Tag Archives: Italian American

10 Steps for Obtaining Italian Citizenship

Starting from the beginning, here are the basic steps required for claiming your Italian Citizenship:

1. Preliminary investigation and confirmation of eligibility.

Depending on how far back in your ancestry you have to go, this could be as simple as asking a living relative if the basic criteria were met.   If you are going farther back, chances are you’ll need to do a bit of research.  If your first U.S. born Italian American relative was born before 1940*, one of the easiest and first things to do is check the first U.S. census released after your first U.S. born relative was born.  If you see an “al.” under the citizenship column for your Italian relative, this is a very good indication they hadn’t naturalized yet when your U.S. born Italian American relative was born.   For example, my grandfather was born in the U.S. in 1915 so i checked the 1920 census, in which my great grandfather was still listed as “al.”  If it is blank or shows that they naturalized, you’ll need to dig in further to find out the date they naturalized to determine if it was before or after your first U.S. born relative was born. FamilySearch.org is a good place to start your search. The site is a free resource and includes U.S. censuses and naturalization records.

*The U.S. government just released the 1940 census on April 2, 2012.  It hasn’t released any censuses after 1940 to the public yet.

2. Gather basic information and reconfirm eligiblity

Once you have your initial confirmation, start gathering online documents and recording basic information including names and dates.  Now is also a good time to send an email to your Italian consulate to reconfirm that you are indeed eligible.   In fact, some consulates require this before they will send you a list of the documents they require.  Plus, you don’t want to go through the time and expense to gather the necessary documents only to find out down the road that you aren’t eligible.  It’s better to send a quick email to be certain you aren’t overlooking something and for peace of mind.

3. Gather the required documents

You can get a list of the required vital records and documents on each Italian consulates website or by emailing them.  In general, you will need to get birth and marriage certificates for all of your relatives, starting with the Italian born relative.  If you are divorced, you will also need your divorce decree and, depending on the consulate, you may also need divorce decrees for your Italian side relatives who divorced.  Some consulates also require these records for their spouses.  In addition, you may need death certificates for your Italian relatives and naturalization records (or statement of no record) for your Italian born relative.    All of the documents on the Italian side will need to be certified, long-form copies.  Some consulates allow photo copies for the documents related to their spouses.  I wrote about a strategy for obtaining the needed records here.

4.  Confirm names, places and dates match on all documents

Once you have gathered all of the documents, you will need to meticulously check all of the documents to make sure the information matches, particularly names, dates and places.  All names, dates and locations on your records and those of your minor children need to match exactly.  Minor discrepancies will not be accepted because these are the records that get registered in Italy.  If there are discrepancies in your relative’s records, you may also need to correct them.  Sometimes, if the discrepancy is minor, such as there is a middle initial in one document and not the other or the Italian document lists the name as Vincenzo and the U.S. document lists it as Vincent, the consulate may be okay with this.  Before you go through the trouble of getting the documents corrected, email your Italian consulate to see if the discrepancies are acceptable.  In most cases, you will be able to work directly with the vital records office for the state or city that issued the document to make corrections to vital records.  Their website may list the steps required to make corrections.  If it doesn’t, email or call the vital records office.

5. Obtain Apostille certification

Once you have all of your documents gathered and corrections made, you’ll need to send them in for Apostille certification.  An Apostille is an international certificate recognized by countries who signed the Apostille treaty, including Italy and the U.S.   The certificate  is stapled to each document to verify that the document is a legitimate, certified copy.  Check with the requirements of your Italian consulate, on which records will require an apostille.

6. Translate documents into Italian

Some documents will need to be translated into Italian.  Check with your Italian consulate to determine which records require translation.  Some consulates, such as the San Francisco consulate, only requires your records and those of your minor children be translated.  Other consulates only require the records pertaining to the Italian side you are getting citizenship through, while still others require their spouses records also be translated.  The Italian consulates websites provide links to people who can do this for you and the price can vary from $15 per page to $50 dollars or more.

7. Make an appointment with your Italian consulate

Before you make your appointment, it is a good idea to confirm with them through email if the documents you have gathered will meet their requirements and if there are any additional documents you need to gather.  Also, keep in mind some consulates may not be able to schedule you in for 9 months or more so you may want to actually schedule the appointment earlier in the process, such as around the time you are ready to send off your documents for Apostille certification.

8. Fill out application and required paperwork

Each consulate has application paperwork you must fill out.  This includes information such as your address and contact information as well as last known living locations for yourself and your Italian relatives.  It also includes forms confirming that you or your Italian relatives never renounced Italian citizenship.  Many of these forms must be signed in front of a witness at the Italian consulate, so do not sign them when you fill them out.  Most consulates have these forms on their respective websites.

In addition to the application paperwork, some consulates require you include a list of discrepancies you were able to find across records.  Pay close attention to everything the consulate requires and be sure to fill everything out several weeks before your appointment so there are no surprises.

