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Italian Dual Citizenship: What Is a “1948 Case”?

If you’re applying for Italian citizenship through a female ancestor, you may fall into the category of those who do not qualify. There is a significant subset of people who, with all things being equal, normally should qualify for Italian citizenship but are “iced out” due to a peculiarity in Italian law regarding women.

Italian women: 1948 cases

If you fall into this category, there’s a way out. Let’s explore how.

First Things First: What Is the 1948 Law?

Many Italian consulates publish blunt (and scary!) statements like this on their websites:

“A person born before January 1, 1948 can only claim Italian citizenship from his/her father.”

That’s simply not true. Officials and Italian citizenship enthusiasts alike spread these innacurate statements. Then, misinformed but well-meaning people pass them on as truth. This misinformation appears designed to discourage applicants from even considering Italian dual citizenship. 

This misinformation stems from how Italian citizenship law has long been discriminatory towards women. Before January 1st, 1948 women could not pass citizenship to her children.

Under these laws, there were only few exceptions where Italian women could pass on citizenship. They included:

  • An unknown father
  • A stateless father
  • Children born to a foreign father whose country doesn’t automatically pass down citizenship

It seems barbaric to our modern eyes, but Italian citizenship law used to be heavily discriminatory towards women. Thus, anyone who descends from a woman affected by these laws can file a 1948 case.

So, if you descend from an Italian woman whose child was born before January 1, 1948 you may have a 1948 case.

Can I Automatically File a 1948 Case?

No. 

If you have other potential lines through male ancestors, you must exhaust those options first. This may be problematic if you have male lines for which paperwork is hard to find, but you will not be able to file your 1948 case until you have proved lack of eligibility through male lines first. 

How Does the Law View These Cases?

In short, if you fall into the above category you do have a right to Italian citizenship

How you apply is dictated by the date the woman in question had her child. 

  • If the child was born on or after January 1, 1948, you can apply normally at either your consulate or directly in Italy.
  • If the child was born before January 1, 1948 and you otherwise qualify, you can obtain Italian citizenship by filing a case with the Rome Tribunal. 

How Does Filing One Work?

Even though in 2009, the discriminatory nature of this law was challenged in accordance with the principle of equality between men and women, the Italian government has not yet chosen to modify current law. 

Because jure sanguinis citizenship involves Italian (and not US) law, courts in the US have no jurisdiction over the matter. 

Therefore, since you cannot apply at your consulate or directly in Italy, you must hire a lawyer to represent you in the Rome Tribunal. You do not need to be present in Italy to file your case. 

Is There Precedent?

Yes. 

The Italian Supreme Court has established since 2009 that it’s forbidden to discriminate between men and women in citizenship matters (Judgment no. 4466/2009).

Thus, all descendants born anytime to an Italian parent—whether father or mother—are Italian citizens by birthright.

Sadly, this has not convinced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Italian consulates. They still refuse to process 1948 cases on an administrative basis, so you’ll need to hire an attorney to fight your case in Rome. 

We hope that one day the Ministry and the consulates will catch up with the Supreme Court, but for now you do have recourse. This has become a routine practice in more than 10 years, with 1,000s of people having had success.

How Do I Know if I Have a 1948 Case?

Think back to your last Italian-born ancestor. Now, follow the direct line back to you (not including spouses). 

Is there a woman in there? If so, was her child born before January 1, 1948?

If all other qualification parameters are met, then you should have a 1948 case. 

Do These Cases Result in the Same Citizenship?

Yes. You will obtain full-fledged Italian dual citizenship, exactly the same as if you applied at a consulate or directly in Italy. 

How Much Does it Cost?

Costs may vary. You can expect to spend anywhere from €3,000-€6,000 if you have already collected your documents for your application, and anywhere from €6,000-€15,000 if you have a firm take care of both your application and documentation from start to finish, depending on how many generations you go back and how many people are included in your case.

If you think you qualify for Italian citizenship but have a 1948 case, we can help. Whether you need confirmation of your options from an expert, or a full start-to-finish 1948 application, we’re here to help. Contact us today for more information and assistance.

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