My journey to US-Italian dual citizenship through the jure sanguinis process in Italy – Part 2

Italian Citizenship by Descent – 2023

Applying for Italian citizenship by descent moves through many phases, but the comune-level phase is the most important. 

The comune-level element of the jure sanguinis process is where the actual recognition process begins and ends. It will ultimately come down to the decision of the comune official whether or not your LIRA passed Italian citizenship onto you.

Which is very different from what happens via the consulate route.

The comune official will decide your citizenship claim based purely on your bloodline and the law. And it will be a decision the official personally makes after he or she has conducted the process in its entirety.

Italian consulates base their decisions on a variety of factors, many of which are contrary to both the actual law of Italy and the fact you are an Italian citizen – the 1948 rule is a perfect example of this. 

Not everyone has the ability to conduct their recognition process in Italy. If there is even a remote chance, however, that you can apply in Italy for recognition of your Italian citizenship by descent, then you absolutely have to go that route. 

Ultimately, you will save time, money, stress, and frustration – exchanging all of those things for the best success rate the law provides. 

Acquiring Italian records for the citizenship by descent process

Before I advance the narrative into the comune-level element of the process, and since Part 1, essentially, ends with the acquisition of my LIRA’s Italian records, I wanted to address a typical issue many people have with their LIRA’s Italian records.

Finding and acquiring Italian records is a very critical step in the process.

It is also a step where problems, issues, and costs commonly arise, resulting in frustrated social media posts, esp, in Facebook groups, by those pursuing citizenship by descent on their own from the United States. 

The bottom line is – attempting to acquire your LIRA’s records from the US – especially without any native Italian proficiency – will generally prove to be a useless attempt.

Or at the very least, a very lengthy, laborious, expensive endeavor that has a very low success rate – without any assistance that is. 

While some comunes will accept emails in English or grudgingly accommodate you by reading your Google mistranslations, most will not – if the comune reads non-PEC emails at all.

This brings me to one of the biggest mistakes most non-Italians make – using the PEC email.

The PEC system is an Italian government-created and operated secure and encrypted communications network to replace legal and certified mail.

In some cases, comune officials are not only required to read all of their PEC emails but also required to respond within 30-45 days. 

Emails sent to a PEC account from a non-PEC email are legally not considered PEC messages and can legally be – and usually are – immediately disregarded and even deleted by the recipient without being opened. 

Generally speaking, using the PEC email system is only accessible to registered and verified users of the network.

Any message sent to a PEC email account from a non-registered user and or from a non-PEC account that has not been verified by the system and is not a valid email. 

There are some exceptions to this – such as the Questura PEC which is accessible to anyone using any email system – but administrative PECs at the comune level are not one of the exceptions.

Unless you are registered in Italy’s central PEC database as a verified user and sending the message from your PEC email – which beginning in March 2023 requires SPID – the message that you sent to a comune’s PEC email is – most likely – deleted. 

There are some comunes that are an exception to this rule; for whatever reason those comunes have chosen to read invalid PECs, but unless you know for a fact that the comune will read an invalid PEC, you are wasting your time.

Stop using the PEC email, and in most cases, stop sending emails, especially in English, to comunes anyhow. 

They simply do not get around to seeing them – again, if they ever open a non-PEC email at all. 

In the comune that I applied in, for example, the office had 1 computer and that was universally used for official business purposes only – 

‘Official business’ in a comune is NOT answering emails from the US in English asking them to do hours or days of work researching their archives and then paying to mail documents internationally to a non-comune resident on the other side of the planet. 

Generally speaking, most comunes will not do ANYTHING for a non-comune resident.

Going in person to the comune to retrieve records is, itself, a lengthy and time-consuming process. 

Remember, these are comunes, not the large administrative bodies of Roma, Napoli, or Milano which have dozens of staff working at them. 

These offices, literally, are staffed by a handful of people. The comune that I applied in has a population of approximately 10,000 residents and a staff of 3 in the comune office. 

