So you want to become an Italian citizen?
Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Here at Get Italian Citizenship, that’s literally all we do. Day in and day out we’re busy helping people just like you become citizens of Italy. Since 2005, we’ve gotten Italian passports for hundreds of clients. But the purpose of this post is not to sell you anything at all.
I will be totally frank, I’m practically evangelical about the benefits of becoming an Italian citizen. I want you to pursue this even if you never become one of our clients because I truly believe that everyone who qualifies can and should get an Italian passport.
In this post, I’ll give you all my insider knowledge and tell you everything you need to know about how to become an Italian citizen. I’ll arm you with all the information you need–totally for free–so that you can get an Italian passport via your heritage.
So grab a slice (or two) of pizza, put on some Sinatra, and get your notepad ready. It’s time to talk Italian dual citizenship.
What is Italian dual citizenship anyway?
Jure sanguinis. Dual citizenship. Citizenship by descent.
However you say it, it’s all the same thing.
And it all started over a hundred years ago.
Much like today, Italy was worried about how many of its citizens were emigrating abroad. By the turn of the century, hundreds of thousands of Italians left for the New World in search of a better life.
Faced with this loss of people, what was Italy to do? Italy of course wanted its emigrants to maintain ties with the old country, so the government decided to make citizenship laws that would allow them (and their descendants) to stay connected to their roots.
And so, law number 555 of 1912 was born. You can read more about it here.
Though not the oldest Italian citizenship law, it’s the one which pretty much governs all that we do regarding Italian dual citizenship services.
This particular law is so important for one reason: it specifies that anyone born to an Italian parent is an Italian citizen at birth. In other words, if a child is born to an Italian parent, that child is automatically an Italian too.
Well, it actually gets cooler. Perhaps alone in the world, Italy took it one step further.
In Italy, there are no limits to qualifying for Italian citizenship. That is to say, as long as that first Italian parent successfully passes down citizenship to that first child, Italian citizenship keeps getting passed on forever.
Let me give you an example:
Mario was born in Italy in 1902. He comes to the U.S. in 1920, finds a nice girl, and gets married to her in 1924. Two years later, their child Francesco is born in New York. Then, two years after that, Mario becomes an American citizen. In doing this, Mario loses his own Italian citizenship. But, because Francesco was born when Mario was still an Italian citizen, Francesco (and all of his children, and their children later on) is eligible for Italian dual citizenship!
Monkeys in a barrel—no, really
Think of this whole thing as a game of Monkeys in a Barrel. Remember those cute little plastic monkeys? How one monkey has to latch onto the next monkey so they don’t all fall?
Italian citizenship works in much the same way.
The first monkey (ahem, ancestor) “latches” onto the first child, who then latches on to his child, and so on and so forth.
In this manner, Italian citizenship is passed down over an unlimited number of generations. That’s how even if your last Italian-born ancestor may be 2, 3, 4 or more generations removed, you may still qualify.
It’s also how you can qualify even if you are not 100%, 50%, or even 25% Italian. And, furthermore, it’s also how you can be eligible even if each single generation never seeks recognition of Italian dual citizenship. The dual citizenship passes down whether or not you seek official recognition.
The key takeaway here is this: when you want to become an Italian citizen, remember that you only need just one qualifying ancestor. Once your single ancestor qualifies, the citizenship just gets passed down on its own automatically. Then, of course, it’s up to you to seek recognition.
Requirements for qualification
Figuring out if you qualify will involve knowing some key details about your family. Before you can discern eligibility, you’ll want to know certain dates and places. In order to qualify you must meet all criteria below.
When was your ancestor alive?
Before this date, there was no such thing as Italy.Therefore, in order for your ancestor to have passed down Italian citizenship, s/he must have been alive after this date.
When, if at all, did your ancestor become an American citizen?
If your ancestor ever became an American citizen: it’s critical you know the date. In order for you to qualify, the date of naturalization must satisfy two criteria: 1) It must have occurred after June 14, 1912 and also 2) after the birth of your ancestor’s child.If your ancestor never became an American citizen: it is more than likely you qualify (as long as you meet the other criteria).
Was your ancestor from Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, or Trentino Alto Adige?
If your ancestor was from any of these regions, she or he must have left Italy after July 16, 1920.
Are there women in your direct line?
Italy has special rules for those descended from Italian women. We’ll discuss them below in their own section.
Italian dual citizenship via maternal descent
Before January 1, 1948, Italian women could not pass on citizenship to their children except for the following situations:
- If the children’s father was dead, missing, unknown, or stateless, or
- If the father’s own foreign citizenship did not automatically pass on to the children.
Therefore, if you have any women in your direct line of citizenship you must be aware of when they had their children.
If the children were born after January 1, 1948, you can proceed as normal with your Italian dual citizenship application. This would involve going to the Italian consulate and getting an appointment like everyone else.
But if the children were born before that date, you must either try and qualify through a male relative or if you don’t have any other path to qualification, you can sue the Italian government.
In 2009, there was a landmark case in the Italian courts which basically called this “rule” for what it is: discrimination. However, this ruling has not yet become law. Therefore, anyone who otherwise qualifies but cannot apply through normal channels due to this 1948 rule must sue the Italian government for recognition. In order to do this, you hire a firm (such as ours) to represent you in court. You do not need to go to Italy, and an unlimited number of family members can join your lawsuit.
Documents required to obtain Italian dual citizenship
In order to apply for your Italian citizenship, you will need to recreate your family tree. This is done by obtaining various birth, marriage, death, and other records to show a continuous “chain” of citizenship.
As a general rule, you’ll need the following:
You’ll need your Italian-born ancestor’s birth, marriage, and death records. You will also need his or her naturalization records or proof that s/he never actually naturalized.
You will need all birth, marriage, death, and divorce records for each generation between you and your last Italian-born ancestor.
You’ll also need the following:
Every record you have that’s not in Italian will need to be translated into Italian. Anyone who speaks Italian can do these translations, but we recommend hiring a professional.
With the exception of your naturalization paperwork, each non-Italian document must be legalized. This legalization serves to make the document eligible for use by Italian officials. Int the industry, this legalization is called an “apostille.” Apostilles can be obtained by the Secretary of State which issues each single document.
Where to apply
You really only have three choices here: in Italy, at your Italian consulate (if you live outside Italy), and through the courts.
Applying in Italy
If you live in Italy, you file your application at the ufficio di stato civile or the ufficio cittadinanza in the town (comune) where you hold residency. There is usually no fee for applying in Italy, but you may have to purchase a 16 euro tax revenue stamp (marca da bollo) to put on your application.
Additionally, there are usually no wait times to apply in Italy. Once you are a resident, you may apply for citizenship the very next day.
Applying at an Italian consulate
Most people apply at the Italian consulate. There are 10 Italian consulates in the US (find yours here).
To apply at the consulate, you must first obtain an appointment. At the time this blog post is written, appointments are given 2-3 years in the future, but in the past there have been times where consulates were showing 10 year waits. Wait times for appointments can vary wildly throughout the year, so our advice is to get an appointment now and then gather your documents.
There is a 300 euro fee to apply at an Italian consulate. Each person over the age of 18 must pay whether the application is successful or not.
Applying through the courts
If you fall under the 1948 rule, you must apply for Italian citizenship through the court system. You cannot apply directly in Italy or at your consulate.