If you are seeking Italian citizenship by descent you’ve probably heard the terms jure sanguinis and jure soli. But what exactly do they mean? At the most basic level, each describe different ways in which countries award citizenship. Specifically, the two “systems” each have their own relevance under the umbrella of Italian citizenship by descent. That’s why it’s important to understand them well before determining your eligibility for an Italian passport by heritage.
Jure Soli versus Jure Sanguinis
Citizenship Jure Soli
Jure soli is Latin for “right of the soil.” Countries granting citizenship jure soli include Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, most of South America, and others. You might notice a pattern here; most “New World” countries have adopted jure soli from many years ago as a means of growing their colonies/populations.
People born in jure soli countries are citizens at birth no matter where their parents are from. For example, if a foreign couple has a baby in the United States, that baby is an American citizen. That baby may also be a jure sanguinis citizen of each of the parents’ countries, but more on this below.
Additionally, most jure soli countries also adopt the principle of jure sanguinis for children of their citizens born abroad. For example, a child born in Mexico to US citizen parents is also considered a US citizen at birth via jure sanguinis (and a Mexican citizen via jure soli).
Citizenship Jure Sanguinis
On the other hand, jure saguinis is Latin for “right of the blood.” In jure sanguinis countries, a child’s citizenship is determined by that of his parents. Like with jure soli countries, there is a pattern in jure sanguinis ones. Most “Old World” countries–such as most of Europe and India, among othes–operate under the principle of jure sanguinis citizenship.
In jure sanguinis countries, simply being born there is not enough to be a citizen – at the time of birth, a child must also have at least one citizen parent of said country.
Law no. 91 of 1992 regulates citizenship in Italy. According to this law, children are Italian at birth if they have at least one Italian citizen parent. Italy does adopt jure soli citizenship but only in rare cases like when a child is born to stateless or unknown parents.
People born in Italy to non-Italian parents
Italy has seen an influx of immigrants in recent years. Because of this, the Italian government has discussed introducing jure soli citizenship laws to facilitate the integration of children of immigrants born in Italy. Today, children born in Italy to non-Italian parents have a year to decide to apply for Italian citizenship once they turn 18, provided that they have lived in Italy since birth. Jure soli citizenship would allow all children born in Italy to become Italian citizens at birth regardless of parentage, but these discussions are still ongoing and are considered somewhat controversial. Because the two systems are distinct and apply to different scenarios, the addition of jure soli citizenship would not affect those applying for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis.
But what happens to people born in Italy who move away before turning 18? They, too, can become Italian citizens by relocating back to Italy and residing therein legally for three years. There are other additional criteria to meet, such as proving uninterrupted residency for the time period required. Also, applicants via this route must take an Italian language exam. They must also provide evidence of yearly income higher than € 8.263,31 for each year of residency.
Applying for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis
Perhaps alone in the world, Italy places no generational restrictions on its jure sanguinis citizenship. As long as there is just one qualifying Italian-born ancestor, applicants may go back as far as necessary to prove their claim. In order to be eligible, a person must meet the following criteria:
- The Italian ancestor must have been alive on or after March 17, 1861.
- The Italian ancestor either never became a citizen of another country, or did so after June 14, 1912.
- If the Italian ancestor gained citizenship in another country after June 14, 1912, it also had to occur after the birth of his/her child.
- If there is a woman in your direct Italian lineage, she had her child on or after January 1, 1948.
- Neither the applicant nor his intermediate ancestors (i.e. the ones before the Italian-born ancestor) renounced their birthright Italian citizenship.
Those who meet the eligibility requirements above can apply for recognition at an Italian consulate or may elect residency in Italy directly for this purpose.
If an applicant’s female ancestor had her child before January 1, 1948 but meets all other criteria, s/he is still eligible but must hire an Italian attorney to petition for citizenship in court (aka a 1948 case). This is because Italian law only gave women the right to pass on citizenship to her children after January 1, 1948. Since 2009, the descendants of Italian women have brought their cases to court–and won–as the law now considers this discriminatory and allows for retroactive recognition of citizenship.
Minors and adopted individuals
Minor children of applicants for Italian dual citizenship gain automatic approval along with their parents.
If an applicant was adopted as a minor child into an Italian citizenship-qualifying family, that person is treated no differently than a biological child of said family.
What if a person is not eligible for dual citizenship?
If a person is not eligible for dual citizenship jure sanguinis, there are still options.
- If this person’s parent or grandparent was a former Italian citizen (but otherwise does not qualify), s/he can apply for Italian citizenship via residence after living in Italy for three years. The same financial and residency rules apply as those who were born in Italy but moved away before the age of 18 above.
- If a person is a non-EU citizen, she or he can become an Italian citizen after living in Italy legally for ten years.
- A person can become an Italian dual citizen via marriage with an Italian. Citizenship by marriage applicants must be married for three years before applying (two years if living in Italy; these wait times are halved if the couple has a minor child), and must take an Italian language exam. As of December 2020, citizenship by marriage may take up to 36 months for approval.
If you have questions about applying for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.