A Complete FREE Guide: Gain Italian Citizenship By Descent [Step-by-Step Process]
What is this whole process about?
Let’s keep it extremely simple: if you had Italian ancestors, you may be eligible for Italian citizenship. In this FREE guide we'll cover all the steps, that is:
determine if you qualify
collect all the necessary documents
submit your application in 3 possible ways
get your Italian passport
Ready? Let’s understand how this works!
The "Right of Blood”, aka Jure Sanguinis.
According to nationality law, jus sanguinis grants citizenship to individuals whose parent or parents are citizens of a given state. Keep this in mind as we discuss this topic. Basically, thanks to this law, if you can prove that your Italian citizenship was not interrupted as it was passed down from one generation to the next, you can be acknowledged as an Italian citizen.
The most important dates to remember
You can’t go back as many generations as you want to determine your last Italian ancestor. The first date you need to take into account is March 17th, 1861. If your ancestor was born prior to that date, he was not technically Italian because Italy did not exist yet. Also, they must not have given up their citizenship before the birth of their descendant.
July 1, 1912 was the date when law 555/1912 relating to citizenship became effective. This law states that any ancestors who were naturalized prior to this date would not be able to pass on their citizenship to their offspring, even if they were born before the naturalization. This is because the lineage of citizenship would have been disrupted.
Two dates to keep in mind are December 31, 1947 and January 1st, 1948. This later one is when the Italian constitution in its current form took effect, as well as when women acquired the same rights as men in matters such as passing on citizenship, voting, and more. If a person's ancestor is a woman who gave birth to them on or before December 31, 1947, then it may be necessary to go through judicial procedures to be granted Italian citizenship.
If your ancestor was born to a female Italian citizen after 1 January 1948, the administrative process can be continued through the Italian consulate or comune (municipality), which will be discussed further in this guide.
One instance of a lineage eligible to apply for the Jure Sanguinis authorization procedure is a family.
How does this impact your application?
Simply put: if you are applying through a male ancestor, you shouldn’t care about 1948. If you’re applying through a female ancestor (your mom), then her date of birth will determine whether you’ll apply through a court (until 12/31/1947) or the consulate/municipality (after 1/1/1948). August 15, 1992. This is the day when the present citizenship law was implemented, which abolished the rule of "exclusive" citizenship and permitted Italian nationals to maintain dual citizenship. Therefore, any Italian citizen who was naturalized after August 16, 1992, would not have lost their Italian nationality. As a result of this law, if an Italian parent was naturalized before their child was born, but on or after August 15, 1992, the offspring's Italian citizenship would remain intact.
Documents needed to qualify for Italian citizenship by descent
Once you have determined your potential eligibility for Italian citizenship by descent, you’ll need to collect all the documents required from all the States you lived in, which usually means Italy and the US/Australia/Canada/South Africa/UK depending on where in the world you are applying, and any other countries in between where your family lived, even temporarily. (need help with that? Just ask!)
The full list is as follows:
and naturalization records (if applicable).
Some consulates may also require to see documents from relative not in line (say, your grandmother, when you’re applying through your grandfather).
Keep in mind: your end goal is to show the consulate that your Italian lineage is uninterrupted.
Building your family tree may also be helpful. You may find out that you have multiple Italian ancestors, and choosing one over another may mean choosing between an administrative or a judicial procedure.
Pay attention to this next:
Depending on the jurisdiction, vital records must be obtained from different offices; this could include city hall, the county clerk, or the State Vital Records office.
It is best to acquire the longest format of the record available (long-form certified copies). For instance, New York birth records should be obtained in their extended format, and marriage records should include the marriage license when available.
All documents not written in Italian must be translated into Italian and certified when applying in Italy (guess who can help with that? ;). In this post I also explain why you need to have your translations done and certified in Italy, if you apply in Italy.
When applying in the USA, translations may be certified by the consulate, though some Italian consulates in the US may require certified translations for some or all documents.
Additionally, all non-Italian documents need to be certified copies with an apostille certification attached. This is fundamental, otherwise your documents will not be valid, even If you have them translated. In this post I explain how to get an apostille.
In cases where an ancestor who came from Italy did not have a birth certificate, a baptismal record may be accepted. The same is true for any direct line relative born in a country with no birth certificates.
Death certificates must also be acquired when applicable.
In New York State, birth records for deceased intermediate ascendants (or their spouses) require a court order, excluding records from New York City which do not need a court order.
The number of documents you’ll need to collect depends on where you’ll apply. Generally, Italian consulates and comuni (municipalities) do not necessitate documents from non-direct line progenitors. However, some consulates do require such documents.