9. Review and final preparation

One or two weeks before your appointment, double-check everything once again against the list of requirements from your consulate.  Now is a good time to put your records in order too.  Many consulates request you put the paperwork in chronological order, grouped by person.  For example, put your oldest relative’s birth certificate, followed by marriage, naturalization and death certificates on the bottom, followed by their spouses paperwork.  Your paperwork and those of your minor children would then be on top.  This makes it easy for you to make sure you have everything in order and for the consulate to find and confirm the needed records.

10. Follow-up

After your appointment, be prepared for the possibility that the Italian consulate may ask you for additional documentation.  In this case, you’ll need to gather the additional documentation and schedule a new appointment.

If you are just starting out, going through the steps required to claim your Italian citizenship may seem like climbing Mt. Everest.  The important part is to stick with it and make a little bit of progress on a consistent basis. Come up with a plan of attack and set small goals such as sending off for certain number of documents per month.   Do not get discouraged or let obstacles stop you from moving forward.   It has taken people a range from many months to several years to go through all of the steps and, often times, there is a way around the obstacles if you think through them, research them or ask others who have gone through the process.  Keep with it and, before you know it, you’ll be at the summit looking back on your journey with a sense of pride, your Italian citizenship in hand!

1948 Rule

Siena Italy Italian dual citizenshipI wanted to write more about the importance of the year 1948 in obtaining your Italian citizenship.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the 1948 rule was important in my case because my mother was born before 1948.  In a nutshell, prior to 1948, women could claim their Italian citizenship through their fathers but could not pass down citizenship to their children.  It could only be passed down to the next generation by men.

As the womens suffrage movement became more  influential, Italy amended their constitution in 1948 giving equal rights to both men and women, thus, after that date women could pass down citizenship just as men had been able to do so before that date. In my case, since my mom was already technically an Italian citizen through her father, she could pass it down to any children born after 1948.

I started to question my eligibility after I tried to read too much into the below quote on the Italian San Francisco consulate’s website:

Please note: a person born before 01/01/1948 can claim Italian citizenship only from his/her father (who was not a naturalized citizen of another country before his/her child’s birth), and a woman can transfer citizenship only to her children born after 01/01/1948 (if she was not a naturalized citizen of another country before her child’s birth).

So, I decided to email them just to confirm that I was indeed eligible.  Here is what I wrote:


Before going through the process of collecting all of the necessary documents and making an appointment with the consulate, I would like to confirm that I am eligible for Italian citizenship Jure Sanguinis.

  • All four of my maternal Great Grandparents were Italian citizens when my Grandparents were born and were naturalized many years later
  • My Great Grandparents were all born in 1884 or later in Italy
  • My Grandparents were born in the US
  • My mother was born in 1941 in the US
  • I was born in 1974 in the US

Nobody in my family has ever renounced their Italian citizenship.

I’m planning to use the following lineage to apply: Great Grandfather ->Grandfather->Mother->Me

Thanks in advance for you help!


Darcy Robles

Here is the consulates response:

Ms. Robles,

Prior to 1948, citizenship can only be transmitted via male ancestors, so you must look at your mother’s father’s father specifically (n.b., you were born in 1974, so your mother could transmit citizenship to you if she inherited it from her father and grandfather). He is the only one of your four maternal great-grandparents who could pass on citizenship to you.

The two criteria for determining whether he passed on citizenship to you are 1) he did not naturalize before June 14th, 1912, and 2) he did not naturalize before the birth of your mother’s father (your maternal grandfather).

If you meet both conditions and can prove them, then you qualify for citizenship jure sanguinis.

Distinti Saluti,

Consolato Generale d’Italia

2590 Webster Street
San Francisco CA 94115

If you are concerned at all about the 1948 rule, the best thing to do is email your situation to your Italian consulate to confirm your eligibility. It is better to spend a few minutes to send off an email than to spend all the time, money and effort it takes to gather and prepare your documents only to find out you are not eligible.

On a side note: Even though this does not apply to me, I looked into the 1912 law in case it applies to other Italian Americans.  Apparently, according to my research, prior to June 14th, 1912 (or July 1st, 1912 in some interpretations) if an Italian citizen became a naturalized citizen of another country, he, his wife and all of his minor children also lost their Italian citizenship and thus, none of them could pass down citizenship to any future generations.  From what I have been able to find, most consulates now enforce this.

What has your experience been with the 1948 rule?  I would love to hear your story in the comments if this rule has had any impact on your journey to get your Italian citizenship.

Implications of Dual Citizenship

Florence Italian Italian citizenship

One of the first questions I often get asked is “Does the United States recognize dual citizenship?”  The short answer is the US does not formally recognize dual citizenship but it also does not take a stance against it.  It is not illegal and you don’t risk loosing your US citizenship unless there is a clear intent to renounce your US citizenship either formally or implicitly, such as joining enemy combatants in active hostility against the US, committing acts of treason or otherwise acting with an intent to harm or overthrow the US government.

