In the past, there weren’t so many applicants. But with budget cuts, a greater interest in recognition of citizenship, and larger pools of applicants, gone are the days of stress-free applications. Each Italian consulate in the US processes almost 3,000 applications yearly. Today we’re a far cry from the situation 10+ years ago when people could mail in their applications!
The upswing in interest for Italian dual citizenship as well as the aforementioned budget cuts have made the situation difficult for stateside applicants. With tighter requirements, consulates turn away applicants for the most minor of discrepancies, and wait times have ballooned up to 10 years in some jurisdictions.
With this article, I’ll show you how it’s not only possible but actually preferable to cut out the consulate. I’ll tell you step by step how to apply for Italian citizenship in Italy, whether you work with us or DIY it.
There are a number of things you should do months in advance of arriving in Italy. Coming prepared will ensure a flawless application.
The first thing you want to do is have a completed application. This includes all birth, marriage and naturalization certificates for every direct line ancestor. Note that some towns require death certificates and divorce records even though this is not specified by Italian law.
Tip: Make sure to translate all of your non-Italian documents into Italian, and to apostille them. Without this, they won’t be accepted.
The second thing you will want to do is give yourself plenty of time (months) to contact your Italian town of choice. Ask them if they handle Italian dual citizenship applications and let them know you will be coming there to live in order to elect residency.
If your comune agrees, you can send over your documents for them to review. They’ll let you know if everything looks good and/or next steps. Rarely will a comune request non-line ancestor documents but giving yourself months of time in advance means you have the time to obtain them if necessary.
Tips: Be courteous! Don’t send over un-translated documents for their review. Remember, they speak Italian, so they’ll want to see your documents translated into Italian for review.
You’ll need a place to live in order to elect residency. You can expect to spend anywhere from 3-6 months in Italy (or beyond).
Be sure to find a place where a landlord will allow you to elect residency. Otherwise, you will waste time because you need residency to start your application.
Each town has their own requirements as to what document serves for residency. Some will only accept a valid rental contract (contratto d’affitto) while others will accept a declaration of hospi ctality (dichiarazione di ospitalità), or a rent-free lease document (comodato d’uso).
Some excellent resource for finding homes include:
Before arriving, make copies of your documents and your passport. You may need them while you apply for Italian dual citizenship in Italy.
You have two options for arriving in Italy:
This distinction is important. According to Circolare no. 32 del 13 giugno 2007, you need to show your date of entry into Italy. Normally, you would use the passport stamp upon entry into Italy for this purpose. However, if you fly into another Schengen country first (or come to Italy by land from another Schengen country), you will not have this stamp.
To remedy that, you must go to your questura (police precinct) within 8 days of your arrival to file a declaration of presence (dichiarazione di presenza).
This will serve as proof of your official entry into Italy.
As soon as possible after you arrive at your comune of choice, you will want to file for residency. To do this, you will go to the ufficio anagrafe of the town of choice and fill out the forms for residency using the information contained on your declaration of hospitality or your validated and filed rental contract.
Tip: your comune will ask for your codice fiscale. This is akin to a US social security number. You can obtain a codice fiscale either at your consulate if they offer that service, or at the Agenzia delle Entrate of your comune. Additionally, a codice fiscale number can be generated online (not official and only for use in a pinch) using your full name and information as it appears on your US passport.
Within 2 days, your name and information will be listed among the registry of residents in the Italian town, but this status will be pending.
They have up to 45 days to confirm that residency status, but will normally send an officer (vigile) to check much sooner. You will be visited by the vigile, who will check that you are living where you say you are.
This is an informal visit and you will be notified when your residency is confirmed. If you don’t receive notification, simply go to the ufficio anagrafe to check in person.
Once your residency is confirmed by the vigile visit, you can then go to the ufficio di stato civile or ufficio cittadinanza to hand in your birth, marriage and naturalization documents for Italian dual citizenship. The town officer will review your file and issue a receipt once everything is taken.
Tip: if you are staying longer than 90 days, you will need a permit to stay to keep yourself legal in Italy. Read our post here on how to obtain that.
The Italian town will then contact the consulate where you last lived (some towns will contact all the consulates under whose jurisdiction you have lived) to make sure that nobody in your family line has ever renounced his or her right to Italian dual citizenship. They will then transmit the results (known as the “attestato di non rinuncia”) back to the comune.
At that point, you are an official Italian citizen!
Your comune will then transcribe your records into their registry. You can then use these transcribed records to obtain your Italian passport and/or enroll in AIRE. Some Italian comuni will have the mayor issue a letter of citizenship, with which you can obtain registration in AIRE; then the Italian town will later transcribe your records so that you can obtain a passport. Not all Italian towns work in the same order.
You can in theory return to the United States at any time after you hand in your citizenship documents. If you wish to stay on in Italy, you can apply for a permesso di soggiorno in attesa della cittadinanza (permit to stay while awaiting citizenship) which we explained above. It can be renewed for however long as necessary while waiting for your Italian dual citizenship to be conferred.
Once you are back in the U.S. (and enrolled in AIRE) you can make an appointment for your passport. Alternatively, if you are still living in Italy, you can obtain your passport directly here at your local questura.
When I first tried to apply for Italian dual citizenship almost a decade ago, the New York consulate was at the time one of the most strict when it came to name discrepancies. I was summarily turned away despite having no other discrepancies besides my last name changing from “Di Falco” to “De Falco.” It seemed completely silly and arbitrary to me, and because I knew I was moving to Italy for school anyway, I resolved to apply in Italy. It was the best decision of my life.
Applying in Italy on your own requires time and patience but can be a worthwhile experience. Not only will you get to apply on your own terms in a town of your choice (rather than being stuck with the consulate of your jurisdiction) it can provide a unique experience for personal growth. As Italian Americans we are offered extremely generous heritage citizenship laws by Italy, so being able to live in Italy legally while obtaining citizenship is a great privilege.
Deciding to apply in Italy directly rather than go through the consulate can provide a life-changing experience beyond the practicality of obtaining a European passport.