Now more than ever, people are seeking international mobility and the ability to live, work, and study where they choose. Each year hundreds of successful entrepreneurs, individuals, and families invest significant sums of money into obtaining a second passport to do so. Many of these citizenship by investment schemes have been a roaring success, bringing economic investment into their local economies. But did you know that there is one highly-ranked European passport that is almost free to obtain?
It’s true. If you qualify, you may be eligible for an Italian passport. Ranked number 8 in the world, the Italian passport is one of the world’s strongest. And to get it, it’s just a matter of proving your eligibility. There is no monetary investment involved, no background investigation, no requirement for residency, and no language proficiency test.
Just to recap, if you’re eligible, you have the potential to obtain one of the world’s most powerful passports and all you have to do is gather some paperwork. In this post, we’ll explain how you can get started.
The Legal Background
Italian citizenship law is based on the principle of jure sanguinis. This is a Latin term meaning “by right of the blood.” Therefore, Italian citizenship is passed down from parent to child no matter where a child is born. Conversely, if a child is born in Italy to foreign national parents, that child is not automatically an Italian citizen.
This is in contrast with the principle of jure sanguinis (Latin for “by right of the soil”). In jure soli countries such as the United States, any child born on local territory is an automatic citizen by birth. Even if his or her parents are foreign nationals, any child born in the United States is granted citizenship by birth.
Where these concepts get interesting is Italian Law no. 555 of 1912. This law states that any child born in a jure soli country to an Italian citizen parent is an automatic Italian citizen. And since jure soli laws do not interfere with jure sanguinis laws, it follows that a child can be born an American citizen jure soli and an Italian citizen jure sanguinis. In essence, Italy operates on the principle of birthright citizenship and anyone who qualifies is not actually applying for citizenship, but instead seeking formal recognition of a status that he or she has maintained since birth.
Additionally, Italian law places no limit to generations. Once Italian citizenship is successfully passed from parent to child, that child can pass it on to his children and so on. Rinse and repeat across a perpetual number of generations until someone seeks formal recognition.
This also means that each single generation does not need to ask for recognition in order for the citizenship to exist. Since the citizenship is passed down latently, you can seek recognition at any time even if the generations before you don’t.
In other words, Italian dual citizenship can get passed down indefinitely just waiting for someone in your family to be recognized. That someone may be you.
How to Apply
In order to apply for Italian citizenship by descent, you must do two things:
- Prove your viable claim to citizenship
- Reconstruct your family tree
You do this by collecting various vital records such as birth, marriage, death, naturalization, etc., translating them, legalizing them with an apostille, and handing them in to the competent Italian authority.
Where to Apply
According to Italian Circolare k. 28 del 1991, where you seek recognition of Italian dual citizenship depends on where you are currently residing.
If you live outside Italy, you must file your application at the Italian consulate or embassy with jurisdiction over your location. If you live in Italy, you must file your application at the comune level.
Keep in mind that if you intend to apply in Italy, you’ll need to be establishing residence there first. This involves renting a house or apartment in your own name or having a landlord, friend, or family member file a declaration of hospitality showing that you will be their guest throughout the process.
What Are the Italian Dual Citizenship Requirements?
In order to be eligible for Italian citizenship by descent, you need to meet all of the following requirements:
Your Italian ancestor:
- Must have been alive anywhere in the world on March 17, 1861. This was the date of Italian unification. If your ancestor died before this date, s/he was never actually an Italian citizen and thus could not pass on Italian citizenship.
- Must not have been a naturalized citizen of another country by March 17, 1861.
- Either never naturalized as a citizen of another country or naturalized after July 1, 1912.
- If your ancestor did naturalize after July 1, 1912, it must have also been after the birth of his or her child.
You and your intermediate ancestors:
- Must never have renounced your right to obtain Italian dual citizenship. Renunciation of the right to have Italian dual citizenship is a formal process wherein you must formally swear your intention to never obtain Italian citizenship in front of a consular officer and an Italian flag.
There are special rules governing female Italian ancestors and Italian citizenship via maternal ancestry. These are as follows:
Italian Dual Citizenship via Maternal Descent
- Any women in your direct line of descent must have had their child on or after January 1, 1948.
Before January 1, 1948, Italian women could not pass on Italian citizenship to their children. However, there were very few exceptions to these rules:
- When the children were born to an unknown father
- When the children were born to a stateless father
- If father’s own foreign citizenship did not pass on automatically to the children
If you have a female ancestors whose child was born before this date, you are what is colloquially known as a “1948 case.” Applicants with a 1948 case can still apply for recognition of Italian dual citizenship but cannot do so at the consulate or directly in Italy. Instead, these applicants must hire an Italian attorney to petition the court in Rome for their citizenship on the basis of the discriminatory nature of these laws.
