All You Ever Wanted to Know about How to Get Italian Dual Citizenship
Let me state this up front: I’m on a mission to help people get Italian dual citizenship. I sincerely think that if you qualify, you should not pass up the opportunity to get your birthright recognized.
If you’ve come to this post, you’re probably wondering how to get Italian dual citizenship. There’s a lot of information online and, admittedly, some of it is hard to understand.
But not to worry–you’re in luck! I am one of the industry’s foremost experts and have made it my life’s work to help people just like you.
In this post, I’m going over everything you need to know about how to get Italian dual citizenship. We’ll discuss the background laws, how to qualify, how to apply, and what you can expect.
So that being said, let’s get started.
- All You Ever Wanted to Know about How to Get Italian Dual Citizenship
- The Benefits of Italian Dual Citizenship
- What to Know Before You Start
- Getting Started
- The Consulate Appointment
- Getting Your Passport
- Traveling as a Dual Italian Citizen
What Is Italian Dual Citizenship?
Simply defined, Italian dual citizenship means having both Italian citizenship and your native citizenship. It is known by a number of names: Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, Italian citizenship by blood, Italian citizenship by descent, and so on.
During the course of its modern history Italy has had a huge emigration problem. Between 1860 and 1885, more than 10 million Italians left the motherland in search of their fortunes elsewhere. They landed in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and elsewhere.
So what was Italy to do with this loss of revenue and manpower?
Italy decided to make laws favorable to Italians abroad. This would ensure that they and their children would always keep ties with the Old Country back home.
Law no. 555 of 1912
Enter Law no. 555 of 1912. According to Article 7 of this law, any child born to an Italian citizen is given Italian citizenship at birth. This law also establishes that Italian citizenship passes down from generation to generation without limit.
This law’s purpose was to ensure that even when abroad, Italians maintained a close relationship with their home country by passing on citizenship to their descendants.
It is a common misconception that you can only have Italian dual citizenship if you parents are Italian. But, this is not the case. Because there are no generational limits, people who have Italian grandparents, great grandparents, and even great great grandparents and further may still be eligible.
Furthermore – and perhaps most interestingly – if you qualify for Italian dual citizenship, you’re actually already a citizen. Filing your application means you are simply asking Italy to recognize a status you already hold. Make no mistake: if you qualify, Italian dual citizenship is your birthright.
Jure Sanguinis vs. Jure Soli
No, those are not the names of deli sandwiches!
Jure sanguinis is a Latin term meaning “by right of blood.” Italy, like most of Europe, is a jure sanguinis country. That means most people obtain Italian citizenship because their parents are Italian.
Jure soli on the other hand is a Latin term meaning “by right of soil.” The United States, like most countries in the America and the New World, is a jure soli country. This means that anyone who is born in the United States is an American citizen, regardless of who their parents are.
Law no. 555 of 1912 establishes that one can be both a citizen of a country by jure soli and a country by jure sanguinis. Therefore, if you are American (or Canadian, Argentinean, Brazilian, Australian, etc.) by birth but Italian by descent, you may be entitled to both passports.
The Benefits of Italian Dual Citizenship
There are so many benefits to obtaining recognition of Italian citizenship. Perhaps that’s why I’m so passionate about helping people get their passports! Here are just some of them:
- The ability to live, work, and study in the European Union.
- Access to world class, affordable healthcare (Italy is ranked #3 in the world for healthcare).
- Affordable education for you and your children.
- Greater mobility than single passport holders.
- More and better employment prospects and the ability to cast a wider net.
- Protection from two embassies when you’re abroad.
- The ability to pass on Italian citizenship to your children.
Need I say more?
What’s more, Italy does not tax its citizens living abroad. Furthermore, the draft is abolished and has been for quite some time.
What to Know Before You Start
There are three key things to know before you start:
1. Italian dual citizenship is a marathon and not a race. Italian bureaucracy will probably test your patience! You might obtain different information from different official sources, you may encounter uncooperative Italian consulate workers, and you may have difficulty finding needed documents. But if you just keep the end goal in mind and chug along, you’ll sail through without being worse for the wear.
