Italian Citizenship by Descent – 2023
Italy is one of only a handful of European Union countries that provide citizenship as a blood right – jure sanguinis – and this is my journey to recognition using the citizenship by descent process in Italy in 2023.
For those who want nothing more than straightforward facts and chronology, I provide that summary in this article – Italian Citizenship by Descent – Applying in Italy A concise narrative of the jure sanguinis process in 2023.
For those who want to know more about the entire process, protecting yourself and your Italian citizenship from future audits, and some idea of what living in a small comune in Italy is really like, this article and the rest of this blog are for you.
As Italian Americans, it goes without saying how important family is to everything.
And the citizenship by descent process is all about connecting with your family’s legacy as a way to move into your future through the preservation of the past.
As for JS / Italian citizenship services, it cannot be stressed enough that you absolutely must rely only on an expert who lives in Italy and personally interacts with the comune officials daily.
To rely on anyone living in the US is entrusting your future to an absolute stranger whose entire understanding of Italy is second-hand.
To be honest, the US-based [so-called] experts are simply one degree less ignorant of this entire process than you are. There are no exceptions to that fact.
Things can change quickly, and comune officials can leave office or be replaced. They can become sick, and someone else in the office can take over for them.
By the time a US-based service has a remote possibility of measuring up to the changes, it will be too late for you. But more on that later.
Due to the amount of information an in-depth narrative requires, I have divided this article into parts.
In Part 1 – a more in-depth narrative about my journey through the Italian citizenship by descent process in 2022 – 2023, from making the decision to moving to Italy, and ultimately achieving my dream of having US-Italian dual citizenship and an EU passport.
All’inizio – learning about Italy’s citizenship by descent process
Knowing something is achievable is only a hint of success.
Bringing that something into realization is the true art of success.
And to do that often requires relying on others.
With that, I must acknowledge and thank the following people, for without their assistance, I would not have been able to realize my dream –
- My brother Matt was my US-based point man for everything and none of this would have been thinkable without his help
- Daniel Carrano and Futura Italian Citizenship
I have always known about my heritage as an Italian American – we were raised in it.
My entire family gathering for Sunday spaghetti dinners at nonna’s is among my fondest childhood memories.
But life goes on, and our youth metamorphizes into the being we spend the bulk of our lives as.
The further we grow away from our origin point, the less impact our heritage seems to have on our futures.
The summer of 2021, while on assignment in Europe [where I remained], I was wandering through Vatican City in absolute awe of the presence of God and how man – with so much astonishing beauty – spent centuries trying to reflect that presence on Earth.
It was then that I overheard a family – obviously Americans – talking about how they had their grandparents to thank for their ability to live in Rome amongst all of the indescribable magnificence.
As living in Rome had always been a dream of mine and my grandfather had been born and emigrated from Italy, this piqued my interest.
I had never considered the possibility that my heritage created a real connection to Italy – most likely because my grandfather was somewhat opposed to that sort of thinking.
No one in the family even spoke Italian, as my grandfather prohibited it. He believed speaking Italian would subject us to being treated as immigrants.
I’m guessing for those Italian Americans who grew up in New York City, it was probably a different story. But, in other parts of America, I can believe it would have been an issue, especially around the World War 2 era.
Lest we forget, it wasn’t only Japanese Americans that the US government sent to America’s concentration camps – it was Italian Americans as well. Though, Japanese Americans were the vast majority of those interned in the US camps.
My father was born in the aftermath of World War 2, in 1948. His father died roughly a decade later. So, it’s not difficult to conceive how those experiences may have impacted how Italian immigrants raised children in mid-20th century America.
In any event, it was that overheard conversation that led me down the Google rabbit hole, that Italian citizenship by descent, can become.
My Italian heritage
My father’s bloodline originates from two completely different regions in Italy.
My grandfather, Rocco, comes from a small comune east of Rome. He was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States in 1916 at either 17 or 18 years of age. He came alone.
As with nearly all Italian immigrants, he entered via Ellis Island but went directly to Pennsylvania where he knew someone. He spent his entire life there, with the singular exception of military service.
Relatively shortly after his arrival, he was put into military service for the United States in World War 1 – sent to France.
Following his exit from the military, in 1918, the US government enacted a new naturalization law for those who served during the war. Simply, they only needed to apply for citizenship, and it would be automatically granted as a thank-you for your service.
That is how my grandfather became a US citizen less than 3 years after he arrived in the US.
That is among the reasons why having any claim to Italian citizenship never entered any of our minds.
