get dual citizenship blog
Italian Vital Records Translations Blog
It's blog post #4 in my series Get Italian Citizenship in 2020. Today it's all about obtaining documents from an Italian comune - not an easy feat, right?
If you don't have much time to read the full article, just know that you'll have to request documents preferably via snail mail or fax. Or even better, if you know someone who can go to the comune you need, just send them over to the Ufficio Anagrafe and let them do the trick.
In Italy, everything still works better if you do it in person, especially in smaller cities.
Now, let's go on to the main article, which I've taken from the Tapatalk forum.
Obtain documents (generally, vital records) from Italy for your ancestor(s) (or yourself, if applicable) who were born there.
You will need a birth or baptismal certificate for at least one ancestor from Italy (your LIRA), which could be yourself. You may also need a birth certificate for that person's spouse, if he or she was born in Italy and your consulate requires it, as well as a marriage certificate for your LIRA if the marriage occurred in Italy. Occasionally, you may need a death certificate from there if your ancestor returned to Italy and died there or if the 1st spouse of your LIRA died in Italy before your LIRA immigrated. These birth, marriage, and death records can be obtained from the Stato Civile of the comune at which these events occurred. One can obtain these certificates by writing to the comune (in Italian, of course) and requesting them; one does not need to demonstrate a need or prove that one is related to a person named on the certificate. See below on how to contact your comune.
Some consulates also require that you submit a certificate of citizenship or a certificate of residence. The former states that someone was a citizen of Italy; it is necessary (in the cases where it is requested) because mere birth in Italy is usually not sufficient to confer citizenship - one must have an Italian parent. The certificate of residence may be requested by a consulate because you are to have your documents registered in the last comune in which your LIRA lived, which is not necessarily the comune in which he or she was born. To date the only consulates that have been known to ask for these certificates are Montreal, which demands both, and Miami, which used to ask for a certificate of citizenship but apparently no longer does.
When one requests a vital record from a comune, one usually receives an extract of the original record. The extract will be a form filled in by hand by a clerk based on the original record that they have on file. Only basic information is included - e.g., name, name of parents', date of birth - much less information than is found in the original record. At the bottom of the certificate will be a signature and seal of the comune. Some certificates are in "international format," with everything written in several different languages, including English and French. Occasionally someone may receive an image of the original record in the books of the comune. Either type of certificate is perfectly acceptable at a consulate - unlike vital records from outside Italy, Italian records do not have to be in long form.
Birth certificates will often have marriage details of the person in question at the bottom. If the person had more than one marriage (say, because of the death of the first spouse), only one marriage will be listed, and it could be either one. Despite having this notation on the birth certificate, a separate marriage certificate is usually required by the consulates. Moreover, such a notation can potentially cause problems for you if the person listed is different from the spouse on the marriage certificate that you submit, requiring you to explain the discrepancy and produce further documentation about a previous or later spouse who is not your ancestor and has nothing to do with your claim. But even in the case where such a discrepancy is present, consulates sometimes ignore it, so it wouldn't necessarily cause such difficulties.
In order to request such a certificate, one should contact the comune, by letter, email, fax, or phone. The comuni have generally responded better to fax or snail mail than to email, but it varies by comune. There are templates on this board for constructing such a letter. Generally you will need to know your ancestor's name, approximate birth date or at least year, and parents' names. If you are unsure of some of this information you can give them your guesses or date ranges, or just leave the information out. However, if your request is not specific enough, they may tell you they can find no records even when the records are there, so it pays to have as much information as possible about your ancestor before requesting a certificate.
It may take weeks or even months to receive a response from a comune, by email or post, or you may not receive a reply at all. If one method of contact fails, it usually is a good idea to try again with a different one. If you know someone, such as relative, in the comune, it often is easier if that person goes to stato civile and orders the certificate in person. The certificates themselves are free, but some comuni require payment for the sending of the certificate, which is generally done by snail mail. This cost is usually no more than a few euros, which you can pay by International Reply Coupons or just euro cash. It usually is best to wait until receiving a request for payment before sending it, although some members have reported not receiving any response until they included such a payment while others have reported sending money and having it returned to them.