That staff is duty-bound to work in the interest of their residents, and those duties include [but are far from limited to]:

  • Military matters
  • Local, regional, and national elections
  • Local, regional, and national taxes
  • Marriages
  • Deaths
  • Burials
  • Births
  • Adoptions
  • Citizenship
  • Real estate matters
  • Permits for everything and anything
  • School matters
  • Payroll for comune workers
  • Liaison with local police
  • Liaison with the Carabinieri [military police]
  • Residency
  • Identity cards

Bearing in mind that most comunes typically only have open office hours from 7 am to noon. 

So, yeah, keep sending emails – that will help … your typing skills. 

The only comune-respected, efficient, and cost-effective way to retrieve Italian records is to go there yourself – only if you are fluent in native Italian as well as Italian bureaucracy – or to hire an expert who has experience working with the comune you need. 

As I stated in Part 1, it took Futura Italian Citizenship about 10 days to secure my GGF’s birth and marriage records from the late 1800s from a comune in the northern Italian region of Veneto. 

Futura Italian Citizenship offers Italian record services for those applying at consulates in the US as well, so if you need records from Italy, I cannot recommend Daniel enough. 

But, there are many experts in Italy that can help.

Acquiring residency in Italy for citizenship by descent

As I stated in Part 1, by October 2022, and 1-year after starting my journey to recognition of Italian citizenship by descent, I was finally ready for the move to Italy.

After a few setbacks, such as the sudden national election for a new Italian prime minister which stole the total focus of all the comune offices, and a flash flood in the comune where Daniel had originally secured an apartment for me, I moved to Italy in November. 

It was a small, but average in size, comune in the Marche region of Italy. As I stated above, it has a population of approximately 10,000 residents and a comune staff of 3 – a very typical Italian comune. 

The comune-level process transpires in steps – each of which is equally critically important and as legally required as the others.

These steps are what gets audited, randomly and routinely, by the federal Italian government due to the 2017 scandal.

The legal and central steps of the process can be broken down as:

  1. Codice Fiscale
  2. Residency
  3. Submission of JS document package
  4. Recognition

For those not familiar with the 2017 citizenship by descent scandal, failures and abuses – fueled by corruption both of public officials and so-called citizenship services – of the residency step is what was at issue.

It resulted in thousands of people having their Italian citizenship revoked. 

Now, bear in mind that it is not really known whether the people who had their citizenship revoked actually knew whether or not they were involved in a scam and whether or not they understood the legality of residency for the process.

But, it doesn’t matter, as in the end, their citizenship was gained via an illegal process, and thus, it never occurred. 

And now, the Italian government conducts, randomly, audits of all the steps, but most importantly the residency step, to ensure that it fully and completely satisfies the law.

So you have to ensure you use a credible citizenship expert, who is based exclusively in Italy and deals professionally with the comune personally on a daily basis and knows, front and back, the current legal requirements IN PRACTICE not just theory, of the JS law.

If you don’t use such an expert, it is you that loses, and BTW, your service fee is non-refundable – period.

To help you better understand these steps, I will give you a general breakdown. This is purely based upon my experience, asking for insight from the appropriate people along the way,  and my background in law. 

This is not legal advice or legal guidance.

Step 1 – Acquiring a codice fiscale

Steps 1 and 2 basically run together as you are in the middle of conducting them at the same time. I consider getting your codice fiscale as step 1 simply because you need to completely and legally fulfill the step before you can get residency.

To get a codice fiscale, you need to make an appointment at the Agenzia delle Entrate – or Italy’s version of the IRS – that has jurisdiction within the region you have residency.

As you don’t have residency at this point, you can use whichever office is closest to you and in which you can get the earliest appointment.

Appointments must be made via their scheduling app – that is the only way. And they only offer morning appointments. 

In my situation, I had to travel nearly an hour away as that was the first appointment available in an office that was remotely close to me. I arrived on a Wednesday and got my codice fiscale on Friday.

The actual process only requires about 30 minutes of paperwork and the codice fiscale is issued to you. 

Futura Italian Citizenship set everything up, drove me to the appointment, and did all the talking – as the codice fiscale is a part of the citizenship service due to the fact that it is a legal requirement for the process. 

I only needed to be present, provide my passport, and sign the paperwork.

You can run into officials at these offices who simply do not fully understand the law themselves or are so anti-immigration that they do not want to deal with anyone who is not an Italian citizen.

