The Italian Citizenship law

Italian Citizenship Ius or Iure Sanguinis

WHERE TO APPLY

First off, consider where you are a resident.

In order to apply for citizenship at your local Consulate, you must be able to demonstrate that you are a resident within its consular jurisdiction.

Proof of residency is required during the appointment. Generally, it is considered valid proof of residency the state ID, bank statements, an electricity or other utility bill.

Once you have determined which local consulate has jurisdiction over your place of residence, you can make an appointment and file your application. Before to do that, make sure you qualify.

WHERE TO APPLY

If you were born in the United States or in another country which granted you its citizenship at birth “jure soli” (by law of the soil), you may claim Italian citizenship “jure sanguinis” (by law of the bloodline) by descent and be considered an Italian citizen if your ancestors were Italians at the time of your birth.

Under the Italian law, citizenship is passed on from parent to child with no limit on the number of generations, on the condition that none of the ancestors never renounced their Italian citizenship.

Italy did not allow dual citizenship prior to August 15, 1992 (law no. 91/1992).

As a consequence, the voluntary acquisition of a foreign citizenship caused the automatic loss of Italian citizenship.

However, children born to Italian citizens in the United States or other countries under ius soli law – which means automatic acquisition of citizenship on the sole basis of birth within the national boundaries – acquired their foreign citizenships involuntarily because of their birthplaces. Therefore, these children can claim citizenship by descent if and only if they can prove that their Italian-born ascendant was an Italian citizen at the time of their birth.

Consequently, they can pass citizenship onto their children, grandchildren, and so forth – the only obstacle being a loss of citizenship or renunciation to citizenship somewhere along the line.

Understanding how the Italian citizenship law works may seem difficult.

An example of the above may help you understand how the transfer of citizenship onto the child works.

Michael’s Italian great-grandfather Antonio emigrated to the United States in 1907.

Michael’s grandfather, James, was born in 1918, and Antonio naturalized U.S. citizen in 1920. James inherited citizenship because Antonio was still a citizen at the moment of his birth. Michael’s father, Frank, born in 1949, inherited Italian citizenship from James, unless James formally renounced his right to Italian citizenship before an Italian authority abroad.

Frank was able to transfer citizenship onto his son Michael who is now able to realize his dream and apply for Italian citizenship though the local consulate.

In other words, the main requirement that needs to be met is that your Italian born ascendant was still an Italian citizen at the time of his/her child’s birth (first intermediate ascendant).

The second requirement to be met is that, if you are claiming citizenship through an Italian born or intermediate female ascendant, you qualify for citizenship only if her child was born after January 1, 1948.

In fact, under the Italian Law, a woman of Italian descent born before January 1, 1948 (the date on which the Italian Constitution came into force) can only transmit Italian citizenship onto her children born after January 1, 1948. 

This law is strictly enforced by all Italian Consulates in the USA. 

An other example may help you understand how the “1948 rule” works.

Michael’s grandmother Emilia emigrated to the United States in 1920 and married a U.S. citizen. Michael’s father, James, was born in 1946, and Emilia never naturalized U.S. citizen.

James could not inherit citizenship from his mother Emilia because Emilia, according to the Italian law in effect in 1946 was not allowed to transfer citizenship onto her U.S. born children.

James’ younger brother Vincent was born in 1949. Emilia was able to transfer Italian citizenship onto her son Vincent. Vincent could transfer citizenship onto all his descendants who can now apply for citizenship by descent though the local consulate.

Recently, though, there was an important development regarding the Italian citizenship law.

A trial case challenged the above law as discriminatory of Italian women by denying them the right to pass citizenship to their children born prior to January 1, 1948. 

The Court of Rome ruled in favor of the claimant, and granted Italian citizenship to the woman’s descendant.

Although Italian consulates keep enforcing the above law, preventing applicants from obtaining citizenship through a female ancestor when the intermediate ancestor was born prior to January 1, 1948, there is now a high rate of success in obtaining Italian citizenship though an Italian female’s ancestor that falls into this category, but a lawsuit in Italy is necessary.

The person seeking citizenship does not need to be present in Italy at any time during the trial and additional member of the family (brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, etc.) who share the same Italian ancestor can join the lawsuit.

After citizenship is granted, the applicant(s) will be registered as Italian citizens with the Italian civil registries held by the Italian municipality of birth of the ancestor.

The applicant(s) can then apply for an Italian passport at the local Italian Consulate or in Italy, depending on their legal residence.

UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS?

The Basic Criteria for Acquisition of Citizenship ius sanguinis:

There were no Italian citizens prior to 17 March 1861, because Italy had not yet been a unified state. Hence the Italian ancestor from whom Italian citizenship is proven to be derived in any jure sanguinis citizenship application, although emigrated prior to that date, must have been still alive on or after that date.

Any person born to an Italian citizen parent (including parents also having the right to Italian citizenship ius sanguinis) is an Italian citizen according to the Italian citizenship law when the following requirements are met.

  • The Italian parent ordinarily must have NOT naturalized as a citizen of a foreign country before the child's birth
  • The Italian parent must have NOT formally given up his/her Italian citizenship before the child's birth
  • The Italian parent ordinarily must have NOT naturalized as a citizen of another country on or after July 1, 1912 (this rule is enforced at all consulates).
  • If the child's Italian father naturalized as a citizen of a foreign country prior to 1 July 1912, the child's Italian citizenship was not directly impacted by the father's loss if the child reached legal adulthood (age 21) by the time the father naturalized, or else if the child was residing in Italy when the father naturalized.

