Everyone applying for Italian dual citizenship must gather certain documents. There are precise rules to follow, and you must collect the documents in the proper format.
That said, there are many tips and tricks to getting everything you need as quickly and efficiently as possible (but remember, this is Italy we’re working with…). In this post, we’ll go over all the documents needed for Italian dual citizenship, as well as how and where to obtain them.
To put it simply, your claim to Italian citizenship depends 100% on your documents
As a rule, the goal of your application is to recreate your family tree. You do this by gathering birth, marriage, naturalization, and death records to show that you have a valid claim. Therefore, your entire application hinges on your ability to show that you descend from a qualifying ancestor and the documents for Italian dual citizenship you can actually obtain.
If it’s not in black and white, it does not bolster your claim
Many people e-mail our firm to ask questions about proving a claim to citizenship by DNA, family stories, or a biological parent who is not named on a birth certificate. The unfortunate truth is that Italy is not interested in DNA, family lore, or similar.
The rule for dual citizenship is this: if you can’t document it, it doesn’t count.
Therefore, it is imperative that you be able to show your claim in black and white through documentation. You must show up to your consular appointment with all the records you need. Additionally, those same records must be in the proper format (more on this below) otherwise they will not be accepted and you’ll have to come back at a later date.
Italian dual citizenship documents: the basic set you’ll need
For your last Italian-born ancestor
- His or her birth certificate (“estratto dell’atto di nascita”) from Italy;
- His or her marriage certificate. If married in Italy, no further legalization is required, but if married outside Italy, the document must be apostilled and translated;
- His or her death record plus translation and apostille.
For each ancestor in every generation between you and your last Italian-born ancestor
- All birth certificates plus translation and apostille;
- Any and all marriage certificates plus translation and apostille;
- All death records plus translation and apostille;
- Your birth certificate plus translation and apostille;
- Your marriage certificate plus translation and apostille;
- If you have minor children, their birth certificates plus translation and apostille.
Other ancillary documents you’ll need
- Divorce records for any divorces by you or someone else in your line.
- A certificate of no-appeal from the court issuing the final judgment in a divorce. This document may not formally exist at your court and the clerks might be confused. You simply need a certified letter stating the relevant judgment of divorce has had no appeal filed against the case.
- Marriage certificates/license applications for previous/other marriages for you or anyone else in your line.
- In rare cases, birth or death records for a spouse of someone in your line, when that spouse was not the parent of the next person in your line.
- Court records for any legal name change down by anyone in your line, including you.
- Adoption records for any adopted person in your line, including you.
- Non-direct line documents, such as birth records for your spouse, and all the spouses of your direct ancestors.
Remember: each consulate can ask for more or less documentation!
The above list is the bare minimum set of documents for Italian dual citizenship you will need per Italian law. So, don’t take it as gospel. Instead, use it as a starting point to research the exact documents your specific consulate will need.
This is because Italian law gives consulates a lot of leeway in terms of required documentation for Italian dual citizenship.
This means that each single consulate can require more or less documentation as they see fit. I cannot stress this enough: if you have any doubts, consult with your single consulate’s website to be sure of which documents they require. Some consulates like New York even have a very handy checklist for you to use in accordance with how many generations you go back for your Italian dual citizenship.
Naturalization records: what they are and how to get them
Many people have difficulty finding naturalization records for their Italian ancestor. This is because in the United States, there are 3 sources of naturalization records. They are:
- NARA, which has only naturalizations from federal courts, mainly between 1906 and sometimes in the 1950s.
- USCIS, which is part of Homeland Security (used to be called INS) and was establish in 1906. They have records of most naturalizations after 1905 including recent ones.
- County courts and local archives of records from county courts. These can be scattered throughout the county and have records from before 1906 as well as naturalizations from after that year that did not take place in federal court.
Remember to always request certified copies! NARA certified copies have a red ribbon, and county clerk-certified copies will have an original signature, a stamp, a seal, or similar. USCIS does not certify copies, so keep the envelope your USCIS records come in.
What if your ancestor never naturalized?
- USCIS Certificate of Non-Existence of Naturalization (colloquially known as a “CoNE”).
To receive a Certification of Non-Existence of a Naturalization Record, write an original written request and mail to the following address: USCIS Records Operations Branch, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, ATTN: Records Operations Branch, 1200 First Street NE MS 2202, Washington, D.C. 20529-2202
- Letter of No Record Found from the relevant National Archives (NARA). Simply ask them to do a search and then put in writing that they found nothing.
