Back to the old country; how to claim your Italian citizenship


Back to the old country; how to claim your Italian citizenship


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There are basically two ways to become an Italian Citizen.

One is to sneak into an Italian woman’s womb and make sure to be delivered after nine months in proximity to a Trattoria, so that you can enjoy a good dish of spaghetti as you come out.

The second is to claim Italian Citizenship through our Government, as you may have lost it along the lines of immigration.

(Other ways are possible but they generally apply to foreigners who live or have lived in Italy- residence, military service, passing of time etc. )

Citizenship is passed on from parent to child without limitation of generation, but none of the ancestors must have ever renounced their Italian citizenship. In other words, if your grandfather moved to U.S.A. and remained Italian until the day of his death, then you are eligible for citizenship: but if he had naturalized as an American, you may not be such any longer. Consequently, following with the same example, if your parent(s) were born in the USA they are American by birth for the USA but may be still recognized as Italian by bloodline for the Italian law: and so are you.

Also, if you were born before the naturalization of your ancestor you are still eligible for citizenship.

When a person claims to be of Italian parentage or ancestry but no proof of the fact can be found in Italian registers, it is necessary to provide proof that all ancestors have maintained, and thereby passed on, their Italian citizenship. The Authority legally valid to ascertain these facts depends on the person’s place of residence: for foreign residents, the diplomatic-consular mission in the country of residence.

Transmission of citizenship through maternal lineage is possible only for persons born after January 1st 1948.

Up until January 1, 1948 (when the new Italian Constitution entered into force: making equal the rights of the two genders), it was not possible for an Italian mother to transfer Italian citizenship to her child. However, the Italian Supreme Court recently ruled that this provision was contrary to the constitutional principles and, more precisely, to the principle of equality between the sexes. Accordingly, children born before 1948 by an Italian mother may also be eligible for citizenship but this recognition is not automatic as it is for the children born after 1948. So that a specific lawsuit will be necessary.

As I said above, many exceptions to the Jus Sanguinis (Rights of Blood) are now in place: these have even been extended lately, making possible -for instance- also to foreign children who have studied in Italy- to become Italian given certain conditions.

However, the number of North Americans claiming citizenship is increasing; the USA in fact are now the 8th Foreign Community by number of new residents in Italy and by far the first amongst Western Conutries. I would not be surprised if a growing number of these …new immigrants had italian roots and claimed citizenship (no statistics on that, sorry!)

Generally speaking if you consider to claim citizenship, the assistance of a lawyer in Italy may sometimes turn out to be a good idea.

A detailed booklet is available in every Italian Consulate.

Bentornati a casa!

Marco Calabrese – Lawyer in Rome – Founder of Angloitalianlaw



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