The journey is over and yet it is just beginning. The process of becoming an Italian citizen is finally done. Its been a grueling, frustrating, hair pulling experience to say the least. I am assuming your experience will depend on the consulate you are dealing with but they are all at some level very frustrating to deal with. The Italian Consulate of Newark, New Jersey was probably the worst one ever.
The staff were extremely rude and incompetent, they lied to us many times, stole our documents, lost our documents and never made anything easy to attain this citizenship. Thats why, now, I am very happy and grateful for this. This all means so much to me, I always had a deep interest in my family history on both sides of my family. My mom is Sicilian and my dad is Argentinian, unfortunately Argentina doesn’t allow dual citizenship. I would have had that too. *(Update I am allowed to get my Argentinian passport!!)*
In order to start your citizenship process, I’d strongly advise you to be very patient and persistent. It took me about 3-4 years to get this done. This would have gone a lot quicker if the consulate actually did their job and didn’t hold us back so much. But when you want something, you gotta fight for it. My mom, sister and I fought long and hard for our passports. Now I can say, proudly that all three of us are Italian citizens. My brother is next! I can’t wait for him to get it too.
So there are a few options or categories for obtaining Italian citizenship. I’m basing this off of the consulate here in NYC, it may vary from consulate to consulate but primarily it should be the same. I obtained my Italian citizenship through bloodline, or “jure sanguinis”
Category 1: Direct descent: Father born in Italy. Italian citizen at the time of your birth and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
Category 2: Direct descent: Mother born in Italy. Italian citizen at the moment of your birth – occurred after January 1st 1948 – and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
Category 3: Father born in the United States or other Country (except Italy). Your grandfather was Italian at the time of his birth and neither you nor your father ever renounced your right to the Italian Citizenship.
Category 4: Mother born in the United States or other Country (except Italy). Your grandfather was Italian at the time of her birth and neither you, born after Jan. 1st 1948 nor your mother ever renounced your right to the Italian Citizenship.
Category 5: Your direct paternal or maternal ancestors were born in the United States from Italian parents. They never renounced their right to Italian citizenship. (Double check they were not naturalized when they came to the United States).
I am eligible under Category 5. So my great grandfather came to the US but never became a US citizen, therefore his Italian Citizenship was still up for grabs.
Step 1: I had a good friend of mine write a letter in Italian for me asking for my great grandfather’s birth certificate at the Comune in Palermo. My sister and I did not have the exact dates but we had a ball park idea of what the dates were. We did not know if we would receive an answer back or not.
A letter had to be sent along with 3 international coupons. Those were hard to find, I found them at a post office. I had to call around to a few places to find them. Most people had no idea what I was talking about. Oh and make sure you put a self addressed envelope too, the coupons I believe are for the Comune to send the documents back to you.
We received our answer.
Each document in English must be translated into Italian, which is a separate cost, ours was $50 per document. The translator must be an official translator with the consulate you are applying to, they usually have a list of people on their website. The document itself is $25, each document must have an apostille seal from the state you live in, which is another cost $25. Doesn’t sound too bad but it racks up when you have a lot of documents.
*Each document needs to be in “long, certified and original form”. *Make sure you make copies of everything incase things get misplaced.
*Be prepared to do a lot of driving back and forth to vital statistic offices, translator (ours was in Paramus, NJ a 45 min drive), the consulate etc.
*Be prepared to do a lot of research on your own, the consulate won’t be much help since they have a lot of applicants. They may tell you some information but a lot of this was trial and error.
*Prices may be different in your state.
I had to link myself back to my great grandfather with documents.
1. My great grandfather’s birth certificate
2. His marriage certificate
3. His death certificate
4. My grandfather’s birth certificate
5. My grandfather’s marriage certificate
6. My grandfather’s death certificate
7. My mom’s birth certificate
8. My mom’s marriage to my dad
9. My birth certificate
10. My mom’s divorce to my dad (Must have no appeal/divorce judgement page)
This is the list of documents for my application. There were more documents regarding my siblings.
*If your parents were married more than once you will need to get each marriage and divorce record. As each marriage and divorce needs to be registered with Italy.
Make your citizenship appointment early as you can! Sometimes they are a year or two out before you will be seen. I was very lucky, I an original appointment that was in 2015 but I checked the appointment dates online everyday until someone canceled and I found one in October 2012. But as you are getting documents together it may take a long time, so its best to have an appointment already set up.
At the time you present your documents make sure every detail is correct that includes DATES, TIMES, NAMES, SPELLINGS, and everything else. Be super anal about checking documents, double and triple check them because thats another cost to fix documents. We had to do quite a few times and it was 40$ each time, each document. And the wait time to get fixed documents back was about 2 weeks.
At the time of appointment, you must prove your residence with a utility or electricity, license and passport is needed for the consulate to make copies. Also all these documents must be sent to the consulate where you reside, for me I was at Newark but the consulate shutdown and at the last minute I had to go to NYC. So from now on I will go to NYC for any other passport related issues.
And voilà there you have it!
We had a lot of documents because we had to go so far back. It was a lot of money, time and effort spent. It was worth it though! I held a picture of my great grandfather and his wife in a travel locket that I brought with me during the passport appointment, I feel like they were proudly there with me. I started to tear up a little bit when the man started taking my finger prints because I knew I was getting it. Lots of frustrating tears were shed but those happy joyful tears at the end, when I finally had my Italian passport in my hands was surreal. Its finally over and I’m an Italian Citizen. I’m so proud to say that, thank you to my great grandfather Alessandro Gambino. I never had the chance to meet you but you gave me a beautiful gift.
Now my journey continues, I will be flying to Zurich, Switzerland on April 7th. I remember leaving Switzerland in 2008 saying, “I will come back with my Italian passport”. I am a woman of my word. This feels so great to accomplish another one of my big goals, I will get to see friends I haven’t seen in years and enjoy the beauty of Switzerland. I do not know how long I will be there, I will find work and the rest is up in the air. 🙂