- John was born in the United States in 1989. His dad William was born in the US in 1954. His grandfather Salvatore was born in the US in 1921. Salvatore’s dad Vito was born in Italy in 1890 and became an American citizen in 1944, 23 years after Salvatore’s birth. Because of this, Salvatore, William, and John are all Italian dual citizens and can seek formal recognition.
- James was born on February 12, 1947 in the United States to Elena, an Italian citizen. James also has a younger sister Kay who was born on November 10, 1950. Because James was born before January 1, 1948 to an Italian woman he cannot apply for citizenship at the consulate or in Italy. He must hire an Italian attorney to file his case in the Court of Rome. Kay, however, was born after the cutoff so she can apply through the normal consulate and/or Italy channels.
- Brian was born in the US in 1970. His father Donald was born in the US in 1940. His grandfather Vincenzo was born in Italy and moved to the United States in 1930, becoming a citizen in 1933. Because Vincenzo became a citizen before Donald’s birth, Donald and Brian are both ineligible for Italian dual citizenship through him.
What Does Becoming an Italian Dual Citizen Involve?
Before you can do anything else, you must determine eligibility for Italian dual citizenship. We recommend looking for your last Italian-born ancestor’s naturalization records as this date is key for determining eligibility. If you are from the United States, you can start your search by ordering records from the National Archives and Records Administration and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Once you have established an eligible claim, you must gather all the documents needed for Italian citizenship. Depending on where you apply – consulate vs. Italy – this list may vary. However, the general list of documents you’ll need is as follows:
For your last Italian-born ancestor:
- Italian birth certificate (“estratto dell’atto di nascita”)
- Marriage certificate (“estratto dell’atto di matrimonio” if married in Italy), with translation into Italian and apostille if marriage occurred outside Italy
- Naturalization records with translation into Italian and apostille
- Death records
- If your ancestor never naturalized, you will need proof of non-naturalization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the County Clerk’s offices in the counties where s/he may have lived
For you and your intermediate ancestors:
- Birth certificates with translation into Italian and apostille
- Marriage certificates with translation into Italian and apostille
- Death certificates with translation into Italian and apostille
How to Handle Discrepancies on Documents
It is inevitable that with so many documents to procure you may find date, name or place discrepancies. In these cases, the severity of the discrepancy will determine how you must react. If, for example, your last Italian-born ancestor’s birth name was Francesco but he used Frank on all his American documents, it is likely that the consular officer will allow your application to go through without incident.
However, if you have more severe discrepancies such as Francesco becoming David, you’ll need to rectify them. Many states will allow you to amend documents without a court order as long as you can show ample evidence.
We recommend that if you have multiple severe discrepancies across multiple documents you obtain what is known as an Order of One and the Same Person. A judge can look over all of your documents and evidence and issue an order rectifying the discrepancies one and for all in one single document. This is readily accepted at all Italian consulates and comuni.
Filing the Italian citizenship application
Once you have gathered everything that you need for your recognition of Italian citizenship, it is time to make an appointment. There are 10 Italian consulates in the United States and each handles about 2,500 cases per year.
The consulates use the “Prenota Online” calendar system to book appointments. Be sure to check every day at 12 am Rome time for new appointments as they do go fast. If you cannot find an appointment right away, keep trying.
At your appointment, you will meet with the consular officer who will start a file in your name. The officer will look over all of your documents to make sure you have everything. If everything is in order, your file will be sent for processing. If you are lacking documents, the officer will tell you in writing what is needed so that you may cure any deficiencies.
After your application is sent for processing the consulate will check that neither you nor your intermediate ancestors ever renounced the right to have dual citizenship. If you are in the clear, your citizenship will be signed into effect by the highest ranking officer and you will be contacted to inform you of your application’s acceptance.
Processing may take anywhere from 1 to 2 years so be prepared for a wait.
AIRE and your passport
Once you are recognized, you must either enroll in AIRE (Registry of Italians Abroad) to obtain your passport if living outside Italy, or you can then obtain your passport from your local police precinct (questura) if living in Italy.
Costs for Italian Dual Citizenship
Besides the cost of gathering all your documents, translating, and legalizing them, there is a fee for your application. If you apply at the consulate, prepare to pay 300 euros. If you apply in Italy, the application fee is usually waived. This fee is nonrefundable even if your application is unsuccessful.
Additionally, there may be costs if you choose to hire an Italian dual citizenship service provider who can handle all of your documents and assist on the ground with an application in Italy.
Since 2005, Audra de Falco has owned Get Italian Citizenship, Inc. and has helped hundreds of clients obtain Italian passports. We offer a suite of Italian dual citizenship services. Hire us to help you determine eligibility for Italian dual citizenship, gather a professionally-prepared Italian citizenship application, or even apply in Italy.
Founder of Corpocrat Magazine and World’s leading expert in citizenship and residence by investment schemes assisting wealthy individuals and families. He is the founder Best Citizenships (BC), CIP Journal and World Citizenship Council (WCC) .
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