However, that is illegal, and unless you have a citizenship expert with you, who knows the law and can speak fluent Italian as well as navigate the bureaucratic talk, getting your codice fiscale can be extremely difficult.

If you do not schedule an appointment via the app and simply show up, they will probably go through the motions with you, but you will simply be thrown onto the pile of others who think they do not have to follow the rules either.

Don’t expect to have the proper process applied to you if you don’t follow the proper process when dealing with them – Welcome to Italy! 

With the proper expert though, as in my case, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or so. 

The codice fiscale is an Italian tax identification number – sort of like a US social security number. It is used for many things and is a requirement for all Italian citizens to have. 

When I signed up at a local gym for a 3-month membership to use during my stay, I had to provide it for the medical coverage aspect of their contract. 

But, most importantly, your codice fiscale must be on your lease before it can be registered with the comune and police.

And you will need to provide your codice fiscale to the comune at the recognition step or you cannot be entered in the system as a citizen. 

If an audit identifies that you signed a lease or were entered into the system without a codice fiscale, your citizenship will likely be revoked. 

Step 2 – Officially gaining residency

While getting your codice fiscale is accomplished nearly immediately after arrival, residency takes several weeks.

The very first legal step – that is absolutely a requirement, there are no exceptions – is signing the lease for your apartment. 

The lease must be what is called a contratto per uso transitorio or a contract for temporary use. 

This is very important to understand.

Italy’s rental economy is vastly different from any market in the United States. 

Italy has 4 rental contract options – 2 short-term and 2 long-term:

  • Contratto per uso transitorio – short-term temporary contract – but this form of ‘temporary’ legally means that while you will be a resident of the comune, you only plan to rent that specific apartment between 1 – 18 months.
  • Contratto per uso turistico – short-term as a vacation rental – this ‘temporary’ legally means that the person does not intend to gain residency in that comune – they are merely tourists. 
  • Contratto di locazione a canone libero – long-term contract commonly called a 4+4 as the initial term is 4 years and can be renewed for another 4 years & the landlord gets to determine what the rent will be, but once decided it’s for the 8 years.
  • Contratto di locazione a tariffa concordata – long-term contract known as a 3+2; the initial term is 3 years – ability to extend 2 years; the rental price must be agreed to between both you and the landlord and must receive the comune’s approval.

The actual name of the lease may change a bit from region to region. My lease was actually entitled Contratto di Locazione Ad Uso Abitatavo Transitorio – which translates to: lease agreement for temporary residential use. 

The important thing is that the lease makes it very clear that its function and purpose are for residency. The word ‘turistico’ should be absolutely nowhere. The lease must define your legal residency status in that comune.

If you actually intend to live for 3 or 4 years in that comune, then you could get one of the long term contracts. 

However, if you are only intending to remain there for the citizenship by descent process, there is only 1 legal option – the contratto per uso transitorio.

Again, there are absolutely no exceptions to this fact.

Under no circumstances or in any situation is a vacation rental or any other form of temporary accommodation whose primary registered legal business purpose and function is the tourism industry legally acceptable for the JS process.

This includes AirBnBs, VRBOs, hotels, bed and breakfasts, etc.

Those accommodations will not pass an audit. 

Only real and actual apartments or houses can legally enter into a contratto per uso transitorio and thus only real and actual apartments or houses can be used for the process. 

A good rule to remember is this. If a real estate agent is not factoring into the accommodation and lease – 🚩 RED FLAGS 🚩 – it’s as simple as that. 

Once you and the landlord sign the lease, a real estate agent takes the lease to the local police station and registers the lease with them. 

A tourist lease is also registered with the police, as this is standard procedure throughout Europe – even for hotels. At midnight every night, hotels report all check-ins and check-outs to the local police.

Simply because you believe your lease was registered with the police is not good enough. It must correctly and legally register your purpose for the stay as being a resident, not a tourist. 

Registering the lease with the police is an absolute mandatory legal requirement as it officially registers why you are there – either as a long-term resident, short-term resident, or as a tourist. 

Once the lease is registered with the police, you can then make an appointment with the comune to officially apply for residency.

Again, in my case, Daniel made the appointment, did all the talking, provided all the paperwork, and proof of the registered lease. 

I simply had to be there, provide my passport, and sign the paperwork.

