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An Expert’s Guide on How to Get Italian Citizenship by Descent

how to get italian citizenship by descent

Dreaming of an Italian passport? If your family tree has Italian roots, you could be eligible for Italian citizenship by descent. 

Through “jure sanguinis” (right of blood), the Italian government opens its arms to descendants of its native sons and daughters, offering a chance to claim Italian citizenship by descent.

In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of jure sanguinis, helping you understand the qualifications and process for applying for Italian citizenship by descent. So, if you’re ready to reconnect with your Italian roots and unlock the doors to Italy, let’s get started!

Understanding Italian Citizenship: Jure Sanguinis

Italian citizenship by descent is based on the principle of jure sanguinis, a legal concept that differs from citizenship by birthplace. Here’s what you need to know:

Jure Sanguinis: The Right of Blood

  • Definition: Jure Sanguinis means that citizenship can be passed down from Italian ancestors, regardless of your birthplace. This principle is common in European countries and is central to Italian nationality law.
  • Contrast with Jus Soli: Unlike jus soli (citizenship by birthplace), common in countries like the USA and Canada, jure sanguinis focuses on your lineage. It allows individuals with Italian heritage to claim citizenship, even if they, or several generations, were born abroad.

Why Jure Sanguinis Matters in Italy

  • Cultural Connection: This law helps people of Italian descent maintain a connection with their cultural and familial heritage.
  • Broad Eligibility: It opens the door to citizenship for many descendants of Italians who emigrated throughout history, providing an opportunity to explore and embrace their Italian roots.

Understanding jure sanguinis is essential for anyone considering applying for Italian citizenship by descent. It highlights the importance Italy places on ancestral connections and sets the foundation for the application process. 

Italian Citizenship by Descent Qualification

So, you’re thinking of snagging an Italian passport through your ancestors? First, there are specific criteria you need to fulfill. Understanding these will help you determine whether you can embark on this path:

  • Italian Ancestry: The most fundamental criterion is having an Italian ancestor. This could be a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, or even further back. One of the few limits here will be if your ancestor was born before the Italian Realm formation – 1861, and died before that date, as there was no Italian Citizenship before it.
  • Unbroken Citizenship Line: The Italian ancestor must not have renounced their Italian citizenship before the birth of the next person in the lineage as the possibility of holding double nationalities for Italians was only introduced in 1992. This unbroken line of citizenship is key.
  • 1948 Rule: Due to a law change in 1948, before this year, Italian women could not pass citizenship to their children. Although this rule shall not impact eligibility, if your Italian lineage comes through the maternal line and the child was born before 1948 you might need to start a court case in Italy to claim your rights to Citizenship.
  • No Generational Limit: There’s generally no limit on the number of generations back you can claim citizenship aside from the first point. However, the unbroken citizenship line is crucial.
  • Legal Documentation: You’ll need to provide Vital Records and other legal documents proving your lineage and the citizenship status of your Italian ancestors.

Check these boxes, and you’re well on your way to becoming an Italian citizen. Each family’s story is unique, so your path might have some special steps. We recommend consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer so you don’t encounter any unexpected bumps along the way.

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Examples of Eligible Individuals

To give you a clearer picture, here are some real-world examples of individuals who might qualify for Italian citizenship by descent:

From Your Parents:

  • Your dad was an Italian citizen when you were born and hadn’t become a citizen of another country at that time, or
  • Your mom was an Italian citizen when you were born, hadn’t taken up another citizenship, and you were born after January 1, 1948.

Through Your Grandparents:

  • Your paternal or maternal grandparent was born in Italy and was an Italian citizen (or had the right to be one) before your parent was born. This applies to your mom’s side too, but remember, you need to be born after January 1, 1948.

Great Grandparents and Beyond:

  • If your great-grandparents or even great-great-grandparents were Italian citizens (or eligible to be) when their child (your direct ancestor) was born, and this citizenship right was passed down through the generations to you without any breaks, then you might be eligible.

Required Documentation

When applying for Italian citizenship by descent, gathering the correct documentation is key. Here’s what you need to have:

  1. Birth Certificates: You’ll need the birth certificates of your Italian ancestor(s) and all direct descendants in your lineage, up to and including you.
  2. Marriage and Death Certificates: Collect marriage and death certificates (in long form) for each generation between you and your Italian ancestor, if applicable.
  3. Naturalization Records: Documents showing if and when your ancestor became a citizen of another country are essential. These help establish that they retained Italian citizenship until the birth of their descendants.
  4. Additional Documents: Depending on your case, you might need other documents, like a certificate of your legal residence in Italy if you are applying from there.
  5. Translation and Legalization: All the documents (except for the passport) must be translated into Italian by a sworn translator. Also, both the original document and the translation must be legalized.

Remember, the accuracy and completeness of these documents are crucial. It’s often the most time-consuming part of the process, so start early and double-check everything.

Applying for Italian Citizenship by Descent: How To

Navigating the application process for Italian citizenship by descent involves several key steps. Here’s what to expect:

  1. Determine Your Eligibility: Before anything else, confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria for Italian citizenship by descent. Review your family history and the specific requirements to ensure you qualify.
  2. Research and Gather Documentation: Once you’ve established your eligibility, collect all necessary documents, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, and ensure they are correctly translated and legalized.
  3. Make Your Consulate Appointment: Reach out to the Italian Consulate or Embassy with jurisdiction according to your place of legal residence to schedule an appointment. Keep in mind that wait times can be lengthy, so it’s wise to do this early.
  4. Submit Your Application: During your appointment, submit your application along with the compiled documents. The consulate staff will review everything to verify it meets the necessary standards.
  5. Wait for Processing: Patience is key as processing times can vary significantly, often stretching to several months or more.
  6. Receive Citizenship Recognition: If your application is approved, you’ll be officially recognized as an Italian citizen. You’ll then be guided on registering with the AIRE and applying for an Italian passport.

