According to the US State Department’s website, federal law does not mention dual citizenship or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. And luckily, US citizens who are granted citizenship of another country do not risk losing their US citizenship. This was not always the case, however. Dual citizenship was banned in the United States until 1967, when the Supreme Court struck down laws forbidding it.
Today, the US government does not advocate for or approve of dual citizenship; it simply tolerates it. For example, candidates for U.S. citizenship through naturalization must verbally renounce their previous citizenship at the United States naturalization ceremony. However, the candidates are not legally obligated to give up their citizenship; there are no known cases of the United States forcing newly naturalized U.S. citizens to formally renounce their citizenship or their native country. Michael Wildes, a New York-based immigration attorney who has represented high-profile clients, notes that the naturalization oath simply means that naturalized citizens are obligated to choose the United States if ever faced with a choice of allegiance to the US or a different country.
I mention the US government’s attitude towards dual citizenship because it is helpful to be aware of it when applying for dual citizenship. This attitude is apparent in requesting the vital records and US naturalization records of Italian ancestors that are necessary for the application of Italian dual citizenship. Although the US and state offices, including USCIS, comply with requests for US documents needed for the purpose of applying for dual citizenship, it is an interesting dynamic because we cannot cite any laws allowing or prohibiting dual citizenship. Thankfully, US citizens are typically entitled to request copies of their own vital records, as well as the documents of certain family members.
Interestingly, US passports now talk about dual citizenship in a neutral way that neither encourages nor prohibits US citizens from holding more than one passport.
The United States does not formally or officially recognize or prohibit dual citizenship. With that said, eligible United States citizens of Italian descent should feel free to apply for dual citizenship with Italy. It is difficult to estimate the number of Americans who hold dual citizenship. In 2012, CNN estimated that the total number (i.e. with all Countries that allow dual citizenship) was “likely well over 1 million… and probably several times that.” So if you are thinking of applying for dual citizenship with Italy, you are certainly not alone in that regard. Feel free to enjoy the benefits that come with dual citizenship!