9. The Basic Rules & Why They’re Not So Basic

Last time, I mentioned three conditions you needed to meet to qualify for Dual Italian citizenship. Incidentally, I can talk about this only from the perspective of an American citizen, because I don’t know how or if other countries’ laws interact with those of Italy.

flag-2448197_640The short of it is that you must show you come from a line of Italian citizens–even if some of those Italian citizens never realized they were Italian citizens. Let’s look at the simplest case. You were born in the US and your father was born in Italy. Italy considers you an Italian citizen as long as your father was still a citizen of Italy when you were born. Now, it was your father’s responsibility to register your birth with Italy in a timely manner, just as he or your mother registered it in the US. If he didn’t, you simply have to catch up on that paperwork and you’re done. Kind of.

So, this isn’t a case of “obtaining” your citizenship or “becoming” a citizen, but more of italy-1093076_640recording it–just late. It’s a recognition of a situation that has existed since your birth. In some cases, the recording is very late. Or even very, very late. I had to go back only as far as my grandfather, which I would award the unofficial designation of “very late.”

How far back you have to go depends on finding your last ancestor born in Italy, for me, my maternal grandfather. If that ancestor was alive on or after March 17, 1861, you’ve passed the first test. Remember before that date, the official Unification of Italy, there was no country called Italy to be a citizen of. If your last ancestor born in what is now Italy died before that date, the line is broken.

Now, one complication. Citizenship was handed down only through men until 1948. Why 1948? That was the year that Italy affirmed that women had rights equal to those of men, unlike the USA, which still can’t bring itself to take such a scary and radical step for fear of unisex bathrooms or some other equally baffling and ridiculous BS. So, my grandfather was born in 1888 in Italy, and my mother in 1930 in New York. Since I was born after 1948, she was able to hand her citizenship down to me, even though she didn’t know it. Weirdly enough, if she’d had another child before 1948, that sibling of mine would not have been an Italian citizen, bringing “Mom likes you best” arguments to a whole new level.

But if you reach that point–coming to a woman in your line and the next in the line was born before 1948, it’s not hopeless. The community of slightly crazed and obsessed people who are into the dual citizenship process calls this a “1948 case.” As you may have guessed from the word “case” in there, you will need an Italian lawyer who will file for you in court claiming this is discriminatory. Something like 95% of these cases succeed, raising the very good question of why this is not simply addressed in the rules once and for all. But that hasn’t happened. Be forewarned: if you plan to bring a 1948 case, you will have to show you do not have another line to go through, a line that doesn’t take you through the whirlpool of women who gave birth before 1948. In other words, the judge wants to know why you are going through your nonna (grandma) when you could be going through your nonno (grandpa). Often there are very good reasons. Maybe your nonno wasn’t an Italian citizen. That should satisfy the judge. But maybe you just know there are some murky, messy problems with your nonno’s records and that it’s going to be a nightmare trying to get those records accepted. The judge will likely want you to prove that by going through the more normal route of claiming citizenship through your nonno and getting rejected. You might not be so happy about that because of how long it takes to find out. More about that in a future post.

Finally, you need to show that the last Italian-born ancestor in your line did not become an American citizen before the next in line was born. Because, remember, this is all about an unbroken chain of Italian citizens producing new Italian citizens. I will talk about this more in a future post as well.

Where do you go to make your case–to show your documents and demonstrate your beautiful, straight line back to Italy? The most common route is to go to one of the ten Italian Consulates in the US and present your case. You must go to the Consulate that handles matters for Italian citizens living in your state. Another option is to live in Italy for a while, usually several months, and bring your case directly to the comune in which you are living. There are also services that help you to present your case in Italy with special arrangements for shorter stays.

Whatever route you plan to take, you can get a lot of help and find a ton of information on the subject at the Italian Citizenship Message Board here or at that group’s Facebook page here.

Next time, what we mean when we talk about your documents.

Please leave me a comment with your thoughts. Just scroll down to the comment field below.

And I hope you will click the red Subscribe button to be kept up to date about new posts.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! There may be a delay before your comment appears,