a San Francisco
Before I go through the steps, I’ll start with my back story. I was able to obtain dual citizenship jus sanguinis, Latin for “right of blood” (As opposed to jus soli, meaning 'right of soil'). This is the principle of citizenship via ancestry. I had found out about the concept of Italian citizenship through ancestry from a Canadian friend who went through the steps in the early 90s. I had never given it much thought until I found myself in between jobs in 2013, when I had time on my hands to explore the process.
Below are the steps to becoming a dual citizen. Please note that this information is based on my experience and information published herein was reliable when I applied. Things change. The A-List does not assume responsibility for errors, procedural changes, and other bureaucratic non-sense. Check with the Italian consulate assigned to your area for the most accurate information.
Citizens of other countries may obtain dual citizenship jus sanguinis from an Italian born ancestor. In order to do so, you must demonstrate that your ancestor did not become an American citizen until after the next generation was born. In my case, my grandfather immigrated to the United States but did not become an American citizen until after my mother was born so I qualified.
This website provides a quick test to see if you’re eligible but for the definitive answer, check with the nearest Italian consulate.
Step Two – Find the Italian consulate responsible for your region
This is the office you will deal with when you file your application as well as when you apply for your passport. A list of Italian consulates in the United States is here. I worked with the San Francisco consulate and information on citizenship can be found under the Consular Services section of their website.
Step Three – Familiarize yourself with the process
Obtaining dual citizenship is straightforward, but can get a bit complicated if you have to go back a few generations, if your ancestor never naturalized, if there are complicated divorces, and so forth. Following the directions and exhibiting patience are key to surviving the process.
There are services that will help you with your citizenship application, but I was able to do it on my own. I was lucky because I only had to go back to my grandfather’s generation, and we have a straightforward family history. If you google “Italian Dual Citizenship” you’ll find a ton of these services. Even if you don’t plan on using one, their websites often have useful information.
The citizenship section of your consulate’s website is the place to start. It goes over eligibility and will show a list of documents you’ll need to secure. The San Francisco consulate has a useful document called “What is my case?,” which you can find here (Scroll to the General Information sub-section for the link) and there is a helpful FAQ section at the bottom of the page.
NOTE! Find out right away if your consulate is even taking applications for citizenship. I understand that some consulates have put a hold on new applications and others are booked a year or more out. Also note that as of July 2014, there is a non-refundable fee to apply for citizenship, which changes quarterly. It is currently €300.
While each consulate requires mostly the same documents, I understand some have different guidelines as to original versus photo copy and what documents need (or do not need) an apostille and/or a translation.
An apostille is a form of authentication for a document, essentially an international form of notarization, and can be issued by the state’s Secretary of State (list here). It is important to know this when securing documents as you may be asked if you need room for an apostille.
As for translations, the San Francisco consulate only required one translation but some consulates require more. Also, some consulates have a list of approved translators so double-check to make sure you have translations that will be acceptable.
Step Four – Begin to secure the documents
You’ll start by getting an original copy of your birth certificate. (Visit your birth state’s vital records office. List here.) This will show who your parents are and will set into motion your ability to secure birth, marriage, and death certificates for your ancestors.
Early on in the process, request your Italian ancestor’s birth certificate. You’ll need to know their birth city and should contact the comune there to secure the document. I understand that this can be a big hassle, but my request went smoothly and relatively quickly.
Securing documents is not hard, but it helps to have as much information as possible. If you don’t have exact dates or locations (of a marriage, arrival in the U.S., etc.) some agencies allow you to give a date range when requesting documents. Again, I was lucky as I had a family genealogy reporting going back to the 1880s. It included the name of my grandfather’s birth town, the date of his arrival in the United States, and the exact date of his marriage, all a big help when it came to securing those documents.
As for proof of your Italian ancestor’s naturalization, there was some confusion as to whether I needed the naturalization certificate or the petition for naturalization. I had an original copy of my grandfather’s naturalization certificate but to be safe, I requested the petition for naturalization as well. Again, check with your consulate. You can find and order immigration records at the national archives.
The consulate will ask for a list of discrepancies. I erred on the side of caution and listed everything, even if it was minor. For instance, I wrote that my grandfather was listed as “Filippo” on his birth certificate but as “Phillip” on all other documents. Meticulousness here can only help.
Step Five – Book your “appointment"
You’ll need to schedule an appointment so that the consulate may review your paperwork. Since I live far my consulate, my “appointment” was actually a date when my documents would be reviewed so all I had to do was to get my paperwork in ahead of time. It is probably not a bad idea to make photo copies of everything in your application.
As with every step of this process, follow all of the directions exactly. The process takes a long enough time as it is, so your diligence can help you avoid further questions or delays. Finally, sit back patiently and wait. I didn’t hear a peep from the consulate until I received my recognition letter six months later.
There is a ton of information on dual citizenship on the internet and on social media. As with everything web-related, watch out for bullshit and always remember that the consulate is where to go for the most accurate information on obtaining dual citizenship. However, I wouldn’t discount websites and social media groups as they can be full of useful information. There is a Facebook page for Americans seeking Italian citizenship, and there you can find out first-hand what others are experiencing as they go through the process.
If you are a dual citizenship or in the process of applying, please share your experiences and resources in the comments section of this post.
Facebook considers this a “life event.” Here’s my post to commemorate the occasion.
Dal diritto di sangue, oggi ho ottenuto la doppia cittadinanza
By the right of blood, today I obtained dual citizenship.
I like the way it sounds in both English and Italian!