How To Get Italian Dual Citizenship: 

The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide, with Eligibility Requirements, Solutions for Top Obstacles and More     


*Before we begin, it's important to note that the Immigration landscape in Italy is ever-changing. Laws and regulations are often enacted, modified, or overturned, affecting an applicant's path to Italian Citizenship. For this reason, we are committed to keeping this post updated and current, in order to provide the most accurate information to assist your citizenship application process.

The Ultimate Guide to Obtaining Italian Dual Citizenship

Over the course of the past decade, there has been a major increase in the amount of people around the world seeking to obtain Italian citizenship.

Chances are, if you’re reading this you are one of those people!

We can’t blame you.

Italian citizenship directly immerses you into a strong culture, giving you the ability to work abroad, and providing a number of additional benefits we will discuss later in this post. Sounds great, right?

There’s only one problem:

Getting Italian citizenship isn’t as simple as filling out a form and waiting for your new passport to arrive in the mail. It’s a process with defined eligibility criteria, and a number of steps, which can be complex and time-consuming without the right guidance.

Thankfully, that guidance is exactly what we’re here to provide. We’ve been helping people like you obtain Italian citizenship for over 30 years, and we know the process inside and out.

In this post, you’re going to learn about the benefits of Italian citizenship, the criteria and requirements for obtaining it, and every single detailed step along the way, along with a whole lot more.

Jump around the article with the links below or read it from top to bottom to become an Italian citizenship expert!

The Background: Italian-American Culture Goes Full-Circle

In the early 1800s, thousands of Italians came to the United States through Ellis Island. It didn’t take too long for their influence to leave a mark on the history of the United States, and the country’s culture moving forward. 

Italians brought their cuisine, their nuanced understanding of art and culture, their athletic prowess, and their innovative intelligence, becoming one of the largest and most united immigrant groups in America.

From Immigrants to Global Citizens

A great deal can change in two centuries when it comes to the global landscape. Like most nations, Italy suffers economic struggles of its own, but it has become one of the world’s most powerful economies, offering key innovations in engineering, medical research, fashion, and much more.

Italy’s natural beauty and cultural wealth hasn’t changed, and it remains one of the most visited countries in the world by tourists.

Americans have taken notice—particularly Italian-Americans, many of whom yearn for a more tangible connection to their heritage.

The Italian-American experience in the United States isn’t one-size-fits-all:

Some Italian-Americans recall a word of Italian spoken here and there by their grandmother during their childhood. 

Others are fully immersed in the culture, sharing the language with their children and passing along as many traditions as they remember. 

Others still may have fewer ties to Italy overall, apart from knowledge of a distant relative who came to America long ago. 

Regardless of an individual’s Italian-American journey, the lure of “the old country” can be too strong to avoid.

More Italian-Americans than ever are taking advantage of Jure Sanguinis, the right to Italian citizenship by descent (more on that later), and many Americans without an ounce of Italian heritage apply for citizenship through their spouses.

This same trend has been consistent outside of the United States as well. Many South Americans of Italian origin, for example, have earned Italian citizenship through Jure Sanguinis.

There’s more to Italy than it’s natural beauty and its rich history. While those factors alone make prolonged stays in the country—enabled by citizenship, or visas—tempting, there are many additional benefits to seeking out Italian citizenship. 

We will go over these benefits below.

The Top 13 Benefits of Italian Dual Citizenship

You won’t regret going through the Italian dual citizenship process. Being an Italian citizen opens you up to a new world of opportunity.

Let’s go over some of the primary benefits:

1. No need for visas (anywhere in the EU!)

Dual citizens of the United States and Italy are allowed to keep passports for both countries, meaning you will be able to travel more easily.

For example, if you decide to travel to Italy for an extended amount of time, you will no longer need a long-stay visa. This is particularly pertinent for students studying abroad, or for long-term business trips, but it also applies in the case of a long vacation or leave of absence. ]

Italy becomes your country—you no longer need to present an excuse for why you’re there.

2. No need for work permits (anywhere in the EU!)

Keep in mind that Italian citizenship gives you the freedom to move to and work in any EU nation. Many countries in Europe prioritize giving employment opportunities to EU citizens first. 

In other words, by becoming an Italian citizen, you are becoming an EU citizen, and by becoming an EU citizen, you are expanding your potential for employment opportunities.

3. Dual citizenship makes travel easier

This one might not be that big of a deal, but it may feel like it if you’ve spent enough time at airports. 

Having an Italian passport will likely save you from the headaches of excessive questioning and extra long lines when you enter the EU.

