We The Italians | ICA: Documents needed for citizenship by descent and by marriage

ICA: Documents needed for citizenship by descent and by marriage

ICA: Documents needed for citizenship by descent and by marriage

  • WTI Magazine #140 Jun 18, 2021
  • 1098

In our previous articles we explored the application processes and the costs associated with applying for Italian citizenship by descent and by marriage. Drawing from those, this article will provide you with information regarding the documents needed to apply for both processes. However, before we dig deeper into the required documents, we will outline a short overview of the eligibility requirements that need to be met in order to apply. 

Applying for Italian citizenship by descent 

As a general rule, you can apply for Italian citizenship by descent if your ancestor who was born in Italy was either alive on March 17, 1861 or was born after that date, as that is when Italy achieved unification. Other crucial requirements are that your ancestor was never naturalized or was naturalized after his or her child’s birth abroad, and after June 14, 1912, and that none of your ascendants in your direct line of descent ever formally renounced their right to Italian citizenship. Please note that there are exceptions to these rules. If you would like to learn more about these feel free to read our previous article here. Please bear in mind that if there is a woman in your Italian lineage who gave birth to her child prior to January 1, 1948, you might be able to claim citizenship via a lawsuit. This is because on January 1, 1948 Italy’s constitution came into effect, and it granted women and men equal rights, and therefore, women were able to pass their citizenship onto their children. Prior to that date, in fact, women were not able to pass on their citizenship, which is now considered to be unlawful and discriminatory against women, and this is why it is possible to challenge the Court and apply for Italian citizenship retroactively.  

Having said this, if you are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by descent you will need to collect your family’s vital records. More specifically, you will need certified copies of your family’s birth, marriage, divorce (if applicable) and death certificates and proof that the ancestor through whom you are claiming citizenship was naturalized or was never naturalized. Birth, marriage and death certificates are issued by the U.S. state’s Department of Health, by the County or the Town in which the event occurred. It is worth pointing out that some Departments of Health do not hold records which are particularly old, so you might need to retrieve them from the state archives or from the town in which the event occurred. With regards to marriage certificates, they can be obtained from the County in which the marriage license was purchased. Please note that it is also important to retrieve certified copies of marriage licenses or applications as the consular clerk, town clerk (if you are applying to a municipality in Italy) or the judge (if filing a 1948 case) might need to see the registrant’s parents’ names to verify the applicant’s Italian lineage. On the other hand, final judgments of divorces can be retrieved from the court in which the divorce was filed. Please note that you will also need a Certificate of No Appeal or a case summary to prove that no appeal was filed after the final judgment. 

As for the retrieval process per se, in most cases you will only need to sign a few forms to retrieve your family’s vital records. These are available on the Department, County or court’s websites. Depending on the specific Department of Health, County or court, and the type of record requested you might need to sign a form which requires your notarized signature, or you might also need to provide proof of relationship to request your ascendant’s vital records. Some states, such as NY State, for instance, will release birth certificates for deceased individuals only based on a court order (Article 78 proceedings). This is the reason why it is very important to read the specific requirements as to who can apply for a vital record and the procedure needed in order to retrieve it. Without a court order, in fact, NY State Department of Health will only issue genealogical copies of a deceased individual’s birth certificate, but these copies cannot be authenticated with an Apostille and thus will not be accepted by the Italian authorities for your citizenship application. 

In order to apply for citizenship by descent you must also retrieve the naturalization records pertaining to the Italian ancestor through whom you are claiming citizenship or proof that the ancestor was never naturalized. More specifically, you will need to retrieve the following documents pertaining to your ancestor: Declaration of Intentions, Petition for Naturalization and the Certificate of Naturalization. These documents can be retrieved from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) which hold government and historical records, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the County in which the naturalization took place. On the other hand, if your ancestor was never naturalized you will need to prove this by providing the Italian authorities with a Certificate of Non-Existence of Records that certifies that no naturalization record was found pertaining to your ancestor. The certificate can be retrieved from USCIS; on the other hand, NARA will provide you with a Letter of Negative Search. Additionally, some consulates might ask you to retrieve supporting documents that prove that your ancestor was never naturalized, such as a certified copy of a census listing your ancestor’s citizenship status. 

Finally, your ancestor’s vital records from Italy can be retrieved from the registry office (“stato civile”) of the Italian municipality in which the event occurred. You will need to contact the municipality and provide your ancestor’s details such as the date and place of birth and the parents’ names. If your ancestor’s name was misspelled when he or she moved to the United States, or if the Italian name was changed into the English version (e.g. Giovanni – John; Maria – Mary) you can also request a specific certificate from the municipality which is known as certificato di esatte generalità, which certifies that your ancestor was the only individual born with that specific name and on that specific day. 

Once all of the records have been retrieved they will need to be authenticated with Apostilles by the Secretary of State or by the U.S. Department of State (for federal documents), and they will also need to be translated into Italian. Please bear in mind that some consulates might require certified translations. The same applies to filing an application to a municipality in Italy or via a lawsuit; in other words, translations of all vital records will need to be certified in court. 

Applying for Italian citizenship by marriage

As you might remember from our previous article, the procedure to apply for Italian citizenship by marriage is slightly different compared to applying for citizenship by descent. Firstly, if the couple reside in Italy, the non-Italian spouse can apply for Italian citizenship after 2 years from the date of marriage or civil union. The number of years is halved if the couple have minor children. On the other hand, if the couple reside abroad, the non-Italian spouse can apply for Italian citizenship after 3 years from the date of marriage or civil union. The number of years is halved if the couple have minor children. These rules also apply to same-sex civil unions, which were recognized officially by law in Italy in 2016. It is worth pointing out that if the couple reside abroad, the Italian spouse must be registered with the AIRE (Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad) and must have registered the couple’s marriage record through the local Italian consulate. The non-Italian spouse must also pass a B1 language test and provide a certificate of no criminal record issued by all of the states in which the non-Italian spouse has resided since the age of 14. Please note that the language requirement only applies to individuals pursuing Italian citizenship by marriage.

As for the documents required, you will need:

  1. a certified copy of the couple’s marriage certificate which has been registered at the Italian municipality where the Italian spouse is registered with AIRE;
  2. a certified copy of the non-Italian spouse’s birth certificate which has been duly legalized and translated into Italian (in compliance with the obligations provided for by law in relation to legalization/ apostille and translation). The specific requirements regarding the translation and legalization/apostille depend on the country of origin where the certificate was issued;
  3. criminal record checks issued by the FBI and by the US States (and foreign countries, if applicable) where the non-Italian spouse has resided since the age of 14. These documents must be duly legalized and translated into Italian (in compliance with the obligations provided for by law in relation to legalization/apostille and translation);
  4. B1 Italian language certificate;
  5. proof of payment of €250.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is always advisable to request your criminal records last as they are only valid for 6 months from the date of issuance.

Finally, the application can be submitted to the Ministry of the Interior’s online portal. Once the submitted paperwork has been assessed, if the couple reside abroad, the Italian consulate where the Italian spouse is registered with the AIRE will contact the non-Italian spouse in order for the applicant to submit original copies of the documents. On the other hand, if the couple reside in Italy, the original documents will need to be submitted at the local prefecture (Prefettura). 

We hope that this article has provided you with a basic understanding of the documents which are required to apply for Italian citizenship by descent and by marriage.  If you are considering applying for Italian citizenship and you need information or help with determining whether you are eligible, please do not hesitate to contact ICA at info@italiancitizenshipassistance.com or via telephone at 1-323-892-0861.