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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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 never naturalized, this means he or she never lost Italian citizenship and automatically qualify as long as you meet all other criteria.
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.
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.
These regions are part of Italy today but they were not officially part of Italy when the country was unified on March 17, 1861.
Therefore, if your ancestors came from these three regions, you must also prove they emigrated from Italy after July 16, 1920.
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.
In the United States, there are Italian consulates in:
Consult this list of Italian consulates to figure out which one is yours.
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.
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
For your intermediate ancestors (each generation)
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Click here to learn more about traveling as an Italian dual citizen.
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