4. Easier path to property ownership

As an Italian citizen, you will find it much easier to purchase property in Italy, if that is your goal. If you tend to travel to Italy often, it might make sense to look into property ownership opportunities, as the housing market is often dependent on location. 

As a frequent traveler, you may find it more profitable in the long run to own a place rather than stay in hotels each time you visit the country.

5. Easier path to business ownership and operation abroad

The same applies to business ownership. If you plan on starting a company or operating your company in Italy, you will benefit greatly from having Italian citizenship. 

Once your business is operational, citizenship facilitates daily operations as well, as the requirements for producing company financial statements and documents tend to be more rigorous for non-citizens.

6. The ability to vote in Italian elections

It’s difficult to pass up the opportunity to have an influence on the world. Italy is a G8 country with a powerful economy and a vast sphere of influence, meaning its leadership and policy decisions have implications on a global scale.

As an Italian citizen, you have the ability to vote in Italian elections.

7. Enriching your cultural education

Dual citizens have the unique privilege of being deeply immersed in two different countries. Dual citizenship in Italy is an amazing opportunity to learn a new language, explore a new country, and belong to one of the world’s richest and most sophisticated cultures.

8. Access to medical benefits and free healthcare

Healthcare in the United States is very expensive, meaning some Americans are not insured. As an Italian dual citizen, you are free to apply for a Tessera Sanitaria, which will enable you to receive affordable, high quality healthcare.

Italian citizens are also free to apply for a European Health Insurance Card at no cost. This is particularly helpful if you’re residing in or visiting another E.U. country and are in need of medical attention.

9. Get free or heavily discounted higher education

If you become an Italian citizen, you have the right to study at any university within the E.U. (provided you get in). There are over a thousand high-quality universities across Italy and the rest of the E.U. nations. Tuition at these universities is often either free or much less expensive than tuition at American colleges.

These universities are also often well equipped to teach in multiple languages.

10. Transfer Italian Citizenship to your Children

If you have children under 18 at the time your Italian citizenship application is accepted, there is no requirement for them to submit a separate application. They will become Italian citizens at the same time as you.

This has far-reaching implications, as your children will also be able to reap the benefits of lower-cost education and healthcare, in addition to everything else on this list.

11. Tax free import of specific items

Italian citizenship also affords the benefit of tax-free imports of specific items, such as vehicles, to Italy from the US. 

12. Consular Protection and Human Rights Safeguarding

Keep in mind that as an Italian citizen, you have twice as much consular protection. If unfortunate situations arise while you’re abroad, you can now seek out the Italian embassy or consulate in addition to United States government offices.

If you’re in the E.U., The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees your rights to privacy as outlined in legislation such as GDPR.

13. Retire in Italy or in any E.U. Nation

Thinking about retirement? Italian citizenship affords you the right to retire and live in Italy or in any other E.U. nation, no questions asked.

How to Get Italian Citizenship: Am I Eligible?

Good question. We’re going to cover all of that in detail below.

In order to discover whether you are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship, you will first need to understand the ways in which the Italian government defines eligibility.

There are three primary paths to Italian citizenship: 

  1. Italian Citizenship by Descent, also known as Jure Sanguinis, and
  2. Italian Citizenship by Marriage, also known as Jure Matrimonii, and
  3. Italian Citizenship by Naturalization

We will outline all three below:

Italian Citizenship by Descent (Jure Sanguinis)

On February 5th, 1992, the Italian legislative branch passed Italian Law 91, which stated that the descendant of an Italian citizen is also considered an Italian citizen.

While this law may seem pretty cut and dry, it’s not, and there are many nuances, so pay special attention to this next part:

In order to grant citizenship to the descendant, the Italian government requires detailed proof. In other words, an applicant for citizenship by descent needs to provide evidence of their direct bloodline of Italian ancestors, and this evidence needs to meet the requirements for Italian citizenship specified within the law. 

The requirements listed in the law are listed below. Again, while they may seem simple, there are specific exceptions that are best discussed with an immigration attorney, or with the Italian consulate of your jurisdiction.

Here are the 5 primary requirements every applicant for Italian citizenship by descent must meet:

  1. You are a descendant of an individual who was born after March 17, 1861, the unification date of Italy. Technically, if your ancestor was born prior to this date, he or she was not born an Italian citizen.
  2. The Italian ancestor in question was not naturalized in any country prior to July 1, 1912. The Law no. 555 of July 13, 1992 states that Italian citizenship cannot be transferred to descendants in this case.
  3. The Italian ancestor in question did not naturalize to any other country prior to the births of their descendant, the applicant.
  4.  If the Italian ancestor is a woman and was born prior to January 1, 1948, citizenship can only be claimed from her father’s line of ancestry, and citizenship passed onto her children if born after this date. While your citizenship application can be declined on this basis, you can still have it heard in Italy’s courts and be granted citizenship. This is a common obstacle that many applicants face, and we can help you overcome it. Feel free to contact us with questions.
  5. No one, neither you nor your ancestors, has renounced his or her Italian citizenship, whether via naturalization or a different method.


