8 steps to obtaining Italian dual citizenship (via the consulates)
Obtaining Italian dual citizenship is a marathon, and not a sprint.
As Italian Americans, we are incredibly lucky in that Italy has some of the world’s most generous heritage citizenship laws. Operating on the principle of jure sanguinis (that’s Latin for “by right of blood”), Italy allows descendants of the Italian diaspora almost unrestricted access to obtaining Italian dual citizenship, provided that the applicant meet certain criteria.
While I will make a later post on how to determine if you qualify for Italian dual citizenship, I decided to concentrate this post on the concrete steps to take towards obtaining an Italian passport. (Edit: New for 2020, we have a nifty interactive quiz to determine if you qualify).
Before undertaking the project of obtaining Italian dual citizenship jure sanguinis, it is a good idea to be organized, well-informed and know what you are getting into. Thousands and thousand of people have obtained their passaporti already, but I find that many clients tell me they wish there were more information online presented in an organized way for them.
So, without further ado, here are 8 steps to obtaining Italian dual citizenship:
1. Determine – and work backwards from – your last Italian born ancestor
Think back to your last Italian born ancestor. What personal details do you know about him or her?
For reasons related to Italian citizenship law, it’s best if you start your research by thinking back to a paternal or male relative (women could not pass on Italian citizenship until January 1, 1948).
What do you know about him? Do you know where and when he was born in Italy and, if possible, his parents’ names?
If necessary, ask your family members for information. Remember, you’re looking for your last Italian-born ancestor before your family left Italy. When in doubt, consult our page here for information on researching your Italian roots.
If there are no male or paternal Italian relatives–don’t worry. You can still qualify for Italian dual citizenship; you just might have to go down a different path.
2. Obtain naturalization records
Using your ancestor’s name and date/place of birth, search for his or her naturalization record from the United States government. If your ancestor never naturalized, you must still search for these records. If they don’t exist, the government will send official paperwork to that effect. For the purposes of Italian dual citizenship, showing a paper trail of non-naturalization is important, too.
This is really important to remember: the date of naturalization is key.
Your ancestor’s date of naturalization is what will determine if you are eligible for citizenship.
In other words, if your last Italian born ancestor naturalized any time after his child’s birth, you may be eligible – with few exceptions.
For those exceptions, please refer to Italian citizenship laws pertaining to female ancestors and ancestors from Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.
These regions were not automatically annexed to Italy at unification in 1861, so special rules pertain to those whose families come from these areas. Contact us for more information.
3. Obtain Italian vital records
Obtain the Italian birth certificate of the Italian ancestor through whom you are applying. If your ancestor got married in Italy, get the marriage record as well.
You may also need to get his/her spouse’s birth record so check with your consulate to be sure. Some will require it, and there is no one rule regarding “non-line” ancestors across the board.
4. Obtain American vital records
Check with your consulate’s website – or e-mail them if they respond to e-mails – and start to procure every U.S. document they require. You will need to obtain certified long form copies of all records (if in NYC, be sure to request a “letter of exemplification” for birth and death records), and will also need to apostille your records for use in Italy.
5. Apostille your American vital records for use in your Italian dual citizenship application
The purpose of an apostille is to make your non-Italian documents legal for use in Italy. It is a separate certification that the Secretary of State attaches to your records.
Be sure to check your consulate’s requirements to see which U.S. documents need further authentications, as requirements vary from consulate to consulate. Generally, all non-Italian documents except for naturalization records need apostilles.
If you need your documents to be apostilled for use in Italy, send the original records to the relevant US authority for authentication (most commonly the Secretary of State’s office in each state). Each state can only apostille documents issued there, so if your documents are from Georgia, get an apostille from Georgia, etc.
6. Translate your American documents into Italian. Use a translator well-versed in Italian dual citizenship.
Determine which records must be translated into Italian and have them professionally translated.
Not all consulates will require every single record to be translated, so make sure to look up your specific consulate’s rules regarding translations.
