How some Americans might be eligible for Italian citizenship

For many people, the year 2020 marked a fundamental shift in their values. Some have even decided to rethink assumptions they once took for granted. Arguably, this was true for many Americans of Italian descent for whom the pandemic appears to have acted as a catalyst to seek recognition of their Italian citizenship by descent. In fact, according to Italian Citizenship Assistance, a company specializing in this field, the year 2020 has seen an unprecedented increase in these applications for Italian citizenship, which have increased by 400% compared to 2019.

Why Italian nationality?

Among the issues that could have motivated many of these American candidates were the growing inequality of wealth in the United States, the prevalence of gun violence, and environmental and health concerns, not to mention the uncertainty surrounding the presidential election. Americans late last year. . On the contrary, this trend is expected to continue given the alarming events that took place in the nation’s capital in January 2021.

However, it must be said that Italian citizenship is also attractive in itself, for a number of reasons. Some of these include low-cost, high-quality universal healthcare, affordable university tuition fees, a competitive real estate market, and the right to work, study and reside in any member state of the EU.

There are several ways to acquire Italian nationality. An applicant can acquire Italian nationality by swear sanguinis (by right of blood – or descent), citizenship by marriage or citizenship by residence. However, for Americans, applying for citizenship by descent remains perhaps the most popular way. Marriage and residence are self-explanatory and require little further explanation, but citizenship by descent may be more attractive. Note that you can hold both US and Italian citizenship, in other words, dual citizenship is allowed.

Italian citizenship by descent

Eligibility for citizenship by descent depends on the naturalization of the Italian ancestor through which an individual claims citizenship and whether the naturalization took place after or before the birth of the child abroad. Along with other factors, the ancestor’s naturalization determines whether the applicant will have to apply for citizenship through an Italian consulate in the United States or through an application filed as a municipality in Italy, or through a court case. Such a decision would require expert advice.

The rules for acquiring Italian nationality by descent are complicated, but can be summarized as follows:

  • If a child is born to a parent who is an Italian citizen or to a parent entitled to Italian nationality, he or she has the nationality “jure sanguinis”. From now on, this parent will be known as the Italian parent.
  • In the case of Americans, if the child was born before August 16, 1992, the Italian parent must not have been naturalized in America or have acquired another nationality by naturalization at the time of the child’s birth. .
  • When using a female ancestor of Italian descent or an intermediate female ascendant, the child must be born on or after January 1, 1948. Apparently, however, this rule can be circumvented through a dispute in Italy for children born before that date.
  • Ancestors naturalized outside Italy before June 14, 1912 cannot transmit nationality (even to children born before their naturalization). This rule is applied in all consulates.

Important: the applicant must not have renounced Italian nationality. Most often, the waiver took place if the applicant naturalized as a citizen of another country voluntarily, as an adult, and before August 15, 1992.

All of the above conditions must be met by each person in a direct lineage. There is no generational limit to claiming Italian citizenship through “jus sanguinis”, except that the ancestor who immigrated from Italy must have died in the Italian peninsula or abroad after March 17th. 1861. Anyone who died before that date was not a citizen of Italy, as it was before the unification of Italy and, therefore, that person did not have the capacity to transmit Italian nationality.

Once the citizenship application is approved, the applicant is registered with the AREA (Register of Italian citizens residing abroad) and may then be issued an Italian passport.

Advantages of applying for Italian nationality by descent

According to Mila Lazzari, who helps applicants obtain Italian citizenship from Italian Citizenship Assistance, there are several advantages to holding dual citizenship. “Firstly, as an Italian citizen and therefore also a citizen of the EU, a person can travel, study or work anywhere in the European Union. In other words, no visa is needed to travel to any of the EU member states, and you can reside in Italy, as well as any other EU country, without any time limitation. . Lazzari continues: “Second, foreign spouses of Italian citizens can apply for a residence permit in Italy, as well as in another EU member state for the couple to be together without any restrictions or time limits.” She then adds: “Finally, if you apply for Italian nationality and your children are minors, they will automatically become Italian citizens when you obtain Italian nationality. Therefore, they will not need to go through the whole process of filing an application individually, and they will be able to transmit nationality to their children provided that they register the birth of their children in Italy through the l ‘AREA.

In short, for many Americans, obtaining Italian citizenship could be a good way to enter the EU. For some, this could be done while seeking to relinquish US citizenship. For others, obtaining Italian citizenship could be part of a dual citizenship plan that involves retaining their US citizenship while keeping their options open for the future, especially for their children who might one day want to study. or work abroad.


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