If the comune does not have a civil record, it is possible that a Catholic church there has an ecclesiastical one. For births, this would be a baptismal record, whereas for marriages it would be a church marriage certificate. These are acceptable to consulates as substitutes for the civil records. You may also want to submit to the consulate a letter from the stato civile stating that they do not have the record in question, but (unlike in the case of foreign certificates) this doesn't seem to be strictly necessary. One can search for churches by comune here.
Some records are also available from state archives (Archivio di Stato). One would contact them as one would a comune. Some comuni were badly damaged during WWII and their records destroyed. For these one may be forced to rely on archives or church records. If the person for whom you need this certificate is not actually in your line (such as the spouse of your LIRA), a consulate is more likely to be understanding if you can't locate this record from such a comune - in this case just get a letter from the comune explaining why they have no such records.
The LDS church has records, both civil and ecclesiastical, copied from Italian comuni. Some of these records are online, at http://www.familysearch.org, but they have many more records on microfilm that you can view at one of their Family History Centers. (Look at posts linked to in the Index of Topics for more information in how to view these records.) These are the actual original records, which contain a lot more information than the extracts, although they can be hard to read. Generally such LDS records cannot be used for your application, except in rare cases when the certificate in question wasn't really that important to begin with, but they can be used to verify that a comune has a record for an ancestor, to find information that one would need in order to request a certificate, or to determine whether a certificate that one has obtained from a comune has an error.
If you find that a certificate that you have received from Italy may contain an error, or may be for the wrong person, you can contact the comune, point out the error, and request a new one. It is not that common to find that information was mistranscribed when creating the extract. If you have access to LDS records, this can be a good way to verify whether the information in the extract that you've received reflects the original record. It also sometimes happens that information in a marriage record differs from that in a birth record - in this case one can point it out to the comune, and they can perhaps write you a letter acknowledging the discrepancy in their records, which you can then show to the consulate. Be warned, though, that we have never had a member who was able to amend a record in a comune.
Another type of document that you may need from a comune is a so-called (on this board at least) positivo/negativo. Look at this post for more details.
For tips on how to identify the comune of an ancestor or determine his or her parents' names, see this post.
If you already have the documents and just need a quote for their translation, shoot me an email!
2020 is all about getting your dual citizenship. In the previous posts I talked about how to determine if you qualify ad where to apply. Now it's time to talk about the documents you need.
As usual, I'm taking the full explanation from the Tapatalk Forum, but I also wrote about this topic in the past.
As a rule of thumb, remember that you will need different documents based on where you decide to apply, i.e. in Italy or in any consulate abroad, and that translation requirements will vary based on that too. So be sure to ask for any specific information to the comune/consulate you choose before you actually have anything translated!
In my experience, if you apply in Italy it's best to have documents translated in Italy. To understand why, read here.
If you apply abroad, have documents translated where you'll apply. This will save you time and money in the long run.
In order to establish your claim of citizenship, you'll need documents (vital records) supporting the descent of each person in your line from the previous person. You'll also need documents establishing whether and when your LIRA naturalized, which will show that he or she did not lose Italian citizenship before the next person in your line was born. In addition, all recognized Italian citizens are required to keep their home comuni up-to-date with any changes in their status, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of their children.
Each consulate (or comune) establishes a list of the documents that they will require to support your application. Some, but not all, consulates list these documents on their websites, but these lists are not always accurate. On this board, we have may posts detailing what documents were required during appointment at various consulates - the results are summarized in the ConsulateFAQs forum.
The documents you may need are the following:
1. Birth certificates for everyone in your line (including you). This is the most important set of documents, as they establish the parents of each successive generation, and Italian citizenship is passed from parent to child. The birth certificate from Italy for your LIRA is particularly important - see below on how you can obtain it. In some cases, if your LIRA immigrated as a minor, you may need to go back one generation earlier and obtain the birth certificate of that person's Italian parent(s). The birth certificates should be in "long form," and include the parents' names (including the mother's maiden name), their ages, and their places of birth, in addition to the child's city/town of birth (and date of birth and name, of course). Long-form certificates generally contain a lot more information about the birth; sometimes they are called a "certificate of live birth," and often contain information such as the length and weight of the baby.
