As an Italian citizenship service provider, I am always preoccupied with ensuring my clients’ successful applications. But it occurred to me that I hardly ever talk about how I got my own Italian citizenship! Maybe some of you would like to read it so you can put a face to the name, so to speak.
So, that’s what I’ll be doing today: I’ll talk about how I figured out I qualified for Italian dual citizenship, how and where I applied, how long it took me to get my citizenship, and how you can apply too.
I figured out I was eligible thanks to speaking Italian
When I was growing up, I was really proud of my Italian heritage. My Italian grandparents lived a block away and I learned how to speak Sicilian at a young age from them. When I was 10, I decided to start learning Standard Italian. Until then, I thought that Sicilian and Italian were the same thing!
In high school, I used my language skills to start working as a freelance translator. I didn’t have many clients and most of them came to me from word of mouth. But one day I was translating American birth certificate into Italian and got intrigued. My client was using it to apply for Italian dual citizenship, something I had never heard about before.
Immediately, I wanted to research the subject further. I looked for all the information I could find online about it and somehow or other figured out I, too, was eligible. This was back in 2004, so there wasn’t a lot of information out there.
The odyssey of collecting documents
As luck would have it, my grandpa was super proud of becoming American. He kept a framed copy of his US naturalization certificate on the wall. That was my first step into gathering my Italian dual citizenship documents and immediately let me know that I was eligible.
Then, I set about gathering the rest of everything: grandma’s birth certificate, my grandparents’ marriage certificate, mom and dad’s birth and marriage certificates, etc. Because I was just a high schooler living in NY, I couldn’t get the original records in person from Sicily… though I sure would have loved to!
I wrote my grandparents’ comuni (towns) a letter, dropped it in the mail and waited.
All in all, it took me a few years to gather everything. It usually takes much less time, but this was the first application I ever did! I also found some long lost relatives in Villafrati, a small town in Sicily but that’s a story for another blog post.
My NYC Italian consulate experience
It was not good.
But let me tell you why…
When I finally had gathered everything, I made an appointment with the Italian consulate. Back in those days, the consulates just stopped allowing you to mail in your application! Can you imagine how much easier it was back then? People could drop their documents in the mail and send them to the consulate. And the consulate even did translations for you!
Unfortunately by the time I was ready they had stopped doing this. Nevertheless, it was still much easier to get an appointment back then than it is now. Even though you had to call a paid number to make an appointment, you could potentially be seen in a matter of months.
When I showed up to my appointment I was confident I had everything I needed.
Original records? Check.
I went over everything with a fine-toothed comb and was absolutely convinced I’d be given my citizenship without questions.
Buuuuut… I was wrong.
Unfortunately, there was a one-letter discrepancy between my grandfather’s original Italian last name and how it’s spelled today (Di Falco versus De Falco). The consular worker placed a neatly manicured finger down on my stack of paperwork and said, “Signorina. Le discrepanze sono troppe. Le devi aggiustare prima di fare la domanda di cittadinanza.” (Miss, the discrepancies are too great. You have to fix them before applying for citizenship).
Uh, what? It was one letter! How could she go into such a tizzy over that? The consular worker (whose name escapes me) spent a good 5 minutes ranting about people coming unprepared and about how she wasn’t sure that I was even eligible since the name discrepancy put into doubt that he was even my grandfather. It was crazy! I eventually left the office feeling so demoralized, but I had a backup plan anyway.
I knew I was going to study in Italy
By the time I had tried to file my citizenship application I was also filing for a student visa. So, knowing that I was going to eventually live in Italy and being able to speak Italian I figured I could “arrangiarmi” (Italians love this term–it’s the art of getting by using the resources at hand) and finagle an application somehow directly in Italy. At that time, hardly any Americans were applying in Italy but I figured where there was a will, there was a way.
After settling into my new home in Italy, I applied for residence. The vigile (officer) came to my home and I offered him coffee. It was all really informal and pleasant, which I took as a good omen to continue my citizenship application.
Some weeks later I went to the ufficio di stato civile and asked about applying for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis. The nice lady at the front desk told me to take a number and speak to Mr. Bevilacqua.
When I was called, I went to the back office where I shook his hand and sat down. Together we went over everything I had. I was bracing for the worst but hoping for the best given how horribly my application in NY had gone. But he looked at everything and didn’t say a peep!
“What about the discrepancy?” I asked.
“What discrepancy?” he responded. “Oh! You mean the one letter? Di Falco to De Falco?” He chucked, glancing up from the paperwork. “You should see the doozies we get here. We’ve never had a person from the U.S. apply here before. Everyone who comes here is from South America, and they apply with Italian last names spelled out using Spanish pronunciation! One letter is nothing.”
He gave me a receipt, shook my hand again, and said the next time I’d hear from him I would be an Italian citizen. It was literally that easy and I learned a cool fact that I’m still proud of this day: I was the first person ever from the United States to apply for citizenship in Reggio Emilia, Italy!
Two months and twenty-one days later
I opened my mail to find the letter I’d been waiting for.
I was in! After a wait of 2 months and 21 days, I became an officially recognized Italian dual citizen. The wait was worth it and heck, even dealing with NY was worth it. Otherwise, I would have never tried to apply in Italy and I probably would have waited a longer time to become an Italian citizen!
Getting Italian dual citizenship literally changed my life. Not only was I able to move to Italy (something I always wanted to do), I also discovered my life’s passion! My own dual citizenship allowed me to open my company and help hundreds of clients become Italian citizens, too. If you enjoyed reading how I got Italian dual citizenship and want an Italian passport of your own, I can help! Contact me for more information.