Hello again! Welcome to the continuation of my "Definitive Guide to Applying for Italian Dual Citizenship in Italy."
Just in case you haven't yet seen it, click here to catch up on Part One where I discussed assessing your eligibility and preparing for your in Italy application.
Now that we've got that over with, let's get right back to it. This continuation post will cover what to do once you arrive in Italy on your quest to obtain Italian dual citizenship during your stay.
Landing in the Italian airport
Okay, so you've read about the benefits of Italian dual citizenship, determined your eligibility, you've packed your bags, gotten ready and you're now flying to Italy. Great! Depending on where you are coming from, you will have to start the official process of applying in Italy in one of two ways.
Option 1: If you are flying to Italy from a NON-SCHENGEN AREA country, you will need to make sure that the Italian border officials stamp your passport. This is an essential part of the application, and serves to show the Italian government that a) you arrived when you said you did, and b) you arrived for the purposes of obtaining Italian citizenship as is your legal right (more on this later).
Here is a list of which countries belong to the Schengen Area.
Option 2: If you are flying to Italy from a SCHENGEN AREA country, you must make a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence) at the local questura (precinct) within 8 days of your arrival.
Most Americans will be flying from the U.S. to Italy and will need to make sure there is a stamp on their passport.
Arriving in the comune
In the best scenario, you will have already found a place to rent, your landlord will have allowed you to sign, scan it and send back the rental agreement before you arrive or you will have already been given a dichiarazione di ospitalita' (declaration of hospitality) by him/her.
Once the above has been carried out, you will go to the ufficio di stato civile in the town you are living. While there, you will fill out a form and present your ID to become an official resident of the town. Here is where the codice fiscale you previously generated comes in as you will need it while filling out your paperwork. You will also need to bring your ID with you.
After you hand everything back in, the town may take up to 45 days per Italian law to send an officer known as a vigile to your home. The purpose of the vigile visit is to ensure that the address you put down on your paperwork is where you really live; it is a very informal visit. He'll probably just look around, chit chat for a bit and be on his way.
Note: many Italian towns do not take the full 45 days to send a vigile to your home; nevertheless, they have a window of 45 days per Italian law. Once the 45 days has passed without a visit, their implicit acceptance of your residence is implied and you will be put on the town registry.
After the vigile's visit
Once the vigile has visited, you can then go to the ufficio anagrafe in the town where you live. This is where you will hand in all of your documents for citizenship. One thing to note is that in smaller towns, the ufficio di stato civile and the ufficio anagrafe can be in the same building, same floor or same room.
You and the clerk will then go over your path to citizenship, he will examine your documents plus translations and apostilles and if everything is perfect, he will accept your documentation. At that point, he contacts the consulates back home to make sure that nobody in your line has renounced their right to obtain Italian citizenship: this is considered the last step.
Note: Unlike a consular application, there is no fee for applying in Italy. Also, Italy tends to be more lax about spelling variations and the vast majority of towns do not need non-line documents or death certificates. One thing to note, however, is that all American documents must be apostilled, even federal ones.
At this point, you are free to return to the U.S. or stay in Italy either a) up to the 90 days as afforded by your U.S. passport or b) indefinitely until your citizenship is recognized. In Part Three, I will be explaining how to obtain a permit to stay in Italy legally until your citizenship is recognized.
The cost for obtaining Italian dual citizenship varies depending on the number of generations between you and your last Italian-born ancestor. Here are some costs that you will incur when obtaining Italian dual citizenship:
1. You will need your Italian-born ancestor's birth, marriage and death records, where applicable.
2. You will need a certified copy of your ancestor's naturalization certificate or, if s/he was never naturalized, you will need a letter from NARA and USCIS, as well as perform additional research for census records.
3. You will need new official copies of all the birth, marriage and death certificates of your ancestors in your lineage from your native country, including your own. These documents can be ordered from your state vital records offices and vary in price; they can be as little as $10 or as much as $60 and up.
4. You will need to have your state provide an Apostille certification on each of your U.S. documents, which can be as much as $20 per document.
5. The non-Italian documents (except the naturalization certificate) will need to be translated into Italian.
6. The Italian consulate will charge you an application fee of 300 euros (subject to change . This fee is non-refundable regardless of the outcome and everyone over the age of 18 is subject to this fee,
7. Eventually when you receive your citizenship, it will cost approximately $145 every five years to obtain and maintain your Italian passport.
Keep in mind that the costs will differ depending on whether or not you do the above steps on your own, or if you elect to hire a professional service provider to do it for you.
Also keep in mind that while it costs more to hire someone to help you apply in Italy, the costs for documents are offset because Italy does not require non-line certificates, nor death certificates. Also when applying in Italy there is no 300 euro consular fee.
To find out whether you qualify for Italian citizenship, click here.
I will be totally honest. If I can avoid it, I do not like to deal with Italian consulates in the U.S. Don't get me wrong; some of them are staffed with lovely, hardworking folks but for the most part dealing with a consulate is like getting your teeth pulled. It's just as unpleasant, and just as dreaded. As much as I love Italian bureaucracy (hint: I actually hate it), I tend to want to do everything I can to avoid it.
