How citizenship is bestowed - the basics
Before we can talk about Italian dual citizenship, let's talk about the two main ways in which citizenship is granted to people around the world: jus soli and jure sanguinis.
Countries with jus soli (like the United States) allow everyone born in it to become a citizen at birth. Jus soli is Latin for "right of the soil," and this law is precisely that: regardless of where a person's parents are from, a child born in a jus soli country is an automatic citizen. One other jus soli country is Argentina, though there are others.
Jure sanguinis countries are a bit different, as they pass citizenship on to children depending on the parents' status. Italy is a jus sanguinis country because it bestows citizenship onto children if their parents are also Italian citizens (Italy also allows for naturalization in other circumstances, but for the purposes of this post we won't discuss that). Jure sanguinis is Latin for "right of the blood."
So how is Italian dual citizenship even possible?
Since jus sanguinis citizenship is bestowed upon a person simply for being born in a certain country and jure sanguinis citizenship is bestowed upon a person based on their parents' citizenship, the two actually do not overlap. For instance: someone born in the U.S. to Italian parents is automatically an American citizen under jus soli laws, but he is also an Italian citizen under Italian jure sanguinis laws. This means that Italian citizenship is a birthright as long as you are eligible.
In other words, people born to Italian citizens (or to people who qualify for Italian dual citizenship) in jus soli countries are automatically both citizens of their native country and of Italy at birth, thanks to the two citizenship laws never overlapping.
Ways to qualify for Italian dual citizenship
When you apply for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, you are not actually applying for the citizenship, but rather for your already existing citizenship to be formally recognized. Here are a few (but not all) of the ways in which you might qualify for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis:
Category no. 1: Your father was born in Italy and was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, and neither you nor him ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
Category no. 2: Your mother was born in Italy and was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, you were born after January 1st, 1948, and neither you nor her ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
Category no. 3: Your father was born outside of Italy, your paternal grandfather was born in Italy, was an Italian citizen at the time of your father’s birth, and neither you nor your father ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
Category no. 4: Your mother was born outside of Italy, your maternal grandfather was born in Italy and was an Italian citizen at the time of your mother’s birth, you were born after January 1, 1948, and neither you nor your mother ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
Category no. 5: Your paternal or maternal grandfather was born outside of Italy, your paternal or maternal great grandfather was born in Italy and was an Italian citizen at the time of your paternal or maternal grandfather’s birth, and neither you nor your maternal or paternal grandfather, nor your father or mother ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
Keep in mind that you can go back as many generations as necessary, as long as your ancestor qualifies. A qualifying ancestor:
1. Was alive at any time on or after March 17, 1861 (until this time, Italy was not a country)
2. (If she was female) Had her child after January 1, 1948 (until this time, women could not pass on Italian citizenship)
3. Did not naturalize as a citizen of another country until after his or her child through which you wish to qualify was born
4. Did not naturalize before July 1, 1912 (before this time, any Italian naturalizing as a citizen of another country lost his or her Italian citizenship). Exception: if your ancestor naturalized before that time, it only caused a loss of citizenship for his or her minor children (under 21)
A real life example
Vito was born in Partinico, Italy in 1890. He emigrated to the United States in 1910, and had two sons named Salvatore and Giuseppe in 1921 and 1929, respectively. In 1944, Vito naturalized as an American citizen.
Salvatore had two children, Joanne and William in 1949 and 1954, respectively. Giuseppe had one child, Vivian, in 1957.
Because Vito naturalized after the birth of his two sons Salvatore and Giuseppe, both of them have passed on Vito's Italian citizenship in an indefinite chain for generations, allowing everyone to successfully apply for Italian dual citizenship.
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