An important note at this point – be sure to fly directly to Italy and not through any other EU country first. 

At the residency step, the comune official needs to see the Italian border stamp on your passport for your official date of entry. If you enter through another EU country, Spain for example, then Spain stamps your passport and not Italy. 

Once the comune paperwork is signed and stamped, the comune official then sends it back to the local police for residency verification.

This requires the police to physically come to your apartment or house to see that you are actually living there, as well as verify the type of accommodation it is – a bed and breakfast vs an actual apartment for example.

In some comunes, all leases invoke the verification and in others, the tourist lease will not invoke the verification.

The police have 45 days to complete their verification, but normally it doesn’t take that long.  

If the police never physically come to your accommodation in that 45-day period, then you were – very probably – registered as a tourist. 

Once all of this is complete, you are legally a resident of the comune and – by default – Italy. 

This step – in its entirety –  is critically important, not only as it is a legal requirement of the JS process, but, as I explained above, the comune only deals with residents. 

If you are not a resident of that comune, the comune legally lacks the authority or jurisdiction to do anything for you. The fact that the comune official did not honestly know how you were registered with the police does not alter the situation. 

The official never had the authority or jurisdiction to conduct your citizenship process, recognize your citizenship, or add you to the system.

My timeline for Steps 1 & 2:

  1. November 16 Wednesday – arrived in Italy
  2. November 18 Friday – codice fiscale and finalized lease
  3. November 21 Monday – lease registered with police
  4. November 30 Wednesday – residency appointment with comune
  5. December 14 Wednesday – police verified my residence

Thus, it took nearly a month for me to gain residency. 

Step 3 – Submission of the JS document package to the comune

Once the police verification was complete, I was now able to get an appointment with the comune official to submit my document package for citizenship by descent.

Futura Italian Citizenship was already in possession of my completed document package:

  • US records with apostilles [births, marriages, CONE]
  • Translations
  • Court certifications
  • LIRA’s Italian records [birth and marriage]

Daniel called the comune official and scheduled the appointment. 

Because of the holidays and related issues, my appointment was not until early January 2023.

When you go to submit your document package, you need to first stop at the local tobacco store [tabbachi] and purchase what is called a marca da bollo.

The marca da bollo is a tax stamp that circumvents the fact that you can’t be taxed for a service. Since you cannot be taxed, you first go to a different place, pay the tax, and get the marca da bollo as a receipt for the payment.

You then present the marca da bollo with the document package to the comune. 

For submitting the document package and commencing the citizenship by descent process the ‘tax’ was 16 euros [approximately $20].

It wasn’t until I had submitted my document package that the comune official informed us that he wanted an additional document – and this is good for everyone to know.

To get the codice fiscale and for the residency process, you will use your US passport as identification. Your passport will be the controlling document and thus your name is how it is stated on your passport. 

However, for the citizenship by descent process, it is your birth certificate that is the controlling identity document.

If your name does not EXACTLY match on those 2 documents, then they do not identify the same person. 

Meaning, the person who has residency in the comune is not the same person who is applying for citizenship. 

And again, remember, the comune only has the legal authority to work with residents.  

In the US, we rarely use our middle names for anything, and that includes identity documents like driver’s licenses and passports.

Thus, while my birth certificate includes my middle name, my US passport does not – it is simply my first and last name. 

As middle names are not commonly used in Italy, it is not a simple discrepancy, it is an entirely different name. 

So, I had to get an OATS form from the US consulate verifying that the 2 names do in fact identify the same person – me.

OATS stands for One And The Same – these different names identify one and the same person. 

That took an entire day, as many comunes, including this one, are not very well connected to the rest of Italy. So getting to the consulate can be an all day adventure – as it was for me.

And you need to schedule an appointment with the US consulate, so you have to work off their availability – which in traditional Italian style – they only offer appointments up to 11 am.

The OATS will cost $50 [consulate fee] plus whatever else to get the entire thing done. The OATS will only take a few minutes once you are at the consulate. The entire process can be completed in one day.

Thankfully, the comune official began the process of verifying my line while I was getting the OATS form. I was able to submit the OATS to him before the end of the week. 

The comune official first must verify the viability of the line you are claiming citizenship through.

