We The Italians | ICA: Obtaining Italian citizenship through the Italian court

ICA: Obtaining Italian citizenship through the Italian court

ICA: Obtaining Italian citizenship through the Italian court

  • WTI Magazine #145 Nov 13, 2021
  • 603

If you are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by descent you can file your application via an Italian consulate abroad or via a municipality in Italy. However, there are situations in which Italian citizenship can only be obtained by presenting your case to the Italian Court in Rome (these cases are known as “1948 cases”).

 In particular, this article will explain the cases in which you can obtain citizenship by filing a lawsuit in Italy. It will also provide you with information regarding the documents needed to apply, the application process, and what you need to do when you are granted Italian citizenship. 


Prior to January 1st 1948, when Italy’s constitution came into effect, men and women did not have equal rights. This also applied to citizenship law; in other words, only men could pass their citizenship to their children. This changed when the Italian constitution came into effect on January 1st 1948, and therefore women were able to pass their citizenship on to their children, but only if they were born after that date. As a consequence, Italian consulates and municipalities do not accept citizenship applications if there is a woman in the Italian lineage whose child was born prior to January 1st 1948. However, if you fall into this category you might be able to obtain Italian citizenship retroactively via a lawsuit. This is because women’s inability to pass their citizenship on to their children prior to January 1st 1948 is now considered to be unlawful and discriminatory towards women. Therefore, thanks to the first legal precedent established in 2009, and to the many successful cases that followed, applicants who fall into this category have excellent chances of succeeding in obtaining Italian citizenship by filing a 1948 case

As mentioned above, individuals with a female ancestor in their Italian lineage who gave birth to their child prior to January 1st 1948 can only obtain Italian citizenship through the Italian court system. 

However, there are other circumstances in which a case can be tried in court.

According to the September 22, 1922 Cable Act, if your Italian male ancestor was naturalized in the U.S. before that date his Italian wife would also became naturalized automatically. However, the courts in Italy have established that the female’s involuntary naturalization is unjust and discriminatory against women and this is why you can obtain citizenship via your female ancestor (provided that she was born in Italy) by filing a lawsuit. To learn more about the different scenarios in which cases can be tried in court click here.


Although there are a number of differences between applying for citizenship by filing a  lawsuit and applying via an Italian consulate or a municipality in Italy, there are also a few similarities which mainly concern the documents that need to be retrieved to submit a citizenship application. In particular, when applying via a lawsuit, the petitioner will need to retrieve certified copies of his/her family’s vital records (these include birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates) and the naturalization records pertaining to the ancestor/s born in Italy. It is worth mentioning that if the ancestor through whom the applicant is claiming citizenship did not naturalize, the applicant will need to retrieve a Certificate of Non-Existence of records from USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and a letter of negative search from NARA (the National Archives and Records Administration) or the County in which the ancestor lived, which states that the individual in question was never naturalized. 

All the records will need to be authenticated with an Apostille and they will need to be translated into Italian. A compulsory step when applying via a lawsuit is for the translation of the documents to be certified prior to being submitted to the Court in Italy. The most common way to certify the translations is to provide any court in Italy with the original documents as the certified translations will be stapled to the original records. As for the process per se, the person who translated the records will need to appear before a court official and swear that the translation is accurate and that it reflects the original content. Most courts only accept sworn translations to be provided by a translator who is registered in an official list of authorized translators held by the court. The cost to certify the translation varies depending on the number of vital records that need to be translated and, consequently, on the number of revenue stamps that are needed to certify each translation. On average, the cost to certify the translations of an applicant’s vital records varies between €200 and €500. Finally, there is also a cost to file a lawsuit which at present amounts to €286. 


All lawsuits are filed at the Court in Rome (“Tribunale Civile di Roma”) because the defendant’s legal office (the Italian Ministry of Interior) is based in Rome. In order to file a lawsuit you need to be represented by an Italian attorney. Once the lawsuit has been filed, the petitioner will be provided with a case number, and the case will be assigned to a judge who will schedule the first hearing. The case number is preceded by the letters “RG” and would look like the following example: RG 0000/2021. The waiting time greatly depends on the judge’s availability, but it is generally around 6-12 months. During the first hearing the judge will examine the petitioner’s vital records, and if no additional documents are required, the judge will decide whether to grant or deny the applicant’s claim to Italian citizenship. If you would like to monitor the progress of your trial you can download the App called “Giustizia Civile” from an Italian app store. If you enter your case number (“ruolo generale”) you will be able to see the status of the trial. 

To learn more about the steps involved in the process click here


If the judge approves the applicant’s claim to citizenship, the judge’s ruling will be filed with the clerk of the court. The attorney will then need to wait 60 days for the judge’s decision to become final. When that period of time elapses, the applicant will be able to request a certified copy of the final judgment with an official seal which indicates that the ruling is no longer subject to appeal (“sentenza con passaggio in giudicato”). 

The final judgment will then need to be registered through the Italian consulate which covers the jurisdiction where the applicant resides. The consulate will then send the certified copy of the judgment, together with a certified copy of the petitioners’ birth certificate (which the court generally gives back to the applicant) to the municipality in Italy where the applicant’s ancestor was born. The applicant will also need to register his/her vital records (e.g. the marriage certificate/s and divorce, if applicable) via the Italian consulate. As mentioned above, after the final judgement, the applicant can ask the Court for his/her original vital records. Only when the municipality has registered the applicant’s vital records (birth certificate, marriage and divorce records, if applicable) will the applicant formally be considered an Italian citizen. If the applicant resides abroad, he/she will need to register with the AIRE (Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad) and apply for a passport. With regards to this, the applicant can request a passport from the Italian consulate which covers the jurisdiction where he/she resides, without the need to travel to Italy. It is worth clarifying that if you apply for Italian citizenship via a lawsuit and you have minor children, you will also need to register their birth certificates with the municipality in Italy in order for them to apply for an Italian passport. 


If you would like further information about applying via a lawsuit or if you would like a free assessment of your eligibility, do not hesitate to contact us at either info@italiancitizenshipassistance.com or at +1 323-892- 0861.