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How To Apply For Italian Dual Citizenship

How to apply for Italian dual citizenship

First things first: what is Italian dual citizenship?

What is Italian dual citizenship?

Did you know that if you have just one Italian ancestor, you may be eligible for Italian dual citizenship?

That’s right. Whether you are 1% or 100% Italian, you need just one Italian ancestor to potentially qualify. If you love Italy, want to live in Italy, or want to live in the EU, this is an incredible opportunity.

Obtaining Italian dual citizenship is a matter of researching your family history, collecting necessary documents to prove eligibility, and attending an appointment at your Italian consulate. In terms of citizenship via heritage, Italian law is one of the most generous.

According to Italian law, anyone born to an Italian parent is given Italian citizenship at birth. It’s up to that child, however, to request formalization of that Italian citizenship at a later date. And the best part? Even if you are a few generations removed from an Italian ancestor, you can stillpotentially qualify. Italian citizenship can be passed down from generation to generation, just sitting there and waiting for someone to formalize it. 

So, just to recap. If you:

  • Were born in the United States
  • Have at least one ancestor born in Italy
  • Can figure out when your Italian ancestor became American, if at all…

You can potentially qualify. Read on if you’d like to learn more about how to apply for Italian dual citizenship.

How do you qualify?

How do you qualify for Italian dual citizenship?

Before you can learn how to apply for Italian dual citizenship, here are four main rules to determine if you qualify.

Rule number 1: Your ancestor must have been alive, anywhere in the world, on or after March 17, 1861. Also, she or he must not have become a citizen of another country before that date.

This rule is important. Before March 17, 1861, Italy was not even a country. The territory we now call Italy was fractured into numerous independent city-states. Therefore, there was no such thing as an Italian.

On the date of Italian unification (March 17, 1861), people born in what we call Italy today were automatically given Italian citizenship. 

Thus, as long as your ancestor was alive after this date and not yet a citizen of another country, she or he automatically became Italian. Becoming a citizen of another country before this date would have negated your ancestor’s right to obtain automatic Italian citizenship. And in order for you to be eligible, your ancestor must have held Italiancitizenship, which is why this date is so important.

Rule number 2: Your ancestor must have been an Italian citizen at the time of his child’s birth.

According to Italian law, citizenship can only be passed down from an Italian parent to child. Therefore, your ancestor must have held Italian citizenship at the time of his child’s birth.

Let’s use a practical example:

Giovanni was born in Rome in 1920. He came to the United States in 1944. His son, Anthony, was born in New York in 1946. Giovanni became an American citizen in 1948, and had a daughter, Michelle in 1952.

According to Italian law, Anthony was born with Italian dual citizenship while Michelle was not.

Why?

Because Giovanni was an Italian citizen at the time of Anthony’s birth, he was able to pass it down to his child. And because Giovanni had lost his Italian citizenship by the time Michelle was born, he did not pass on Italian dual citizenship to her.

Rule number 3: If your ancestor was female, she must have had her child on or after January 1, 1948.

If you have maternal Italian ancestry, this rule is an important one to remember.

January 1, 1948 marks the date of ratification for Italy’s modern constitution. Before this date, women could not pass on Italian citizenship to their children. Except in very few circumstances, only fathers could pass on citizenship.

Therefore, if you have a female Italian ancestor you have to check the date her child was born. As long as her child was born on or after January 1, 1948, you should qualify. 

What happens if her child was born before January 1, 1948?

If your female ancestor had her child before this date, then you cannot apply through the normal channels. Instead, you have to hire an Italian attorney to argue the unconstitutionality of this law before the Court of Rome. You do not have to be in Italy to do this, and you can potentially add as many family members to your petition as you like. 

Since 2009, thousands of people have successfully obtained Italian citizenship via the courts over a maternal ancestor. Please contact us if you would like more information about Italian citizenship via maternal ancestry, as we can help!

Rule number 4: Your ancestor must have either never naturalized, or naturalized after July 1, 1912.

Italian law changed on July 1, 1912 in a very important way. It was the date of entry into force of Law no. 555 of 1912, considered the most important law for Italian dual citizenship.

Prior to that date, when a native-born Italian naturalized as a citizen of another country, he gave up not only his own Italian citizenship, but also the Italian citizenship of his minor children, regardless of where those children were born.

This rule is a bit of a controversial one because it’s open to interpretation. Italian consulates in the United States and comuni(towns) in Italy interpret it differently.

  • At Italian consulates in the U.S., this law is not applied retroactively. Therefore, if your ancestor naturalized before this date (even if s/he already had his or her child and normally would have been able to pass on citizenship), they will reject your application. 
  • At comuni (towns) in Italy, this law is applied retroactively. Therefore, if your ancestor naturalized before this date (but after the birth of his or her child), you should still be able to apply.

There is an exception to this rule. 

If your Italian ancestor’s child was no longer a minor at the moment of his parent’s naturalization (and the naturalization occurred after the child’s birth), you should qualify.

Contact us if you have a pre-July 1, 1912 application and want to apply for Italian dual citizenship in Italy.

What documents will you need to apply?

What documents will you need?

After learning how to apply for Italian dual citizenship, your second step is to figure out what documents you will need and where to go.

Applicants can file in one of two places: either at their local Italian consulate, or directly in Italy after establishing residence there. There are currently 10 Italian consulates in the United States. You must apply at the consulate which has jurisdiction over where you live.

As far as documents go, there is no one single answer.

Even though Italian law is actually very clear on the matter regarding what documents are needed, Italian consulates often reserve the right to add (or subtract!) requirements. This means that if you apply in Italy, your town is most likely to follow the law by the book, Italian consulates may ask you to procure documents that are not actually required.

Confusing, I know. But it’s Italy… roll with it!

Italian Circolare k. 28 del 1991 (read it here in Italian) specifically states that applicants must obtain birth and marriage records for everyone in a direct line from your last Italian-born ancestor down to you. Applicants must also obtain their ancestor’s naturalization records (or proof of non-naturalization) in order to show an unbroken chain of citizenship. There is no mention of divorce or death records.

For your application, Italian consulates will generally want more documentation than Italian towns in Italy. As a rule, consulates require:

Birth certificates for your:

  • Last Italian born ancestor
  • Any intermediate ancestors
  • You
  • Your minor children, if you have them

Marriage certificates for your:

  • Last Italian born ancestor
  • Any intermediate ancestors
  • You, if applicable

Divorce certificates and “certificates of no appeal” for your:

  • Last Italian born ancestor
  • Any intermediate ancestors
  • You, if applicable

Death certificates for your:

  • Last Italian born ancestor
  • Any intermediate ancestors

Naturalization records or proof of non-naturalization for your:

  • Last Italian born ancestor

By “proof of non-naturalization,” we mean a letter of no record found (also called a “certificate of non-existence of a record” from USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services], NARA [National Archives and Records Administration], the census record immediately before and after your ancestor’s child’s birth, and if applicable records from the county clerk in the county your ancestor lived stating there is no naturalization record on file.

Note the following:

Some consulates also require birth, marriage, and death certificates of your non-direct line. Therefore, if you are applying through one line, they will also want documents for the line you are not using to apply. When in doubt, check with your consulate. Unfortunately as with many things Italy, this process may be opaque and each consulate has its own rules.

As a final note regarding paperwork, your documents must be legalized with an apostille and translated into Italian.

Do you want Italian dual citizenship or have questions about qualifying and applying? If so, contact us to see how we can help you today. Have your already obtained your Italian passport and want to share your experiences? Sound off in the comments below.

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