In 2018 I became an Italian citizen. Since that time, I’ve heard of others who would like to pursue recognition of their Italian citizenship, and I’ve had questions about how our family accomplished this. It’s not difficult, just a bit time consuming. My journey to Italian citizenship was an adventure for me as I collected vital records of members of my family, some of whom have passed away. It gave me an opportunity to visit my ancestry.
The motivation is different for everyone. In some cases, the inspiration to pursue citizenship is simply because you are eligible. For me, my daughter’s desire to have a European Union passport when she was living in Europe, which would allow her legal employment there, was the reason we applied.
Some people use an attorney for the application process. I have no doubt that this makes the process easier, but it can be expensive and there’s absolutely no reason you can’t do it yourself. If you have a complicated lineage or cannot locate vital records, it might be helpful to have an attorney doing that legwork or research, but if your ancestry is fairly straightforward and in the United States, I recommend collecting needed records on your own.
If you would like to apply for recognition of your Italian citizenship, do it! Here are the steps that led my family to successful recognition of our Italian citizenship.
Note: I am not an attorney and this document is only an accounting of my family’s experience that may be helpful to others.
Who Can Apply for Italian Citizenship?
Italian citizenship is currently regulated by law which assesses the importance of individual intention in the acquisition or loss of citizenship and recognizes the right to hold more than one citizenship simultaneously.
Citizenship legislation applies to:
- persons born Italian who have lost their citizenship and wish to reinstate it;
- descendants of Italian citizens claiming citizenship;
- foreigners applying for Italian citizenship.
Categories of Citizenship by Descent
There are several categories/situations that qualify for application of Italian citizenship recognition. They are citizen:
- by descent,
- by adoption,
- by marriage,
- through judiciary ruling on paternity/maternity, and
- reacquisition of Italian citizenship.
Most people who have asked my about my experience of the application process would qualify under the category of descent, which is how my family qualified for Italian citizenship. So that’s what I’m sharing here.
Are You Eligible?
The following categories may help you find out which category of descent applies to you. My citizenship application fell into category 3 and my four adult children’s applications were under category 4:
- Category 1 (direct descent): Father born in Italy, Italian citizen at the moment of your birth and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
- Category 2 (direct descent): Mother born in Italy, Italian citizen at the moment of your birth – occurred after January 1st 1948 – and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
- Category 3: Father born in the United States or other Country (except Italy), your grandfather was Italian at the time of his birth and neither you nor your father ever renounced your right to the Italian Citizenship.
- Category 4: Mother born in the United States or other Country (except Italy), your grandfather was Italian at the time of her birth and neither you, born after Jan. 1st 1948 nor your mother ever renounced your right to the Italian Citizenship.
- Category 5: Your direct paternal or maternal ancestors were born in the United States from Italian parents and they never renounced their right to Italian citizenship.
How many generations back can I pursue citizenship?
- Applicants can apply for citizenship starting with their most recent ancestor born In Italy after March 17, 1861, or with their most recent ancestor born BEFORE the formation of Italy who died AFTER March 17, 1861.
Where Do I Apply?
You must apply for citizenship at the Italian Consulate that has jurisdiction over the county in which you legally reside. Find your consulate here.
Do This First – Make an Appointment!
Once you’ve established the consulate that has jurisdiction for your county, MAKE AN APPOINTMENT at that consulate for your citizenship application. Appointments may not be available for a year or more (ours was 18 months from the date we made the appointment). So make the appointment right away – you will have plenty of time to complete the other tasks between the time you make the appointment and the date of the actual appointment.
What to Do Next
Between the time you schedule your appointment and the actual appointment date you will need to collect vital records, get them authenticated by the Secretary of State, and have them translated into Italian. This may sound like a lot, but given that you will likely have 6 months to a year or more to do this, you should have time. Do this:
- obtain the birth certificate of the relative who was born in Italy
- collect all required vital records (see below)
- have each US vital records authenticated with an Apostille
- have each US vital record translated into Italian by an official translator
- complete the forms listed below
- have the required form of payment in the correct amount for the application fee that is due at the time of your appointment
Here’s What You Need to Bring to Your Citizenship Appointment
- Your completed Application for Italian Citizenship
- Declaration of Applicant Form
- Declaration of Living Italian Ascendant Form
- Declaration on Behalf of Deceased Italian Ascendant Form (if ancestor was born in Italy but is now deceased)
- All vital records in the lineage from the applicant (you) back to the Italian ancestor by whose citizenship you are eligible (list of vital records needed for Italian citizenship by descent). These include:
- birth certificates
- marriage certificates
- death certificates
- adoption documents (if relevant)
- divorce documentation (if relevant)
- In my case, we needed the birth certificate of my grandfather who was born in Italy, as well as his marriage and death certificates, my father’s birth, marriage, and death certificates, my birth certificate. My children had to also have my marriage certificate and their own birth certificates.