The importance of a professional translator cannot be understated. Unless you are completely fluent in Italian, you shouldn’t translate them. In this case, it’s prudent to hand off your vital records to someone who is experienced with English and Italian legal terminology.
We cannot stress this enough: a botched translation may cause you to lose your appointment and return months later.
7. Go to your Italian dual citizenship application at the consulate of your jurisdiction
Each adult applicant for Italian dual citizenship must be there in person at his or her appointment at the Italian consulate. The consular official will review all records and provide feedback if s/he cannot immediately determine eligibility. You may have to amend records, procure more records, re-translate, or cure any deficiencies in the eyes of the consulate.
For info on how to find your Italian consulate, click here.
8. Schedule your passport appointment
Once your Italian dual citizenship is recognized, some consulates will automatically enroll you in AIRE (the registry of Italians living abroad). Some others will require you contact them for registration in AIRE.
In either case, once you register as an Italian living abroad – as opposed to living in Italy – you can obtain an Italian passport. You can then schedule your passport appointment and obtain your passport when ready.
Note that if you want you can go to Italy, establish residency, and apply for your passport there instead of your consulate.
Also, fun fact: Italian consulates in the US will not issue you an Italian identity card (carta d’identità) but an Italian comune (town) will, as will Italian consulates within the EU.
But as always, you must be a resident of either jurisdiction before requesting a carta d’identità or passport.
More helpful information for those seeking Italian dual citizenship
Finding your Italian ancestor’s date and place of birth
Suppose you want to get Italian dual citizenship. You’ve consulted with your family, are of Italian descent, and have a general idea that you have an Italian ancestor. However, you don’t know where he or she was born or if it’s your paternal or maternal ancestor. Your citizenship application will depend on having a complete set of documents so finding out this information is vital. Here’s how to find out your Italian ancestor’s date and place of birth so you can successfully prove your claim:
Let’s say your grandfather was born in the United States, but you think his father – your great grandfather – was from Italy and emigrated. Use Ancestry.com to search for census records including your grandfather. On the census records, you’ll see a column denoting whether or not all the people in his household had naturalized (aka, American citizens). You’ll find the name of your grandfather, his father, his mother, and of all other children in the family unit.
Then, take the name of your great grandfather as it appears on the census and search naturalization records on Ancestry.com. If you find something, you might be able to read the actual naturalization record pertaining to your Italian ancestor right there on the website! This would include the date and place of birth. If not, you now at least know your ancestor’s name. You can then can use that information to search the actual repositories for a hard copy of naturalization paperwork.
Here are some repositories you can check:
- NARA (National Archives and Records Administration),
- USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services),
- Local county clerks’ offices in the county your Italian ancestor lived.
What to do if it’s hard to book an appointment at your Italian consulate
Obtaining recognition of Italian dual citizenship is one of your birth rights. For that reason, many people who qualify want to apply for their Italian passports. Each of the consular offices in the U.S. help approximately 3,000 people file claims yearly…. and it is said that each consulate in Brazil and Argentina see anywhere from 6,000-10,000 applications yearly.
There are so many applicants, and so little time!
As a result, it may take you a while to obtain an appointment and avail yourself of your rights. But what happens if you keep trying to get one and you simply can’t? You have two options:
Applying for dual citizenship in Italy
According to Italian law, foreign citizens of Italian descent must apply for recognition of citizenship jus sanguinis in the country where they reside. However, they can apply in Italy and bypass the consulate… as long as they obtain legal residence in Italy. So, if you are an American of Italian descent, you can travel to your ancestor’s country. Then, you can stake your claim in the town where you establish your new home base. Remember, however, that the town has up to 45 days to verify your residency first.
Taking your claim to court
What if you can’t spend time in Italy (or you simply don’t want to), but you also can’t get a consular appointment? You can take your case to court. If you have been trying to get an appointment and it is impossible, you can hire an attorney to represent you in court and seek recognition this way. In this manner, you would be bypassing the consulate which has failed to let you exercise your rights as an Italian citizen to seek recognition of your [latent] citizenship. We can help.
