How Americans can claim Italian citizenship by descent
Italian-Americans are one of the largest – and proudest – ethnic groups in the United States. For those who dream of moving to 'the old country', there are three main paths to dual citizenship. Find out below what they are and whether you qualify.
Italian-Americans are famously proud of their roots. You only need to look at the scores of Facebook pages and groups dedicated to Italian-Americans in cities across the United States to see that love for the ancestral fatherland is a powerful bond that ties Italian-Americans together.
But for some of these Italoamericani, pride in their Italian ancestry isn’t enough. Many dream of actually returning to the old country and becoming Italian citizens. And since Italy started allowing dual citizenship in 1992, becoming an Italian can now be done without renouncing your identity and legal status as an American.
Not every American with Italian roots qualifies for Italian dual citizenship, of course, and the process of determining whether you live up to the requirements can be complicated and daunting. But free eligibility assessment services like Italian Dual Citizenship can help Americans determine whether they can claim Italian citizenship. While there are several ways to qualify for an Italian passport, for the most part an American’s path to becoming a dual Italian citizen follows one of three routes.
Italian citizenship by descent (Jure Sanguinis)
The first, and the one most Italian-Americans are interested in, is claiming the right to Italian citizenship by descent. Based on the legal principle of jure sanguinis (Latin for “right of blood”), this path to becoming an Italian is all about proving that you have inherited the right to citizenship through your Italian-born ancestors. Even if you know your lineage by heart, the key to obtaining citizenship this way is being able to procure the key legal documents that prove that you meet the criteria.
You’ll need to be able to document the dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths of your family members in your Italian line of descent. This can quickly become a time-consuming process, given the amount of documents that need to collected and translated. This is compounded by the requirement that they be provided as certified “long form” copies with an affixed “apostille” that verifies their validity. While many prospective Italians can and do take on this onerous task on their own, Italian Citizenship Assistance and its team of Italian and American lawyers and translators can help navigate through the layers of red tape. If the mere thought of tracking down multiple generations’ worth of paperwork is too overwhelming, there is also a "Full Service Package" that handles the process from start to finish.
Whether you choose to go down this road alone or with professional help, there are five basic requirements must be met to achieve Italian citizenship jure sanguinis. As is the case with most rules, however, there are also some exceptions so be sure to do your homework so you don’t run into any surprises.
Italian citizenship by marriage
If you don’t meet – or can’t adequately document – the jure sanguinis requirements, that doesn’t mean you can’t become an Italian citizen. There are other ways to do it and the next one we’ll discuss has one major prerequisite: love!
Italian citizenship can be achieved through marriage or civil union as long as some basic requirements are met. Before we get into those, let’s talk timing. If you are already living in Italy with your spouse, you can apply for citizenship after just two years of marriage (or civil union). If you and your spouse or partner have minor-aged children, whether biological or adopted, that waiting time is just one year. If you're living Stateside, you can still get citizenship through your Italian spouse but you’ll have to wait until you’ve been married for three years to apply, or 18 months if you have children.
So, what does it take to get Italian citizenship through marriage? The most important thing has already been covered – you need to be in a marriage or civil union with an Italian! Beyond that, you’ll need to prove that you speak adequate Italian (B1 level), you must be properly registered through the Registry of Italians Resident Abroad (AIRE) and you have to be able to verify your marriage or civil union with the relevant authorities – something that can be done from within the United States.
Citizenship through naturalization
If you’re an American living in Italy who hasn’t found ‘the right one’ yet, there is still hope your you to become a dual Italian citizen. Americans, and others for that matter, can achieve citizenship through the naturalization process.
This process takes several factors into account, primarily how long you’ve lived and worked in Italy. For most non-EU nationals like Americans, citizenship can be achieved after ten continuous years in the country. You’ll also need a clean criminal record and you’ll have to demonstrate that you meet certain financial requirements. As is the case with the other routes, you’ll have to procure and show relevant documents, like proof of your legal residence in Italy, your tax returns and your parents’ birth certificates.
The correct path to Italian dual citizenship obviously depends on your personal situation. But whether you need help determining whether you qualify by descent or need assistance navigating the complicated bureaucracy to get citizenship through marriage or naturalization, you don’t need to take on the daunting process alone. Italoamericani can call on the team of Italian dual citizenship experts at Italian Dual Citizenship for help.
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