When examining the records of past generations, especially those that are more distant, discrepancies between names and dates are often present. A key factor in the inaccuracy of the data was due to the fact that many immigrants had limited English proficiency, leading to incorrect transcription of their details. Additionally, it was not uncommon for immigrants to modify the spelling of their name while settling in the US, in order to fit in better with the local population. Discrepancies can be classified into three primary groups:
1. "Minimal Impact" Variations In general, these slight differences in your paperwork are not a problem and won't hinder your application's success. Most of the time, no further action is required. For instance, names that have been directly translated, like Vincenzo to Vincent or Michele to Michael.
2. Small Imperfections (Misspellings/Typos) These tiny errors may not be a problem and can be fixed quickly by the same government offices that released the documents with the inconsistencies. These can include minor variations of last names, parent's names on birth records that have slight differences, and conflicting data on death records. Should your ancestor have provided an alternative date of birth on their naturalization documents, and the records indicate their precise place of birth, an Italian consulate may accept a certification from the Italian municipality that there is no other individual with the same name from the same town on any other date.
3. Potential differences. In situations where a direct ancestor from your Italian family line has gone by a different name or surname, you may need to demonstrate documentation that connects their birth name and the name they adopted or chose. If the appropriate papers are not available, the process of mending the discrepant records might come with varying levels of difficulty, depending on the particular circumstances. In situations where administrative processes or court orders cannot resolve major discrepancies, you may need to file a petition to an American court for a "one and the same court order" to be successful in your application. (Need help? Just ask)
NOTE:It is often necessary to provide documentation if you have changed your name for any reason. In Italy, usually it is necessary to record the name change on your birth certificate. However, if it is not possible to make such an amendment (e.g. due to marriage), the Italian government will recognize the name on your birth certificate.
No matter which country the document is from, other than Italy, it will require some type of certification, authentication, or legalization. For documents that originate in the United States, an apostille is required. Apostille stamps can only be applied to official copies of documents, not to genealogical or photocopied documents. If you are in the United States, the process of obtaining an apostille is usually handled by the Secretary of State (of the State that issued the document), yet in certain places the Treasury Department may be involved. In some cases, documents may call for additional authentications in order to be apostilled (for example, birth certificates from New York City may need to be approved by the county clerk's office before they can be apostilled). It is essential to discover what the requirements are in your state. Again, if you need help with this, just ask. Please note that some countries did not sign The Hague Convention of 1961, meaning that you cannot get an apostille on documents originating from those countries. Therefore you need to contact the Italian embassy in the country to ask what kind of legalization you can actually get.
Certified, official, sworn translations
This is simple. Don’t translate your official documents unless you are a professional translator. Period. Google Translate may work for other things, not official translations. Keep in mind that any Italian authority be it a comune or a consulate will want a sworn translation. This means that a professional translator will translate your documents, take them to court/a notary public/ a justice of the peace and have them certified. The final package you’ll get will be made of original+translation+certification, all stapled together and stamped by the court/notary/justice of the peace. This is the only procedure that has legal value in Italy. Official translators cannot stamp their own translations to certify them. And yes, translators need your original documents to take to court because they will be stapled to the translation. So we can’t photocopy them or print out a scan. In this post I explained why it’s better to have your translations certified in Italy if you’re applying in Italy.
Getting Italian citizenship by descent: ways to do it
Be prepared to wait a lot. When filing an application in the US, you must submit the paperwork to the appropriate office based on where you live. As an example, if you are a resident of San Rafael, California, you will need to apply through the San Francisco consulate. Even if the wait time is longer than in other locations such as Los Angeles or Houston, you are not allowed to switch consulates and must apply where you are legally situated.
2. Italian comune
If you are looking to live in Italy and apply there, you must become a legal resident of the comune you choose first. You can easily set up residence in Italy in order to apply for Jure Sanguinis, provided that you are willing to remain there for some time. (I can help with housing and other logistical issues too. Just ask!) The speed at which applications are processed in Italy is usually quick, but this varies from place to place. It hinges on the municipality you submit your application to, as well as the processing times and workloads of the consulate. When pursuing a move to Italy, it is prudent to consider the feasibility of staying there. Not only from the legal standpoint of having the right to remain there for an extended period, but also in a practical sense with respect to financial commitment. For those who wish to stay in Italy for a longer period of time, rather than just the time necessary to complete their citizenship application process, this option may be intriguing. This is because it will give them the chance to start discovering what life in Italy is like before they have to get an appointment at a consulate outside of the country. When applying for citizenship by descent, knowing Italian is not a requirement. However, if you possess a good command of the language, the process of applying in Italy can be more straightforward. Nonetheless, if you do not speak the language, the process can still be completed with the help of a lawyer or translator.