We don’t blame you. Every family tree is unique. We have seen hundreds of different cases, and continue to see unique ones from time to time.

If you’re in doubt, contact us to discuss your Italian citizenship eligibility and we will be happy to share our expertise and get you on the right path.

Am I Eligible to Apply for Italian Citizenship by Descent?

Follow these steps to determine your eligibility:

1. Learn pertinent details about your Italian ancestry

Do you have Italian ancestors, perhaps grandparents or great grandparents? Were they born in Italy?

Once you’ve identified your Italian ancestor, it’s important to dig a little deeper. Be sure to dig for their date of birth, their full name and their place of birth. It’s vital that you verify how you are related to this ancestor, and know the dates they immigrated to the United States. 

If you’re not sure about the details of your ancestry, and are great places to search.

All this information will facilitate the application process. 

2. Look through the list of requirements above and verify each one

Some examples:

  • Were you born before January 1st, 1948?
  • Did your ancestor naturalize in any other country prior to the birth(s) of his or her children?
  • Has your ancestor ever renounced to Italian citizenship?

If your answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” then there is a good chance you are not eligible. If it is “no,” be sure to carefully review the remainder of the requirements and carry on!

3. Consult with an expert

This one is optional, as many people applying for Italian citizenship by descent are able to determine their eligibility on their own.

With that said, there are plenty of complex cases that require consultation with a representative of the Italian Consulate, and/or an Immigration Attorney.

Have questions? Email us at

Italian Citizenship by Marriage

Are you married to an Italian citizen? If you are, your path to Italian citizenship is pretty clear. 

Articles 5 through 8 of Italian Law number 91 on Italian Citizenship allows for the non-Italian spouse of an Italian citizen to apply for Italian citizenship after two years of being married or in a civil union with that individual, so long as the couple resides in italy. If the couple has children aged 18 or younger, this wait time is reduced to one year.

If the couple does not live in Italy, the wait time increases to three years after their date of civil union or marriage. No application for Italian dual citizenship can be submitted before these three years have passed. In this case, if the couple has children aged 18 or younger, the wait time is reduced to 18 months.

Brush up on your Italian

On December 1st of 2018, Italian Law n.32 was introduced. This law adds a new requirement to Italian citizenship by marriage applications submitted after December 4th, 2018. Applicants seeking Italian citizenship must have sufficient knowledge of the Italian language (B1 level). The Italian Ministry of Education (MIUR) or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAECI) must certify this knowledge of Italian as the result of an approved educational institution.

Additional requirements for Italian citizenship by marriage

The non-Italian spouse seeking Italian citizenship needs to register with AIRE if they are not residing in Italy, and have a foreign marriage record registered with their local Italian consulate. The couple must also have their marriage or civil union recorded with an Italian commune.

We will dive deeper into these steps in the guide, later on in this post.

Italian Citizenship through Naturalization

Italian citizenship through naturalization tends to be a complex process, and has the largest set of requirements. It also tends to be a less common route.

Italian citizenship through naturalization requires that an individual has lived in Italy for a minimum of 10 years, legally, with a visa. Naturalization can be granted in this case if the applicant possesses adequate financial resources, and does not have a criminal record.

This requirement has been lower for applicants seeking naturalization whose grandparents were Italian citizens, and for applicants themselves born in Italy. 

In addition, citizens of European Union member states only need to live in Italy for 4 years before applying, and “stateless” individuals such as refugees need to wait 5 years.

Applying for Italian Citizenship: The Ultimate Guide

Now that you’ve begun to determine your eligibility, it’s time to dive into the process. 

When considering applying for Italian citizenship, the first step is always to determine eligibility, to the best of your ability. You may need help if yours is a complex case, but with the information in the section above, you should have a general idea of where you stand. 

After you’ve determined eligibility, it’s important to get the process started as quickly as possible. Remember that you will be submitting documents to the busy consulate of a government that gets thousands of citizenship applications every year. The approval process can be long, so get started early.

Below you will find a step by step application process for each of the two most common eligibility routes.

Let’s get started! 

