What are the eligibility requirements to apply for Italian citizenship by descent?
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What are the eligibility requirements to apply for Italian citizenship by descent?

This article will provide you with an overview of the requirements you must meet in order to qualify for Italian citizenship by descent.

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Thu 19 Jan 2023 7:42 PM

In our previous article, we discussed the benefits of applying for Italian citizenship by descent, such as being able to access Italy’s high-quality universal healthcare system and affordable tuition fees, and Europe’s competitive real estate market. As an Italian citizen, you are automatically a European citizen and therefore you can live, study or work in any of the EU’s member states without any restrictions. So, how can you apply? What are the eligibility requirements? This article will provide you with an overview of the requirements you must meet in order to qualify for Italian citizenship by descent.

Eligibility requirements

As a general rule, you can apply for Italian citizenship by descent if you can prove that you have an unbroken chain of Italian ascendants. More specifically, your ancestor who was born in Italy must not have renounced his or her Italian citizenship prior to the child’s birth and none of your ascendants in your direct line of descent must have ever renounced their right to Italian citizenship. It is also important that your ancestor, who was born in Italy, was alive when Italy was unified as a nation on March 17, 1861, or he/she must have been born after that date. If there is a woman in your Italian lineage, her child must have been born after January 1, 1948, which is when Italy’s constitution came into effect, granting men and women equal rights. In fact, prior to that date, women could not pass their citizenship onto their children, which is now considered to be discriminatory against women, so if you have a female ancestor in your Italian lineage who gave birth to her child prior to January 1, 1948, you can apply for Italian citizenship retroactively by filing a lawsuit in Italy.

Middle age artwork in Pistoia, Tuscany
Middle age artwork in Pistoia, Tuscany

Another potential scenario that applies to many individuals seeking Italian citizenship entails having a male ancestor who was born in Italy and married a woman (who was also born in Italy), and who was naturalized prior to September 22, 1922. In this case, the wife might have become a U.S. citizen automatically. This is due to the fact that prior to The Cable Act of 1922 married women in the U.S. would automatically acquire their husband’s citizenship. This changed after The Cable Act of 1922 (also known as “Married Women’s Independent Nationality Act”), which was designed to grant women their own nationality. If this scenario applies to your family, you might be able to apply for citizenship via your female ancestor (provided that she was born in Italy) because she might have become a naturalized U.S. citizen automatically by marriage. The involuntary loss of citizenship is now considered to be unlawful, so you can try your case in court via a judicial proceeding.

Another important date to keep in mind is June 13, 1912, which is when the Italian government issued a law that regulated the acquisition of Italian citizenship. The law established that if your Italian ancestor was naturalized before that date, it is not possible to apply for citizenship. This also applies if your Italian ancestor renounced his Italian citizenship before that date and after his child’s birth.

When discussing eligibility requirements, you must also determine whether your Italian ancestor emigrated to another country prior to arriving in the United States. This is important in order to verify whether your ancestor became a naturalized citizen of the country in which he emigrated first. Similarly, if one of the family members in your Italian lineage emigrated to another country prior to moving to the U.S., he or she must not have become a naturalized citizen of that country prior to the birth of the next individual in your Italian lineage.

Please note that there are no language requirements in order to apply for Italian citizenship by descent. This is due to the fact that if you qualify for Italian citizenship, you are an Italian citizen by birth right, and so you are only formally applying for the recognition of your right to Italian citizenship and you do not need to speak Italian to prove your right. On the other hand, if you apply for Italian citizenship by marriage or residency, you need to prove that you have B1 level by passing a language exam.

Application process

In order to apply for citizenship, you will need to collect all your family’s vital records, starting with your Italian ancestor’s birth certificate. You will also need your Italian ancestor’s naturalization records or proof that your ancestor was never naturalized. In addition to these documents, you will need to collect all the birth, death, marriage and divorce records (if applicable) pertaining to the individuals in your Italian lineage. Some consulates also require their respective spouses’ vital records; however, this requirement varies depending on the consulate to which you apply. All the certified copies of the records issued in the long form or book copy will need to be authenticated with Apostilles and translated into Italian. As for filing the application per se, you will need to book an appointment and apply for citizenship by descent at the Italian consulate that covers the jurisdiction where you reside. On the day of your appointment, you will also need to provide the consulate with proof that you are eligible to apply there. This entails presenting a recent utility bill or bank statement verifying your full name and address.

The famous Spanish Steps at morning, Rome, Italy
The famous Spanish Steps at morning, Rome, Italy

If you are a U.S. citizen living abroad and you are not a citizen of the country in which you are living nor have permanent residency there, as a general rule you will be required to hold a visa that covers you for at least two years from the date you submit your application at the consulate. In other words, you cannot apply for citizenship in a foreign country if you hold a tourist visa or another type of short-term visa. This is due to the fact that Italian consulates have two years to process an application and they need sufficient proof that you will be staying in the country in which you have submitted your application for the amount of time needed to process your application. You can also apply for citizenship in Italy, but if you decide to do so an important requirement to be able to apply is to establish residency in the municipality where you intend to file your application.

If you are considering applying for Italian citizenship and you would like information or help with determining whether you are eligible to apply, please do not hesitate to contact ICA at info@italiancitizenshipassistance.com. You can also learn more about Italian citizenship by visiting italiancitizenshipassistance.com.

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