The history of naturalization and citizenship in the United States began in 1790. It includes many changes in the statutes over the years as it created and evolved a path to American citizenship. For any US nationals seeking dual citizenship with Italy, gathering their Italian ancestor’s United States naturalization records is critical.
Finding all the necessary documentation for dual Italian citizenship can be time-consuming and frustrating for many people. Reach out to the team at Get Italian Citizenship to get help with this journey. Using our professional services will help you speed up the process and avoid discouraging setbacks along the way. Get started today.
What Are Naturalization Records?
Naturalization records document an alien resident’s transition to being a US citizen. The United States government officially set a naturalization process in 1790. At that time, it was only available to free white men and women who had lived in the States for at least two years.
When someone naturalized in the United States, they received a document to prove their citizenship. They also had to renounce allegiance to their country of origin.
Over the centuries, the laws evolved to expand the residency requirement and include people of African descent. In 1906, Congress established the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization to handle these matters in federal court.
But before 1906, petitioners could apply for citizenship in any state, district, or federal court. Because of this flexibility, there was no centralized repository for the records. Each court maintained its own documents.
How Do You Find the Right Naturalization Documents?
Searching for and finding the correct naturalization documentation can be very difficult. Of course, it is only in recent decades that computers have been part of this process. So that means that for most US history, citizenship records were hand-written and stored in boxes or file cabinets.
And these documents reside in courts throughout the nation.
So unless you have a significant amount of detail about exactly when and where your Italian ancestor naturalized, you may be looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. And to make the search even more challenging, many people altered the spelling of their names when they arrived in America.
To search for naturalization records, you have a few options:
- Use a paid genealogical search, such as Ancestry. Most of these sites have a free version, but that level rarely allows you to find what you need. Typically, you will have to sign up for a monthly membership to do a robust search.
- Attempt to search the National Archives. This choice can get you started, but it is unlikely to help you find exactly what you need for your Italian dual citizenship.
- Hire a professional citizenship assistance service. These experts know precisely how to search throughout the various court systems. And they understand all of the information contained in the naturalization documents. Using their services makes for a much quicker and more accurate process.
What Does Your Ancestor’s Naturalization Mean for You?
Gaining citizenship with Italy requires you to establish a direct line to an Italian citizen somewhere in your lineage. Italy is generous in its path to citizenship in that there is no generational limit, but you have to connect all the dots.
US naturalization or lack thereof for your Italian ancestor is the key to your Italian dual citizenship eligibility.
Here is an example of the most straightforward way this can work. Your great-grandparents moved to the United States in 1938 and had your paternal grandmother in 1940. Then your great-grandparents became American citizens in 1944.
In this scenario, you are eligible for Italian citizenship through your great-grandparents because they were still Italian nationals when your grandmother was born. Had they naturalized before her birth, you could not claim citizenship with Italy. The chain would be broken.
Because of the need to establish this timeline, finding the dated naturalization records is crucial. If no records exist, this information is equally critical. In this case, you need to obtain the interestingly-named “Certificate of Non-existence.”
An Exception to the Naturalization Issue
As you might expect with anything that involves evolving laws, there is a loophole that comes up with naturalization documents.
Before 1922 in the United States, women automatically naturalized if they married a citizen or if their husband became a citizen. The women had no choice to naturalize or not. In 1922, the law changed to require women to apply for citizenship on their own.
If the law forced naturalization on a woman through marriage before she gave birth to your direct ancestor, you probably are still eligible. Italian courts will hear these cases since they recognize that the woman had no say in giving up her citizenship.
What Happens to the Naturalization Records?
Once you have the correct documents in hand, you will need to apostille them for your Italian citizenship application. This step means that the US State Department verifies and authenticates the records. After the apostille is in place, you can use the forms in Italy to apply for citizenship.
You can do this step on your own, but, again, using a professional service is the best way to go. An expert in Italian citizenship has a streamlined method to handle this step quickly and accurately.
When you have gathered everything needed for your application, there are two paths to applying for Italian dual citizenship.
- Through an Italian Consulate – This option applies when your ancestor naturalized after giving birth to the person in your direct line. It also works if they didn’t naturalize at all.
- Through the Italian Courts – If your eligibility relies on the 1922 loophole, you will need an Italian lawyer to present your application in court.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
Claiming your rightful Italian citizenship is one of the most exciting things you can do. It opens up tremendous opportunities and benefits for you and your minor children.
But completing the process on your own can take an enormous amount of time and energy. Instead, connect with the experts at Get Italian Citizenship to be on your way to holding your Italian passport.
Our team can help with everything from obtaining naturalization records to petitioning the Italian courts. Get started with a phone call today.