- naturalization certificate if any – My grandfather did become a naturalized US citizen, but not before my father was born. Technically, the original document is requested, but we weren’t able to locate it and they accepted a photocopy. (How to obtain your ancestor’s naturalization certificate.)
- This was a new one to me! An Apostille is a document that certifies the authenticity of the signature on a vital record and the genuineness of the seal or stamp which it bears. The document that is an attachment of a special certificate is called an Apostille. This is required for each vital record and is typically issued by the Secretary of State’s office (the Secretary of State must have jurisdiction). You must get the Apostilles in the state where the vital record was issued, e.g., my vital records were all recorded in California, so I needed the California Secretary of State to authenticate them with Apostilles.
As of the date of this writing, the application fee for citizenship is 300 Euros. You must consult the Consular Fee Page linked on your consulate’s website for the U.S. exchange rate amount. This rate may change quarterly, so make sure you check the exchange rate right before your appointment date. The San Francisco Consulate requires that the fee be paid by money order on the day of the appointment. There may be specific instructions about to whom the money order should be made payable, so be sure you check those instructions for your consulate. The application fee is non-refundable regardless of the outcome of your application.
If multiple members of the same family/lineage are applying for citizenship by descent, they may use the same documents. However, applicant will also need to furnish their own required documents for themselves. For example, my adult children only needed to submit their own application and Declaration of Applicant Form as well as the application fee. They didn’t have to submit duplicates of vital records for ancestors that I’d already submitted as they are in the same family and lineage. Each family member’s citizenship application appointment does not need to be on the same day or even month. The ability to share documents only applies when the original application and accompanying documents were submitted to the same consulate as the other families members’ jurisdiction. If family members are not in the same consular jurisdiction, they may not share documents and new documents would need to accompany the other family member’s application to their consulate of jurisdiction. (In other words, if you live in the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Consulate and your other family members who are applying for citizenship live in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Consulate, you will not be able to share documents and would need to submit all the documentation to each consulate.)
Here’s the SF Consulate addresses the question of family members sharing documents:
A family member of mine already applied for Italian citizenship by descent. Do I need to re-submit any overlapping documentation that was already submitted with their application?
- If your family member’s application was submitted to this Consulate General IN SAN FRANCISCO: you do NOT need to re-submit any overlapping documentation that was already submitted with that family member’s application. However, you will still be required to submit any and all required documentation specified on our website for yourself and any ascendants that are not already on file at this office.
- If your family member’s application was submitted at another Consulate: Paperwork submitted to other Consular offices CANNOT be utilized by this office in San Francisco. As such, if your family member did not apply for citizenship through the Consulate in San Francisco you must submit all required documentation specified on our website to this office.
Your application for citizenship is now out of your hands. The Italian government will proceed with their process of verifying the components of your application, including checking with every consulate of jurisdiction for every place you’ve lived since age 18 to confirm that you have not denounced your Italian citizenship. If you have a deceased relative (in my case, my father), the same will be checked for that person. My application took about eight months to complete and for me to be notified that my citizenship was recognized.
After Your Italian Citizenship Has Been Recognized
Congratulations! You are a citizen of Italy!
After you’ve been recognized as an Italian citizen, you will be registered at your consulate of jurisdiction in their registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad or AIRE (Anagrafe degli Italiani Residenti all’Estero). If you move, you must notify the consulate of your new address.
You are now eligible to apply for an Italian passport. You may view required documents here (this is the SF Consulate’s page – be sure to follow the instructions from your consulate). Generally, you’ll need the passport application, 2 photos (check the dimensions as they are different from US passport photo dimensions), your US passport, often you will need a copy of the email confirming your passport appointment (can usually be shown from your phone if you don’t have a printed copy), and the passport fee in the requested form of payment for your consulate.
Italian Citizenship Assistance Website
Remember, you don’t have to pay anyone to go through the process of applying for Italian citizenship. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, although a little time consuming. If you don’t have the time or inclination to collect the documents needed, have them authenticated by Apostille and translated, there are services and attorneys who will do that for you. The Italian Citizenshp Assistance website offers these services, but you may also want to use their website to explore in detail the steps to citizenship as a reference as you proceed independently toward applying and having your Italian citizenship recognized. The FAQ page on the Italian Citizenship Assistance site may be helpful as you research and plan your path to having your Italian citizenship recognized.