Cole Bio
[From the May 1997 Newsletter]
[Updated on January 14th, 1999]

Italian Citizenship for Americans of Italian Descent

The following information was provided by the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles, California regarding information on Italian citizenship for Americans of Italian descent.

It is important to recognize that while it may once have been true that U.S. Citizens could not hold dual citizenship, U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s settled the issue once and for all: Dual citizenship for American citizens is legal.

The hurdle one must clear, therefore, is whether or not one meets the requirements of the other nation involved. In the case of Italy and under Italian law, the taking of the American Oath of Citizenship constitutes a voluntary surrender of your Italian citizenship. So, for many of us, our naturalized grandparents surrendered their Italian citizenship.

But this is where it gets interesting. For if their children were born in this country, then they were automatically American citizens, having to take no oath renouncing any Italian citizenship which was gained (under Italian law) by being born to parents who were Italian citizens. In other words, since both my parents were born before their parents naturalized, they remained Italian citizens according to Italian law.

That same law extends the citizenship one more generation, through either paternal or maternal lines. Here then, in the words of the Italian Consulate, are the steps required to formally recognize that dual citizenship, and gain an Italian passport (along with full recognition as a member of the European Community, an issue of no small economic importance to many of us).

Information on Italian citizenship for U.S. citizens of Italian descent

If you were born in the United States you may also be considered an Italian citizen if any one of the situations listed below pertains to you:

  1. Your father was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship;

  2. Your mother was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, you were born after January 1, 1948 (and before April 27, 1965) and you never renounced your Italian citizenship;

  3. Your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your father's birth and neither you nor your father ever renounced your Italian citizenship;

  4. Your mother was born in the United States, your maternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, you were born after January 1, 1948 and neither you nor your mother ever renounced your rights to Italian citizenship.

If #1 applies to you, you must obtain the following documents:

Your father's birth certificate (write to the commune where your father was born, enclose three or four dollars, and request his birth certificate); your parent's marriage certificate (if the marriage took place in Italy follow the procedure described above for birth certificate; if it took place in the United States you must obtain a certified copy of the marriage certificate from city hall); if applicable, his death certificate; your birth certificate (certified copy); your father's naturalization certificate, or a statement from U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service stating that your father was never naturalized, or his current Italian passport and alien registration card. This serves to prove that if your father became a naturalized U.S. citizen this occurred after your birth (**if it occurred before your birth you are not entitled to Italian citizenship**).

If #2 applies to you, you must do **all of the above**, but with regards to your mother.

If #3 applies to you, you must obtain your paternal grandfather's birth certificate from Italy, his marriage license, and all of the documents listed for #1, except for your father's naturalization certificate, because in this case you will need your paternal grandfather's naturalization papers.

If #4 applies to you, you must obtain your maternal grandfather's birth certificate, his marriage certificate, and all the documents listed for #2, except for your mother's naturalization certificate, because in this case you will need your maternal grandfather's naturalization papers.

If you are a male under the age of forty-five, once your documents are recorded, you will have military obligations to Italy, which can generally be fulfilled by completing the necessary paperwork. However, this means that if you are under the age of twenty-six you may not permanently reside in Italy for reasons other than study unless you wish to serve in the Italian armed forces.

Please note:

If your parents became U.S. citizens when you were a minor, or if you were a minor on April 21, 1983, you will have to sign a statement with which you opt for the Italian citizenship.

If you were a minor on April 21, 1983, and your father or mother (depending on whom you are tracing your citizenship through) became a naturalized U.S. citizen after that date, you have lost your right to Italian citizenship.

If you are concerned that any of the above procedures may affect your U.S. citizenship you should contact the local U.S. authorities.

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