ICA: Eligibility for Italian Citizenship by Descent
- WTI Magazine #121 Nov 17, 2019
Over the past months in our Italian Citizenship Assistance articles, we have covered Italian citizenship through various avenues. This month we want to answer a common question that we receive, "How do you know if you are actually eligible for Italian citizenship by descent?".
In this article we will cover Italian citizenship by descent as well as Italian citizenship through a female ancestor who gave birth before 1948.
The first thing that must be established is who were your ancestor(s), who were the last Italian born citizen(s) in your family line. If that person was a parent, grand-parent, great or great-great grandparents (and so on, due to the fact that there aren’t any generational limits to claim Italian citizenship), then you may already technically be an Italian citizen since birth, and just need to formally be recognized as such. The caveat is that your ascendant must have been alive and a citizen on/after the formation of Italy as we know it today after the Italian unification on March 17th, 1861.
The next piece of information to determine is if your ancestor ever naturalized as a citizen of their new nation. We will look at an example situation of someone whose great grandfather was the person’s “connection” to Italy. The question to answer would be, did your great grandfather ever became an American citizen and if so, was the acquisition of the new citizenship before or after the birth of your grandparent?
Illustration of possible scenarios:
- If your great-grandfather naturalized in the USA in 1920 and your grandfather was born in 1921, then you would NOT be eligible to make a claim for Italian citizenship by descent through this family line.
- However, if your great-grandfather father naturalized in 1920 but your grandfather was born in 1919, then your grandfather may in fact have been born an Italian citizen and could have been one his whole life.
The reason why it is important to confirm these dates is because until 1992, Italian citizenship was exclusive and it was not allowed for an Italian to have dual-nationality. Although, after 1992, Italy changed the law and allowed citizens have multiple citizenships.
As an example…
- If your Italian parent naturalized before February 5th, 1992, and you were born on or after February 5th, you WOULD likely already be an Italian citizen with the ability to make a claim for Italian citizenship by claiming your birthright.
- Conversely, if your parent naturalized on or before February 4th, 1992, and even if you were born on or after the 5th of February 1992, then you WOULD NOT be eligible to make a claim for Italian citizenship by descent.
As a side note, the same rules apply, more or less, to the adopted minor child of an Italian citizen. Similarly, to how a natural born child who is a minor would gain citizenship, so too would an adopted child.
There are also cases when an Italian family line may run through a female ancestor. This situation could occur when the male line of the family might not be usable due to naturalization or lack of knowledge of paternity. If the female direct ancestor of the petitioner gave birth to her child before January 1, 1948, then that child would not automatically have been an Italian citizen. Although, if the child were born after January 1, 1948, the child would be able to be recognized as an Italian citizen by birth.
An example to demonstrate this, albeit an unlikely case, would be if a mother gave birth to twins; 1 twin was born at 11:59 on January 31, in 1947, and the other younger twin was born a minute later at 12:00 January 1, 1948. The first child born would not have been born as a citizen of Italy but the second one would be born as an Italian citizen.
If your family does go through a female line who gave birth before 1948, you may be eligible to make a petition through the courts of Italy for recognition of Italian citizenship since this has retroactively been viewed as discriminatory against women. While this is in fact suing the Italian government for discrimination, and the idea of actually suing the Italian government may be daunting, this is now a procedure that has become quite common. Since it was determined that this law was discriminatory against women, as a result this process in the vast majority of cases are successful. Because of the high success rate in this process, the Italian government no longer represents itself and does not challenge these claims since they have been ruled against many times. The petitioner can elect to have a lawyer familiar with the process represent them in court and never have to even be there themselves. This is a service that our dual citizenship attorneys at ICA take care of on a regular basis with a very high success rate.
If you would like to know if you are eligible for Italian citizenship contact Marco Permunian and the rest of our dual citizenship attorneys and expert team click here to contact us
For more information about Italian citizenship and how we can help you visit ItalianCitizenshipAssistance.com
Or click here to watch our new video podcast, The Italian Citizenship Podcast with hosts Marco Permunian, Italian Attorney & US Office Head of Italian Citizenship Assistance, and Rafael Di Furia, an Italian American Dual Citizen.