Pros and cons
When submitting a request in Italy, there is no need to pay an application fee; however, a marca da bollo (Italian revenue stamp) which costs 16 Euros may be necessary. On the other hand, when applying at an Italian consulate, the charge is 300 Euros, but this usually covers the cost of translation certification, with a few exceptions. If you are submitting an application in Italy, you might need to cover the expenses for a residency permit to stay in the nation for the duration of the procedure if it surpasses 90 days, the time period typically accepted for visitors coming to Italy with a visa waiver program or with a tourist visa. The cost of the residency permit for dual citizenship is around €120 each year in addition to the cost of medical coverage which could be similarly priced if you pick to use the public healthcare system, which is one of the best in the world. Prior to applying at the Italian consulate, you may need to book an appointment via the Prenota Online system. As appointments are highly sought after, it may take a while to secure one and may require multiple attempts depending on the demand. Sadly, numerous meetings are not kept and a lot of people will "reserve" meetings without any plan of going themselves, inevitably leading others to wait. This is an issue that the Italian government is presently endeavoring to tackle. To determine the most recent information regarding available appointments, as well as those that have been recently added to the schedule, take a look at the Prenota Online system. If you decide to do the application process yourself, it would be helpful to collect your documents for the citizenship packet in chronological order, beginning with yourself or your last Italian born ancestor. This will make it easier for you to keep track of and for the clerk to understand what documentation you have and what might be needed. A family tree may also help the clerk better understand your situation. At the time of your appointment, you must bring all of your documents, translations, and apostilles to the Italian consulate. If you choose not to use any service provider, you risk overlooking certain details that can force you to go back home and finish some paperwork before continuing with the citizenship process. This could mean getting translations or certifications of your documents, or fixing name discrepancies. The latter could require amendments to the documents. To avoid such issues, it is best to work with someone familiar with the Italian legal system.
How long does it take to get Italian dual citizenship?
It is not possible to predict the exact amount of time that it will take for recognition to be processed due to the nuances of the Italian legal system. Nonetheless, per the law, a response must be provided by the Italian government within two years. When working with consulates, it is rare for an answer to be given in less than eight months. The length of time it takes to apply in Italy fluctuates depending on the comune. In the past, some cases have only taken a matter of weeks; however, due to the rise in interest, processing times may be longer. If the petition is made in a major city such as Rome, Milan or Florence, it's likely the wait time will be longer, as the clerks are usually busy with other tasks. The amount of work the clerks have to do in the local comune is also a factor in determining how long it may take to process a Jure Sanguinis request.
After a period of time, you will be notified of your acceptance as a citizen of Italy. If you have gone through the process of applying at a consulate, you will be placed in the AIRE system as part of the larger list of Italian citizens. This system is for those living outside of Italy, so the Italian government is aware of their whereabouts. In most cases, this registration is done automatically once someone is recognized as a citizen. After being included in the AIRE system, you can apply for a passport and take part in elections as an Italian citizen. If you are applying in Italy, you should go to the comune as soon as possible to get your Carta d 'Identita (the paper-based Italian I.D. card that is being phased out) or Carta d 'Identita Elettronica (electronic I.D. card, the new form of Italian national I.D). The final step is to obtain an Italian passport from the local office of the Italian national police " Questura " in the comune jurisdiction. Some police stations may require people to make an appointment before they can request a passport. It is also possible to have it delivered to your house through PosteItaliane (the Italian postal service). Alternatively, you may need to pick up your passport from the police station where you made the request. When applying for an Italian passport from outside Italy, notably in the USA, the first step is to register in the AIRE system at the nearest Italian consulate. An appointment must be made at the consulate, bringing with you your non-Italian identification, recognition, residence proof and the passport fee of €116 in USD to be paid in cash or a US money order. Additionally, passport photographs are required and should be the appropriate size for an Italian passport, which is not the same as other countries. In most cases, the passport is released on the same day of the appointment in the US, but if not, the wait time can be up to two weeks to receive it in the mail. If you are living abroad, your voting card can be mailed to you. However, if you are an Italian resident, you must obtain your voting card from the comune.