How long does it take to get Italian dual citizenship?
The time it takes to process your application depends on a number of factors, but it can take anywhere from 6 to 24 months for processing from the moment you hand in your documents.
We have a post on the subject of processing times here.
Why would you even want to get an Italian passport?
Simply put, your lineage will open up the world to you. Thanks to jus sanguinis, you can live, work, and study anywhere in the European Union (28 in all). Additionally, Italian citizens receive free to low cost healthcare and affordable education.
We can help you!
Since 2005, Get Italian Citizenship, Inc. has helped hundreds of Italian Americans (and people of Italian descent from all over the world) obtain their Italian passports. Our services include translations, document procurement, and full service applications both at the consulate(s) and directly in Italy.
I’m interested in dual citizenship. My paternal grandfather was born in Montedoro, Sicily on 9/25/1881. I have a copy of his Naturalization application. My father was born in the US(1917) before the date of that application (1922). I have my fathers birth certificate which identifies his parents. I have my grandfathers death certificate which identifies his place of birth as well as his parents (my great grand parents) in Sicily
You definitely qualify! Your first step is to make an appointment with your local consulate. Then, once you have that work on gathering your documents to that specific consulate’s specifications. If you have any questions about your case, don’t hesitate to contact us.
I’m interested in dual citizenship. My maternal grandfather was born in Trabia, Sicily January 22, 1879. He immigrated to the US in 1891 at age 11 by himself. He naturalized August 15, 1912. My mother was born in the US on June 11, 1916. I have all original documents, including birth, Naturalization, marriage and death certificates. Do I qualify?
Was your grandfather married to an American woman?
My dad (deceased) was born in Italy in 1939. His mom was born in America – hence she was an American citizen. My understanding is In the mid-1950s (after WWII) there was a law where A child born in Italy of an italian parent and American parent can choose what citizenship they wanted when they were teenagers. My dads parents forced my dad to claim American citizenship and he then came to America as a legal citizen. A decade later he went back to Italy for a couple months, met my mom (an Italian citizen born in 1945) and married… Read more »
Since your dad lost his Italian citizenship before you were born, you’d have to go through your mom. As long as you were born after January 1, 1948 and your mom was still an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, she’d be your line for citizenship purposes. Easy case! Congrats. 🙂
If my father is successful in this application can he bundle the application to include his children if they are also adults with their own spouses/children (i realize the citizenship would only be for the children – but is that doable when the children are grown and not dependent or living with the main applicant)?
It really depends on the consulate. The vast majority of them will require adult children over 18 to have their own appointments. When in doubt, contact them and ask!
I was born in Brazil but I live in the USA now. My great grandfather was from Pisa so I do qualify, can I do my process in a US consulate if I’m Brazilian?
Yes! If you live in the US, you would apply at the US consulate of your jurisdiction.
hello! I´m in the US under a F1 visa, can I process my Italian citizenship in San Francisco? I was born in Argentina and moved to the US on 2020
My paternal grandparents were born in Sicily, Italy in 1882 and 1895 and came to the US in 1909. My father was born in the US in 1927. I don’t have any naturalization records for my grandparents, but in the 1930 census it shows that my grandfather had submitted “first papers” and my grandmother was still listed as “alien”. Would I qualify for Italian citizenship? How about my daughter?
You most likely do! First papers meant he had started the naturalization process but was not yet a citizen. Congratulations!
My great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side was born in Sicily in June of 1880, he had my great grandmother Frances. He naturalized as a US citizen in May of 1911. I also have a grandfather who was born in Sicily in 1852, and moved to the US in 1865 and never naturalized. He married an American woman though in 1881 and then had my great-great-grandmother, Mary.
Was Frances born in Sicily or the US?
