We’ve discussed in a previous post how to qualify for Italian citizenship, so by now you are familiar with the rules. But as you apply for Italian dual citizenship, you may find yourself in a pickle.
What if you meet all requirements but have female Italian ancestors with children born before January 1, 1948? This would normally render you ineligible.
In fact, most online resources and even Italian consulates will tell you outright that you cannot apply. But don’t listen to them! You absolutely can apply… you just need to do so in a different way than everyone else.
When you have a female ancestor whose child was born before the cut-off, it means you may fall prey to the so-called 1948 rule. To gain recognition of Italian citizenship, you’ll need to file what we call a 1948 case.
We’ll explain how, where, and when to do it in this post.
What the 1948 rule is
Before Italy became a modern country, lots of its laws were discriminatory towards women (sorry, Italy! It’s true). But on January 1, 1948 Italy adopted its first modern constitution, hoping to remedy this. Before then, women faced an uphill battle in terms of equal rights before the law.
Did you know that before January 1, 1948, Italian women were not allowed to pass on citizenship to their children? There were only few exceptions: 1) If the father was unknown, missing, or deceased at the time of the child’s birth, and 2) if the father’s own foreign citizenship didn’t automatically pass down to the child at birth.
A practical example of a 1948 case
These cases can be confusing. So let’s look at this example for how a 1948 case might play out in the real world.
A practical example of a 1948 caseJoanne was born in the US in 1950. Her mom Rose was born in the US in 1925. Rose’s mom Ninetta was born in Italy in 1901. Even though Ninetta never became an American citizen, she didn’t pass down Italian citizenship to Rose (because Rose was born before January 1, 1948). And even though Joanne was born after January 1, 1948, she still didn’t receive Italian citizenship from Rose because Rose, in turn, didn’t receive Italian citizenship from Ninetta.
Remember that in order for someone to qualify, each generation before them must also qualify for Italian dual citizenship. Qualification cannot skip generations.
In this way, think of Italian citizenship as one big game of Monkeys in a Barrel. If one monkey slips, the whole chain breaks.
In our case above because Ninetta didn’t pass on citizenship to Rose, Rose couldn’t pass it on to Joanne. One of the “monkeys” in the barrel broke the chain by not qualifying.
But what happens to a 1948 case when a male ancestor is thrown into the mix?
Well, it’s really the same thing, just with a guy thrown in.
Let’s use another hypothetical case:
Another exampleJoanne has a brother Billy. Billy was born in the US in 1954 to Rose, born in 1925. Rose’s mom Ninetta was born in Italy in 1901. Even though Billy is male, he still did not receive citizenship at birth from Rose.
To recap: if there is a woman in your line, make sure her child was born after January 1, 1948. It’s as simple as that.
Also remember that the 1948 restriction only applies to women passing down citizenship, not obtaining it (from men). For example, if a woman born before 1948 has an Italian father, she can still obtain citizenship from him despite her birthdate.
Fortunately for Billy and Joanne in our hypothetical case, their dad was born in Italy and he never became an American citizen.
Remember that there are no restrictions on men passing down citizenship, so Billy and Joanne easily obtained citizenship from him.
Bringing it to court
In 2009, people got fed up. They were tired of seeing others apply for Italian dual citizenship and being left out in the cold due to mere happenstance of birthdates (not to mention discrimination).
So, a pioneering attorney decided to take on a case of people of Italian descent seeking citizenship through their maternal ancestry.
The attorney argued in the Court of Rome that Italian citizenship laws were discriminatory towards women.
And he won.
Judgement no. 4466/2009 was officially on the books. His clients were given Italian citizenship and today thousands of people follow every year.
These 1948 cases have a high degree of success. In fact, the Italian government no longer even defends itself against them.
But this doesn’t mean that they are yet enshrined into law. Unfortunately, the Ministry of the Interior has not yet changed the laws even though the Italian Supreme Court has ruled against the 1948 rule. That’s why Italian consulates still won’t allow applicants falling under the 1948 rule to apply.
Therefore, anyone who falls under the above category can hire an Italian attorney to represent them in court. If, with all other things considered, you are eligible you may obtain Italian citizenship this way.
What goes on behind the scenes of a 1948 case?
First, you determine your eligibility
Before doing anything else, you have to be eligible in the first place. If you meet all other requirements except for the 1948 cutoff date, you can move on to the next step.
Then, you gather your documents
Once you determine eligibility, you have to gather your documents. This will also include Italian translations and legalizations (apostilles) on your vital records.
Finally, you get ready for court
Then, your Italian attorney will file your case in the Civil Court of Rome against the Italian Ministry of the Interior. Now, the case is in Italy’s hands!
This is what happens after your 1948 case is filed
- The claim is filed;
- The court appoints a judge who will oversee the case. This usually takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months;
- Based on his or her schedule, the appointed judge will schedule the hearing usually 6-8 months from the time your claim is submitted. However, sometimes a hearing can be scheduled for 10 or even 12 months from initial filing;
- During the first hearing, a number of different things may occur, such as:
- When the judge requires additional documents and/or corrections and amendments of records and then schedules a second hearing,
- Where a judge may challenge the claim, giving the parties enough time to write a final defense,
- When the judge determines that no further documents/corrections/amendments are needed and will keep the file in order to issue the judgement.
- The final judgement declaring the applicant an Italian citizen is issued 5 to 10 months after the last hearing.
Timelines between the filing of the claim and the final judgment may vary. This can be anywhere from 12 to 24 months, and does not include the time it takes applicants to put together their documents which can vary from 6 to 18 months.
Therefore, the entire process from start to finish can be between 18 to 42 months.
Are 1948 cases successful?
No attorney can guarantee a positive outcome, but the success rate of 1948 cases is very high. Thousands of individuals have obtained Italian citizenship this way.
Can I use a 1948 case even if I qualify through another ancestor?
No. You can only go through the courts for a 1948 case if you have exhausted all other possibilities and do not qualify through a male ancestor or a female ancestor whose child was born after January 1, 1948.
If you qualify through the “normal” channels, you must apply through the consulate or directly in Italy.
How much do 1948 cases cost?
Fees vary according to the level of service you desire. A full package containing all documentation, translations, legalizations, plus court and legal fees can run anywhere from $8,000 to $25,000 or more depending on number of generations, number of family members joining your suit, amendments and/or corrections to be made to your documents, etc.
It’s an excellent value for Italian dual citizenship which has many benefits.
Do I have to be physically present in Italy during a 1948 case?
No. In fact, this is one of the advantages of this type of case. You do not need to be physically present at any time during your 1948 case. Your Italian attorney will work on your behalf.
Can other family members join me?
Absolutely, as long as they too fall under the 1948 case umbrella. Minors are included at no additional cost.
Does the Italian consulate have anything to do with your case?
No. Italy will grant your citizenship and transcribes your vital records in your ancestral town. For this reason, your Italian consulate at home in the US has no say in this process, except when you present your transcribed Italian birth certificate to enroll in AIRE (Registry of Italians Abroad).