How to Apply for Italian Citizenship by Descent (9 Steps)

When applying for Italian citizenship by descent (Jure Sanguinis), the real crux of the entire process tends to be eligibility, because your category of eligibility will determine which documents you will need to obtain and submit to the Consulate of your jurisdiction.

The remainder of the steps are pretty straight forward.

Let’s get started!

1. Determine your category of eligibility for Italian citizenship by descent

Which one of these, if any, describes you?

Class 1: 

When you were born, your father was a citizen of Italy. He was not a citizen of any other country.

Class 2: 

When you were born, your mother was a citizen of Italy, and was not a citizen of any other country. You were born after January 1st, 1948.

Class 3: 

Your father was not born in Italy, but his father or mother (your paternal grandfather or grandmother) was born in Italy and was a citizen of Italy, or had rights to Italian citizenship by descent when your father was born.

Class 4: 

Your mother was not born in Italy, but her father or mother (your maternal grandfather or grandmother) was born in Italy and was a citizen of Italy, or had rights to Italian citizenship by descent when your mother was born. In addition, you were born after January 1st, 1948.

Class 5: 

Your paternal grandparent or maternal grandparent was not born in Italy. Your maternal and paternal great grandfathers or great grandmothers were born in Italy and were Italian citizens, or had rights to Italian citizenship by descent when your grandparents were born.

Once you’ve determined your category of eligibility, you can move on to the next step.

2. Identify necessary documents corresponding to your category of eligibility

Thankfully, the Italian Consulate has provided a helpful list of documents necessary for each category of eligibility. 

This one comes from the Italian Consulate of Chicago. Click here to take a look (you will find the document requirements on pages 2 and 3).

3. Gather all documents for your application for Italian Citizenship by Descent

Obtaining every document vital to your application may feel daunting, but there are established processes for doing so, and if you follow them, you will likely be able to get copies.

Below are some tips to help you obtain the most commonly needed (and difficult to track down) documentation.

UPDATE: As of November 15th, 2021, you many vital records will become accessible digitally via Italy's "Anagrafe Digitale," a digital registry service built to facilitate the search for vital documents.

To request your ancestor’s birth/marriage/death certificates from Italy:

Write to the Comune (commune or municipality) where your Italian ancestor was born and request a birth certificate in “formato internazionale” or an “estratto per riassunto.”

Enclose a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage, and send the letter to the address of the Comune, which you can find here.

Address your request to: COMUNE DI _________ Ufficio Anagrafe — Stato Civile (Zip Code) ________ (City) _________ (Province of) ________ ITALY

You should receive a response with the documents you have requested.

Request your ancestor’s birth/marriage/death certificates in the United States:

You can request these certificates directly from the Office of Vital Statistics in the County or of the State where the birth/marriage/death took place.

Note that these certificates must be “Long Form” in a “Certified Copy.”

Also note that it is vital for birth certificates to list city of birth and parents’ names.

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to locating and gathering documents for your Italian citizenship application, or writing letters in Italian to the proper Comune, we can help.

4. Fill out an Italian Citizenship by Descent formal application

The application can be found here.

5. Contact the consulate of your jurisdiction to schedule an interview

Though you will need to take a major additional step before you can submit your application and documents in person, we recommend contacting the Consulate of your jurisdiction early on in the process.

The application process itself takes time, and the sooner you are able to book an in person interview with your Consulate, the sooner you will get your citizenship.

A tip on appointment scheduling:

In the United States, Italian Citizenship appointments are scheduled through the Prenota scheduling system. You can find a link to the scheduling system on the website of your Consulate of Jurisdiction.

Again, be sure to schedule sooner rather than later, as most Consulates are scheduling 12 to 24 months out on average.

6. Get all documents translated and legalized with Apostille

Before attending your in-person interview with the consulate of your jurisdiction, you must take the vital step of getting every pertinent document translated into Italian. Documents presented to the Consulate in any language other than Italian will not be accepted.

We will discuss the personal document translation process in greater detail, later in this post.

In addition, all documents issued in the United States need to be legalized by means of an “Apostille,” an international legalization that enables a document to be used in a foreign country. This applies specifically to U.S. Birth/Marriage/Death records related to the “Italian side” (beginning with your ancestor and ending with you, and including all “intermediate” ancestors who are not applying for citizenship).

The Apostille is provided by the Secretary of State of the State in which the document was issued. Note that it is a separate document, not a stamp on the certificate. 

If you are submitting documents issued in countries other than the United States or Italy, they will need to be legalized in accordance with local regulations on the use of certified documents abroad. Please contact the local authorities in the country of issuance to determine what these regulations are.