If the father is not indicated on the birth certificate, you will need to provide proof of paternity, such as a court order.
2. Marriage certificates for everyone in your line, for the marriages that produced the next generation in your line. These are important because they help to link one generation to the next and rule out coincidences. If the only evidence of ancestry were birth certificates, there would be the possibility that 2 people might be born in the same town, with the same name, in the same year. But since the marriage certificate of someone's parents contains the same names as on that child's birth certificate, but also contains the names of the parents' parents, which match the names on the parents' birth certificates, so it ties both generations together and makes the identification of the parents much stronger.
Marriage certificates often don't include that much information, and for that reason a marriage license application may also be required. The license application is something filled out before the marriage, and usually contains information on the groom and bride's parents and the bride and groom's places of birth and ages or dates of birth. Some consulates insist on the marriage license application in all (possible) cases, some want it only when the marriage certificate is missing important information, and some have never asked for it. It is best to try to obtain it whenever you order a marriage certificate.
There is no requirement that the parents must be married in order for the child to inherit citizenship. In fact, if the parents were not married, generally no documents are required to prove this (but you may run into trouble if a death or naturalization certificate says they were married).
3. Death certificates for the deceased in your line. These contain information generally found on birth and marriage certificates, such as the date of birth, the parents' names, and possibly a spouse's name, and thus serve to corroborate them. However, since the information is often reported by someone who did not know the deceased that well, or at least did not know the parents' names that well, death certificates are often filled with errors, and consulates seem to make some allowances for that. One piece of information on a death certificate that is not found on other vital records is the nationality of the deceased. Consulates will often check in the case where someone claims that their ancestor didn't naturalize that the death certificate states that the ancestor was a citizen of Italy at his death; if the certificate reads "United States" in this case, it could cause major problems (see below). Consulates vary in which death certificates they require - some want them for only ancestors who were born in Italy (perhaps to update the records in the comune for them), whereas others want them for all deceased people in your line. Look at this topic to see what was required at various consulates.
4. Naturalization-related documents. These include documents proving that someone did naturalize, such as a certificate of naturalization (sometimes called a certificate of citizenship, not to be confused with item 14 below), a certificate of derivative citizenship (also sometimes referred to as a certificate of citizenship, distinct from the other 2 meanings), or a completed petition for naturalization with an oath of allegiance, along with other supporting documents, such as a declaration of intent to naturalize or certificate of arrival. These also include documents proving that someone didn't naturalize, such as no-records letters from the proper agencies, certificates of non-existence of record, census records, passports, alien registration forms/cards, or draft cards. See belowfor more details.
5. Birth certificates for the non-line parents of the people in your line. That is, birth certificates for the spouses of the people in your line. Some consulates ask for these, but they don't really seem to have a purpose, unless the person in one's line was female and there was some question about whether the spouse's citizenship could've been transmitted to her. Often a consulate will ask for these certificates, but will not reject an application if they are missing. See this topic to see if they were required at various consulates. In general, it is better to come prepared with them just in case they ask for them.
6. Death certificates for the non-line parents of the people in your line. This is similar to the case of birth certificates for people not in your line, except that they are even less likely to be required and consulates tend to be even more forgiving with errors on them. In rare cases a death certificate may be used in lieu of some other certificate that is unobtainable, such as a birth certificate. See the topics linked in (3) and (5).
7. Marriage certificate/license application for your own marriage, if you are married. Since this isn't really necessary to establish your own citizenship, unless you are a woman who was married so long ago (before 1948) that you could've lost your Italian citizenship, consulates will often let you apply without it and just allow you to register it later (as all Italian citizens are required to do) after your recognition. This certificate will be necessary for your children's recognition, if you have any, as well as for citizenship by marriage that your spouse may acquire through you.
