In this article we will address how to get Italian citizenship jure sanguinis (or by descent). This article may be interesting to people native of countries other than Italy, who feature Italian ancestors in their family.
An Italian law enacted in 1992 allows, under certain specific conditions, people of Italian descent to obtain Italian citizenship. Italy no longer requires you to renounce your current citizenship. That means that you can keep holding onto your foreign passport along with the Italian one. As a very general rule, an individual born in a country other than Italy may claim Italian citizenship by descent if his/her Italian-born ascendant was an Italian citizen at the time of his / her birth.
Benefits of Getting Italian Citizenship
Italian Citizenship comes with a great deal of benefits and virtually no downsides. The following are the main benefits associated with Italian citizenship:
– right to live and work in Italy and all other countries of the European Union (EU).
– travel without a visa through Italy and Europe
– access to more affordable education
– access to more affordable health care system
– less hassle in purchasing Italian properties or accepting inheritance etc.
– reconnect with your Italian heritage,
– pass citizenship on to your children
Obtaining Italian Citizenship is definitely something to consider, if you meet the requirements.
Citizenship through parents and grandparents
Here are the basics to keep in mind if you are considering to obtain Italian citizenship “jure sanguinis” through your parents or grandparents.
The golden rule is that either one of your parents must have been an Italian citizen at the time of your birth. If he / she already was a citizen of your native country at the time of your birth, you cannot claim Italian citizenship through such parent, but you will have to resort to other avenues.
However, this rule does not apply if you were born after August 16, 1992, in which case your parent did not lose his / her Italian citizenship even though he / she became a citizen of your native country. In fact, in 1992 Italy enacted a law wherein Italian citizens would remain as such even after becoming citizens of other foreign countries.
Another exception to the general rule applies if you need to use an Italian-born female ancestor: in this case you must have been born on or after January 1, 1948, since, according to an Italian citizenship law existing before 1948, women at that time were not entitled to transmit Italian citizenship to their children.
This law, dating back to 1912, was clearly against the Italian Constitution enacted in 1948, but has never been repealed. Nonetheless such law has been successfully challenged before the Italian courts as unconstitutional. Unfortunately, consular officers are bound by this restriction since the law, as said, was never repealed: it is therefore necessary to resort to the judicial remedy on a case by case basis. We will address this specific case later on in this article.
If you can’t acquire citizenship through your parents because they were both born in your native country, you can go back up in your direct lineage until you find the first Italian person in your family to have become a citizen of your country (United States, for instance). Basically, you have to find the person who first emigrated to your country from Italy and became a citizen of your native country.
So, if your paternal grandfather emigrated to the United States from Italy and he became a U.S. citizen after your father was born, your father was also an Italian citizen by birth and therefore you will be entitled to Italian citizenship as well.
Same goes for your great grandfather if he was the one who first emigrated to the U.S. (or another country) so long as he became a U.S. citizen (or citizen of another country) after your grandfather was born.
There is no generational limit to claiming Italian citizenship by descent, however the ancestor who first emigrated from Italy must have died after March 17, 1861, If your ancestor died before 1861, that person could not pass on Italian citizenship because Italy became a unified country only on such date.
Italian citizenship through mother or other female ascendant
As noted above, things may get a little trickier when you can’t use your father lineage, and you have to resort to your mother’s.
Under the 1912 Italian law, only men could pass Italian citizenship on to their children, whereas women could not.
Only with the Italian Constitution enacted in 1948, women were granted the same exact rights as men. However, since any citizenship matters is governed by the law existing at the time of the birth, as a result the 1912 law still applies to individuals born before 1948 even if unconstitutional.
Therefore, in first instance, Italian consulates officers are required to deny all Italian citizenship applications wherein the applicant uses an Italian female ascendant whose child was born prior to 1948.
At this point, if no Italian-born ancestor on your father side can be used, the only option left is to challenge the law before the Italian courts on a case by case basis, by filing an action against the Italian Government.
The action should result in a declaratory judgment stating that a certain female ancestor whose child was born before 1948 was entitled to pass Italian citizenship on to her child because the 1912 law is unjust and discriminatory, and patently against the Italian Constitution of 1948 (which principles apply retroactively).
Italian courts have no choice but to grant the application, and this is so true that the Italian Government has already for a long time waived any defense and the right to appear in court. In sum, the result would be a judgment in absentia.
However, although the outcome of such court cases is quite certain, the proceedings may take over one year to get to completion, significantly slowing down the general turnaround time of your Italian citizenship application. Unfortunately, there is no way around it.
If for your Italian citizenship application it is necessary to use a female ancestor, and a judgment in Italy is required, our Italian desk may provide you with highly competent representation by an Italian attorney fully familiar with these kinds of proceedings.
If you can use your father or an ancestor in your father’s lineage, you may be entitled to Italian citizenship if the child of the first person of your family to become a U.S. (or foreign) citizen did so after you were born.
If your father’s lineage cannot be used and you have to resort to a female ancestor whose child was born on or after January 1, 1948, it won’t be necessary to file any action in Italy, and you will be entitled to Italian citizenship by operation of law, as long as the child was born to the female ancestor prior to her becoming a U.S. citizen (same rule that applies to a male ancestor).
If otherwise, the female ancestor’s child was born before 1948 and – again – she didn’t acquire U.S. (or other country’s) citizenship before her child’s birth, you might be entitled to claim Italian citizenship after successfully challenging the 1912 law before an Italian court.
Just one more thing to be mindful of
Please, before you start thinking about applying for Italian citizenship you should make sure to know if your native country allows for multiple citizenships, which is anyway the case for most countries including United States, Brazil, Argentina etc.
If your native country does not allow you to do so, in order to get Italian citizenship you must have to actively renounce to your current one, or that may happen by operation of law depending on the country once Italian citizenship is attained.
If you wish to know more about eligibility, process and requirements to acquire italian citizenship, you can also read our article Italian Citizenship Through Italian Born Female Ancestor. Our italian citizenship lawyers can guide you throughout the processes of applying and obtaining your italian citizenship!
Attaining Italian citizenship comes with a great deal of benefits. If you meet the requirement set forth in this article, you should really consider applying for your dual Italian / American citizenship. Call us for your FREE CONSULTATION today or fill out our contact form, we will contact you back as soon as possible!