How to qualify for Italian dual citizenship

How to qualify for Italian dual citizenship

You might be an Italian citizen already and not know it!​

Did you know that Italy has very generous citizenship laws towards people of Italian descent? Unlike other countries, Italy wants to maintain ties with the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of its immigrants. It does this by allowing Italian citizenship to be passed down from parent to child without limit to number of generations.

This makes it very easy to qualify for Italian dual citizenship if you know what to look for.


What if you’re only 1/2 (or less) Italian?​

You do not need to have an Italian last name, be a certain percentage Italian, have an Italian parent, or even have an Italian grandparent. You can go back as many generations needed, and you only need just one qualifying Italian ancestor. That means that even if your great great great grandfather was born in Italy, you may get an Italian passport as long as you qualify.

And determining if you qualify is as easy as answering these 3 key questions below.

When was your ancestor born?

Your ancestor must have been alive, anywhere in the world on March 17, 1861.

Additionally, your ancestor must not have become a citizen of another country before that date. Why?

This date is important. On March 17, 1861, Italy became a unified country. Before that, the country we now call Italy was a bunch of separate city-states. When Italy became a unified country, Italian citizens were made for the first time.

Therefore, if your ancestor was not alive to see Italy become a country, he never was actually a citizen. And if your ancestor was never a citizen, he could never pass on Italian citizenship to his child.

Are there any women in your direct line?

Both men and women can pass down Italian citizenship. However, women only received the right to do so after January 1, 1948. There were very few exceptions to this rule such as children born to an unknown father.

If you have women in your direct line of citizenship, make sure their children were born after January 1, 1948 to be eligible.

People descending from pre-1948 births cannot apply at the consulate or in Italy. They must file a court case (we call these 1948 cases) to petition the Italian government on the basis that this law is discriminatory. For 1948 case help, click here.

Note: There are no restrictions on women receiving citizenship from men. Even if a woman was born before January 1, 1948 she could always receive citizenship from her father.

When, if at all, did your ancestor lose Italian citizenship?

Did your ancestor ever become a U.S. (or other) citizen? If so, check the date.

As long as your ancestor became a U.S. citizen after July 1, 1912 and after the birth of his or her child, you should qualify.

And if your ancestor never naturalized at all, you should definitely qualify.

What about a pre-1912 case?

On this date, modern Italian citizenship law was codified. Today, consulates follow these general rules when accepting citizenship applications. Consulates used to retroactively apply the 1912 law to all people and allow people to qualify even if their ancestor naturalized before then. However, they no longer do this.

Therefore, if your ancestor lost Italian citizenship before July 1, 1912 you will not be able to apply through the consulates and must apply in Italy. In Italy, the law is still applied retroactively.

There is one exception to this rule: if your ancestors children were no longer minors when your ancestor naturalized, the “chain” was not broken, and thus you can still apply via the consulates.

Case Study 1: “Mario”

  • Mario was born in Italy in 1920.

  • He emigrated to the United States in 1940.

  • His son John was born in New York in 1943.

  • Mario became an American citizen in 1947.

Because Mario was an Italian citizen at the time of John’s birth, Mario successfully passed on Italian citizenship to John.

Therefore, under Italian law John and all of his descendants qualify for Italian citizenship. They can legally seek recognition.

There is no generational limit.

How to qualify for Italian dual citizenship - case study Mario

Case Study 2: “Antonia”

  • Antonia was born in Italy in 1923.

  • She came to California in 1946.

  • She had her first child, Mary, in 1947.

  • She had her second child, Gregory, in 1949.

Because Antonia is an Italian woman, she could not pass on Italian citizenship to any children born before January 1, 1948.

Therefore, under Italian law Mary was not given Italian citizenship at birth. However, since Gregory was born after the cutoff date, he was.

Mary and her descendants cannot apply at a consulate or in Italy and must file a “1948 case” to petition the courts in Rome. Gregory and his descendants can apply at the consulate or in Italy.

How to qualify for Italian dual citizenship - case study Antonia

Italian citizenship for those living in a former Italian territory and their descendants

If you are descended from a former Italian citizen living in Istria, Rijeka, Delmatia, or Trieste, you may still qualify for Italian dual citizenship. Former Italian citizens living in these areas lost their citizenship through no fault of their own and it may be possible to reclaim Italian citizenship.

Italian citizenship is provided by law to individuals who were already Italian citizens but lost their citizenship when the territory they lived in was no longer Italian. Check below to see if any one of the possible scenarios applies to your Italian ancestor.


Istria, Rijeka and Dalmatia

For Italian citizens living in Istria, Rijeka and Dalmatia from 1940-1947 who lost citizenship when those territories were ceded to the Republic of Yugoslavia, and to their descendants.


For those who were already Italian citizens living until 1977 in “Zone B” of the former “Territorio Libero di Trieste” who lost Italian citizenship when that territory was ceded to the Republic of Yugoslavia, and to their descendants.

Former Austro-Hungarian Empire

People born and already living in the territories of the former Austo-Hungarian Empire and their descendants had until December 20th, 2010 to ask for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis.

Italian citizenship for descendants of citizens from current Italian territories that were foreign in the past

If your ancestor was born in Veneto, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia or Trentino Alto Adige, you must prove that he or she left Italy after July 16th, 1920 in order to obtain Italian dual citizenship.

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