Navigating the Complex Journey to Italian Citizenship

Navigating the Complex Journey to Italian Citizenship:  Research, Roadblocks and Challenges 

When starting the journey to Italian citizenship, you really don’t know what surprises or obstacles you will find along the way. 

The assumption that putting together a complete document portfolio is easy and quick is often erroneous.  In this article we are going to talk about the various steps that make this process quite complex: 

Italian Vital Records

Knowing the exact town of birth where your Italian born Ancestor was originally from is key to finding the birth record which is only maintained in the exact town in Italy where they were born. The assumption that we often make is that the birth record will be there, but what if it is not? A town hall can be unresponsive, may not have the records because they were destroyed or lost, or the ancestor was born before the records were recorded in the town hall (this is true if the family of the Ancestor was from the North of Italy where vital records generally started to be recorded only after 1866). So, what can we do in any of these cases? The good news is that alternative records such as church records, military records, or vital records maintained in different sources (State Archives or District Courts) can be researched. The key here is knowing how to access them and who to contact.

Naturalization Records

Once you’re able to track down and obtain their birth record, proving that your Italian born Ancestor was still an Italian citizen at the time of his or her child’s birth here in the U.S. and after July 1, 1912, can be another challenge you face. 

  • Where did the naturalization occur? 
  • Was it in a local city, county, or state court and if so, where are the records maintained? 
  • And if it was in a Federal District court, how long will it take to get the required documents from USCIS/Homeland Security? 

The answers to these questions are essential to make sure you don’t end up missing a document that may take a year to receive from the proper government office. 

We often assume that if the Italian born Ancestor never became a U.S. citizen, we do not have to do anything to prove it; the concept that he did not speak English is a good enough proof. Alas, this is not true; “proving the negative” is required and it comes in the form of multiple Letters of No Records, Certificates of Non-Existence (often referred to as a CONE), and Census Records. Knowing where to request these documents and what the proper documentation your Consulate, Italian town, or Italian court requires to prove your Ancestor did not naturalize is key to saving time and money. 


Most of the vital records required to prove your lineage and link yourself to the Italian born ancestors are here in the U.S. though the proximity of the records does not necessarily translate into guaranteed successful acquisition or fast acquisition. Often States have unique procedures to request a birth record of a deceased person; you may be required to present the person’s death record, or you may need “lineage documents”, mainly the births of all the descendants including yourself to prove your lineage.  

In one of the worst-case scenarios, you may have to obtain a Court Order (New York State) through an Article 78 proceeding to have the Division of Vital Records release a certified copy of the birth record of your deceased grandparent or parent.  Additionally, many states, towns, and counties also have different formats they issue these records in; it’s important to not only obtain the required record but to obtain the required record in the correct format.  All these nuances can make the project so much longer to the point of taking up several years just to gather the required documents. 


Once all the documents from both Italy and the U.S. have been collected, a new phase of the project begins. Italian Consulates, Courts or Town halls in Italy depending on where you apply, require consistency in the way names (first and last names), dates of birth, and places of birth are repeated throughout the documents. Choosing what to correct or how to address a discrepancy is often difficult given that we do not know exactly what the Consular officer, or the judge, or the town hall official will deem necessary or perhaps will overlook. In addition, the process to correct/amend a record differs greatly based on the States involved here in the U.S. Some may require a court order, while others may be able to correct some of the data but not all, resulting in delaying the completion of the project ever further.

It should be noted that sometimes a discrepancy can be addressed with additional documents from both Italy and the U.S.  Knowing which documents to add to supplement your portfolio could save you valuable time in your citizenship process.  Quite often after your appointment, the Consulates will provide “homework” for you in the form of additional documentation to acquire. This can often be avoided if the correct documentation/supplements are included at the time of your appointment.  


Once the review of the portfolio and the additional steps taken to address discrepancies have been completed, you are left with legalizing all the U.S. vital records with Apostilles issued by the Secretary of State of the State where the vital record was issued. Depending on where you will be applying (Italian courts or Town hall in Italy) some additional records, i.e. naturalization records may have to be apostilled as well.

We need to remember that Italian Consulates here in the U.S. have slightly different documentation requirements (some also require spousal records) which can change at their discretion. It is always advisable to continue checking the Italian Consulate website during the process. 


The last piece of the puzzle (or so we are led to believe) is translating all the U.S. documents to Italian; which ones need to be translated is also based on where you will be applying. In addition, if you are applying in Italy, through the Italian Courts or the town hall, translations will have to be certified by a local court. Translations can be time-consuming because in addition to the translation of the information listed in each document, you will have to replicate the exact look, or template, of the original document. 

Assuming that during the lifetime of your “project”, you have been able to secure an appointment with the Italian Consulate that has jurisdiction over the State where you reside, preparing for your appointment is another project in itself. Some Consulates will require in-person meetings, while others (currently New York, Miami, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles) will provide you with instructions to mail-in your document portfolio. In preparation for your appointment, the application forms will have to be filled out and, in some cases, signed in front of a notary and apostilled. 

Applying for Italian citizenship is not just a big financial investment, but it also takes a lot of patience. It can be done if we don’t forget what the end goal is: an Italian passport that will broaden your boundaries and will allow you to live, work, and study in any of the 27 countries that are part of the European Union. 

Let My Italian Family Do The Work For You!

Give us a call! 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 U.S. (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, we are ALWAYS OPEN!

At My Italian Family, we provide FULL assistance, handling all the purchasing and preparation of your entire portfolio of documents, whether you apply at an Italian Consulate here in the U.S. or you apply in Italy (including 1948 Challenge Courts Cases). Our experience spans 20 years, and we have expert knowledge of what each Italian Consulate requires and what the Italian Courts require. TO GET STARTED AND FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ALL OUR ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP ASSISTANCE SERVICES, CLICK HERE.

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