Each application is unique, so the process may vary slightly. Staying organized, patient, and proactive is essential for a smooth journey to Italian citizenship.

Common Challenges and Solutions When Getting an Italian Passport by Descent

Unfortunately, applying for Italian citizenship by descent isn’t always a walk in the park. That’s why it’s important to be prepared for some hurdles along the way. 

Here’s a heads-up on some bumps you might hit on the road and how to smooth them out:

1. Missing or Incomplete Documentation:

  • Challenge: It’s not uncommon to find gaps in your family’s documentation or discover that some records are missing or incomplete.
  • Solution: Start your search early and be thorough. Reach out to family members for information, contact local registries in Italy, or consider hiring a professional researcher.

2. Long Processing Times:

  • Challenge: The wait can be long, sometimes years, due to the high volume of applications and bureaucratic processes.
  • Solution: Patience is key. Regularly check in with the consulate for updates and ensure you respond quickly to any requests for additional information.

3. Navigating the 1948 Rule:

  • Challenge: If your Italian lineage involves a female ancestor who gave birth before 1948, the regular consulate process might not apply.
  • Solution: In such cases, it may be necessary to pursue citizenship through a court in Italy. Legal assistance in court is required to navigate this path.

4. Language Barriers:

  • Challenge: If you’re not fluent in Italian, the language can be a barrier, especially when dealing with official documents and communications.
  • Solution: Consider hiring a translator or a citizenship service to help with language-related challenges.

5. Understanding Dual Citizenship Laws:

  • Challenge: Understanding your home country’s laws on dual citizenship can be confusing.
  • Solution: Do your research or consult with a legal expert to understand how obtaining Italian citizenship may affect your current citizenship.

Remember, a few roadblocks don’t mean the end of the journey. With a bit of planning and the right help, you’ll be waving that Italian passport in no time!

how to get italian citizenship by descent

Life After Citizenship: What’s Next?

Travel Made Easy

Got your Italian citizenship? Great! Now you’ve got a ticket to easier travel. Say goodbye to those pesky visa forms for a lot of countries. Plus, working or living in the EU just became a whole lot easier.

Work and Study: Doors Wide Open

Your new Italian citizenship can enhance your career or education options. Whether it’s a job in Milan’s fashion industry or a course in a historic Italian university, the whole of the EU is now available for you to take advantage of.

Healthcare and Social Perks

Healthcare headache? Not for you. Italy’s top-notch healthcare system is now there for you. And it doesn’t stop there – there are other social benefits you can tap into, making life a bit more secure and a lot more enjoyable.

Passing it On

One of the coolest things is you can pass this citizenship on to your kids. It’s a gift that opens up a world of opportunities for them, just like it did for you.

Becoming an Italian citizen is more than just an official status. It’s about new opportunities, experiences, and a connection to a culture that’s both rich and rewarding. So, what are you waiting for? Dive into this new chapter of your life!

Frequently Asked Questions about Italian Citizenship by Descent

Can I get Italian citizenship if my great-grandparents were Italian?

Absolutely! If your great-grandparents were Italian and they didn’t renounce their citizenship before their descendants (your grandparents) were born, you might be eligible. Remember, the key is an unbroken line of Italian citizenship from them to you.

How many generations back can you claim Italian citizenship?

There’s no strict generational limit. As long as you can prove an unbroken line of citizenship from your ancestor to you, it doesn’t matter how many generations back your Italian ancestor is. 

The only practical constraint is “when Italian Citizenship became a thing”, that was with the formation of the Italian Realm, so if your Italian-born ancestor was born before 1861, you might not be eligible. The further back you go, the more documentation you’ll need. That’s why consulting with an expert is crucial for a successful eligibility analysis.

How long is the wait for Italian citizenship by descent?

Patience is key here. The processing time can vary greatly, often taking several months or even years. It largely depends on the workload of the consulate or embassy and the complexity of your case. 

Legally (and Ideally), Italian Town Halls are limited to a six-month term, while Consulates are limited to a 2 years term. Remember that if an Italian Consulate does not respect that term, you may also access your right through an Italian Court of Law.

Do I need to speak Italian to get Italian citizenship by descent?

No, up to today you don’t need to speak Italian to apply, although, recent Law Drafts are trying to implement this barrier and in the future, you might need an Italian B1 language level certificate to access that right. 

However, understanding the language can be helpful, especially when dealing with documents and the application process. Some applicants choose to learn Italian as a way to connect with their heritage.

Can Italian citizenship skip a generation?

Not exactly. Italian citizenship is passed down from one generation to the next without interruption. However, if a generation didn’t claim citizenship, it doesn’t disqualify the next generation from applying, as long as the citizenship line remains unbroken.

Are there other options to claim Italian citizenship?

Yes, there are other paths. These include citizenship through marriage, residency (living in Italy for a certain number of years), or in some cases, for those who have served in the Italian military. Each path has its own set of requirements and processes.

Can Lexidy Help Me Get Italian Citizenship by Descent?

So, you’ve navigated through the ins and outs of acquiring Italian citizenship by descent and are ready to take the next step. But let’s be honest, while the journey is exciting, it can also be complex and filled with bureaucratic nuances. That’s where Lexidy comes into play.

At Lexidy, we understand that every case is unique, and navigating the maze of Italian citizenship can be daunting. Our team of expert lawyers is here to guide you through every step of the process. From determining your eligibility to supporting you on the filing of your application and addressing any challenges along the way, we’ve got your back.

Interested in exploring how Lexidy can assist you in claiming your Italian citizenship by descent? Simply fill out the form below to start the process. Let’s make your dream of becoming an Italian citizen a reality!

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