When clients come to me to compile their applications, I always gently remind them that they can apply in Italy as soon as they have all their documents instead of waiting 3+ years for a consular appointment. Currently (2016), Philadlephia is giving out appointments in 2020!
Now, Italian bureaucracy is legendary... but what I am about to say is truly shocking: this is the one case where going straight to Italy is actually less of a hassle than dealing with a consulate in America in your native language, English. Crazy, right?
I'm truly not just upselling my services: it's pretty much mind-bogglingly easier to apply for Italian dual citizenship in Italy and cut out the middlemen - in this case, the consulates - completely. I'm almost evangelical in how much I believe in applying straight in Italy. After all, when I applied in Italy almost a decade ago my experience was completely painless and not much has changed since then.
That is not to say that there aren't any difficulties in applying in Italy, because there are. Though by law you can apply there, in practice many towns are unaware of these laws and some can even be downright unhelpful. But if you find a town that is ready and willing to help you, it's an endlessly rewarding experience.
However, even with growing interest in applying for citizenship straight in Italy, there is still not much information online about it. Though I've written a few blog posts here and there about it I've never posted a definitive guide. At the risk of losing clients (since by reading this, some plucky individuals will no doubt decide to go it alone... as they well should if they can!), I wanted to put this information out there for anyone who needs it. I feel that strongly about applying in Italy. In fact, if it were up to me I'd like to see Italy have some sort of Law of Return like Israel, but I digress.
So here goes... my definitive guide to applying for Italian dual citizenship in Italy.
First things first: determine your eligibility
Before you can even think of applying in Italy, you'll need to determine your eligbility. You can do so generally by answering the following questions. Think back to your last Italian born ancestor.
1. Was s/he born in Italy?
2. Did s/he die at any time after March 17, 1861 (or is s/he still living today)?
3. Was s/he still an Italian citizen when his or her child was born?
4. For women only: was her child born on or after January 1, 1948?
If you can answer "yes" to all of those questions, you are eligible for Italian dual citizenship. Note that there are some exceptions to these rules: as of 2016, all Italian consulates do not accept applications from people whose Italian ancestors naturalized before June 13, 1912 (this is the date current Italian citizenship laws came into effect. They do not retroactively apply these laws). I may be wrong but I have heard that San Francisco was the last consulate to accept pre-1912 applications but have since stopped doing so. Note: those who have an ancestor who naturalized before that date will most likely be able to apply in Italy because the law may be interpreted differently there.
Also note that women who had children before January 1, 1948 could not pass on Italian citizenship to their children. If you fall into the 1948 category, don't lose heart! You cannot apply via a consulate or an in Italy application directly, but you can petition the Italian courts with the help of an Italian lawyer. Many people have had successful maternal line cases.
Practical example: Vito was born in Sicily in 1901 and came to the U.S. in 1920. He had a son, Salvatore in 1921. Vito became an American citizen in 1944, a full 23 years after Salvatore's birth. Because Vito was still an Italian citizen at the time of Salvatore's birth, Salvatore is an American citizen by birth and an Italian citizen by descent and he and all his descendants are eligible for Italian dual citizenship.
Step 2: Compile your documents
Fewer documents are required when applying directly in Italy.
Let's assume that your last Italian born ancestor was your paternal grandfather. In order to apply in Italy, you would need:
1. Your grandfather's Italian birth certificate
2. His marriage certificate.
3. His naturalization certificate.
4. Your father's birth certificate.
5. Your father's marriage certificate.
6. Your birth certificate.
7. Your marriage certificate if applicable.
8. Your minor children's birth certificates if applicable.
Keep in mind that though these are the requirements listed by Italian law, some Italian towns do like to see death certificates. Remember that we're dealing with Italy and that nothing is ever that simple! All American certificates need translations and apostilles.
If your ancestor did not naturalize a citizen of the United States, make sure to get a "certificate of no record" from USCIS and NARA. There is no need to get a certified copy of the census showing he or she did not naturalize.
Note: When applying at a consulate, your federal documents (i.e. NARA and USCIS records) most likely do not need translations or apostilles. When applying in Italy, they do.
Step 3: Before you get to Italy
Before you get to Italy, make sure that you have gotten your codice fiscale (tax code). This code is your lifeline in Italy and is used for everything from opening a bank account to filing for residency and even obtaining a lease. It's akin to the U.S. social security number. Luckily, you can obtain one before you ever step foot in Italy.
Use this Italian website to calculate your codice fiscale. Please note that this may not always be accurate, but it usually is.
Note: when using this calculator, be sure to input your name exactly as it appears on your U.S. passport. If you would like to obtain a paper codice fiscale card, when you are in Italy you can request it from the Agenzia delle Entrate (Italian finance authority).