7. Interview with the Italian Consulate of your Jurisdiction

The primary purpose of this in person meeting is to bring original copies of your documents, as well as forms of identification.

Step 8 provides a list of what you will need to bring.

8. Bring the following documents to your citizenship interview with the Italian Consulate

  • Your non-Italian passport and State ID. Bring an original copy as well as a photocopy.
  • Proof of residency within the jurisdiction of the Consulate with which you are meeting. 
  • An original of the filled-out application form. (The form found in step 4)
  • A residency list.
  • A copy of all of the documents specified in your category of eligibility. As specified in step 6, documents generated in the United States or any other country must be translated into Italian, and each document must have a corresponding Apostille.
  • Payment for a €300 Consular fee. Please contact the Consulate of your jurisdiction for preferred payment terms and exchange rate information.

9. Your documents and application are processed

Once you have completed your meeting with the Consulate, your application is submitted for processing. The consulate has two years (24 months), to process your application.

Make sure you keep the Consulate informed of any changes of address, as they will need your current address in order to contact you with the results of your application.

How to Apply for Italian Citizenship by Marriage (8 Steps)

Eligibility for Italian citizenship by marriage is often a bit easier to determine than it is for Italian citizenship by descent. Are you married to an Italian citizen? If the answer is “yes,” and you’ve been married for the amount of time specified in the above section on eligibility, then you are likely eligible.

With that said, the process can be long and complex, but we’re going to make it as simple to follow as possible. 

Here we go!

1. Use this link to create an account on the Italian Ministry of Interior’s website. 

This will be necessary as you will go on to submit your application and documents on this website as well.

Creating an account will register you in their “ALI” portal, which is only available in Italian.

2. Gather and Prepare the following documents:

Please note:

A. All documents in any language other than Italian must be translated into Italian, or they will be rejected.

B. These translated documents must be certified by your local Italian consulate.

C. All documents issued in the United States need to be legalized by means of an “Apostille,” an international legalization that enables a document to be used in a foreign country. 

D. Each document needs its own Apostille.

E. If you are submitting documents issued in countries other than the United States or Italy, they will need to be legalized in accordance with local regulations on the use of certified documents abroad. Please contact the local authorities in the country of issuance to determine what these regulations are.

Here’s a list of the documents you will need to submit with your application for Italian citizenship by marriage:

  • A copy of your marriage certificate transcript, obtained from the Italian commune where your Italian spouse is registered with AIRE. Note that marriage certificates are valid for 6 months, so you need to ensure you submit your documents in a timely manner to avoid their expiration during the process.
  • A copy of criminal background checks from each US state and foreign country where you have resided since the age of 14, in addition to an FBI background check, which ensures accuracy on a state and federal level. Note that background checks are valid for 6 months, so you need to ensure you submit your documents in a timely manner to avoid their expiration during the process.
  • A certified copy of your birth certificate.
  • An Italian language certification attesting you possess B1 (intermediate level) proficiency in the Italian language. Note that this is a new requirement as of December 1st, 2018. Proficiency certifications are only recognized if issued by an institution recognized by the Italian Ministry of Education or Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Are your documents translated and legalized with Apostille? If so, let’s move on.

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to locating and gathering documents for your Italian citizenship application, we can help.

3. Submit your translated, legalized documents through the Italian Ministry of Interior’s website

Once you have submitted your documents, it will be reviewed by your local Consulate, and you will eventually receive an invitation for an appointment. 

4. Interview with the Italian Consulate of your jurisdiction

The primary purpose of this in person meeting is to bring original copies of your documents, as well as forms of identification.

Step 5 provides a list of what you will need to bring.

5. Bring the following documents to your citizenship interview with the Italian Consulate

  • Your spouse’s Italian passport. Bring an original copy as well as a photocopy.
  • Your non-Italian passport and State ID. Bring an original copy as well as a photocopy.
  • Proof of residency within the jurisdiction of the Consulate with which you are meeting. 
  • A “signed declaration” in which each spouse declares to still be married.
  • An original of the filled-out application form. This form is found on the Italian Ministry of Interior’s website.
  • A residency list.
  • The original, long-form, certified copy of your birth certificate, translated into Italian, with Apostille
  • The original marriage transcript from the Italian Commune
  • Original copies of criminal background checks from each US state and foreign country where you have resided since the age of 14, in addition to a criminal background check from your state or country of birth. These documents each need to be translated into Italian, and each is in need of its own Apostille.
  • B1 Level Italian language certification
  • A receipt of your €250 wire transfer for your application
  • A money order to pay the Consular fee due for legalization of your translated documents

6. Your documents and application are processed

Once you have completed your meeting with the Consulate, the Consulate will submit your documents to the Ministry of Interior to be processed.

