ICA: Frequently Asked Questions to Italian Citizenship Assistance
- WTI Magazine #142 Aug 18, 2021
While many of the articles which have been published so far have analyzed the different paths to Italian citizenship, the differences amongst them, the eligibility requirements, the documents needed and the benefits of applying, this article will be devoted to answering some of the most frequently asked questions regarding applying for Italian citizenship.
If you have a query which is not addressed in the answers provided below, please feel free to reach out to us; our contact details are at the end of this page.
Q: What is Italian citizenship jure sanguinis?
A: Italian citizenship law is based on the principle of jure sanguinis (citizenship by blood). In other words, anyone with Italian ancestry may be eligible for Italian citizenship through his or her most recent ancestor or through the most distant ancestor since there is no limit in the number of generations one can go back.
Q: Who is eligible to apply?
A: You can apply for Italian citizenship if you meet the following requirements: 1) your ancestor (who was born in Italy) was alive at the time Italy was unified as a nation on March 17, 1861 or he/she was born after that date; 2) your ancestor was never naturalized (or he/she became a U.S. citizen after the birth of the child who was born in the U.S. and after June 14, 1912); 3) none of your ancestors in your direct line of descent ever renounced their Italian citizenship.
On the other hand, if there is a woman in your Italian lineage who gave birth to her child prior to January 1, 1948, you may be able to apply for citizenship through an application via the court and file a 1948 case, as opposed to applying via a consulate or via a municipality in Italy.
Q: What documents are needed?
A: If you are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by descent you will need to collect your family’s vital records. More specifically, you will need certified copies of your family’s birth, marriage, divorce (if applicable) and death certificates and proof that the ancestor through whom you are claiming citizenship was naturalized or was never naturalized. These records will need to be authenticated with an Apostille, and finally they will need to be translated into Italian. In order to apply for citizenship by descent, you must also retrieve the naturalization records pertaining to the Italian ancestor through whom you are claiming citizenship or proof that the ancestor was never naturalized. In particular, you will need to retrieve your ancestor’s Declaration of Intentions, Petition for Naturalization and Certificate of Naturalization. These documents can be retrieved from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which hold government and historical records, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the County in which the naturalization took place. On the other hand, if your ancestor was never naturalized you will need to prove this by providing the Italian authorities with a Certificate of Non-Existence of Records that certifies that no naturalization record was found pertaining to your ancestor. The certificate can be retrieved from USCIS; on the other hand, NARA will provide you with a Letter of Negative Search. Additionally, some consulates might ask you to retrieve supporting documents that prove that your ancestor was never naturalized, such as a certified copy of a census listing your ancestor’s citizenship status. Finally, your ancestor’s vital records from Italy can be retrieved from the registry office (“stato civile”) of the Italian municipality in which the event occurred.
Q: Is there a language requirement to apply for Italian citizenship by descent?
A: If you are applying for Italian citizenship by descent you do not need to speak Italian because from the Italian government’s perspective you are Italian by birth-right, and you are only formally applying for the recognition of your right to Italian citizenship.
Q: Where should I file my application?
A: If claiming Italian citizenship by descent via a male ancestor, an application can be filed at an Italian consulate or at a municipality in Italy. If you are in the United States, the list of consulates and their jurisdictions can be found here. On the day of your appointment the consulate will ask you for proof of residency (i.e., your DL, a utility bill or a bank statement depending on the specific requirements of the consulate to which you apply) that shows that you are eligible to apply to that specific consulate.
As for applying in Italy, you can apply at any municipality, nevertheless, it is worth specifying that not every municipality is familiar with applications for citizenship by descent, especially the smaller ones, therefore, it is advisable to check that you can apply to the municipality you have chosen. Finally, if there is a female ancestor in the Italian lineage who gave birth to her child prior to January 1, 1948, you need to apply via the court system and file a 1948 case. In this case, you do not need to travel to Italy as a lawyer can represent you in court and submit the application for you via a Power of Attorney.
Q: What if I reside abroad?
A: If you apply for Italian citizenship at an Italian consulate abroad and you are not a citizen of that country nor have permanent residency there, as a general rule you will be required to hold a visa which covers you for at least 2 years from the date you submit your application. Therefore, you cannot apply for Italian citizenship in a foreign country if you hold a tourist visa or another type of temporary or short-term visa. It is worth pointing out that if you hold a renewable study or work visa, or if you provide the Italian consulate with sufficient proof that you will be residing in the country where you apply for a period that exceeds 2 years, they may allow you to file an application even if your visa is due to expire before then. For more information about applying for Italian citizenship if you reside outside the U.S. please click here.
Q: How can I book my appointment at a Consulate?
