If you’ve clicked on this post, you’ve probably asked yourself the question “Do I qualify for Italian dual citizenship?” Well, the good news is that your grandparents may have passed down much more than just an awesome recipe for sauce. They may have actually passed down Italian dual citizenship to you!
But even if your Italian ancestry is more distant than your grandparents, you might still be eligible! You can actually qualify for Italian dual citizenship if your great grandparent, great great grandparent, or even further back was Italian. As long as you can answer a few simple questions, you can determine whether or not you qualify.
In this post, I’ll walk you step by step through the process of determining eligibility. Since 2005, I’ve helped hundreds of people become Italian citizens –this is what I do day in and day out.
But first, I’ll explain what Italian dual citizenship actually is.
What is Italian dual citizenship?
It’s really as simple as it sounds. Italian dual citizenship means having your native-born citizenship (such as US) and Italian citizenship at the same time. The United States and Italy both allow dual citizenship, so you’re free to hold passports from both countries. If you’d like to know more about traveling on an Italian passport, we have a nifty page here chock full of good tidbits of information.
Do I have to be American to figure out if I’m eligible through this post?
Absolutely not. Our company helps people from all over the world qualify and apply for Italian dual citizenship. Australians can be Italian dual citizens. So can Canadians, Mexicans, Argentines, Brazilians, and anyone else born in a jure soli country. But don’t worry about that term just yet. I’ll explain it in the next two paragraphs.
Italian citizenship is based on the principle of “jure sanguinis”
Jure sanguinis is a Latin term meaning “by right of the blood.” This means that Italian citizenship is passed from parent to child. In other words, any child born to an Italian parent is automatically an Italian citizen.
Compare this system to the one that we have in the US, jure soli. In Latin, jure soli means “by right of the soil.” Therefore, anyone born in the United States is automatically an American citizen regardless of who his or her parents are. Conversely, this is not the case for Italian citizenship. Simply being born in Italy is not enough to be an Italian citizen. As we discussed above, you must have at least one Italian parent to be entitled to Italian citizenship at birth.
Italian citizenship is passed down across generations
If you don’t have an Italian parent (but you have an Italian grandparent, great grandparent, or great great grandparent), you’re probably wondering “well, do I qualify for Italian dual citizenship or not?”
The good news is you probably do. Let me explain.
According to Italian law, Italian citizenship is passed down from one generation to another in a never-ending chain, as long as the chain is not broken and you meet all the requirements. And the only thing that could possibly break the chain is naturalization (becoming an American citizen).
So, if you have an Italian-born ancestor who was still an Italian citizen at the time of his or her child’s birth, you more than likely qualify through that Italian ancestor. Italian dual citizenship will have passed down from one generation to another, just waiting to be recognized. This is how people two, three, or even four generations removed from Italy qualify for Italian dual citizenship.
In fact, if you qualify you’ve actually been a citizen since birth. Going through the process of obtaining your citizenship is simply asking the Italian government to legalize a status you already possess.
A practical example of someone who qualifiesJohn was born in New York in 1989. His dad William was also born in New York in 1954. William’s dad Francesco (John’s grandfather) was born in Italy in 1920. Francesco became an American citizen in 1960, four years after William’s birth. Because Francesco was an Italian citizen at the time of William’s birth, both William and John qualify for Italian dual citizenship.
As you can see, John above qualifies because there was an unbroken chain of Italian dual citizenship passed down from generation to generation. But what about someone who doesn’t qualify?
A practical example of someone who doesn’t qualifyMarie is John’s cousin. She was born in New York in 1987. Her father James was born in New York in 1961, seven years after his brother William was born. Francesco (Marie’s and John’s grandfather) was born in Italy in 1920, and became an American citizen in 1960. Because Francesco lost his Italian citizenship and became American one year before James’ birth, neither James nor Marie qualify for Italian dual citizenship..
Unfortunately, Marie doesn’t qualify because Francesco’s naturalization before the birth of his child “breaks” the chain. Marie will have to figure out if she qualifies through another relative.
Before you ask–no, you don’t have to speak Italian. And no, you don’t have to be a certain percentage Italian to qualify.
If you are eligible, this is your birthright! You do not need to pass any Italian language exam. In the same vein, if you qualify, you qualify… no matter how much (or how little) Italian heritage you have. The law is very clear on this.
But wait, there are other rules to qualifying!
Depending on your family situation, qualifying for an Italian passport can be as simple as we described above. However, there are other rules to keep in mind when answering the question “do I qualify for Italian dual citizenship?”
You’ll have to keep in mind the following factors before you can truly figure out your eligibility.
So do I qualify for Italian dual citizenship or not?
See if you can answer the below questions to figure out your eligibility.