For your other side, if your grandfather (the one born in Sicily in 1852) never naturalized as a U.S. citizen, then you would qualify through that line. However, I believe you would be a 1948 case through that line since it is likely that your GG Grandmother Mary had her child before January 1, 1948. In this instance, check your Frances line first since you have to rule out all “consular” possibilities for applying before going down the 1948 route.
Hi! I am interested in dual citizenship too. I have no paperwork yet but the info I have is that my great grandfather was born in Sicily on 8/31/1868, my grandfather was born in Piana di Greci, Sicily on 7/16/1895.My great grandfather arrived in the US in 1902 and my grandfather arrived in 1907. My father was born in Los Angeles on 7/18/27. My grandfather was naturalized in 1917. Do I qualify?
Hi there. Was your grandfather married to your grandmother at that time? If so, you might qualify under a loophole.
My grandfather immigrated from Sepino, Campobasso, Italy in 1904, My grandmother immigrated from di Lauro, di Sessa Aurunca, Italy in 1920. They were married in the United States in 1921. They had 9 children. My mother was born in 1928 in the US. My grandfather became a citizen in 1944. I was born in 1955. I am currently in the process of gathering the documents required for dual citizenship. My question is regarding divorces and death certificates. My mother was married in 1948; her husband died in 1951. I have my mother’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, and both death certificates.… Read more »
This question is best asked to your consulate. It is likely they will require all marriage/divorce records.
I was born in Italy to Italian parents. I became a US citizen in 1985. My parents became citizens in the early 1980’s. Can I get my Italian citizenship back?
Yes you can! Contact your local Italian consulate and ask them about “riacquisto cittadinanza italiana.”
My husband and I are interested in obtaining dual citizenship. My husband’s mother has an Italian citizen living in the US at the time of his birth which I believe grants him jus sanguinis. Once he claims his Italian citizenship then I will pursue mine as his spouse. Now that after my husband claims his Italian citizenship then can our children can obtain their Italian citizenship the same way?
Great! As long as your husband was born after January 1, 1948 he should be good to go for a consular application or an application in Italy.
If you guys were married prior to April 27, 1983 and he was born after 01/01/1948 you are already an Italian citizen too and can file your application for recognition with his, essentially.
Your children can apply at the same time he does, either at their own consular appointments (if adults) or under the umbrella of his (if under 18). Good luck!
My great great grandfather was born in 1884 Trapani Sicilia, Italy, my great grandfather was born 1914 in NYC, but my great grandfather was not naturalized until 1923. Am I qualified?
I should add my great grandfather’s wife was also born in sicily, married in NYC, gave birth to my great grandfather, and then was naturalized in 1923
If the info you provided is correct you indeed qualify and are actually already an Italian citizen, you just need for the government to formally recognize it. Congrats! If you are not a 1948 case you can apply directly via the consulates.
It is and this is good to know. I will look further into the documents I need to have when applying.
Both my parents were born and married in the same town in Italy. How do I obtain documents necessary to start the process for dual citizenship? I know the town name and region.
Do you read Italian? If so, go to http://www.pratiche.it and pay for an “estratto dell’atto di nascita” for each party and an “estratto dell’atto di matrimonio”. Alternatively, you can contact the comune in question via e-mail or snail mail. Which comune is it? I can dig up the info for you.
From what I’m reading, I do not think I qualify. My maternal grandfather came to America, from Sicily, at the age of 9. He was naturalized at the age of 23 at which time he was married and had two children, but did not have mother until a few years later.
Ah, but you may!
There is a cool loophole here which may apply in your case. IF your grandfather was married to an American-born woman, then she would have automatically become an Italian citizen upon marriage to him. And–even better–her Italian citizenship she got from marriage would survive even if his own Italian citizenship was lost when he became an American. Then, she could pass on her Italian citizenship to your mom.*
*Keep in mind, though, that if your mom was born prior to January 1, 1948, then she would be a 1948 case.