- No Record letter from the local county courthouse where your ancestor lived.
- Certified census from NARA for the census year immediately before and immediately after your American-born ancestor’s birth. They want to see your ancestor listed as an “alien” (notated by “Al”) or as “first papers” (notated by “Pa”). For example, if your father was born in the US in 1920 to an Italian father, the consulate will want the certified census from 1910 and 1930. Note that the census was based on self-reported information and thus can be incorrect. A census incorrectly stating your ancestor naturalized is not, in itself, grounds for denial of your request, particularly if you have all the other information indicating otherwise. You might be asked for additional documentation, though.
- You may also need to present an A-File (“alien file”) if your ancestor was alive during the 40s. This can be obtained from USCIS.
- If you have access to them, it’s nice to show your ancestor’s old Italian passport and their copy of an American green card.
Translations and apostilles
Where to get apostilles
An apostille is a separate sheet of paper that the Secretary of State attaches to your original vital record. Each state has their own format but they all follow this general template.
The apostille’s purpose is to certify the signature and seal on your original document, and to recognize it as valid for use in Italy. Without an apostille, the Italian government will not recognize your U.S. documents as valid.
You can obtain an apostille from the Secretary of State’s office of each separate state. Each state will only apostille documents from that state. So, if you have a document from New Jersey you can only get an apostille from New Jersey, etc.
To obtain apostilles, simply google “Apostille + the name of the state.” Ignore any professional services for apostilles (too expensive!) and go right to your state’s website. Hint: you’ll recognize it by the .gov extension.
On each state’s website there is a specific apostille order form. Simply fill it out, drop it into an envelope with your original document along with a check for the required fee, and send it off. The state will send back your document with the apostille attached on top.
Getting translations of your records into Italian
Obtaining translations can seem deceptively easy. The Italian government allows anyone who speaks Italian to translate your records for you. This means if you speak Italian, you can even translate them yourself. But here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The best translators will format your translations to look just like the originals. This makes it easier for consular officers to compare the Italian and English versions of your records in hand.
- Professional translations are not cheap. Expect to pay anywhere from $50-$70 per page.
- Translators should not translate the names of people (i.e. if your dad’s name was Frank, a translator shouldn’t put “Francesco” in Italian). Nor should they make corrections to incorrect information. What appears on your document, even if incorrect, must appear on the translation.
- When in doubt, your consulate should have a list of their approved translators that you can consult.
Where to get your various vital records
Italian birth and marriage certificates
Beyond the naturalization records, these are the most important documents for Italian dual citizenship. There are three ways to obtain your Italian ancestor’s records. They are:
- Hiring an Italian dual citizenship service provider to contact the comune (town) on your behalf and request the records for you. This is advantageous because most service providers/genealogists speak Italian and are familiar with how to request vital records in Italy.
- Writing or speaking to the comune on your own behalf. You can find the comune here from a list of 8,000 in Italy. From there, google the name of your comune plus the words “ufficio di stato civile” and you should come up with the address of where to write for the records. Many Italian towns still prefer snail mail!
- Using a service like pratiche.it where you can put in the information, make a payment, and receive the record.
Vital records from the United States
In the United States, the federal government does not distribute documents, indices, or identifying information for obtaining vital records. Here is an excellent resource with information on obtaining birth, marriage, death, and other records from each state.
Important!When requesting U.S. vital records, make sure you ask for “extended form” or “long form” copies. Otherwise they won’t be in the correct format.
What to do if your documents have discrepancies
Very few people can apply for Italian dual citizenship and have no discrepancies on their documents. Being that many of us are two, three or more generations removed from their last Italian-born ancestors, there are bound to be some mistakes along your paper trail.
So how do you resolve them?
There are a number of ways to do this. How you resolve your discrepancies will depend on a number of factors. This includes how bad the mistakes are, what documents they are on, what ways your state handles amendments, and what the consular officer wants from you.
One thing to keep in mind is that the consular officer is not trying to make your life hard. She or he simply wants to be sure that you are correctly representing your family line. If the consulate can track your paperwork, they can overlook minor discrepancies.
Remember: Even though with all the prep you’ve done it doesn’t feel like it, your appointment is the start of your process in the eyes of the consulates. They won’t deny you on documentation issues if you meet the requirements. Rather, they’ll tell you what “homework” you have (you can negotiate) and give you time to address it. Even for the most prepared cases, follow up is normal. They usually allow you to follow up via e-mail or mail.