2. Be as organized as you can. Many people have to go two or more generations back. This means there will be a lot of documents to obtain. If you can be organized, you’ll find this process is not as daunting as it seems. Be organized and prepared and you can kung fu through any hurdles the Italian government throws your way.
3. We are incredibly lucky to have this opportunity. The barriers to entry for an Italian passport are very low. It doesn’t cost much, it doesn’t require an Italian language test, we only have to attend one meeting to hand in paperwork, and we don’t need to live in Italy (unless we want to apply directly in Italy). Compare this with how hard it is for Italians to get American citizenship! A little bit of perspective is good.
We have a whole comprehensive post on qualifying for Italian dual citizenship. But, the gift of it is the following. You’ll have to know the answers to the following questions:
When was your ancestor alive?
It does not matter when your Italian ancestor was born. However, they must have been alive – anywhere in the world – on or after March 17. 1861. Why? Well, Italy was not even a country before then. No Italy = no Italian citizenship.
Did your ancestor ever become an American citizen?
Any Italian citizen who gained a foreign citizenship before August 15, 1992 automatically lost Italian citizenship. If your ancestor lost Italian citizenship before being able to pass it on to their child, then you don’t qualify.
Therefore, if your ancestor ever became a naturalized citizen of a country other than Italy pay special attention to the date. Make sure of the following:
- If your ancestor did become American, the date of naturalization was after June 14, 1912. This is the date Law 555 came into effect.
- If your ancestor did become American, you ancestor’s date of naturalization must also have been after the birth of his or her child.
If your ancestor never naturalized, this means he or she never lost Italian citizenship and automatically qualify as long as you meet all other criteria.
Are there women in your direct line?
Italian law has at times been discriminatory towards women. Before January 1, 1948 Italian women could not pass on citizenship to their children except for very limited circumstances. This means that if you have women in your direct line of descent, the dates they had their children will determine how you apply for recognition of Italian dual citizenship.
- If a woman in your direct line had her child after January 1, 1948: You can apply through the normal channels. This would involve going to your Italian consulate appointment, or applying directly in Italy.
- If a woman in your direct line had her child before January 1, 1948: You cannot apply through the normal channels. You must hire an Italian attorney to petition the Court of Rome on your behalf, on the basis that this law is discriminatory.
Since 2009, more than a thousand people have successfully petitioned the courts for Italian citizenship via maternal descent. You do not need to go to Italy, but you still have to gather documents like everyone else. One benefit is you can add on an unlimited number of family members to your petition.
For more information about these so-called 1948 cases, click here.
Veneto, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, and Trentino Alto-Adige
These regions are part of Italy today but they were not officially part of Italy when the country was unified on March 17, 1861.
These regions were not automatically annexed to Italy at unification in 1861, so special rules pertain to those whose families come from these areas. Contact us for more information.
Here comes the part where you have to do everything as methodically as possible. Following these general guidelines will ensure your Italian dual citizenship application goes off as smoothly as possible.
Find Your Consulate
In the United States, there are Italian consulates in:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
- and one embassy in Washington, DC
Consult this list of Italian consulates to figure out which one is yours.
Make Your Appointment
Italian dual citizenship appointments go very quickly. Each consulate handles ~3,000 per year, so they are busy. Before doing anything else, make sure to get your appointment.
The consulates use an online system called Prenota Online. You will sign up and pick a date on the calendar. The calendar should look this like:
Appointments are completely free of charge. Note that they usually come out 2-3 years in advance, but at some points in the past consulates have given out appointments up to 10 years in advance.
For this reason, I always advise to go the “appointment first, documents later” approach. Once you’ve gotten your appointment it’s time to gather your documents.
Get Your Documents
Welcome to your first taste of Italian bureaucracy. Though there is actually one law which specifies what documents you should need, Italian consulates have a lot of leeway in what they accept from applicants. This means that some consulates require certain documents that others don’t.
At the very minimum, you’ll need the following:
For your Italian ancestor
- Birth, marriage, death, and naturalization records (or proof of non-naturalization)
For your intermediate ancestors (each generation)
- Birth, marriage, and death records
- Birth and marriage records
- Birth records for any of your children under the age of 18
To find out what your specific consulate needs, navigate to their citizenship page. Each consulate has one, but they are not all equally informative. If your consulate’s citizenship page is vague or hard to understand, I recommend following the requirements of the New York consulate as they require a good amount of documents.
