How easy (or not) is it to get Italian Citizenship by descent?

Discovering that claiming Italian Citizenship is possible through our grandparents, great-grandparents, and even great-great-grandparents comes as a surprise to most of us. After doing a little research, we may come across articles and blog posts discussing how “easy” it is to get Italian Citizenship by descent compared to other countries, especially in terms of generation restrictions (there are none!). 

But how easy is it really?

Depending on your circumstances, claiming Italian Citizenship through ancestry carries various levels of difficulty, especially in terms of the following examples, just to name a few:

Regardless of your situation, the first step to getting your Italian Citizenship is to determine whether or not you’re eligible.

Qualifying for Italian citizenship by bloodline

Determining our eligibility for Italian Citizenship jure sanguinis, or by descent, involves proving that the “chain of citizenship” has never been broken between generations. 

Since Italian citizenship is passed from one generation to the next by bloodline, parents with Italian citizenship automatically pass their citizenship on to their children each generation, and that linear passage continues for any number of generations spanning from Italian Unification in 1861 onward. In some situations, however, this “chain” can be interrupted, creating some potential roadblocks for acquiring citizenship.

Such circumstances include:

  • If your first American-born relative was born after your Italian ancestors became a naturalized U.S. citizen (before 1992, Italy did not allow dual citizenship, so any ancestor would have lost their Italian citizenship when they became U.S. citizens and would not pass it on to any subsequently born children).
  • If your Italian ancestor was naturalized (became a U.S. citizen) before July 1, 1912. Prior to that date, when a native-born Italian naturalized in another country, he gave up not only his own Italian citizenship, but also that of all of his minor children, regardless of where they were born.
  • If your ancestor died before March 17, 1861 (the date Italy became a nation; before this date, there were no Italian citizens).
  • If your Italian lineage is unique to your maternal bloodline, you may not be eligible for citizenship if your maternal ancestor’s child was born before January 1, 1948. Before this date, citizenship could only be passed down by the father, and women could not pass their citizenship to their children.  This is known as the 1948 Rule).
  • If your Italian ancestor emigrated to the U.S. as a minor (younger than age 21), you may not be eligible for citizenship. Minors were typically naturalized at the same time as their parents, so if the parents of your direct minor-aged descendant were naturalized while your descendant was under age 21, your descendant likely would have lost their Italian citizenship along with their parents.

Often, some of the above circumstances can be challenged in an Italian court (though not all).

To help you determine if you might be eligible for Italian dual citizenship by descent, you can take our quick Italian Citizenship Quiz and learn if you qualify in less than two minutes! You can also book a FREE 30-minute consultation to speak with one of our citizenship eligibility experts. There’s no easier first step to starting your journey toward Italian Dual Citizenship!

Building a Citizenship Portfolio

The second step to getting your Italian Citizenship by descent is to put together a complete document portfolio. This portfolio, which proves your family’s unbroken “citizenship chain” and your right to claim Italian citizenship by bloodline, can be as simple as collecting a handful of vital records, seals and translations to having to order dozens. It all depends on your unique family history and the regulations of the state where you live. Among the greatest challenges of building a portfolio includes:

  • Ordering vital records from Italian comuni, or towns, of their origin, especially if the records are old. Some records have been lost over time due to war, misorganization, poor record-keeping, or never existed to begin with.
  • Obtaining vital records in states with strict regulations, such as in the State of New York, which requires a court order to receive vital records of deceased people.
  • Finding alternative documents to substitute a birth certificate, such as a baptismal certificate or Social Security application, when no registered birth certificate exists.  
  • Ensuring that the right version of the records has been collected for the portfolio, such as long-form birth certificates that include exact town of birth and parental information.
  • Finding a certified, Consulate-approved translator to translate all U.S. vital records into Italian.
  • Getting the Apostilles, or seals, for all U.S. vital records (some also require additional authentications in order to be apostilled).
  • Waiting. That’s right, this process takes lots of time. For the required naturalization record, alone, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) genealogy office, which is one of the two acceptable sources for the record, advises that it can take up to thirteen (13) months to process a request. This is assuming that all information is correct, including the naturalization record’s file number, which must be searched by USCIS using the Index if it is not known exactly; ordering an Index search (which also may take up to twelve (12) months) and the record are two separate orders and two separate charges.