One of the possible cons to be aware of is there may be implications if you currently hold a security clearance or ever expect to need one.  This is especially true if you hold a foreign passport and use it to travel.  If this fits your situation, it is worth looking into further.  Also, it is something to keep in mind for your children as you decide whether to get their dual citizenship now or wait until they are adults.  Update on 8/17/11: I received this clarification from the San Francisco Italian Consulate: “Please note your minor children’s birth certificates must be submitted with the rest of your paperwork, as Italian law mandates that they be recognized simultaneously with you.”

Another concern that people have is whether they would be required to serve in the Italian Military if they obtain Italian Citizenship.  The short answer to this is probably not.  In 2001 the Italian government eliminated compulsory military service and it is now completely voluntary.  You may run into a hitch if you are a male born between 1976 and 1985.  If you fit this category and you do not live in Italy, you can fill out some paperwork to get an exemption from this.  Again, in this case (or if you live in Italy) you should check with your state’s Italian consulate.

Regarding taxes, the US government and Italy have tax treaties to protect their citizens from dual taxation.  The bottom line is if you live in the US you probably do not have to pay Italian taxes.  There are some specifics regarding income levels when living abroad.  Full disclaimer: I am not a tax accountant or lawyer and this information is based solely on my online research.  If you have any questions about tax implications, you should talk to a certified tax accountant.

One final note, claiming your Italian dual citizenship jure sanguinis makes you a full citizen of Italy.  As a result, you get voting rights, access to public healthcare and education and all of the other rights Italian citizens enjoy.  As I previously wrote, many of these rights and benefits extend to all countries participating in the European Union allowing Italian Americans to buy property, start businesses, and find work just as any other citizen of the European Union would.


Confirming Eligibility

Southern Italy - Italian citizenship for Americans
As I started researching further to confirm I was eligible for Italian citizenship,  I found there were some very specific criteria Italian Americans have to meet to claim your Italian Citizenship jure sanguinis.

One of the key things I learned is, if  you meet the criteria, the Italian Government has essentially considered you an Italian Citizen all along.  You just need to prove it now.


The primary criteria are:

  • Your Italian relative had to have been alive in March 17, 1861 when Italy became a united nation.  If your relative died before then or was otherwise not a citizen of the country on this date, you are not eligible to claim citizenship through this relative.
  • An Italian American woman could not transfer her citizenship before 1948.  In 1948 a law was passed allowing women to be able to pass their Italian citizenship to their kin.  This was a key one for me.  More below.
  • Your Italian born relative had to still be a citizen of Italy when their next of kin was born.  If they renounced their Italian citizenship by writing a letter to the consulate or embassy or they became a naturalized US citizen before their kin were born, those kin and any of their children are not eligible for Italian citizenship.  In other words, if they were still Italian citizens when their children were born, then their children and their children’s children and so on are already considered Italian citizens by right of blood unless they naturalized or formally renounced their citizenship.  (Note: getting your citizenship through birth is different from naturalization which requires you actually apply for your citizenship.)
  • The exception to the above is if your Italian born relative’s parents became naturalized citizens of another country before June 14, 1912 and your Italian born relative was still a minor, they effectively lost their Italian citizenship and you would not be eligible through this route.  If your Italian born relative came to the U.S. as a minor before 1912, you’ll need to prove their parents did not naturalize before this date.

Although all four of my maternal great grandparents were Italian citizens when my grandparents were born, I could only claim Italian citizenship through my great grandfather.  The reason for this is my mother was born before 1948.   1948 is a special year because this is when the Italian government passed a law that citizenship could be passed down through a woman.  Since I was born after 1948, my mother can pass down her citizenship that she got through her father and grandfather to me.

The 1920 census still showed my great grandfather as an alien (my grandfather was born before then) and I knew through my genealogy search that he was born after 1861 in Italy.  Things are looking good.  Onward!



It all started on a cold, rainy Northwest winter day while watching the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” on TV.  If you haven’t seen the show, every week a different celebrity is taken through a journey of discovery where they explore their genealogy and learn more about who their ancestors were.  The Brooke Shields episode was on that night.  As they explored her Italian ancestry, they mentioned a website where you could search Italian surnames to find out what part of Italy they were from.  Not having written down the website I decided to Google it.  That is when it happened.  A search result discussing the ability for Italian Americans to claim their Italian Citizenship.

By now, after several weeks of researching my own genealogy,  I knew all four of my maternal great grandparents were Italian and moved to the the United States as adults.   Immediately,  I knew, if I were eligible, this would open up huge opportunities and freedom for me and my family.  Not only would this provide a lot more flexibility to live and work in Italy if we ever chose to, but it would open this up to any of the European Union countries.

As I dug in further I realized that I met the requirements for Italian citizenship through my Italian ancestors.  What is more, I found out I could pass this on to my children! There are so many advantages to this but one is that you can work and live in any European Union country without the need for special sponsorship or visas.  Anybody who has worked for an international company knows that this world is only going to become more and more global so the idea of giving this gift to my children was incredibly exciting.  It would open up so many opportunities for them in the future and give them a distinct competitive advantage in the work force.

After reading what was involved, I knew the journey wasn’t going to be easy, but the advantages far outweighed the amount of time and effort it would take.