When in doubt, it’s always better to show up to your appointment with more documents than be missing some key ones.
Tips for Getting Documents
These documents serve to recreate your family tree and prove your unbroken “chain” of citizenship. It’s not enough to say you’re eligible; you must prove it on paper. There is no right or wrong way to gather documents but I recommend working as follows to do it efficiently:
- Work back from your last Italian-born ancestor’s birth certificate. This allows you to get your oldest document first, following the “chain” of vital records from your citizenship-giving ancestor back to you.
- Obtain your last Italian-born ancestor’s naturalization records first. Naturalization records can take the longest to obtain, so starting with them may be a good idea if you want to do everything in a timely way.
- Work off of any family documents you may have. This may work best for you if you already have some documents at home. This was how I did my own citizenship—my grandfather’s naturalization record was framed on the wall, and so I worked from that.
- You must obtain certified copies. Make sure to tick the “certified copy” box if it is available on your document request forms. In lieu of the term “certified copy,” you might see “long form,” “extended form,” or similar. Your documents will not be accepted unless they are in the proper format.
Discrepancies and Ancillary Documents
Sometimes there may be discrepancies on your documents. With records that can go back over 100 years, it’s bound to happen. When it does, there are two basic scenarios:
- If your discrepancies are not “bad,” i.e. a name change from Francesco to Frank, the consular officer may let it slide.
- If your discrepancies are worse and can lead the officer to be confused about your ancestor’s identity, you may be told to rectify them and come back. Should this happen, don’t panic! Go to your appointment as usual and follow the instructions of the consular worker. Some states will allow you to amend documents, add an a/k/a to them, or even obtain a court order to amend all discrepancies at once.
When it comes to ancillary documents such as adoptions and divorces, be sure to include them (also get the Certificates of No Appeal for divorces). The consulate will want them!
All of your non-Italian documents must be translated into Italian. Anyone who speaks Italian can translate them, but I recommend hiring a professional. Your application can be rejected if your translations are incorrect.
With the exception of your naturalization records, you will need to legalize your documents. This involves obtaining an apostille.
An apostille is a separate sheet that gets affixed in front of your document. Its purpose is to legalize your record so it can be used by Italian officials. You obtain apostilles from the Secretary of State’s office in the state which issues each document. If you have documents from Georgia, for example, they get apostilled in Georgia.
It is simple to obtain apostilles. Just google the word “apostille” plus the name of your state. Then, ignore any links that are from businesses and click on your state government’s site. Print out the order form, fill it out, enclose a check or money order and the original document, mail it off, and then they will send the apostilled original back to you.
Side note: while your translator works on your documents (your translator can work off scans of the originals), you should be sending out your documents for apostilles. More information about what apostilles are and how to obtain them can be found here. You must get apostilles on your documents, so make sure you do it.
The Consulate Appointment
When the time comes for your appointment, you will meet with a consular officer. The officer will go over your records with you document by document. You do not need to speak Italian at this meeting but in my experience, consular officers love when you try!
Three things can happen at your appointment:
- If your application is complete and there are no issues, they will start a file under your name and process your application in the order it was received.
- When your application is mostly complete but has some issues, they will start a file under your name but give you “homework” to complete and either come back or mail back to them.
- If your application has glaring issues and is mostly incomplete, they will return your documents, give you homework, and not start a file for you.
At your appointment you will pay a 300 euro fee. This fee is not refundable even if your application is unsuccessful. The Italian government has up to 24 months to process your application.
Getting Your Passport
After a successful application it is time to get your passport.
Return to the consulate’s website and use the online booking system for a passport appointment. Pay the passport fee, bring your passport pictures, and pat yourself on the back: you are now an Italian citizen!
Some consulates will give you your passport same day, and others can mail it to your address.
Traveling as a Dual Italian Citizen
Click here to learn more about traveling as an Italian dual citizen.
Would you like to obtain Italian dual citizenship? We can help! Get Italian Citizenship, Inc. is a full service Italian dual citizenship consulting company. We help you research your eligibility, obtain your documents, and can even assist you applying directly in Italy! Contact us today for more information.