By law, the Ministry of Interior has 48 months to process your citizenship application. If you are applying for citizenship by descent, the limit is two years (24 months).

Processing time tends to be longer for citizenship by marriage applications due to the fact that the Consulate does not handle your application from start to finish, but rather, it passes on your documents to the Ministry of Interior during two separate stages of the process, adding to the average processing time. 

These documents are reviewed by the office of the Ministry in Rome, which also issues the final decision on whether to accept your application.

What happens if I don’t hear back in time?

While the Ministry processes thousands of requests each year, it is unlikely your request will go unprocessed.

If, for whatever reason, the four year timeframe has passed and you have not received an answer, the Ministry of Interior is obligated by law to provide one. In this case, you will be entitled to file a formal letter of notice demanding an immediate answer.

Finally, the Ministry reserves the right to interrupt the application and approval process if your marriage ends, or if they are unable to reach you, so be sure to inform your Consulate if your address changes.

7. Receive your results and schedule your citizenship ceremony

The Consulate will contact you once your application has been fully processed. This message will come through the web portal. If you were granted Italian citizenship, you will be invited to the Consulate for a citizenship ceremony.

The ceremony must take place within 6 months of the date citizenship was granted, and both you and your spouse are required to attend. Your spouse will be required to sign an affidavit confirming that your marriage is still valid, and there has been no request for separation, divorce, or annulment.

8. Complete the oath of citizenship at the Consulate


At your ceremony, the Consul General of Italy, or an acting representative, will read a statement. You will then be required to take an oath of allegiance.

A note on eligibility for women married to Italian men prior to 1983:

If you fall within this category, you’re in luck!

Women married to Italian men prior to April 25th, 1983 instantly and automatically obtained Italian citizenship on the date of their marriage. If you were married before this date and your marriage was still valid on this date, you have the right to Italian citizenship, regardless of whether you are divorced or your spouse is deceased.

However, you will still need to submit documents to prove this and officially obtain Italian citizenship.

Documents required:

  • Your United States Passport. The original and a photocopy.
  • A €300 Consular fee. Please contact your local Consulate for the exact fee, as the exchange rate is updated quarterly.
  • Proof of residency within your consular jurisdiction. 
  • Your Marriage Certificate. This can be a marriage transcript from the Italian commune where you were married (if married in Italy, or the marriage was registered there), or your original marriage record translated into Italian and legalized with Apostille. 
  • Your Birth Certificate. Translated into Italian and legalized with Apostille.

The Most Common Obstacles to Obtaining Italian Citizenship, and How to Overcome them

Though we’ve provided a great deal of information on how to get Italian citizenship in this post, you may encounter obstacles along the way—and don’t be scared if you do.

Many applicants encounter issues here and there, whether it’s due to the nuanced nature of Italian citizenship laws, trouble procuring family documents, or any number of factors.

Our goal here is to empower you with all the information you need to pursue Italian citizenship, so we’ve decided to go beyond the general information and the step-by-step guides, and provide some real examples of the issues most commonly experienced during the Italian dual citizenship application process. 

To do so, we sought out the expertise of Sonseere Goldenberg, an experienced Immigration Attorney at the Felhaber Larson Law Firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a trusted partner to Pavoloni International, Sonseere has helped our clients with numerous complex situations related to Italian citizenship.

Here are issues Sonseere points out regarding the Italian dual citizenship application, as well as solutions to overcome them.

The Top Three Most Difficult Issues When Applying for Italian Citizenship Jure Sanguinis 

The Problem: Obtaining vital records of Italian ancestors in Italy. 

The first step in obtaining your Italian citizenship, is to prove that you have an Italian ancestor. 

Usually, this means asking living relatives who may have records or memories of the name of this person. For some people, this is only one generation back. 

For others, it is several. And, interestingly, I know people who always thought that they were Italian but turned out not to be after locating the documents to support this process. 

Some people’s ancestors emigrated from the various kingdoms that now make up modern Italy, before Italy was a country. They have Italian-sounding names but unfortunately, may not be considered Italian citizens if they left before Italy unified. 

For most of us, we only have what our families told us. The work of proving Italian ancestry now falls to those of us who want documentation of our Italian citizenship. 

The Solution: There are three main ways to obtain the documents you need to prove your Italian bloodline. 

  1. You can visit your ancestor’s hometown “comune,” or the town hall, in Italy. If you speak Italian, you can ask where the records are kept.