On this date, Italy became a unified country. Before this time, there was no such thing as the country of Italy as we know it today. If your ancestor was born in most parts of what we now call Italy and was alive on this date, s/he automatically gained Italian citizenship. Therefore, if your Italian-born ancestor died before this date, s/he was never actually Italian and could not have passed on Italian citizenship.
As long as your ancestor was still an Italian citizen when his or her child was born, you may qualify. This means that it’s okay if your ancestor became an American citizen; it just must have occurred sometime after the birth of his or her child
This is an important date to remember. On July 1, 1912, Italy’s modern citizenship laws came into effect. If your ancestor became an American before this date and lost Italian citizenship, s/he would not have been able to pass it down to a child, even if the child was born before the loss of Italian citizenship. This is a hard cut off date, so be sure to look carefully when checking naturalization records.
On January 1, 1948, Italy adopted its modern Constitution. Before this date, women could not pass on citizenship to their children. There are two exceptions: 1) when the father was missing, deceased, or unknown, and 2) when the father’s own foreign citizenship did not automatically pass down to the children. Therefore, if you have any women in your direct line between you and your last Italian-born ancestor, you cannot apply for citizenship through the normal channels. More about this below.
What if my ancestor never became an American citizen?
If your Italian ancestor never became an American citizen, it’s almost certain that you qualify. As long as you meet the other established criteria (and can prove no naturalization occurred), you’re eligible.
What if my female ancestor had her child before January 1, 1948?
Not to worry. There’s hope for you if you fall into this category!
Even though you don’t technically qualify under current Italian law, you can still apply. The reason is because since 2009, Italian courts have ruled the law barring women from passing down citizenship before 1948 unconstitutional. That means it can be challenged (and won) in court. Thousands of people have done this and continue to do this every year.
To do this, you must hire an Italian attorney (or a firm like ours) to represent you. The good news is that you do not need to be present in Italy. And even better, an unlimited number of family members can join your case at the same time.
For more information about these so-called 1948 cases, click here.
I figured out that I qualify. How do I apply?
You’ll either have to apply at an Italian consulate in the country where you live or directly in Italy.
Essentially, Italy wants you to apply where you have your permanent residence. If that’s in the US, find the Italian consulate which services your location. If that’s in Italy, it’ll be at the comune (town) where you officially live.
You can only apply through the courts when you fall under the “1948 case” categories above or you’d like to challenge the Italian government if your wait time for a consular appointment is more than 24 months intothe future. You may also be able to sue the Italian government and apply via the courts if you cannot obtain an Italian consulate appointment at all.
What documents will I need?
In order to apply, you have to recreate your family tree. This involves various documents such as birth, death, marriage, and naturalization records.
You must obtain certified copies of the following vital records:
- Your Italian ancestor’s birth certificate.
- Your Italian ancestor’s marriage certificate.
- Birth certificates for you, your parents, and everyone in a direct line between you and your Italian ancestor.
- Marriage certificates for you, your parents, and everyone else in a direct line between you and your Italian ancestor.
- Death records for anyone in your direct line, inclusive of your Italian ancestor (and if applicable).
- Name change documents and/or amendments if your documents show discrepancies in names, places, and dates.
Additionally, all non-Italian documents must be translated into Italian. Finally, every non-Italian document must be legalized with an apostille.
Note: if you apply in Italy, you most likely will not need divorce records and death records. When you apply at a consulate, they will most likely require these records. Italian consulates have a lot of leeway over what documents they accept, so they may require more documentation than the ones stated above. Some consulates will require both direct line and non-direct line documents, i.e. if your Italian ancestor is your dad, they may also require your mom’s birth certificate.
How long does it take to get Italian dual citizenship?
Once your application is handed in, it can take up to 24 months for processing. If you apply in Italy, timeframes are drastically reduced and you can expect to be done with everything in 12 months or less (assuming everything goes right, of course!).
I don’t qualify. What do I do if I still want Italian dual citizenship?
If you don’t qualify but still have Italian ancestry, there are other options for you.
- You can naturalize as an Italian citizen. After 10 years of living in Italy (if you are not of Italian descent), you can become officially Italian by taking the oath to become a citizen. However, if you are of Italian descent (up to grandparents) and otherwise don’t qualify for citizenship by descent for any reason, you only need to live in Italy for 3 years before you can seek Italian citizenship by naturalization.
- Citizenship by marriage. If you are married to an Italian citizen, you can elect to hold dual Italian citizenship. Italian citizenship by marriage takes 48 months to complete. If you live in Italy, you must be married for 2 years before you can apply, and 3 years if you live together outside Italy. These wait times are cut in half if you have children under 18.
Still confused and can’t answer the question, “do I qualify for Italian dual citizenship?” Not to worry. We can help! At Get Italian Citizenship, Inc., we’ve helped hundreds of clients obtain their Italian passports and we can help you too! Simply contact us today for assistance.