Growing up in America I was never, ever one of the cool kids. As an adult, instead of keeping up with the Joneses I sold everything I owned, grabbed my new Italian passport, and ran off to live in Italy. Moving to Italy in 2020 smack in the middle of COVID-19 looked like another step in my strange girl life. That is until Italy’s COVID numbers dropped substantially while Florida’s started to spike. Now I’m waking up to articles in the New York Times saying my second passport is the new American status symbol. Suddenly all those “WTF! You’re moving to Italy, now!” jabs smart just a little bit less.
How to Get Italian Citizenship and an Italian Passport!
For those wanting to know more about what it takes to gain Italian citizenship and that now cool second passport, here are a few facts, tips, and resources. For a little inspiration check out ALOR Interviews include the real-life stories of one woman’s journey to Italian Citizenship by descent and a couple who lived in Italy for a year after getting their Italian passports.
1. Jure Sanguinis or Right of Blood
Jure Sanguinis is latin for “right of blood.” Claiming the right to Italian citizenship by descent means proving you have inherited the right to citizenship through your Italian-born ancestors. So who has the right to file for Italian citizenship and claim that beautiful maroon passport?
Italian citizenship follows birth through the paternal line with no limit on the number of generations. On the maternal side only for individuals born after January 1, 1948 (more details in the video at the bottom of the post!)
In other words, technically if your great, great, great grandfather was born in Veneto then you already are Italian. However, if you were born in America, you’ll have some hoops to go jump through to make it official and gain your own Italian citizenship documentation including that Italian passport.
Here is a five-point checklist to quality for Italian dual citizenship according to ICA.
What makes citizenship by decent difficult is all the paperwork! All documents will need to be in long-form, translated into Italian, and apostilled. Italian citizen hopefuls that do not speak Italian be warned, this can be a difficult process. If you require help the IDC Legal Offices offer a range of services including:
- Assistance in determining if you are eligible for Italian citizenship
- Securing documents from both the United States and Italy to help with your case application
- Assistance in finding unknown relatives
- Translation of documents into Italian and vice versa
- Review of documents to ensure that they are compliant with Italian law
- Compilation of a comprehensive application for you in Italy or at your consulate
2. Italian Citizenship Through Naturalization Due to Residency
So what if you’re an Italophile (friendly to or favoring what is Italian) without direct bloodlines to Italy. A thirst for La Dolce Vita has been known to set in with one vacation to Italy. Then what? Non-EU citizens will need a visa to stay in Italy for more than 90 days. There are several types of visas that can be leveraged to relocate to Italy including:
- A temporary residence permit which allows a foreigner to live in Italy for a few years.
- Employment permit which is available for those coming to Italy based on a labor relation.
- An entrepreneurial permit that enables individuals to set up a small business in Italy.
- Student visa! Which grants a limited period of time to those studying in Italy.
Once you find a way to legally live in Italy, then you can begin the process of applying for citizenship and getting that second passport through the naturalization process. How long you’ve lived and worked in Italy is all taken into account. For most Americans, Italian citizenship through naturalization requires living in Italy for ten continuous years. You’ll also need to prove financially that you can sustain yourself in Italy and that you have a clean criminal record. The application process is lengthy and requires documents, like proof of legal residence in Italy, tax returns and in some cases parents’ birth certificates.
You might be wondering if there is a shorter route. Only for those who fall in love with, you guessed it, an Italian.
3. Italian Citizenship Through Marriage or Civil Union
Italy is pretty unique in that it allows for Italian citizenship through marriage or civil union without a residency requirement. If you’re lucky enough like I was to fall in love with an Italian, take a tip from me and register your marriage or civil union with your local Italian commune immediately! Contact your local Italian consultant in the United States for details.
You’ll want to get going as soon as possible because, contrary to popular belief, even after getting married it takes a while to gain dual citizenship. If you’re lucky enough to already be living in Italy, you can apply for citizenship through marriage after you’re blissfully wedded for two years. Three years for those living abroad or 18 months if you have children.
Yes, the wait time is painful but, it will give you the time you’ll need to learn to speak Italian. In 2018 a new law was introduced, imposing a new requirement on Italian citizenship marriage applications. Any applicant seeking Italian citizenship must have sufficient knowledge of the Italian language and obtain a B1 level certification. That certificate will need to be certified by the Italian Ministry of Education (MIUR) or Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAECI) as the result of an approved educational institution.
Additionally, you’ll need to pass a fingerprint FBI background check as well as fingerprint background checks in every state you’ve lived in. You’ll only have six months from the start of the application to gather the background checks, get them translated and apostilled so plan accordingly!
The benefit of Having Two Passports
Even if you don’t think you’ll ever live in Italy, having two passports can be a lifesaver. Take Paolo and my story for example. Six years ago when Paolo and I began our journey to dual citizenship and gaining a second passport, we didn’t intend to move to Italy. We were New Yorkers! For us, it was simply about family. Paolo’s parents live in Italy and mine in America. We wanted to ensure we could be around if our parents needed us. We thought two passports and dual citizenship might one day come in handy.
Flash forward seven years and thank goodness I was sworn in as an Italian Citizen in September 2019 and received my Italian passport shortly thereafter. Having a second passport is the only reason I was able to take a repatriation flight to move to Italy during COVID-19.
If you want to talk to more people like us who have gained a second passport or have moved to Italy, I recommend checking out the following Facebook Groups.
Italy began allowing dual citizenship in 1992. Since that time people have been able to gain Italian citizenship without losing their native legal status. None of the methods to attain Italian citizenship or a second passport have ever been quick or easy. They all require dealing with Italian bureaucracy, which has been tightening around immigration and citizenship over the last few years, so be warned.
The path to dual citizenship is not something I recommend starting on a whim or taking lightly. However, when you consider the benefits of having a second passport and a second country to call home, dual citizenship is an idea worth exploring. After-all pre-COVID would you have ever guessed we would see the day when Europe would ban Americans from entering?
Still, inspired to explore the path to Italian Citizenship? As promised, here’s a video podcast that goes into more details on 5 Ways to Get Italian Citizenship!
New York Times: The New American Status Symbol? A Second Passport