I’ve found that the clerks in these records offices are usually excited to help people locate the records, especially in the smaller towns where they don’t often have foreign visitors. Consider the following when visiting in person:

A. It helps them locate the records more easily if you know the Italian name and the approximate date of the record you’re looking for. 

B. Often, they keep records by year, not by type of document. So, all of the birth, death, marriage, and other events for each year are in one book by date, not by last name. 

C. Usually, nothing is stored electronically so searching is tedious if you don’t know the exact date or year of an event. Also, keep in mind that Italian spellings may be different. 

D. Once you locate the document, ask the clerk to make an official estratto of the information and have it stamped with the official seal. 

  1. Write to the clerk at the records office in the town

Of course you will need to write to the clerk in Italian, and take into account the nuances of the local dialect, practices, or etiquette in your letter. I recommend having a professional translator draft this letter for you rather than rely on an online translation app or service. 

This letter needs to be addressed appropriately and should not include anything that could be remotely accidently-offensive, presumptuous, or not in formal tone. Of course, you would never intentionally insult anyone, but one wrong word or misspelling or out-of-context sentence could easily doom your chance of ever seeing a reply. 

  1. Hire a service provider in Italy who can retrieve the record for you. 

Pavoloni International is able to find the best person to travel to your ancestral town and work with the clerk in the anagrafe office to locate your records. 

While these providers do charge a fee, they are still very reasonable compared to what you would pay in the U.S. for similar assistance. Additionally, they are familiar with the local practices and cultural norms that can vary from place to place. This helps them work productively and efficiently with local offices that may not understand the urgency of your request.

The Problem: Discovering that your ancestor has two (or more) names and/or birth dates

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common things people run into. 

In almost everyone’s family, Italians either voluntarily adopted Americanized versions of their names or some government official gave them American names. 

It happened to both first and last names. In other cases, officials who could not understand our Italian ancestors, often wrote down incorrect dates on birth or death records. 

As a result, one ancestor may have been known as Vincenzo, James, Jim, Vinnie, or Vincent, for example. And, Vincenzo may have had his birthday written as Americans write dates, not Italians: 

For example, let’s say his birth date was the 10th of January 1890. If he could write at all, he would have written 10/01/1890. An American would write 01/10/1890. 

So, you may find documents in Italy and in the U.S. with his birthday listed as October 1 or January 10. And, everything in between if, for example, the person who reported Vincenzo’s death, did not know exactly when he was born or where. He may just guess and that date then ends up on the official death certificate.

The Solution: Submit an expert-opinion letter

This is very common. The Consulates are used to seeing this. However, it does not mean that they will believe you, without additional proof, that the Vincenzo with the October date of birth is the same person as James with the January date of birth. 

To resolve the discrepancies, the consulate will usually tell you to obtain what they call a “one and the same” order from a judge. 

Unfortunately, this is a difficult and expensive cure for the problem, and it’s often impossible to obtain because the custodians of vital records and courts are very reluctant to issue amendments to vital records that you may need to prove your case. Plus, you will incur legal fees for court filings and attorneys.

A better option:

An option that we’ve used successfully is to submit an expert-opinion letter from someone familiar with Italian linguistics, the U.S. immigration experience from our ancestors’ perspective, and Italian culture. 

The expert-opinion letter notes the efforts you may have already made to correct defects in documents or obtain documents that may help document your ancestor’s real identity and biographic information, without success. 

We also include an explanation about the names and what standard American names were for Italian names. So far, we are happy to say that the Consulates have accepted every client’s expert-opinion letter we’ve drafted as an acceptable substitute to the “one and the same” court order to conform names and dates in the ancestral line. 

The Problem: Dealing with USCIS to find naturalization records. 

For many reasons, political and not-political, the U.S. Citizenship and immigration Services (USCIS) is going through a lot of changes: staff reductions or reassignments, and service-to-the-public reductions. 

It can take more time than ever to obtain your ancestors’ records once USCIS locates the file number. It can also be frustrating to know where to search for these records because the government stored them all over the country, and in the past, delegated the authority to naturalize people to several different administrative agencies and state and federal courts.

The Solution: An efficient search

Start by going to the government’s genealogy website for information about where your records could possibly be located

First, you’ll need to have USCIS find any file or record numbers associated with your ancestor’s immigration to the U.S. USCIS may take several weeks or months to locate these file numbers. 

Once you have the file numbers or record numbers, you can then request that USCIS pull these records and send certified copies to you. 

The most important document you’ll be searching for is evidence that your ancestor did or did not naturalize in the U.S. If your ancestor did naturalize, you’ll need to pay attention to the date this occurred. The naturalization date is not the same as the date on which the ancestor declared and intent to file for naturalization. That was done on a form they filed years before they actually filed an application for naturalization.

