ICA: ICA: Number of Italian citizenship applications continue to exponentially grow
- WTI Magazine #137 Mar 20, 2021
As we enter 2021, many people are very happy to be leaving 2020 behind with hope and commitment to make their dreams a reality. This seems to be the feeling for many Americans but for Americans with Italian heritage it is taken a step further. Many Italian-Americans had time and took the opportunity to rethink their ability to obtain/claim their birthright of Italian citizenship by descent. An opportunity that many of us have left to become a 'rainy day project' that they will eventually get to. The events of 2020 on various fronts seem to have acted as a catalyst for many of us to finally take advantage of our birthright and finally start the application. The last year garnered so much new interest in this process that Italian citizenship applications increased by 400% as compared to 2019, reported by one of the leaders in the field, Italian Citizenship Assistance.
Aside from the desire to reconnect with their Italian heritage, live a quieter life, and enjoy the so-called Dolce vita, Italian citizenship is attractive for other reasons, namely low cost and high quality universal health care, affordable university tuition fees, a competitive real estate market and the right to work and reside anywhere in the Europe Union.
These are the main reasons that justify an unprecedented surge of citizenship applications according to Italian Citizenship Assistance (ICA), which was born to help people with the practical implications and intricacies of the application process for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis (by right of blood). The company is made up of a team of legal experts, genealogists, translators and dual citizenship attorneys who help American citizens with Italian descent acquire Italian citizenship via the consulates in the U.S., via applications filed in Italy, or via judicial proceedings for cases which need to be filed in court. In fact, there are several paths to acquiring Italian citizenship; these are mainly dependent on whether the Italian ancestor through whom an individual is claiming citizenship ever naturalized, and if the naturalization occurred after or before the child’s birth. As a general rule, one can apply for Italian citizenship by descent if the ancestor who was born in Italy never naturalized or if he/she naturalized after the child’s birth, and if none of the ascendants in the applicant’s direct line of descent ever formally renounced their right to Italian citizenship.
However, there are also a number of exceptions to the rules mentioned above; for instance, if the male ancestor naturalized prior to the birth of his child who was born abroad, the individual claiming citizenship might not be able to apply for citizenship via the consulate, but it might be possible to claim citizenship through the court system by applying via a female ancestor because prior to September 22, 1922 Italian women acquired their husbands’ citizenship automatically by marriage. This is now considered to be unlawful and discriminatory against women, and therefore, it is possible to claim citizenship via a judicial proceeding. Similarly, another path to acquiring Italian citizenship is by filing a 1948 case. In essence, on June 2, 1946, Italy became a republic and its constitution came into effect on January 1, 1948. The constitution granted women and men equal rights. As a result, under the new constitution, Italian women could pass their Italian citizenship onto their children but only if they were born after January 1, 1948. This is why if an individual’s female ancestor gave birth to her child before that day it is possible to claim citizenship retroactively via a judicial proceeding filed in Italy. On the contrary, if the female ancestor in the Italian line gave birth to her child after January 1, 1948 it is possible to file a citizenship application at an Italian consulate or at a municipality in Italy.
As for the documents needed to apply and the process per se, as a general rule, applicants will need their family’s vital records. These include certified copies of birth, marriage, death and divorce certificates (if applicable) and the ancestor’s naturalization records or proof that he/she never naturalized. These documents will need to be apostilled and translated into Italian. Finally, they will need to be submitted to the Court in Italy, to the municipality, or to the Italian consulate abroad depending on the path to citizenship that is being pursued. If the claim to citizenship is successful the applicant will be granted Italian citizenship, he/she will be registered with the Aire (Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad) and will then be issued an Italian passport.
It is also worth pointing out that besides applications for citizenship by descent it is also possible to acquire citizenship by marriage and by residency although the requirements and the application processes vary from those explained above. With regards to citizenship by marriage, for instance, 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. Notably, these rules also apply to same-sex civil unions, which were recognized officially by law in Italy in 2016. It is worth clarifying that if the couple reside abroad, the Italian spouse must be registered with the AIRE 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 applying for citizenship by marriage.
Finally, it is possible to apply for citizenship by residency. As a general rule, for non-EU citizens, legal residency in Italy for at least 10 years is required. On the other hand, for EU-citizens, the period of residency required is 4 years. There are other cases for which the period of residency required is lower, such as for foreigners whose parent or grandparent were Italians by birth. In this case the time required is 3 years of legal residency. As with applying for citizenship by marriage, applicants need to have at least a B1 certificate in Italian, and they also need to provide clean criminal records. There are also other requirements which concern the applicant’s yearly income (this must not have been lower than € 8.263,31 for the past 3 years from the date of application).
Many have asked themselves whether Covid-19 has slowed down the process of applying for citizenship. While it is true that offices in the US and in Italy experienced a few difficulties with processing requests during the first few months of lockdown and have now reopened with limited on-site staff, it is also true that the pandemic has introduced new ways of processing requests; many consulates, for instance, now process requests online. Therefore, it is fair to say that the pandemic has changed our lives, especially the way we think and work, but for many it has also opened a new window of opportunity, one that defeats borders and opens the doors to rediscovering Italy’s history, culture and way of life.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at 1-323-892-0861. We are pleased to offer a 5% discount valid until May 31 2021 to all We the Italians readers, who can take advantage of it by quoting the code ICAWTI2021