How I Became An Italian Citizen

Photo on 3-17-14 at 4.41 PM

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!

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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. 🙂

 

 

25 Comment

  1. Congrats on finally achieving it. I know that you have been working on it for a while. I thought about getting mine just for the ease of travel and opportunities to study in other places. Additionally, I would like the opportunity to reconnect with my Italian side and experience the life that they lived. It is unfortunate that it is such a long process, especially if you have all of your documents ready. I have most of mine, but still lack some. I think that the expenses thing is one of the worst. $50 per document when you have tons would definitely get expensive. Not to mention, adding all of the traveling expenses up.

    1. Thank you! Yes, I remember we were talking about you getting yours. I don’t know much more documents you need but if there is no rush, do a little bit at a time. Its worth having. Yeah the expenses were a lot, I don’t even know the total of it all, over $1000 for sure. I hope this helps a little bit as to where you are with your documents. If you need help, let me know!

  2. Congratulations! Now Argentina, because yes indeed they do allow dual citizenship. The “doesn’t recognize it” is simply the same as how the US doesn’t recognize it too – and most other countries. You always must enter a country with your passport of that country, even if you are a citizen of more than one.

    So if you go to Italy, you now must enter Italy with your Italian passport as an Italian citizen, but upon return to the USA, you must enter with your US passport as a US citizen.

    Argentina is the same thing. See this Wikipedia article section: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_nationality_law#Dual_citizenship

    I definitely know of people with dual US-Argentine citizenship. Including at least one expat who moved to Argentina several years ago and got citizenship last year, without having to renounce US citizenship.

    1. Really? I will definitely have to look into that. My dad had to renounce his Argentine citizenship when he came here. I’m not sure what age he was but I may be screwed since he renounced it.

  3. Wow – this is an amazing level of persistence to get all these documents together and go through 3-4 years of going through the process. Huge congrats!! Did you get it so you could spend more time in Europe or more just a connection to your heritage?

    1. Thank you!! Both. Yes so I can stay in Europe longer without dealing with visas and it makes things easier to live or work there.

  4. Laura, this is a great story. I have followed your stuff on Facebook for a while and knew you were desperate to get this passport. I’m delighted you did it in the end. Such a long story to get there but now you have it!! Safe travels being Italian. Jonny

    1. Thank you Jonny!! Thank you so much! Yes, its been a long time coming but I’m so happy its over and I finally have it. 🙂

  5. It would have been a lot easier and quicker for you to go to Italy and acquire your citizenship there instead of dealing with a consulate. Also, Argentina does allow duel citizenship. You should look into it again. Even if they didn’t I’m willing to bet you could still go there and get citizenship anyway. There are tons of people who are citizens of two different countries that don’t have duel citizenship treaties. It just means that while you’re in your country that doesn’t allow duel citizenship you’re only recognized as their citizen. Look at Russia. I know quite a few Americans who’ve come here and become unofficial duel citizens with Russia. To become a naturalized citizen of Russia you have to show papers proving that you’ve applied for the loss of your other citizenship. The key word is “applied”. Just apply for the loss of your other citizenship but don’t actually go through with the ceremony after you’ve acquired your new citizenship. Anyway, congratulations obtaining your duel nationality.

  6. Would you care to elaborate on how the consulate stole documents from you? I suspect they might have taken some of mine as well…the one in NYC that is.

    1. Because each document we gave to them we made copies of. They would say we never gave it to them when we knew we did because we made a copy of it. I’m sorry that is happening to you but in the same respect I am not surprised. Please email me if you wish to speak further about any more detailed questions.

  7. Would I be able to email you with some questions about my citizenship process? Thanks!

      1. Alissa Sears says: Reply

        Hi —
        3 people from my family are applying- same day- different times. Do we need copies of documents for each person? Or can the 3 family members share one set of documents?
        Thank you so much. Great blog.
        ( I sent an email to the email above too…)

        1. Hi, thank you for commenting. I sent you an email!

  8. I am argentinian and my 4 grandparents are italian. Argentina does allow double citizenship.I have both passports

    1. Oh, that’s amazing! My father was born in Argentina, I have to get that passport started. 😉

  9. I am currently working on my dual citizenship with Italy and a lot of the feeling you talked about I FEEL!. Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom with everyone. I am going after it and I am so excited to learn more about my family.

    1. Of course! If you need any help, please feel free to email me.

  10. Hi & congrats! Your persistence paid off!
    My father is working on getting his Italian citizenship and has just his final appointment with the consulate in NYC to go. Do you know, once he gets his, how I go about getting mine? Do I need to make a separate appointment or perhaps I can go to the consulate with him. I’ve already had my birth certificate translated. What do you think?
    Thanks!

    1. Once he gets his, you do need to make a separate appointment. All you need is to bring your certificate and they have to send it out to Italy to be approved then you’ll have to harass them if they heard from Italy which could take a month or two. You’ll have to make another appointment to then apply for your passport. You’re at the end point, it’s not that much more to go! 🙂 Email me if you have any other questions.

  11. Great blog.
    I have some questions.
    Did you have to present any birth or death of non- italian spouses?
    I am applying through my mom
    So Mom, her Dad, his Dad- Birth and Death and marriage
    Do I need the spouses? Birth and Death?

    1. Yes, please email me so we can discuss it in more detail!

  12. Hi! I just came across this, as I am attempting to start the Italian Citizenship Jure Sanguinis process now. My difficulty is that I am an American, but I am currently living and working in the Estonia (I have a residence permit for work). To my understanding, I will need to apply in person at the Chicago Embassy (I’m from MN). I came across a company that can assist with the process online, and noticed they had an option to skip the consulate and apply directly in Italy. Do you know anything about this? As I’m in the EU already, this would be ideal (but I don’t want to pay a company $4k to do it for me).

    1. I’ve never heard about that to be honest. I’m sure you can get some of the documents from Italy. But you need the documents from MN and for those to be translated into Italian. I wouldn’t pay 4k to do that. Do you have the company’s website? I’d like to check it out. Feel free to email too so we can discuss this in further detail if you like. Traveljerzgirl@gmail.com

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