10. The Documents in the Case

I’ve stolen–or let’s say borrowed–the title of this post from a Dorothy Sayers novel. If you haven’t read Dorothey Sayers, lucky you! You have it all ahead of you. And even if mystery is not your thing, you will love her books. She always has great characters. That one of them happens to be a corpse feels irrelevant at times.

My discussion of documents today is a little less exciting and almost entirely lacking in dead bodies. I’m referring to the documents you’ll need to make your case that you are, and always have been, a citizen of Italy. You will need the birth certificate for your last ancestor born in Italy, as defined in the previous post. I exaggerate only a little bit when I say I have been poking around in this process for a very long time, and the need for that document may be the only one I’ve never seen disputed by someone, someplace. So let’s take a little detour and talk about why that might be.

The big fork in the road comes when you reach this decision point: Are you going to present your documents to a comune in Italy directly, or are you going to use an Italian Consulate in the United States as an intermediary? In the latter case, you present your documents to the Consulate and they approve or reject them before submitting them to a comune in Italy, generally the comune of your last Italian-born ancestor, for final approval. They are making a judgment about whether or not the comune will be happy with your documents.

If you go to Italy to do it, either alone or with one of the services available, the official in the comune will tell you yes or no directly about the adequacy of your documents. To do the process in Italy, you will need to reside there for some length of time. That time varies from comune to comune but typically, without an expediting service, you should count on being a resident of Italy for a couple of months before a comune recognizes you as one of its residents and therefore someone whose paperwork it can and will handle. Think of the motor vehicles department for your state. You have to prove you live in the state before they’ll give you a license.  It’s not exactly the same, but it is similar. Some expediting services can help you get the stay down to several weeks.

Now, in theory, the documents that the comuni require, to meet the legal requirements governing proof of citizenship, are the very same documents as those the Consulates require. Anyone who’s tried the process is laughing right now at how charmingly simple that idea is. It seems that in reality, the Consulates require more than the comuni, probably because they want to provide documents to answer any question that might conceivably arise about your case. Anticipating the problems will save everyone time. The really fun part, though, is that the different Consulates seem to vary somewhat in their requirements. And in fact, if you believe people’s reports (and I do), different individuals at the same Consulate can require different  things.

The upshot is, I can talk about what is generally or typically required, but your mileage, as they say, may very well vary. I recommend you:

  • check your Consulate’s website for what they want
  • recognize that if you don’t like what I said above, you’re going to hate some of the things I say in the future
  • understand the wait for a Consular appointment is years in some locations, so you should make your appointment now
  • have a nice Campari and soda and relax

Your sense of humor is going to be your biggest ally in this process.

Here is what my Consulate, the one in New York, requires:

  • Original birth, marriage, and, if applicable, death records for the people in your line as “issued by the competent US authorities in long form or extended form and legalized with apostille.” You must have the documents translated into Italian.
  • Last Italian-born ancestor’s Divorce Judgment, if applicable.
  • Certified copy of last Italian-born Ancestor’s Declaration of Intention/Petition for Naturalization issued by the National Archive.
  • Last Italian-born ancestor’s Naturalization Certificate
  • If your last Italian-born ancestor never naturalized as a US citizen, an original Certificate of Non-Existence of Records issued by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. This is affectionately, and repeatedly, referred to in the Dual Citizenship community as the CoNE. Also, a certified copy of the first US Census following the birth of the next in line after the last Italian-born ancestor.

The Consulates have asked people to produce other documents, usually to address problems in the existing records. A couple of examples are copies of the arrival record of the last Italian-born ancestor and even court documents verifying identities when questions have arisen. Of course you have to fill out some forms and prove who you are, by presenting your passport, and where you live, by presenting some utility bills or similar. You will also have to present a non-refundable fee of 300 Euro per person applying, not required in Italy.

In my next posts, I’ll address where and how you obtain the various documents and what some of the common problems are. I’ll also answer the question, “What the heck is an apostille and is that really spelled right?”

Some Useful Links

List of Consulates

List of Comuni in Italy

Campari and Soda Recipe

Was your experience different? Do you have a question? Please leave me a comment with your thoughts. Just scroll down to the comment field below.

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5 thoughts

  1. I will be submitting my paperwork to the birthplace comune of my grandfather early 2018.
    Here is my dilemma, and I cant find any documentation to answer this.
    I have a lovely place to stay near the township, however it is not in the same comune as where I will file
    my papers. It is in the same province though.
    Do you know whether my residence must be in the same comune or will the same province suffice?
    The ability to stay in a different comune will save me in cost, otherwise I will need to find a rental in the same comune. I have not been able to find this answer anywhere on the official sites.
    It sounds as though your experience was great. I look forward to spending time in the neighborhood my grandparents spent time in almost 100 years ago!
    They immigrated to the US in 1920.

    1. Hi Debbi!
      I am not an expert, but I will tell you what I understand to be the case.

      I think of it this way: In the US, you get your driver’s license from the state you live in but you vote in the town you live in. So, living in a state does not allow you to vote just anywhere in that state. If you move, you have to register with your new town to vote. The same is true of the citizenship papers and the comuni in Italy. You need to meet a particular comune’s requirements to be considered resident there before they will handle your paperwork.

      However, you do not have to file your papers in the comune of your Italian ancestor. You can file in any comune that recognizes you as one of their residents. I did not end up submitting my paperwork in my grandfather’s comune. Now, my family has a new comune and my grandchildren will be registered there. That is our home comune. Of course, if you are already underway with a particular comune and have a relationship with them, that might very well make you want to do your resident period there.

      I hope that helps!

      1. Thank you Lydia, yes it makes perfect sense.
        My relationship with my grandfathers comune
        is through a second cousin so I do not personally
        know anyone at the comune townhall.
        It is a friend of my cousins.
        I thought it might be better to file where I had obtained
        my grandparents birth certificates, however I am having
        trouble finding accommodations within the comune
        boundaries. I will consider everything you mentioned
        and I may venture into the next comune and ask them
        if they will handle it.
        I know you finally used a service to complete yours, and
        would love to know how it shortened your time.
        I believe you recommend the service you used as well.
        That may be a viable alternative for me.

        I do enjoy reading your posts and plan to read your book!

        Thanks again, Debbi

      2. Lydia, would you mind sharing what comune you filed your paperwork with? I spoke with my cousin today and I do not think my grandfathers comune has ever dealt with Jure Sanguinis citizenship. Thinking it may delay things a bit. It would be nice to submit in a comune familiar with the process.
        Thanks agian!

        1. Yes, I did use a service and filed in Bucciano, Benevento. Please contact me privately for further details, since I have a policy of neither endorsing nor criticising any business on this website. You can use the “Contact” link at the top menu or you can private-Message me on Facebook. You’re right–there are a lot of considerations in deciding where to file, not the least of which is how long the comune you choose wants you there, in their jurisdiction, before considering you resident. Also important is how quickly the police will come out to check your presence (and how many times) before giving the comune their official confirmation that you exist and are living at your Italian address.

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