Extra note: If you speak Italian it is extremely helpful to call up your intended comune of residence before landing in Italy. Just let them know you plan on applying for citizenship jus sanguinis and "feel them out" to see if they know what the process is. Another helpful hint is to google "Town name" + "jus sanguinis" to see if the town itself has issued any statements or guides. Just by googling, you might find that your town is already well aware of the process and that they might have their own special requirements.
Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part Two where we discuss what to do when you arrive in Italy!
Right now at this very moment, there are millions of Italian Americans in the United States who are eligible for Italian dual citizenship. Because the United States allows dual citizenship with Italy, these people may be able to obtain an Italian passport while maintaining American citizenship.
Obtaining an Italian passport is a beautiful and sentimental way to honor your ancestors, but did you know that it's also chock full of tangible, real benefits? Here are 8 reasons why obtaining Italian dual citizenship is more beneficial than you think.
1. It's easier to travel
Once you become an Italian citizen, you are entitled to freedom of movement throughout the European Union just like any other EU citizen. With 172 countries marked on it as Visa Free Access, the Italian Passport is one of the most privileged among the 195 sovereign states of the world.
2. It's easier to find work
As the holder of an EU passport, your employment network gets a whole lot bigger. You no longer are restricted to employment in the US and, for the intrepid world citizen, you can follow a new adventure and seek employment abroad. European employers or employers sending their workers to Europe for extended periods of time will see your Italian citizenship as an asset. Your passports mean less bureaucratic hassle for them and will be a point in your favor. Job seekers with dual citizenship will no longer suffer from single citizenship liability, and can be placed in the same running as local candidates.
For entrepreneurs, having Italian citizenship means that going into business within the European Union is also significantly easier than it is for Americans with single citizenship.
3. It's cheaper to go to school
With the skyrocketing costs of American higher education, (the average 2016 college grad in the U.S. is now over $30,000 dollars in debt) dual Italian citizens are able to avail themselves of more affordable options. Not only are holders of Italian passports entitled to study in Italy at local rates (ranging from less than 1,000 euros a year to 5,000 for Italy's more expensive private school options), they are also entitled to study in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Ireland and Norway, countries with extremely affordable or free education.
What's more, the number of English-language degrees in Europe grows every year. For the student with a bit of initiative, there are a range of options to choose from, enabling him or her the once in a lifetime experience of studying in Europe and leaving school with very little debt.
4. It affords dual benefits
If you are a citizen of both countries, it stands to reason that you enjoy all the benefits of both countries. You can vote in both countries' local and national elections, may qualify for a pension in both countries (depending on where you worked), are protected by both countries abroad, and can leverage tax shelters and benefits.
5. It means more affordable healthcare
For the uninsured or underinsured, healthcare in the U.S. can be expensive. As an Italian citizen, you are entitled to apply for your tessera sanitaria to receive Italian healthcare which is world class and much more affordable when compared to healthcare in the States.
6. It's hereditary
Since any child born to at least one Italian citizen parent is entitled to Italian citizenship (this concept is known legally as jure sanguinis citizenship), it will be passed on from generation to generation. Italian citizenship is hereditary and is a wonderful gift to bestow upon your children and grandchildren as an insurance policy for their future.
7. It's easier to rent and purchase property
As an Italian citizen, it is significantly easier for you to rent and purchase property throughout the European Union. Before they can rent local properties, non-Italian citizens must show that they have a regular permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay) in order to legally rent any property long term. Italian citizens are not subject to this burden, and can come and go to and from Italy as they please.
8. It means added protection
If you should ever get in trouble while abroad, you may be allowed to appeal to two embassies or consulates since you are a citizen of two countries. You can also travel to places that are inhospitable to Americans with your Italian passport.
Beyond the benefits named above, what does having Italian dual citizenship mean to you? Post your comments below.
Did you know that many Italian towns have put (some of) their birth, marriage, military and death records online for public viewing?
Though these records only reflect a small portion of what is officially on the books in Italian archives, they represent a veritable treasure trove of information for those whose ancestors do appear in them. How convenient to look at Italian records from the comfort of your own home (though I must admit that looking at Italian records in Italy is probably a little more fancy!).
These records cover the 19th and 20th centuries, which just about fits in line for the ancestors of many Americans seeking Italian dual citizenship.
Simply visit this website: http://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/Le-fonti-degli-Archivi-di-Stato (Gli Archivi per la Ricerca Genealogica) and click the region of choice or "Sfoglia" at the top menu to get started.
You can even carry out a search by name for the following Archivi di Stato:
Bari, Bergamo, Caltanissetta, Campobasso, Cremona, Forlì-Cesena, Genova, Grosseto, Imperia, L'Aquila, Mantova, Modena, Mondovì (Cuneo), Napoli, Pescara, Prato, Ragusa, Reggio Calabria, Rieti, Savona, Taranto, Udine, Urbino, Viterbo
Happy searching! Let me know what you find.
Since 2005, we've been helping people achieve their dream of obtaining their Italian passport or living, working and studying in Italy.
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