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!