Italian citizenship is granted by birth through the paternal line, with no limit on the number of generations, or through the maternal line for individuals born after January 1, 1948. This is referred to as citizenship by descent, jus sanguinis.
If you were born in the United States (or in any other country where citizenship is acquired by birth), and any one of the situations listed below pertains to you, you could be eligible to apply for recognition of Italian citizenship by descent.
Your father was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth (i.e. was not a citizen of the US or another country when you were born);
Your mother was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth (was not yet a citizen of the US and you were born after January 1, 1948);
Your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen, your father was born in the US or a country other than Italy, and your paternal grandfather was still an Italian citizen at the time of his birth;
Your maternal grandfather was an Italian citizen, your mother was born in the US or a country other than Italy, and your maternal grandfather was still an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, and you were born after January 1, 1948;
Your paternal or maternal great-grandfather was an Italian citizen, your paternal or maternal grandparent was born in the US or a country other than Italy, and your paternal or maternal great-grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your grandparent’s birth.
Additional requirements for Italian citizenship by descent:
- The Italian ancestor was alive at the time of the unification of Italy which took place on March 17, 1861.
- Your Italian ancestor did not naturalize (i.e. received citizenship) in the U.S. prior to June 14, 1912
- If your Italian ancestor naturalized it must have taken place after the birth of the next person in the ascendancy. For example, if your great-grandfather emigrated to the U.S. and naturalized after the birth of your paternal grandfather, you would be eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by descent as long as the naturalization took place after June 14, 1912
- If your Italian ancestor never naturalized you must prove this by providing a certificate of non-existence of naturalization records from USCIS and either a copy of the ancestor’s alien file or a certified census report indicating non-US citizenship status.
- If your Italian ancestor was a woman born before January 1, 1948, she can only transfer Italian citizenship to her children born after 1/1/48 and to their descendants. Exceptions to this law can only be obtained through a case presented at the Civil Court in Rome.
- If your Italian ancestor was born in the following regions, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, or Trentino Alto-Adige, in order to apply for Italian citizenship, you must prove that the ancestor left Italy after July 16th, 1920.
- Minor children who were born in Italy and emigrated to the US with their parents who received “derivative citizenship” upon the U.S. naturalization of a parent lost their Italian citizenship and cannot transmit it to their descendants.
Individuals interested in Italian citizenship by descent must apply at the Italian Consulate that has jurisdiction over their place of legal residence (unless a court case is needed as in #5 above). Each Italian consulate has slightly different procedures regarding required documents and translations, appointment scheduling, and waiting times. However, the legal criterion for granting Italian Citizenship by descent is the same. Additionally, individuals can apply for Italian citizenship by descent in Italy if they have established legal residency in an Italian Municipality.
We provide a phone consultation service to review your case, verify your eligibility to apply for Italian citizenship by descent and provide you with the specific document and translation requirements of the Italian Consulate Jurisdiction in which you reside.
The fee for the 1-hour phone consultation is $120.00. If you would like more information on this service please go to our phone consultation page, otherwise click here to Schedule Your Appointment today!
View the steps for preparing for Italian Citizenship by Descent