How Certain Dates Can Make Or Break Italian Citizenship Eligibility

If you are just getting started with your journey to Italian Dual citizenship, understanding a few Italian laws (and their corresponding dates) can be very helpful in determining if you qualify or not. How many times did you come across 1861, 1912, 1948, etc.? Here is an explanation of why they exist and how your family situation may be affected (or not) by some of them. 

Italian Dual Citizenship - Important Dates To Remember

March 17, 1861

The Parliament of the Kingdom of Sardinia proclaimed Vittorio Emanuele II King of the newborn Kingdom of Italy: it was the official birth of Italy as a nation (Law 17 March 1861, n. 4761). 

This date is key because to qualify for Italian citizenship, you will have to make sure your Italian-born Ancestor was still alive on this date. There is no limit on the number of generations an applicant can go back when applying for Italian citizenship; if your Italian Ancestor was born before this date, make sure he migrated to the U.S. AFTER 17 March 1861. If he came over to the US before this day, he was not an Italian citizen.

NOTE: Some territories such as Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto, and Friuli Venezia Giulia were annexed later, that is after 1861. Make sure to check if your Italian-born ancestor came from those areas. 

July 1, 1912

The Italian Government passed the first Citizenship Law No.555/1912 (which took effect on July 1, 1912) allowing descendants of Italian-born ancestors to claim Italian citizenship by right of blood as long as the Italian Ancestor became a U.S. citizen AFTER the birth of the child here in the US and after July 1, 1912.  Before this date, Italian citizenship was only regulated by the 1865 Civil Code (Codice Napoleonico).

If your Italian Ancestor naturalized BEFORE July 1, 1912, you DO NOT qualify for Italian citizenship even if his or her child was born before this individual naturalized. Before that date, when a native-born Italian naturalized in another country, he gave up not only his Italian citizenship but also that of all of his minor children, regardless of where they were born.

NOTE: If your Italian-born MALE ancestor became a US citizen before July 1, 1912, you may be able to claim Italian citizenship via your Italian-born FEMALE ancestor if you can prove she became a US citizen involuntarily just by marriage and the marriage occurred before 22 September 1922

However, the conditions for the acquisition and the loss of Italian citizenship for situations where the naturalization occurred before 1912 are mainly regulated by the 1865 Civil Code:

  • 1865 Civil Code art. 11: “…….Wife and children of the person who loses Italian citizenship also become foreigners, unless they continue to reside in the Kingdom of Italy……”
  • 1865 Civil Code art. 14: “…….Italian women married to a foreign husband automatically lose their Italian citizenship and become foreigners if they acquire their husband’s citizenship by marriage…”

To demonstrate that your Italian Female Ancestor did not lose her Italian citizenship, you would need to prove that: 

  • a) She was a resident of Italy when her husband naturalized 


  • b) She became a widow and moved back to Italy where she formally declared her intention to be domiciled in Italy.

Again, the legal framework of reference for this particular situation is the 1865 Civil Code and not Article 10, paragraph 3 Law 155/1912 which was declared unconstitutional in 1975, in 1983, and 2009 with the landmark judgment n. 4466 of 25 February 2009 issued by the joint sections of the Italian Supreme Court stating that women who acquired a foreign nationality “involuntarily and automatically” because of marriage, retained their Italian citizenship, thus they can transmit it to their children. NO provisions were set forth by the 1865 Civic Code.

In summary, petitioning the Italian Courts for the involuntary citizenship of a female ancestor whose husband became a U.S. citizen before July 1, 1912, is possible, but risky. 

Italian Citizenship History

July 16, 1920

This date refers to the effectiveness of the Treaty of Saint Germain with which, at the end of WWI, the Austro-Hungarian Empire territories were assigned to various States. It is listed in the Citizenship Law 379/2000, which regulates the recognition of Italian citizenship to those born in the territories belonging to the ex-Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as to their descendants.

In essence, the “Italian citizenship eligibility issue” linked to the “16 July 1920” requirement is the following: the ancestor who emigrated BEFORE July 16, 1920, expatriated as an Austro-Hungarian citizen and not as an Italian citizen (meaning he or she could not pass Italian citizenship on to their children, etc.). 

If your Italian ancestor was born in Trentino Alto Adige (South Tyrol), Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, or Veneto, in addition to the current eligibility requirements for Italian citizenship, you must also prove that he or she emigrated from Italy AFTER July 16th, 1920. 

January 1, 1948

The 1912 Italian Citizenship Law (No. 555) granting Italian citizenship jure sanguinis states that women could hold but not pass citizenship to their children.  On January 1, 1948, when the new Italian Constitution came into effect, women were given more rights including the right to pass citizenship to their children, but only to children born AFTER January 1, 1948.

Unfortunately, the new legislation was not retroactive and so children born to an Italian mother before 1948 did not inherit Italian citizenship rights.

Several years ago, the Italian Supreme Court held that this provision was contrary to the Constitutional principles, particularly to the principle of equality between men and women (Judgement No. 4466/2009). Thus, also children who are born before 1948 to an Italian mother may file a motion to appeal the "1948 Rule" and obtain if all other qualification requirements are met, Italian citizenship.

NOTE: Even though the Italian Supreme Court ruled against the 1948 Rule, the Italian government has not yet chosen to modify or amend the current law. US Italian Consulates and other Italian Consulates outside of Italy strictly adhere to the current 1948 Rule and will probably continue to do so until the law is amended. Thus, if you fall into this category, the legal action to be filed in the Italian Courts is your only way to obtain citizenship.

April 27, 1983

A foreign woman who married an Italian citizen BEFORE April 27, 1983, automatically acquired Italian citizenship. (Law 155/1912 art. 10 par. 2)

On 27 April 1983 (Law no. 123) the automatic extension of Italian citizenship through marriage was no longer allowed. Since that date, foreign women when marrying an Italian spouse, do not receive automatic and immediate Italian citizenship. After this date, spouses have to apply for Italian citizenship by marriage over an extensive three-year process.

August 16, 1992 

On February 5, 1992, the Italian government passed a law (No. 91, Art. 11) stating that any Italian citizen who acquired or reacquired a foreign citizenship after August 16, 1992 would not lose his or her Italian citizenship.
In addition, if you were born in Italy but gave up your Italian citizenship through naturalization before August 16, 1992, you are now able to regain it by residing in Italy for at least a year.

How Do I Become An Italian Citizen?

Ready to get started with your journey to Italian Citizenship? We are here to help! We offer a FREE 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 US (among other questions). We will also perform some free preliminary research to establish if you have a path to Italian Citizenship! Call us at 1-844-741-0848 (Option 1) Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET, and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. Alternatively, you can book your FREE 15-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. 

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