3) Applying through the Italian courts
Although some people are not eligible for Italian citizenship through descent, they may have a strong case which could be brought before the country's courts. Though this may seem intimidating, it is actually quite a viable and successful option for many to obtain the nationality. In certain circumstances, a petition to the court may be necessary for someone to acquire Italian citizenship. If you have an Italian ancestor who is female and was born before 1948, you should take note that her child would not be eligible for Italian citizenship under the law that was in place prior to 1948. This is because women did not have the same rights as men, including the right to pass on citizenship to their children.
· If your female Italian-born ancestor was naturalized without her own volition due to laws in the country of immigration, then you will have a strong argument to bring before the courts.
Italian courts have come to the conclusion that due to the prejudicial legislation against women, the transmission of Italian citizenship was wrongfully interrupted. Consequently, they have ruled in favour of granting Italian citizenship to the relevant petitioner. It is possible to gain Italian citizenship through the court system in cases that are unlike the ones we previously discussed. When it comes to the prerequisites for a legal Jure Sanguinis request and a court case, there are not many dissimilarities. The major distinctions primarily lie in the delivery of the petition. In contrast to the administrative process, which has to be administered either at the Italian consulate or a municipality in Italy, the judicial process can only be done in a court in Italy. In the majority of cases, the petitioner does not need to be heavily involved in the judicial process. All that is necessary for them to do is to collect the necessary documents to support the case and assign a lawyer to present the case to court. After that, they only need to wait for a verdict. The paperwork needed is essentially the same as the paperwork for an application to the consulate. You may also include additional documents to the court that you think the judge can use to evaluate your case. Foreign documents must have been legalized and the translations must be certified. When you are prepared to move forward, your lawyer will file a petition with the Italian courts to set a hearing with a judge. On the designated court date, your attorney will present your case. Usually, the Italian government does not dispute these and does not show up to counter the claim. If the case is presented correctly, it has a very high chance of success. After receiving a positive outcome, you can register with the AIRE system of your neares Italian consulate and then apply for an Italian passport.
I am married to an Italian citizen and we live abroad. Since when have I been entitled to apply for Italian citizenship and where must I apply for it?
The foreign-born spouse of an Italian citizen residing abroad may apply for Italian citizenship through marriage three years after it was celebrated. This term is reduced to a half in the case of children born to or adopted by both spouses. The applicant must register on the portal of the Ministry of the Interior called ALI, at the following link After logging in, you will be given access to the online procedure to apply for Italian citizenship. The diplomatic or consular delegation territorially competent for the applicant’s place of residence will verify the documentation uploaded online by the applicant before accepting the application. Once the application is accepted, the applicant will be summoned to the office to be identified and to deposit for verification the original documents uploaded online as well as any other required document. For more information, please consult the “Citizenship” page
I would like to know the state of progress of my application for citizenship through marriage filed at the Consulate.
The Ministry of the Interior is the competent Authority to define the administrative procedure whereby to award Italian citizenship. Once the application is accepted, it will be assigned an identification code (K10/C – followed by a number) with which it will also be possible to access the online consultation service on the state of progress of the application by accessing the ALI portal with the credentials assigned at the time of registering to file the application.
I was born in Italy to foreign parents, after which we all returned to their country of origin when I was very young. Am I entitled to Italian citizenship or to an Italian passport?
No. The Italian law on citizenship (Law 91/1992) does not entitle someone to acquire Italian citizenship for the mere fact of being born on the Italian territory. In addition to being born on the Italian territory, Art. 4 of the Law subordinates the acquisition of Italian citizenship to the legal and continuous residence in Italy from the person’s date of birth until his/her coming of age. For more information, please consult the “Citizenship” page.
How can I have my Italian citizenship recognised? My grandparents were Italian.
Recognition of Italian citizenship is subordinated to the applicant providing proof that his/her direct progenitors have continuously maintained and handed down their Italian citizenship. For more information, please consult the “Citizenship” page or contact the Authority that will have to vet the application: if you reside abroad, the competent Italian Consular Office (see the list), if you reside in Italy, your Town Hall.
How do I go about obtaining my grandparents birth certificates? You must contact the Italian town where they were born. The Italian Consulates generally provide request forms on line. If there were no registries in existence at the time of your ancestors’ birth, you will have to submit a parish baptismal certificate, with the authentication of the pastor’s signature by the authorised bishop’s office, along with the response from the town hall confirming the non-existence of a registry office on the date in question.
Getting your Italian dual citizenship may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be. With the right information and help, you can definitely make it! I have helped a lot of clients like you, in various ways: through translations, by recommending the right expert, finding Italian documents for their ancestors... If you need help, just reach out!