This is not to say that you will encounter all of these challenges, but they are among the most commonly encountered by Italian Citizenship applicants.

Keep in mind that if you decide to hire an agency like My Italian Family that specializes in Italian Citizenship by descent to complete the portfolio for you, you can sit back and relax while the agency handles the hard work! How great is that?

Auditing the portfolio

The third step is especially important if you decide to tackle the portfolio on your own and not hire an agency to put it together for you. Once all required documents have been collected, it is highly recommended to send your portfolio to an agency for an audit. They will review your portfolio to ensure that all required records are present and in their correct form, and that no inconsistencies exist between records (including inconsistent name spellings, dates, and genealogical information), among other things. 

If any changes are needed, the agency will communicate how to resolve them. This is your best chance at making sure that your portfolio is ready for your appointment with the Italian Consulate. Often, finding an open appointment can take a lot of time and Consulates are frequently booked months or even years in advance. Consulates will eventually review your documentation and if discrepancies have not been properly addressed, they will send you a list of corrections and/or additional documents you need to provide before they can approve your citizenship application.

Your appointment at the Consulate

You can book an appointment at the Italian Consulate even before your portfolio is completed, just be sure to have it completed by the time your appointment arrives. 

Every Consulate covers a specific group of states, and the Consulate where you should book your appointment is not always obvious. It’s important to check which Italian Consulate covers your state before trying to book, and to make appropriate transportation arrangements, as the Italian Consulate for your state may be quite far from you (for example, the Italian Consulate in Chicago covers the State of Wyoming, and the Consulate in Philadelphia covers from Pennsylvania south including North Carolina.

It’s also helpful to become familiar with your Italian Consulate’s website, particularly concerning where to locate your Consulate’s specific requirements on applying for Italian Citizenship, and their system for booking appointments.

Consulates can vary greatly from one to another, and each has its own way of treating appointments. The Consulate in Miami, for example, allows applicants to see its full calendar at any time and book an appointment at their convenience. The Consulate in New York allows you to be placed on their “waitlist” where you will be waiting for your turn.

Finally, once you have an appointment, you will need to fill out several application forms for you, your living ancestors, and your deceased ancestors; you will follow the directions provided by the Italian Consulate, including determining whether you will be required to go in person to your appointment or mail in your document portfolio.

Registering with A.I.R.E.

Evviva! You did it! You’ve completed the process and now you’re an Italian Citizen. When you’ve been approved for Italian Citizenship, you’ll receive an official letter/email that can be used to purchase your Italian passport. At this time, you will also be required to register with A.I.R.E. (Anagrafe Italiani residenti all’estero), or the Registry of Italians Living Abroad. This registration is required for all Italian citizens living outside of Italy for more than 12 months or permanently.

So what’s next after citizenship? The choice is yours to make. Italian Dual Citizenship is an exciting opportunity for you and your family, and we’re here to help you on your journey.

So give us a call! We offer a FREE 30-minute Telephone Consultation for applicants who have questions regarding qualification, required documentation, estimated cost, timelines, and tips on how to make an appointment with an Italian Consulate here in the U.S. (among other questions). We will also perform some free preliminary research to establish if you have a path to Italian Citizenship!

Simply call us at 1-844-741-0848 (Option 1) Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET, and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

Alternatively, you can book your FREE 30-minute consultation at your convenience.

At My Italian Family, we don’t just give advice, we handle all the purchasing and preparation of your entire portfolio of documents, whether you apply at an Italian Consulate here in the US or you apply in Italy (including 1948 Challenge Courts Cases). Our experience spans 20 years, and we have expert knowledge of what each Consulate requires, as well as what the Italian Courts require. TO GET STARTED AND FOR MORE INFORMATION, CLICK HERE