All the ways you can fix discrepancies
If your consular officer asks that you fix your discrepancies, be sure to discuss options and come to an agreement in writing as to what needs to be done. Officers deal with hundreds of cases at any given time, so this not only helps them keep track, it also gives you a handy paper trail. Here are some of the most common ways to fix discrepancies on your documents.
Many foreigners actually changed their names on their naturalization records. On the oath document (completed when your ancestor actually naturalized), you might see something like “the person known as ABC is from here forward known as XYZ.”
These are documents that the consulate doesn’t necessarily require but that you can use to your advantage to connect name changes across documents and to confirm events and dates. These don’t need translations and apostilles because they won’t be registered in Italy. Nor do they need to be certified copies, but your officer can ask you to get a certified copy and send it in later. When in doubt, bring everything you think might be helpful, including but not limited to:
- Arrival records (ship manifests) can show when your ancestor arrived, with whom, from where, and where they were going.
- Name change documents. Sometimes our ancestors formally changed their names after the naturalization process.
- Census records are a wealth of information and are incredible resources for tracking families over time. If Francesco La Monte is listed with his wife and 2 children in 1920 but is shown as Frank Monte in 1930 with his wife and 2 children at the same address, then it’s definitely thre same person.
- Baptismal records. Sometimes, parents gave children baptismal names. In some families, a child would go by the baptismal name or use it as a middle name when they weren’t given one at birth. This can explain the mysterious adoption of a middle name later in life.
This process calls for changes at the state or county level without a court order. This occurs when you can prove a good enough reason for the amendments and have supporting documentation. In these cases, no legal intervention is necessary. Laws vary from state to state and county to county.
Additionally, there are different ways of amending documents. Sometimes, they’ll strike through the original information on the record and add in the new info. Other times, an entirely new record will be created. Others will add an “aka” to the document. All of these are valid methods.
There are two types of court-ordered corrections.
- Some states don’t allow anyone to amend a vital record without a court order. Other times they might only allow the person named on the record to request an amendment, making it impossible to amend records dealing with a deceased person. In these cases, you can take your claim to court with your documentation supporting the requested correction. The justification is that the state’s refusal to amend the record has caused you personal harm, in that you cannot claim Italian dual citizenship without it.
- One and the Same Order (or One and the Same Declaratory Judgment). This is a convenient way to deal with multiple discrepancies across a bunch of documents at once. Instead of petitioning the court one by one for each correction, you ask the judge to certify that they agree the person listed as A, B, and C with the birthdates of 1, 2, and 3 on such-and-such records is the same person who was born X, Y, and Z on date 4, 5, and 6. Once you have that certification, you can translate and apostille it.
- One and the Same Affidavit. This is the same as above, but instead of submitting it to the courts, you have a credible individual draft and sign an affidavit before a notary that states the person listed as A, B, C is the same as the person who was born as X, Y, Z. These affidavits are used only when done by the exact person in question. For example, if your dad used multiple names throughout his life, he can prepare this document. You can apostille and translate this.
Italian corrections, amendments, and certifications
You can obtain corrections, amendments, and certifications to cure discrepancies from Italy too. These are as follows:
- Positivo/Negativo. If you have discrepancies on U.S. documents compared with your Italian ancestor’s birth and/or marriage records, you can request a letter from their comune. The comune worker will attest that they are confident the person you identified in such-and-such U.S. record is the same as the person born in their city in Italy (positivo). They’ll also attest that they have not found anyone else born in that city by the names and birth dates found on the U.S. documents (negativo).
- Sworn Agreement of Concordance (Perizia Giurata di Concordanza). Akin to a One and the Same Person Judgment, you can present this document to a Justice of the Peace in the US or a Notary or lower court in Italy along with the documents in question, describing the discrepancies and asking the person to evaluate and agree that X and Y are the same person whose correct information is Z. The key to this document is that the Justice/Notary state that they take on the legal responsibility for this judgment. This is not something that you need a lawyer for, so it is a much less expensive option than going through the courts for a One and the Same Person Judgment. This document will need to be written in or translated to Italian.
Putting it all together and making sure you have everything
Before going to your consular appointment, do you have…
- All Italian records for your Italian-born ancestor?
- Proof of your ancestor’s naturalization (or proof of non-naturalization)?
- Birth, marriage, and death records for everyone else in “long form” or “extended form”?
- Any documents you’ll use to “cure” your discrepancies?
- Name change documents, adoption records, divorces, etc.?
- Translations and apostilles?