Depending on when the children of this ancestor were born, and where they were born, you will either be eligible for Italian citizenship or not. 

In most cases, if your ancestor became a U.S. citizen before the child in your direct line, was born, you won’t be eligible. If the ancestor did not naturalize at all, or did so after the child from whom you are descended was born, it’s likely that you are eligible for Italian citizenship. 

The eligibility may be a bit different if your ancestor is female. 

Another option: locate records through the National Archives in Washington D.C. 

These documents come with a nice red ribbon across the front, along with a seal. However, the National Archives don’t have every person’s records. 

Generally, I have people start with the USCIS search on the genealogy page and then order the records. Depending upon where you are applying for citizenship, you may need to obtain an Apostille from the U.S. Department of State, even though the U.S. supposedly has an agreement with the Italian consulates that the certified copy of the USCIS documents do not need an Apostille.

USCIS included a statement to this effect on the genealogy brochure from its website, shown in the images below:

Have more questions about these common issues with Italian citizenship applications?

Contact us or Sonseere directly, and we will be happy to help.

Translation of Vital Records and Personal Documents for Italian Citizenship

There are many variables in Italian dual citizenship application process, but ultimately, it all comes down to the way your eligibility is proven through vital records. 

If you meet all of the requirements for one of the three methods of obtaining Italian citizenship, and your documents are accepted by the Italian consulate, you will be granted Italian citizenship. The whole process, at its essence, is about providing documented proof for every stipulation of eligibility.

But as you’ve learned in this post, obtaining Italian citizenship isn’t as simple as scanning your documents and sending them to the proper government authorities. There’s one often overlooked step that will make or break your application:


Translating Personal Documents for Italian Citizenship: How Can I Guarantee My Documents will be Accepted?

Simply put, acceptance of your documents can only be guaranteed if they are translated accurately, certified and notarized, and presented with Apostille.

We guarantee acceptance of all English to Italian translations by attorneys and Consulates by following these two essential steps. 

1. Accurate English to Italian translation by experts (this means native speakers who also understand legal terminology)

Google Translate won’t cut it if you want a certified translation that will be accepted by the Italian government. 

Translation means much more than translating words from one language to another—it requires a vast knowledge of the cultures of both countries, and in this case, experience working with sometimes complex legal terminology.

For this reason, only choose a company or agency with experienced Italian translators.

2. Certified Translation

For your translations to be accepted, they need to be accompanied by an Affidavit of Accuracy, also known as a Certificate of Translation. This Certificate of Translation consists of a sworn statement declaring the accuracy of the translation, along with the notarized of the translator who completed the translation. 

Make sure that your translation company provides this, as documents without this certification will not be accepted.

What types of documents need to be translated from English to Italian?

This will always depend on your category of eligibility, but even then, it can be tough to find one master list of everything you might need, so we took care of it for you.

Here is a list of documents you may need to translate from English into Italian, to go along with your Italian dual citizenship application:

  • Apostilles
  • Background Checks
  • Birth Certificates
  • Certificates of Naturalization
  • Death Certificates
  • Divorce Decrees
  • Expert-Opinion Letters
  • FBI Clearance Documentation
  • Immigration Records
  • Letters to Italian “Comune”
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Medical Records
  • One and the Same Orders
  • Police Clearance
  • Passports
  • Petitions
  • Ship Manifests
  • Sworn Statements

When should I get my translations done?

The best route is to start working with an english to italian translator early on in the process. We recommend getting started once you’ve acquired all of the vital records required by your category of eligibility.

As we discussed above, in the step-by-step sections on obtaining Italian citizenship Jure Sanguinis and by marriage, your translated documents will need to be presented at your first interview with the Consulate of your jurisdiction.

Though translations can be completed, certified and notarized relatively quickly, it’s always smart to be prepared, in case an appointment slot opens up with the Consulate earlier than you were expecting.

Ready to Apply for Italian Citizenship?

The aim of this post was to provide you with as much information as possible on how to become an Italian citizen.

We hope it helped shed light on the question of your eligibility, while giving you all of the tools and steps necessary to apply by a variety of means.

We are also aware that while Italian citizenship is coveted, and the steps and requirements for obtaining it are clear, the process itself can hit snags from time to time.

Whether you are struggling to determine your eligibility, gather your vital records, translate and Apostille your Italian citizenship documents, or communicate with the consulate of your jurisdiction, please know that we are here to help.

At Pavoloni International, we have been helping people navigate this process for over 35 years, and we would love to offer our expertise. 

Good luck!