A: You can book an appointment online by visiting the consulate’s website and registering with their online booking system. Recently, Italian consulates have launched a new online booking system which is called “PrenotaMi”. With this system you can create an account by giving your full name, date and place of birth, residence address, phone number and US passport number. Although the system has been implemented by all consulates, some are continuing to release new appointments only on specific days and times.
Q: Will I receive my paperwork when the consulate has assessed my application?
A: After your appointment, the consulate or the municipality in Italy to which you apply will retain all of the original and certified copies of the records which you submitted, therefore these will not be returned. On the other hand, if you apply for the recognition of citizenship via a lawsuit, when you are officially granted Italian citizenship, aside from requesting a certified copy of the final judgment you can also request that your original vital records be returned to you.
Q: How long does it take to be granted Italian citizenship by descent?
A: The processing time to be granted Italian citizenship varies depending on the path to citizenship that is being pursued. If you apply via an Italian consulate, by law, they have 2 years to process an application, however it could take less – on average from six to twelve months. The same applies to applying via a municipality in Italy although, in general, municipalities tend to process applications more quickly compared to consulates. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that there could be delays if the applicant’s vital records contain discrepancies and inconsistencies which need to be amended.
Q: What type of discrepancies need amending?
A: For example, names like Giuseppe or Antonio were often Americanized to Joseph or Anthony. Together with typographical errors, these are considered minor discrepancies. On the other hand, mistakes in dates, place of birth, and serious distortions in names can cause problems. Therefore, prior to applying, documents need to be checked and corrections made by following the specific policies of the local vital records office which is responsible for issuing the records.
Q: I was adopted, can I apply for Italian citizenship?
A: If you were adopted by an Italian parent you can apply for Italian citizenship. In particular, if you were adopted as a minor you will need your adoption decree together with your birth certificate and your Italian family’s vital records. On the other hand, if you were adopted as an adult, you must reside in Italy for five years prior to applying.
Q: What is the processing time to be issued an Italian passport?
A: This depends on the authority which is responsible for releasing the passport (i.e., consulate or local prefecture in Italy). It could take one to six weeks from the date of application.
Q: What name will my Italian passport show?
A: When you have been granted Italian citizenship, your Italian passport will show your name exactly as it appears on your birth certificate, which you submitted on the day of your appointment. With regards to married women, their passports will show their maiden name, as per Italian law.
Q: Are there any obligations to holding Italian citizenship?
A: Holding Italian citizenship does not entail any obligation. You will not need to serve in the military as in 2001 the Italian government passed a law which made military service voluntary. As for taxes, if you are an Italian citizen you do not necessarily need to pay taxes, rather, taxes are paid by virtue of residing in Italy, not by virtue of merely being an Italian citizen. Nevertheless, if you plan on relocating to Italy, it is advisable to consult an attorney who specializes in taxation law and is particularly familiar with tax law for U.S. citizens residing abroad and in Italy more specifically.
Q: Will acquiring Italian citizenship affect my other nationalities?
A: Most states allow their citizens to hold dual (or multiple) citizenship(s). Furthermore, according to the principle of jure sanguinis, you have been an Italian citizen since birth, which is different from applying for citizenship by naturalization, which in many cases can result in the loss of your native citizenship. Finally, in cases where the applicant is employed in critical areas of the government, he or she might not be able to pursue dual citizenship, nevertheless, it is always worth checking with your employer.
Q: What are the benefits of applying for Italian citizenship?
A: Among the benefits of applying for Italian citizenship is the ability to pass citizenship automatically on to your minor children. In other words, when you are granted Italian citizenship, if your children are minors their birth certificates will be automatically registered in Italy together with the rest of your vital records. On the other hand, if you decide to have children in the future, note that it will be sufficient to register their births in order for them to be officially recognized as Italian citizens. The same will apply to future generations provided that the Italian parent registers the children’s birth via the AIRE before they turn 18.
Italian citizenship comes with another benefit, that of being a European citizen. Besides being able to travel to any of the EU member states without any restrictions and time limitations, being an Italian citizen and consequently an EU citizen allows you to travel, work or study in any of the EU’s member states. Italian citizenship is also attractive because of the country’s free universal healthcare. Italy, in fact, has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe as it provides universal coverage for its citizens and residents. As for higher education, it is worth pointing out that Italy offers both state and private universities which have an excellent reputation and rank high on an international scale. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, holding an Italian passport means that you will be able to stay in Italy for as long as you wish and enjoy the country’s history, culture and lifestyle.
These are only some of the most frequently asked questions; if you have further queries or would like a free consultation to determine whether you apply for citizenship, feel free to contact Italian Citizenship Assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at +1- 323 – 892 – 0861.