Dual U.S. – Italian Citizenship
European Passports for Americans of Italian Descent
If you are Italian American, you may qualify for dual US Italian citizenship. Italian citizenship law is based on the principle of jure sanguinis. This means that Italian parents pass on citizenship to their children regardless of the place of birth. This system was designed to strengthen the bond between children of the Italian diaspora abroad and their country of origin, Italy.
According to Article 7 of Law no. 555 of 1912, children born to Italians in a foreign country which follows the jure soli system can retain Italian citizenship acquired at birth, even if his or her parent subsequently loses his or her own citizenship.
Therefore, any child born in a jure soli country (such as the United States) to an Italian parent is both automatically an Italiancitizen and an American citizen at birth.
The conditions required for recognition of Italian citizenship are based on:
- Proof that they are descended from an Italian citizen; and
- Proof that the transmission of Italian citizenship from parent to child was not interrupted by naturalization as a citizen of another country (in this case, the United States) before the birth of the child.
As an Italian citizenship service provider, I assist Americans of Italian descent to obtain dual US Italian citizenship and can help you, too.
What Is Jure Sanguinis?
As I mentioned above, Italian citizenship law is based on the principle of jure sanguinis. This is a Latin term meaning “by right of blood,” to be contrasted with the American “jure soli” system (Latin for “by right of the soil”). Anyone with a qualifying Italian ancestor can seek recognition of Italian citizenship.
Under the principle of jure sanguinis, anyone of Italian descent can claim citizenship as long as they qualify. What’s more, the applicant is considered a citizen from birth. Therefore there is no language test and no pledge of allegiance. In fact, the applicant is not really “applying” at all. She or he is simply asking for legal recognition of a citizenship s/he has held since birth.
No Generational Limits to Italian Citizenship
The interesting thing about Italian citizenship is that it passes down uninterrupted across generations. As long as your last Italian-born ancestor had not yet become an American citizen by the time his/her child was born, then the citizenship gets passed down forever. This is why there are no generational limits and you can claim Italian citizenship even if you are 2, 3, or even 4 (or more) generations removed.
Also, each intermediate ancestor does not have to claim citizenship before you can. For example, if you are applying for dual US Italian citizenship based on your Italian grandfather, your parent does not have to claim Italian citizenship before you do. Any descendant can claim citizenship at any time, as long as they qualify.
Proving Your Claim to Dual US Italian Citizenship
In order to claim your citizenship you must prove you are eligible to the satisfaction of the Italian government. To do this, you must provide birth, marriage, death, and naturalization records to reconstruct your family tree.
You will also need to translate your records into Italian and get them legalized with an apostille certification.
You may do this on your own or you can hire a firm like ours to help. Our fees for document procurement range from $3,000 to $7,500. The more generations you go back, the more expensive your application.
4 Rules to Qualify for Italian Citizenship
There are four main rules to remember. You must meet all of them in order to qualify:
- Your last Italian-born ancestor must have been alive, anywhere in the world, after March 17, 1861—the date of Italian unification.
- If your ancestor ever became an American citizen it must have been both after July 1, 1912 and after the birth of his/her child. However, if your ancestor never became an American citizen, you should normally automatically qualify.
- If you have women in your direct line, their children must have been born after January 1, 1948.
- If your ancestor came from Trentino Alto Adige, s/he must have emigrated after July 16, 1920.
Paths to Claiming Italian Citizenship
The most common paths to dual US Italian citizenship are as follows:
Italian Citizenship through Parents
Case #1: Your father was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth and you never renounced your right to claim Italian citizenship.
Case #2: Your mother was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth and you never renounced your right to claim Italian citizenship.
Italian Citizenship through Grandparents
Case #3: Your parent was born in the United States after January 1, 1948, your grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of his or her birth, and neither you nor your parent renounced the right to claim Italian citizenship.
Case #4: Your parent was born in the United States, your grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his or her birth, and neither you nor your parent renounced the right to claim Italian citizenship.
Italian Citizenship through Great Grandparents
Case #5: Your grandfather was born in the United States, your great grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither you nor your father or your grandfather ever renounced the right to have Italian citizenship.
The “1948 Rule”
You will notice above that I specified the date January 1, 1948. This is a watershed moment in Italian history because it’s the date Italy’s modern constitution came into effect.
Before this date, women could not pass on Italian citizenship to their children unless the father was unknown, missing, stateless, or his own foreign citizenship did not pass on automatically to the children.
Therefore if you have women in your direct line, their children must have been born on or after January 1, 1948 for you to claim dual US Italian citizenship through the normal channels, i.e. at the consulate or directly in Italy.
If you have women in your direct line whose children were born before this date, you must file what is known as a “1948 case.” This involves an Italian attorney petitioning the government on the basis that this law is discriminatory towards women. Since 2009, thousands of people have successfully obtained Italian citizenship through 1948 cases.
Before August 15, 1992, all Italian citizens that naturalized as U.S. citizens automatically lost their Italian citizenship without formally renouncing it.
Once you are sure you are eligible you will need to prove it. This involves collecting a number of documents (vital records such as birth, marriage, death, and other records) to recreate your family tree. Then, you hand these documents into your local Italian consulate. After that, they have up to 24 months to process your application though timeframes for Italian citizenship vary.
Most consulates will require:
Your birth, marriage, and divorce records translated into Italian and apostilled. For your children under 18 (if applicable), get their birth certificates as well (plus translations and apostille).
For Your Parents
Your parents’ birth, marriage, divorce records translated into Italian and apostilled. If your parent(s) has/have died, obtain death records plus translation and apostille as well.
For Your Grandparents
Your birth, marriage, and divorce records translated into Italian and apostilled. Fort those whose grandparent was born in Italy, you’ll also need his/her naturalization record.
If you go back more generations, you simply have to repeat the document process for each one.
Getting the Appointment
For a few years now, the Italian consulates have used an online system called “Prenota.” You can sign up on the your consulate’s website. There, you will put in all of your information and consult a calendar with open dates.
Dual US Italian citizenship is very popular, so the dates you want may not be available. Don’t worry! If you can’t find dates you can keep checking until you get the ones you want. Alternatively, if you find the wait too long you can skip the consulate altogether and apply for dual Italian citizenship in Italy. If you can’t make the trip, there are ways to speed up your Italian citizenship processing times.
Want to obtain dual US Italian citizenship but don’t know where to start? Not to worry… we can help! Get Italian Citizenship has assisted people in obtaining Italian passports since 2005. We offer comprehensive a la carte and full service packages. Don’t hesitate; contact us today!