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How to Apply for Italian Citizenship by Descent (Jus Sanguinis)?

15 Dec 2023 - Immigration Law - Min Read 6 min
How to Apply for Italian Citizenship by Descent (Jus Sanguinis)?

Italian citizenship by descent (Jus Sanguinis) can be requested if at least one of your parents possesses Italian citizenship, or if a direct ancestor was an Italian citizen, and the so-called “bloodline” has not been interrupted over the years.

The right to apply for Italian citizenship by descent extends to adopted children or recognized natural children.

There are two possible avenues to apply for Italian citizenship by descent: administrative and judicial. The choice between them depends on circumstances, not personal preference.

In practice, Italian citizenship rarely conflicts with existing citizenship, allowing individuals to maintain both and possess dual citizenship.

Who Can Apply for Italian Citizenship by Descent?

Descendants of Italian citizens born in a country that follows Jus Soli (automatic citizenship at birth, as is the case in the United States, Canada, Australia, and most countries in North, Central, and South America) can apply for Italian citizenship by descent.

How to Obtain Italian Citizenship by Descent?

Merely having an Italian ancestor is not sufficient; additional requirements and specific information are needed to apply for Italian citizenship by descent.

It is necessary to:

  • Know the country of origin of the ancestor and their date of birth or possess information to trace it.
  • Determine the bloodline derivation, whether through the paternal or maternal line. Descendants from an Italian woman born before January 1, 1948, face greater difficulties in obtaining Italian citizenship through the female line.
  • Ensure that the ancestor has not renounced Italian citizenship and that their potential naturalization has not interrupted the bloodline.
  • Have not personally renounced Italian citizenship.

Documents to Submit

The documents required to apply for citizenship may vary depending on where the application is submitted. Different consulates or Italian municipalities may request different documents.

Typically, the documents include:

  1. Extract of the birth certificate of the Italian ancestor who emigrated abroad, issued by the Italian municipality of birth (or a substitute document).
  2. Birth certificates of all direct descendants.
  3. Birth certificate of the applicant.
  4. Marriage certificate of the Italian ancestor who emigrated abroad and of the direct descendants. In the case of divorce, the divorce certificate is also required.
  5. Certificate issued by the competent authorities of the foreign country of emigration, confirming that the Italian ancestor did not renounce Italian citizenship.

It is advisable to be cautious when reporting the details of the ancestor, including all possible surnames and names used in the civil status records.

All documents obtained abroad should be translated and legalized correctly.

If the administrative route is chosen, once translated and legalized, the documents should be submitted together with the application for the recognition of Italian citizenship by descent, either at the Italian municipality of residence or, if residing abroad, at the Italian Consulate of the respective country.

Recognition of Italian Citizenship by Descent: Administrative or Judicial Process

The recognition of Italian citizenship by descent for foreign citizens of Italian descent can be obtained through an administrative or judicial process.

The Administrative Process to Obtain Italian Citizenship

If you choose to apply for citizenship while in Italy, you must register with the National Registry of the Resident Population of the Municipality where you have chosen to submit the citizenship application.

Once registered, you can initiate the process of recognizing Italian citizenship as a descendant of an Italian citizen. However, you must reside in Italy throughout the duration of the application process and, if necessary, apply for a specific “residence permit for citizenship waiting.”

If the applicant resides abroad, the process can be initiated through the competent Italian consular authority.

For applications submitted simultaneously by siblings/cousins who descend from the same Italian ancestor, it may be sufficient to submit a common original documentation. However, this depends on the Consulate/Municipality, so it is advisable to inquire beforehand.

The Residence Permit for Citizenship Waiting

The “residence permit for citizenship waiting” allows the foreigner, while waiting for the grant of citizenship, to reside legally in the territory of the Italian state until the citizenship process is completed.

It is important to note that:

  • A short-term residence permit can be converted into a residence permit for citizenship waiting.
  • A residence permit for citizenship waiting can be converted into a work permit.

The Judicial Process to Obtain Italian Citizenship

The judicial process to obtain Italian citizenship has a civil nature, presented through a petition (pursuant to Article 702-bis of the Civil Procedure Code) and is purely documentary.

The timing for obtaining citizenship through the judicial process varies based on the schedule of the relevant court.

Regarding the court that is territorially competent, if the applicant resides abroad, it is the one related to the Italian municipality of birth of the father, mother, or ancestor.

You can turn to the court:

  • In case of a female lineage before 1948.
  • In case of excessive response times from the Public Administration.

You can turn to the Regional Administrative Court (T.A.R.):

  • In case of unjustified refusal by the Public Administration.

Key Dates to Know

March 17, 1861: Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, defining the first date to identify a citizen as “Italian.”

1866: Establishment of Civil Status Registers in Italy, allowing the extraction of the birth certificate of ancestors.

January 1, 1948: Enactment of the Italian Constitution, granting women the right to transmit Italian citizenship to their children.

1975 and 1983: Constitutional Court rulings confirming gender equality and recognizing that women did not automatically lose citizenship after marrying a foreigner.

It took two rulings from the Constitutional Court, in 1975 and 1983, to unequivocally acknowledge gender equality and to certify beyond any doubt that women did not automatically lose citizenship after marrying a foreigner and could, therefore, transmit it to their children. The Supreme Court, in a decision with joint sections, number 4466 dated February 25, 2009, ruled that Italian women who married a foreigner before 1948 lost Italian citizenship. Consequently, individuals born to Italian women married to foreign citizens can indeed be granted Italian citizenship, but only through a judicial procedure.

To summarize:

  • Those born in a Jus Soli country maintain the right to be recognized as Italian citizens based on the date of the ancestor’s death (not before the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy) and if the “bloodline” has not been interrupted through naturalization.
  • Those born abroad to an Italian mother after January 1, 1948, can apply for citizenship through both administrative and judicial routes (if applicable).
  • Those born abroad to an Italian mother before January 1, 1948, can apply for citizenship only through the judicial route.

Dealing with Discrepancies in Names and Dates

Italian migrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were often uneducated, facing challenges in communicating their data upon arriving in a foreign country, compounded by the barrier of an unfamiliar language. They lacked the self-awareness we have today, often neglecting birthdays, making the exact date of birth uncertain.

This resulted in discrepancies between provided information, civil status records, and documents produced abroad. When providing personal details verbally, transcription could be imaginative, with names and surnames recorded based on sound, and illiterate individuals had no means to verify or correct.

Uncertain about providing their baptismal name, they often registered with the names used in the family (nicknames, endearments, second names, etc.). To adapt to the context, they sometimes changed their own names and surnames, altering them to be more “acceptable” to new fellow citizens.

In some cases, we found birth dates declared to be those of younger siblings or corrected “by defect,” presumably to appear younger for work or other needs. This resulted in individuals having multiple presumed names and birthdates.

Untangling this web of information is challenging but not impossible when the pieces start falling into place. Once the person is identified, and their journey understood, each discrepancy must be rectified by the relevant foreign authority.

For questions and clarification on becoming Italian citizens, our Immigration Department staff will be at your disposal.

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Calogero Boccadutri

Calogero Boccadutri is the Managing Partner of Boccadutri International Law Firm. He has trial experience in Forex, Personal Injury and Administrative litigation.

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