As one of my degrees is in the area of the law, and having done some legal work in immigration law and gaining a familiarity with most of its evolution, I knew that immigrants were first required to satisfy 2 ‘presence prongs’ to be eligible for naturalization –
- They must have been legally in the US for at least 5 years, AND
- They must have legally resided in the state in which they are applying for at least 1 year
While doing my research, I found a lot of so-called experts commenting that this was not written in stone – and they are correct — It was written in law, period.
It was a legal fact, and only if there was some real legal exception [such as the WW1 exception] or form of deception on behalf of the immigrant, was it never not followed.
In any event, my grandfather died when my father was only 14, and my father was number 10 of 10 kids, so there was never any connection between me and my grandfather.
I only knew that he –
- Came to the US at 17 or 18
- Immediately naturalized
- Met and married my grandmother [all between 1916 – 1920]
- Died when my dad was still young
My grandfather felt that his family was all born in the United States, and we should all be Americans – his view.
My grandmother was a different story.
Elizabeth was born in the United States. Her parents had come from Italy only a few years before her birth.
My great-grandparents – on my dad’s maternal side – come from a small comune in the northeast corner of Italy, near the border with Austria.
My great-grandparents entered the United States, via Ellis Island, and ended up in Ohio.
Because Elizabeth was born in a very small Ohio town in 1904, the possibility that she was Italian never entered anyone’s mind – including her own.
Rocco and Elizabeth met somewhere between 1918 and 1920, which is when they married. A few months later, their first kid was born.
Between 1920 and 1948, they would have 10 kids, with my dad being the youngest.
Conducting some basic research about my family and with my newfound Google IQ on Italian law, I was able to identify that my grandmother was a viable line of descent.
My great-grandfather had not been in the US long enough to naturalize before my grandmother was born, and my father was born in 1948 – so all the important boxes were checked.
Italian citizenship had descended.
My document search to apply for Italian citizenship by descent
Now that my research had shown me a viable line to use for citizenship by descent – GGF – GM – F – Me – it was time to try and collect the necessary documents.
Bearing in mind that I live in Europe, this was more of a challenge than it sounds. This is also why without my brother involved, I would never had stood a chance at realizing this dream.
In the end, I would need less than what I collected, but I set out to collect the following 9 documents –
- GGF death – Ohio
- GGM death – Ohio
- GM birth – Ohio
- GM / GF marriage – PA
- GM death – PA
- Father birth – PA
- Father marriage – PA
- My birth – PA
- CONE / USCIS
All of the state documents originated from only two US states – both of which are Open Records states.
The USCIS, of course, is federal.
It seemed very straightforward, but early on, the two biggest bumps in the road became apparent.
First, I live in Europe, and everything I needed to do required my brother to act as my point man for receiving and mailing things.
Secondly, the small Ohio town where my GM was born, well to put it simplistically, doesn’t really exist any longer.
All of its historical documents, which are what 1904 birth records are considered, were handed over to the control of the county. The county then placed them into various storage facilities without a very good record-keeping system.
So, it wasn’t exactly easy to know what they had and where it was. And for many months, the individual that I was dealing with, well apparently, wasn’t interested in doing much to figure it out.
Now, 7 of the 8 state documents I needed were very easy to get – they were not really that old.
My great-grandparents both died in the middle of the 20th century.
My father was born in 1948 and married in the ’70s, and my GM died in the ’80s.
It was only my GM’s birth, which was in 1904, that was considered a historic document and thus archived.
I began requesting documents around Halloween of 2021, and by the end of the year, I had all the state records except my GM’s birth record.
For the Pennsylvania records, I utilized:
- The official Pa My Certificates site for birth & death records
- The official specific county sites for marriage records
For Ohio records, I utilized:
- Vitalchek for death records
- I had to communicate directly with the county courthouse for my GM’s birth record
And, of course, I ordered the USCIS Index Search via the official federal site. Though I only did this as I was ignorant at the time about the fact that I didn’t need to conduct an Index Search.
The USCIS Index Search is necessary to identify whether and when your LIRA [Last Italian-born Relative Alive – in my case, my GGF] naturalized and became a US citizen.
However, if your LIRA did not go through that process, then you only need a CONE, which can be ordered directly.
This is what I eventually did upon learning that the USCIS Index Search is not a required document or step, only certified copies of naturalization documents or a CONE are necessary.
But, to highlight this point, if your LIRA could have naturalized, then you do need to conduct the USCIS Index Search to identify the correct history of your LIRA.
It was not relevant if my LIRA had naturalized at all in his life, only if he naturalized before my GM’s birth was relevant, and that was impossible.
So, as it was not legally possible for my LIRA to have naturalized before my GM’s birth, I ordered the CONE directly about 6 months after ordering the Index Search.