All conditions above must be met for every individual in the direct lineage.

There is no generational limit, however the Italian ancestor though which citizenship is claimed must have died after March 17, 1861.

Note that if an Italian ancestor naturalized as a citizen of a foreign country independently from his or her parents, and prior to reaching legal Italian adulthood (age 21 prior to March 10, 1975, or age 18 after March 10, 1975), then often that ancestor retained Italian citizenship even after the naturalization and could still transfer Italian citizenship on to children.

Also, having one qualifying Italian parent who, except in certain situations, could only have been the father’s child if the birth occurred before 1 January 1948  is sufficient for deriving Italian citizenship, even if the other Italian parent naturalized or otherwise became unable to transfer citizenship. Sometimes that qualifying parent is the foreign-born mother, because foreign women who married Italian men prior to April 27, 1983 automatically became Italian citizens though the marriage and, in many cases, retained that citizenship even when their Italian husbands later naturalized or if the couple divorced.

Please note: as of 15 August 1992 dual citizenship is allowed. Consequently, the naturalization of the parent after that date did not cause the loss of Italian citizenship. Hence the parent can transfer citizenship onto his child born after the naturalization date.

 

For you to be considered eligible for Italian Citizenship by descent you must find and prove your connection to a “linking relative,” where at least one of the following conditions is met:

CATEGORY 1 – ITALIAN FATHER 

Your father was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by right of in your home country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 2 – ITALIAN MOTHER

Your mother was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, you were born after after January 1, 1948 and you never renounced your Italian right to citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by right of birth in your home country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 3 – ITALIAN PATERNAL GRANDFATHER 

Your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your father’s birth and your father was born outside of Italy. If neither you nor your father ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship and citizenship is acquired by right of birth in your home country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 4 – ITALIAN PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER

Your paternal grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of your father’s birth and your father was born outside of Italy. If your father was born after January 1, 1948 and if neither you nor your father ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship and citizenship is acquired by right of birth in your home country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

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CATEGORY 5 – ITALIAN MATERNAL GRANDFATHER

Your maternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your mother’s birth and your mother was born outside of Italy. You were born after January 1, 1948 and neither you nor your mother ever renounced Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by right of birth in your home country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 6 – ITALIAN MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER

Your maternal grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of your mother’s birth and your mother was born outside of Italy. Your mother was born after January 1, 1948 and neither you nor your mother ever renounced Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by right of birth in your home country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 7 – ITALIAN PATERNAL GREAT GRANDFATHER - CASE A

Your paternal grandfather was born in your native country, your paternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither you nor your father nor your grandfather ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 8 – ITALIAN PATERNAL GREAT GRANDFATHER - CASE B

Your paternal grandmother was born in your native country, your paternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither you nor your father nor your grandfather ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 9 – ITALIAN PATERNAL GREAT GRANDMOTHER - CASE A

Your paternal grandmother was born in your native country, your paternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither you nor your father nor your grandfather ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 10 – ITALIAN PATERNAL GREAT GRANDMOTHER - CASE B

Your paternal grandmother was born in your native country, your paternal great grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, and neither you nor your father nor your grandmother ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country, you do NOT qualify for Italian citizenship by descent because of the “1948” rule. You can challenge this rule in court in Italy.

CATEGORY 11 – ITALIAN MATERNAL GREAT GRANDFATHER - CASE A

Your maternal grandfather was born in your native country, your paternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither you nor your mother nor your grandfather ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country and you were born after January 1, 1948, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

CATEGORY 12 – ITALIAN MATERNAL GREAT GRANDFATHER - CASE B

Your maternal grandmother was born in your native country, your paternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, and neither you nor your mother nor your grandfather ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country and your mother was born after January 1, 1948, you may qualify for Italian citizenship.

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CATEGORY 13 – ITALIAN MATERNAL GREAT GRANDMOTHER - CASE A

Your maternal grandfather was born in your native country prior to January 1, 1948, your paternal great grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, and neither you nor your mother nor your grandfather ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country, you do NOT qualify for Italian citizenship by descent because of the “1948” rule. You can challenge this rule in court in Italy.

CATEGORY 14 – ITALIAN MATERNAL GREAT GRANDMOTHER - CASE B

Your maternal grandmother was born in your native country prior to January 1, 1948, your paternal great grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, and neither you nor your mother nor your grandmother ever renounced the right to Italian citizenship. If citizenship is acquired by birth in your country, you do NOT qualify for Italian citizenship by descent because of the “1948” rule. You can challenge this rule in court in Italy

PLEASE NOTE: the above categories will help you determine your eligibility. However, there may be factors not listed above that may negatively affect your eligibility to apply for Italian citizenship by descent.

On the other hand, even if your case does not appear to fall within any of the above, you may still be eligible for citizenship and may want to consider the opportunity to have a professional assessment of your case because there may be many variables that could have a positive influence on your case or eligibility that only a citizenship expert or the local Italian Embassy and Consulates are aware of.