US Born Italian Hertiage
July 8, 2008 10:26 AM   Subscribe

How does a US citizen with an Italian heritage get an Italian Passport?

My wife is Italian and her grandfather came to the US via Ellis Island. Her grandfather and her father never renounced their Italian citizenship and we know she is eligible for her passport/citizenship. We have been in contact with a company in Italy for over a year that specializes in doing the research for you.

Unfortunately, they have stopped contacting us and we cannot seem to contact them. Has anyone gone through this process before? If you have not gone through it but might have some advice we would be very grateful.

Some additional info:
1) We have all the names of her family
2) We don’t have marriage or birth certificates yet (working on that)
3) She has family living in Italy
4) We are willing to travel there before we get the passport if that’s what it takes.

posted by birdlips to Law & Government (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Citizenship is different than just a passport, but guessing you know that already.

I'd drop a line to your nearest Italian Consulate. (Link is to a PDF).

There really should be able to help you out.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:37 AM on July 8, 2008

There was a post about dual citizenships on the blue last month, some relevant links there.
posted by asterisk at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2008

Here's a good description of the process. She'll need to know her grandfather's birthplace to get the birth certificate -- or at least work out which authority looks after the paperwork for where he was born. She'll also need his naturalization certificate, and that may help identify the birthplace if you don't already know it.

It shouldn't require a visit across if you can get a request sent in Italian to the right place: the nearest consulate does the bureaucracy. You also need Italian translations for US vital records (birth/marriage certs along the paternal line) and an apostille (authentication for overseas use) from the relevant state's Secretary of State.
posted by holgate at 11:28 AM on July 8, 2008

I've recently applied. Basically, all you need are the required documents (translated into Italian) and Apostilles for all of the documents. You may have to have corrections made to documents (spellings, dates) for consistency--follow the process given by whomever issued the documents. Getting all of this takes a very long time (and is quite expensive). Approx: $82 per document will be spent: $45 (translation) + $15 (apostille) + $22 (cert)

The nearest consulate can refer you to a local official translator or you can use one of the services found via google.

Once you get it all together, you apply and wait. I've heard it takes from 3 months to a year if it all works out. Then, you get citizenship and can apply for a passport. Until then, you are not considered a citizen.

I spoke with these folks and they were helpful and friendly. I got my Italian birth certs from another company a long time ago and don't remember which one.

For the Apostille, again, just google for how to get an apostile for a document in the state from which your document was retrieved. If you're near the office, you just go in, pay about $15 per document and they attach an apostille.

Traveling there is likely not necessary. There are plenty of services that should help you find the birth certs you need (if the one you used fails to come through).

And as far as contacting the consulate... I think its a good idea to meet with them, but they are unlikely to be very helpful.
posted by verevi at 11:32 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

After a recent AskMe thread about EU citizenship I discovered I might be eligible, as my great-great-grandfather was born in Italy. Still doing the legwork to find naturalization dates etc. In the course of my googling I found these forums, both of which were immensely helpful:

Italian Dual Citizenship Forum
Italian Geneology Forum (currently down it looks like)

For those who may not be familiar with the process, Italy has a law called jure sanguinis: citizenship by blood descent. Italian citizenship was lost if the citizen naturalized in a new country (unless it happened after 1992 I think), but if the citizen's child was born before the citizen naturalized, then the child was born an Italian citizen and may have transmitted this citizenship to his descendants (unless the child is a woman and her children were born before 1950-something). As you might guess it's rather complicated, and proving your citizenship requires birth, death, and marriage certificates going all the way back to your original Italian ancestor, but the upshot - Italian citizenship and an EU passport that lets you and your family live and work anywhere in Europe - makes it quite worthwhile.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2008

This is easier if you are excellent at a sport and good enough to qualify for the national team. A friend of my family spent several years in the 70s and 80s playing for the Italian national Baseball team. He qualified under his grandparents.
posted by charlesv at 11:50 AM on July 8, 2008

(heh...PercussivePaul, this reminds me that I've owed you an email on this topic! Sorry to have been remiss.)

My boyfriend and I have just started this process for him. Here's another rundown of the steps, with some helpful links (such as sample letters). Here's a blog from someone showing how long each step has taken.

As others have noted, there's really nothing to be done till you track down all the relevant documents... a visit to Italy shouldn't be necessary (unless it's to expedite getting documents) and a visit to the consulate at this point isn't going to speed anything up; they don't really have a role to play until all the documents/translations/apostilles are in hand and she makes her formal application.

The length of processing the citizenship application itself will vary, depending in part on which consulate you need to apply through (based on where you live); some consulates take more than a year (due to backlogs, etc.), while others can take just a few months.
posted by scody at 12:13 PM on July 8, 2008

Oh, and as mentioned upthread, acquiring all the necessary paperwork can get expensive. If your wife has any siblings (or cousins who also qualify -- i.e., they don't descend through a maternal line before 1948), you could see if they'd be willing to share in the costs, since they would also be able to apply for citizenship along with your wife.
posted by scody at 12:23 PM on July 8, 2008

Here is another blog about the process.

It is interesting that you are posting this...I've been considering doing this process myself (great grandfather and great grandmother were born in Italy). Please keep in touch if you have any great advice to share that isn't covered in these posts. Good luck to you.
posted by fieldtrip at 4:01 PM on July 8, 2008

First step is to contact your local Italian consulate. You can only apply at the consulate serving your home address, which is a darned shame because the timelines vary tremendously. In San Francisco, it takes over a year just to get your initial appointment for submitting your documents, is currently taking up to 3 years more to get the paperwork approval. Whereas several people have reported being able to do walk-ins at the Boston office and get their passport within a few months after. So find out what your consulate's current turnaround time is, and how long that allows you to gather all the required documents.

List of documents required for proving citizenship through paternal grandfather.

Blog of someone who's been working on it for 3 years through SF. Blog of someone who finished in less than 18 months through Boston.

More info here, here, and here.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:55 PM on July 8, 2008

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