By May of 2022, I had all the documents – state vitals and the CONE – except for one, my GM’s birth record, which was turning into a nightmare.
The problem wasn’t the actual record, but locating a court employee that would do the work and find it for me.
In July of 2022, I happened to be at a hotel in Greece that offered free international calling and I was able to spend an entire week making phone calls. Finally, I connected with a woman who was very willing to assist me.
By mid-August, my GM’s birth record had been mailed to my brother, and the document collection was finalized.
The CONE had already been sent out for its apostille and in September, the CONE came back just as my brother was mailing out all the state records for their apostilles.
The state apostilles only took a couple of weeks to get back. By mid-October, my document package was complete, and I only needed translations and certifications.
Also in October 2022, the USCIS Index Search came back completed – though it was completely irrelevant at that time. And, I started researching JS services to use in Italy.
The citizenship by descent process switches to Italy
I primarily used Facebook groups for researching JS services for applying in Italy. This is the best use of those groups – in my experience.
I found a few that sounded promising to me, but ultimately, based on my:
- Background in the law
- My knowledge of European legal procedures
- My knowledge of what dealing with government officials requires in Europe
- Seeing what some people were saying their service provider had done for them in their Recognition posts – most commonly a complete misunderstanding of how the residency requirement needed to be legally met
It became very obvious to me that Daniel Carrano was the best there was in Italy.
I connected with Daniel, initially by email and then using WhatsApp.
We had several online meetings, and he informed me to whom to mail my document package for translations and certifications.
Her name is Natalia Bertelli, and I can personally attest to the fact that her service and the resulting product were held in high regard by government officials. She is an expert in the Italian citizenship by descent process, so she knows exactly what needs to be done.
Her prices may be a bit on the higher end, but quality and assurance always come at a premium.
I simply was not willing to leave my future and dream to the lowest bidder on some freelancing platform and hoped an Italian judge would accept the final product for certification.
Having been a freelancer for several years, and having personal and professional knowledge of those platforms [specifically having met many of the freelancers on them] – I chose to use a real-life expert.
An expert with real-life credentials and both personal and professional experience in the real world of Italy’s citizenship by descent process and personally working with Italy’s judges.
Once the translations and certifications were complete, Natalia sent them directly to Daniel.
While Natalia was working on my document package, Daniel made a few phone calls/emails and in about 10 days, he had my GGF’s birth record and marriage record to add to the document package.
Now, there are far too many reasons to list for why you must rely on a citizenship service that is based in Italy and works daily with the comune officials.
But, one of the most important reasons is this – with rare exceptions, documents are not going to be 100% perfect.
Some of these documents are well over a century old, and, through no real fault, they simply are not exact representations of people’s lives.
But, the purpose of the document trail is to recreate the actual representation of your ancestors’ lives up to yourself.
So, it requires personal knowledge of how each comune official approaches the citizenship by descent process to identify where the best comune for a client is for that client to conduct the process.
For example, let’s say that you cannot find a death record for an in-line ancestor. If you go to a comune where the official requires death records, you just ended your dream.
Death records from the United States are not required, and only some comune officials demand them to complete the full picture.
The only death record that is required, by law, is if your LIRA returned to Italy and died there – then you must obtain the Italian death record, along with your LIRA’s other Italian vital records.
In a case where you cannot find US death records, knowing which comune to use where death records are not necessary is the only way to realize your dream.
This requires an on-the-ground expert that works personally with these officials daily.
Not second-hand, oh don’t worry I talk with them on the phone every week, type of ‘expertise’.
This absolute fact simply cannot be stressed enough – which is why I keep returning to it.
I want my fellow paisanos to not only reconnect with their heritage, as I did, but do it correctly so that they are protected from scandals that you had no part in or knowledge of, but some service providers have been busted for.
And these providers are continuing to operate – which is obvious by some of the Recognition posts in the Facebook groups.
By the end of October 2022, 1-year after starting the process, I was ready for the move to Italy and officially starting the citizenship by descent process.
In Part 2, that is where I pick up the story, and I’ll go into:
- The steps that are required to be taken after arrival in Italy
- Background on the JS scandal and citizenship by descent auditing
- My timelines for each step
- A breakdown of total costs
There is still 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 – it’s the biggest step, but not the last one!
Once recognized, there are things such as possibly having to register 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, as it presents its own set of unique elements.
If you would like more insight about 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, specifically Daniel Carrano and Futura Italian Citizenship as well as Natalia Bertelli, compensate me in any way, shape, or form for mentioning them.
My recommendations are my own and based purely upon my first-hand account of 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.