Are you eligible for Italian Citizenship by Descent?

Feb 23, 2022

Accessing a European citizenship is undoubtedly an extremely attractive prospect. if you have citizen rights in any of the EU state you have the right to live and work in any of its 27 member countries… A continent rich in culture, and lifestyle is instantly at your full disposal.

The simplest route to acquire European citizenship is usually through ancestral / lineage citizenship, and Italy makes this easier than most! Italy will grant citizenship to anyone who can demonstrate a degree of Italian ancestry – seemingly however far back. This means tens of millions of people worldwide are likely to be eligible. Indeed you yourself may be eligible and not yet be aware! Interested? Carry on reading!

How many people qualify for Italian Citizenship by Descent?

Italy is thought by many to be the country of love and romance… and indeed it has cast its progeny far and wide! The most conservative of estimates judge the number of Italian Diaspora at over 83 million people worldwide. Particularly large numbers congregate in North and South America (notably Argentina, Brazil, and the United States). In the US alone some 17 million Americans report as being of Italian origin.

The steps to qualifying for Italian Citizenship by Descent.

Step One: Determine whether or not you may be entitled to Italian Citizenship by Descent

In order to be eligible you must have an ancestor who:

  • Was born in Italy  (it doesn’t matter how many generations back that this was the case); AND
  • Was alive and not yet a citizen of another country as of March 17, 1861 (this was the date of Italian unification); AND
  • Did not naturalize in another country before July 1, 1912.

Additionally, if naturalized, the ancestor’s naturalization must also have occurred after the birth of the non-Italian-born child. This continuation of Italian citizenship vests the non-Italian born child with Italian citizenship at birth automatically.

In circumstances where the ancestor never naturalized, the current descendant would automatically qualify.

The exceptions…
  • The rules are different in the case of female ancestors. If your line of ancestry includes women – you must pay extra attention to birthdates. For the most part, women could not pass on Italian citizenship to children until January 1, 1948. Exceptions to this are when the father was unknown, deceased, or stateless. Therefore, if the prospective Italian citizenship-by-descent applicant has any female ancestors whose child was born before this date, the client must seek recognition in court rather than the consular (i.e., administrative) path. Why? Because Italian law has not yet codified the retroactive recognition of citizenship for children born prior to 1948 to Italian women. This does not mean that citizenship is unavailable to those who qualify by these means. Indeed, since 2009, many have successfully sought relief in court and obtained recognition of citizenship via the pre-1948 maternal line. You just need to jump through a few more hoops to get there!
  • Was your ancestor from Veneto? If so he or she must have been alive and not yet a citizen of another country as of 1886, rather than 1881. Furthermore, if the ancestor was from Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, or Trentino Alto Adige, there is an added stipulation: He or she must not have immigrated from Italy until July 16, 1920.
  • For all non-Italian woman who married an Italian man (or an Italian citizenship-qualifying man born outside Italy) before April 27, 1983. You automatically became Italian upon marriage!
  • Before September 22, 1922, an Italian woman’s citizenship status automatically reflected that of her husband’s. For instance, if her husband became a non-Italian citizen before this date, she automatically also became a citizen of that country. The same is true for Italian women who married non-Italians before to September 22, 1922. As soon as she married the non-Italian she automatically become a citizen of their country. Again, if this is the case for you –  don’t panic! It’s not the end of the road. If your female ancestors lost citizenship via marriage, then you can apply to court for recognition of citizenship.
  • In the same way, Italian-born minor children’s citizenship status also reflected that of the father. So when an Italian-born child’s father changed citizenship – so did the child.
  • Finally, if an Italian-born ancestor naturalized in another country before July 1, 1912, this would normally mean the chain of ancestral citizenship was broken.  However, if his or her child was 21 or over at the time of the parent’s naturalization, the chain is not broken and the client may still be eligible.

Once the descendant has confirmed that the Italian ancestor meets the criteria, he or she must gather the supporting documentation necessary to demonstrate the same to the satisfaction of the Italian government.

Step Two: Gathering supporting documentation to demonstrate you meet the criteria.

There are numerous different ways to demonstrate your Italian ancestry. Some of the types of documentation that may be used include:

  • Old passports;
  • Birth certificates;
  • Marriage certificates;
  • Genealogical evidence;
  • National population registry records;
  • Ship manifests;
  • Ellis Island records;
  • Church records;

Do you think that you could be eligible?

If you think that based on the above you may well qualify for Italian Citizenship, feel free to get in touch and we can talk you through the application process and answer any questions you may have.

Let’s talk!