Hi. My husband’s great-grandfather was born in San Giovanni, Italy in 1889. He immigrated to USA in 1906. I have a copy of his “declaration of intention” paperwork submitted in 1917. I also have a copy of his “petition for naturalization” dated 1919. The “petition for naturalization” paperwork lists 3 children and their year of births are 1914, 1916, 1918. Does my husband qualify for dual citizenship in Italy? I’m so confused lol! If we moved to Italy, where do I fit into this picture? Also, curious about our adult children (30, 27, 22)…would they then qualify for citizenship as… Read more »
If one of those children born in 1914, 1916, and 1918 is your husband’s direct ancestor then yes, he qualifies (and so do your kids)! And if you guys were married prior to April 27, 1983, you automatically got Italian citizenship at the time of your marriage to your husband too.
My sister and I are interested in obtaining dual citizenship. Our father was born in Pratola Peligna in 1953 and moved to the US when he was 7 years old. Our paternal grandfather surprisingly was born in the US but returned to Pratola at the age of 5 after his father died of the Spanish Flu in at the age of 30. Maternal grandparents were also born in Pratola Peligna. Do we qualify? Thank you.
You might! Your case might need further examination, though. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m about to start my journey to dual citizenship! My grandmother was born in Lecce, Italy in 1924. Came to America by way of Ellis Island in 1946 then on to San Antonio, TX. She never became a naturalized US citizen. My father was born in 10/1948 in San Antonio.
We still have a very close relationship with our family in Italy and we speak the language fairly well.
I believe I do qualify for dual citizenship? Will my 14 year old daughter also qualify for citizenship as well?
Yes, she will! And if you apply before she turns 18, she can even piggyback off your application.
My husbands grandfather was born in Italy and I can see on Ancestry that he applied for Naturalization Dec.1944. When my husband gets a dual citizenship can my children and I apply as well?
As long as your husband is eligible, yes, you can!
Depending on when you were married you may already be an Italian citizen. What is your date of marriage?
I was asked to look into dual citizenship by my cousins because I do genealogy. Need to ask someone well versed in the citizenship part. So far I cannot see a way. Hoping there is a loop hole. My 1st cousin’s father was born here in 1924. His father Nicola was born 15 SEP 1892 • Casacalenda, Campobasso, Molise, Italy. He came to the US in 1909; applied for citizenship in 1917; granted citizenship in March 1920; married in November 1920 Italian Citizen (Can’t locate a naturalization for her) who came to NY with her cousin Aug 1920 (married) in… Read more »
Yes, it would! But in this case, the applicant would be considered a 1948 case. See here: https://getitaliancitizenship.com/1948-case-italian-citizenship/
Essentially, Italian women who married American men prior to September 22, 1922 automatically became American along with them. The same is true if they married an Italian man who became American prior to this date. Either way, if/when their husband was/became American, they did so too (as long as they married before September 22, 1922).
This automatic naturalization of women has long been considered unconstitutional in Italian courts. This leaves you guys wide open for a 1948 case. Congrats!
Hi I have a question: I am applying for dual citizenship my maternal grandfather was born in Italy 1922, naturalized 1955 after the birth of my mother (born in the USA) 1951. I have all my documentation… however I’m having a hard time getting my fathers birth certificate (he’s alive, born in NY). I have my parent’s marriage certificate and my mothers birth certificate (she is the in-line relative) I have every other document, apostilled and translated -grandfathers birth certificate, naturalization, marriage certificate, death certificate -grandmothers birth certificate, marriage certificate (to my grandfather) -mothers birth certificate, marriage certificate -my birth… Read more »
Hi – Hoping you can help offer some guidance. We’re looking to obtain citizenship for my dad (and his brothers) first. His Great-grandparents were both born in Italy (Around 1890’s). His grandfather was born in Italy in 1904 and naturalized in the US in 1936. He married my dad’s grandmother (who was born in the US to Italian born parents) – I don’t know yet what year they were married but believe it was before he naturalized. Additionally, my dad’s dad was born in Italy in 1929, married an American in 1954, had my dad in 1956 and naturalized in… Read more »