8. Birth certificates for any children you may have. Similarly to the case for your marriage certificate, while you may not need this to apply for your own recognition (although some consulates will still insist on it), you will need it to fulfill your obligation to register and they will need it for their own citizenship claims. In general you only have to register your minor children, as your adult children will have to apply for recognition on their own (with you as their LIRA), but sometimes consulates have allowed people to register their adult children as if they were minors (cf. this topic).
9. Your spouse's birth certificate. This is required under the same circumstances as when your marriage certificate is required, except that if you have no children, they still often don't ask for this until after you are recognized and your spouse is applying for citizenship through you. Still, it is listed in this topic.
10. Divorce records for any divorces by you or someone else in your line. If you have been divorced you'll need to submit records for this event, as part of your obligation as a citizen, although it is not strictly speaking part of your application (some consulates will still insist on them before they'll recognize you, though). For your ancestors who are not applying for recognition, it is generally the case that you need divorce records only when there is some evidence that they divorced, such as an indication of previous marriages on a marriage certificate of a different spouses name on a death certificate, and even then it isn't always necessary. As usual, look the following topic in the ConsulateFAQs: what-divorce-other-marriage-records-were-not-needed-t1410.html.
As for which actual documents are needed for a divorce, while this also varies with the consulate (cf. the previous link), it usually consists of the full divorce judgment (often 30 pages long) and the certificate of no appeal. The latter document in particular can be hard to obtain as they are not issued in every state. See below for more information about obtaining it.
11. Marriage certificates/license applications for previous/other marriages for you or anyone else in your line. That is, marriage certificates for any of your previous marriages, or marriage certificates for any of the people in your line when the marriage was not between the parents of the next person in the line. For your own case, you need to keep your own status and history complete, as explained in (7)-(9). If you are a man who was previously married before 1983, your ex-wife may actually be an Italian citizen via your former marriage and thus may claim citizenship at some point in the future, but even if this is not applicable, consulates still insist on having a record of all your marriages, and some won't recognize you until you provide it (cf. the link in (10)). For your ancestors, as with the divorce records in (10), if there is no evidence of the other marriage(s) in the documents that you submit, you won't need to provide any marriage records for it/them, and even when there is some mention of the other marriage, consulates sometimes ignore them anyway.
12. Birth or death records for a spouse of someone in your line, when that spouse was not the parent of the next person in your line. In other words, the birth or death certificates for a spouse named on a marriage certificate in (11). This is pretty uncommon, but has happened in such cases where the first spouse died and the second spouse was the parent of the next person in the line, but there was an annotation on the birth certificate from Italy for the LIRA's marriage to the first spouse. Again, look at the example in the link in (10).
13. Court records for any legal name down by anyone in your line, including you. If anyone in your line, including you, has legally changed either the given or family name, a record from the court is required. Even in cases where the person's birth certificate has been amended to reflect the new name, consulate's sometimes ask for the court record anyway. If the legal name change occurred on a naturalization document, no further court record is required.
14. Certificate of citizenship for your LIRA, if your consulate requests. Some consulates ask that you supply a certificate of citizenship for your LIRA (from his comune) in addition to his birth certificate. This is because technically mere birth in Italy does not confer citizenship, so it is possible that your ancestor could've been born there but not have been an Italian citizen. Only a few consulates ask for this, and even then it is inconsistently requested. Look at this topic to see when it has been necessary: did-you-have-to-provide-a-cert-of-citizenship-for-ancestor-t1417.html.
In addition to these documents, depending on what discrepancies and missing documents you have, you may be required to submit additional supporting documents such as baptismal certificates, obituaries, birth announcements, censuses (for purposes other than naturalization), letters from vital records officers, no records letters, letters from your comune (e.g., a "positivo/negativo"), or court orders for declaratory judgments that the person named on one certificate is the same as that on another. I'll discuss what these are and when you would need them in the following posts on handling discrepancies and missing documents.
I'm Natalia Bertelli, an English/Spanish to Italian legal translator. Since 2008 I have been working on contracts, judicial deeds, certificates, corporate translations for foreign clients who want to do business in Italy, get a dual citizenship or simply settle in my beautiful country.