This is accomplished essentially by reading the documents you submit to establish the fact that you meet both the requirements of descent and the legal requirements for the paperwork.

After that is verified, the comune official sends out the non-renuncia emails to the relevant US consulates – in my case, there were only 2: Detroit and Philadelphia.

Non-renuncia simply means the consulate has no record that any of your in-line ancestors – up to and including yourself – went into a consulate and submitted the official paperwork to renounce Italian citizenship.

It does not matter what your not-in-line ancestors may have or not have done. 

The good news is, if the comune sends out those emails, then the only thing standing between you and your Italian citizenship is the consulate replies.

The bad news is, waiting for those replies is typically the longest part of the process.

Detroit is consistently among the quickest to reply and usually takes just around 2 weeks.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, is typically among the slowest to reply and the comune official had to send out a second email at the 1-month mark, which prompted a reply the following week.

My Step 3 timeline:

  1. January 10 Tuesday – document package submitted
  2. January 16 Monday – line verified, OATS, emails sent
  3. February 3 Friday – Detroit responded
  4. February 14 Tuesday – 90-day mark, PSG submitted 
  5. February 17 Friday – second Philly email sent
  6. February 22 Wednesday – Philly responded – RECOGNITION
  7. February 28 Tuesday – Citizenship ceremony

The total time from document submission to recognition was 43 days.

Step 4 – Recognition ceremony

The phrase, recognition ceremony or citizenship ceremony, is commonly used in social media posts once someone gets their citizenship recognized.

It’s possible, I guess, that some comunes do hold an actual ceremony, but in my experience, the word ceremony is merely ceremonial.

Once the consulate in Philadelphia sent the good news, the comune official sent Daniel a text message informing him of their response and asking us to come to the comune office the following day – which was Thursday, February 23.

At the comune office, I signed paperwork essentially agreeing with the recognition decision and my intentional and knowledgeable decision to move forward to be registered as an Italian citizen.

That takes all of 10 minutes, and then the official told us to return the following week for the actual ‘ceremony’, as the official needed to complete and issue my Italian birth record and other documentation.

Prior to the ceremony, I went to a local photography studio to get 4 passport photos taken, as you need those for your national identity card as well. 

We returned the following week, on Tuesday, February 28th, I was issued my birth record and I provided fingerprints and was entered into the system as an Italian citizen.

The entire process took about 30 to 45 minutes. The comune office provided paperwork as a temporary ID card, as it takes a week for the real card to arrive. 

I went back the following week and picked up my Italian national identity card and the process was officially over!

I had been in Italy for a total of 98 days.

Total costs

The total costs involved with the entire process was approximately $12,000.

A general breakdown looks like this:

  • Vital Records US & Italy [some were free]
  • JS Service
  • Rent was 500 euros a month and totalled 1875 euros / approx. $2100
  • Real estate agent fee was 500 euros / approx. $550
  • Bills – electric/water/gas-heat totalled 2100 euros / approx. $2350
  • Translations & Certifications were 425 euros / approx. $475
  • Apostilles
  • International Mail
  • Cost-of-Living for me was approx. $150 a week [frugal living, not eating out but cooking my own meals, etc.]
  • OATS form
  • PSG application fees
  • Marca de Bollos
  • Plane tickets

Now, there is a lot more to applying in Italy than just the actual citizenship by descent process. And a lot more to the entire JS process than simply getting your citizenship recognized – yep, it doesn’t end there!

Once recognized, there are things such as dealing with AIRE, getting your Italian passport, and enrolling in SPID [mandatory beginning March 2023] to work on.

Also, living in a small Italian comune can be challenging for some people coming from the United States.

If you would like more insight about things – things that I think are good to know and how to prepare for that part of the adventure, this blog will be populated with more articles about the entire citizenship by descent process, from a first-hand account.

Also, please comment below about anything you have to say or add, including things you would like me to address. 

For complete transparency, no product or service mentioned in this article, including Daniel Carrano and Futura Italian Citizenship, compensate me in any way, shape, or form for mentioning them.

My recommendations are my own and based purely upon my first-hand account using the services.

Nothing in my blog is intended to be used as legal guidance or legal advice. Everything is based on my firsthand accounts, experiences, and research.

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