring out if you qualify is literally as easy as remembering these three rules:
- When was your ancestor born and when did he die?
- Do you have any women in your direct line?
- When did your ancestor lose his Italian citizenship/naturalize?
It’s literally that easy. I’ll explain each rule one by one.
When was your ancestor born and when did he die?
It does not matter what year your ancestor was born. The only thing that matters when it comes to their age is that they were alive—anywhere in the world—at least on or after March 17, 1861.
Because Italy as we know it today was not a country until that date. Before that date, the Italian peninsula was home to various different city states and governments. On March 17, 1861 Italy became, well… Italy.
If your ancestor died before that date, 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.
Do you have any women in your direct line?
Throughout history, Italian citizenship law has been discriminatory towards women. Before Italy’s modern constitution came into effect on January 1, 1948, women could not pass on Italian 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 that date, they 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. Pretty awful, right?
That’s why there is a loophole here. We in the industry call them “1948 cases” or “judicial citizenships.” You can hire an Italian attorney to petition the courts in Italy on the basis that this law is unconstitutional.
Thousands of people have done this and have been granted Italian citizenship. In fact, we can help you too.
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.” The chain breaks when the original Italian ancestor naturalizes. However, a neat provision in Italian law allows for a child born in the U.S. to an Italian citizen to inherit (and keep) citizenship from his parent even after that same parent gives up his or her own Italian citizenship!
This is because of the way Italian and U.S. citizenship laws complement each other.
In the U.S., people born here obtain citizenship jure soli. That means we obtain citizenship automatically just by being born here. In Italy, people obtain citizenship in another way—jure sanguinis. That means that anyone born to an Italian citizen parent is also an Italian citizen himself.
Because the two ways of obtaining citizenship overlap nicely, a person can be born a U.S. citizen jure soli and an Italian citizen jure sanguinis. And best of all, even if your father or mother naturalize as an American citizen after you’re born, it still doesn’t take away the Italian citizenship you received at birth.
This citizenship can pass down generation through generation, as long as the first American child’s parent was still an Italian citizen at the time of his birth. The Italian citizenship lies “dormant,” but passes down indefinitely. Thanks, Italy! J
One more thing: the 1912 rule
There’s one more bonus rule you need to know about: the dreaded 1912 rule.
A little bit of background:
Italian citizenship transmission as we know it came into effect on July 1, 1912 (this is the MacDaddy of all Italian citizenship laws: legge no. 555 del 1912). 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 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.
(Side note: if you apply in Italy, many towns overlook this rule and happily accept applications from people whose ancestors naturalized before this date. This is not a hard and fast rule. It’s up for personal interpretation.)
There are two exceptions to this rule:
- If the child was still residing in Italy when the father naturalized.
- 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.
- Your ancestor must have been alive anywhere in the world on March 17, 1861
- Your ancestor must not have naturalized before July 1, 1912 (save for 2 exceptions)
- Your ancestor or direct line ascendant, if female, must have had her child on or after February 1, 1948
- Your ancestor must have still been an Italian citizen at the time of his or her child’s birth
Let us know in the comments section or drop us a line via e-mail here! We’re happy to help you obtain Italian dual citizenship.