Updated: Oct 3
Sitting in a French cafe in Quebec City some seven or eight years ago, my mind wandered to European vineyards, the suavamente of foreign accented men, and the charm that drips from every cobbled street corner of Italy. I wished I was in Europe.
A recent divorcee, I languished over the lack of foreign flavored men in my Florida town, and became resolved - I would simply need to find my new match abroad, and to do so I’d become an Italian Dual Citizen. I was going to become Italian, move to Italy, find myself a new ragazze and settle down again. How was I to achieve this? By “Jure Sanguinis”, of course, aka “by right of blood”.
By right of blood sounds like a sacrificial ceremony from the Game of Thrones or other medieval conjuring, however the reality is that it is a long time law, which provides foreigners access to citizenship in Italy through their lineage. It is through my bloodline, my ancestry, that I was able to tap into this whole new world of opportunity.
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The Prep Work in Getting Your Dual Citizenship with Italy
Go to your local Italian consulate website.
Before you do anything, read the website carefully to confirm if you are eligible for dual citizenship.
Keep in mind that the consulate may not be in your state, it may be in your region. You have to go to the consulate closest to your home address. Hope you're ready for some road trips, as all the appointments need to be in person.
Pro tip: It's not unreasonable at this point to check for citizenship appointments. They can be months or even years out, so making an appointment early and using it as your documentation deadline is a good idea.
Start gathering family facts.
By following the rules of Jure Sanguinis there are many layers of which paternal or maternal somebody you need to trace your lineage to. For me, it was my father’s grandparents. To start, it’s as easy as going to my local Italian consulate website and seeking out the documentation requirements. I made a thorough list and spreadsheet of to dos, and got to work.
I needed facts to start, so I contacted aunts and uncles, my father and others who could offer any detail on my Great, Great Grandparents. We have photos of Vincenzo and Maria hanging on my parents dining room wall. A young newly wedded couple, they were draped in lace and tails with faces looking to their futures (and at the camera) with solemnity. These two individuals, who I would never meet, changed my life forever.
Some tips: get a general idea of everyone's names, towns they lived in, and where the major (think vital records major) events happened. Some of this may be a guessing game. Use the internet to find public census records, ask family members what they remember, and do your research thoroughly.
Did your ancestors come through Ellis Island? Check out this super cool and useful website: https://www.statueofliberty.org/discover/passenger-ship-search/
Follow the instructions on what to gather from the consulate website. Each consulate is a little different, but if you struggle you can compare to other consulates in the US to try and piece it all together.
Generally speaking you need the following:
Birth, marriage and death records for you, your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents, stopping at the highest lineage line that you need to trace. Get specific on where you request these from - it could be the county clerk, the city clerk or the town clerk's office. For instance, Oyster Bay, New York town website versus the New York City website.
All records must typically be Certified Copies, NOT photocopies. You can request these through state vital records offices online and do not need to travel in person to obtain these.
Once received, most records need to go straight back to the vital records office to get something called an Apostille, another official stamp of approval. This is an internationally recognized adjudication (like a notary service) brought forth by the Hague convention.
If there were any divorces along the way, all that information also needs to be provided
Names, dates and places need to match on all documents (within reason)
Documentation must be formally translated. Hire a document translator for a small fee. Sometimes the consulate website will provide names and contact details for you.
USCIS Index search and Record Request (from the A-File number). You need proof of a "Nonexistence of Records", meaning the granddaddy helping you get this citizenship never became a US citizen himself (go double-check those eligibility requirements again!).
Some records may need to be requested from Italy. You must write to the proper vital records office (in the right town) and request this information in Italian. Use google translate if need be to draft the letter. This part of the process will require a leap of faith, some cash in an envelope, and foreign postage fees. Good luck!
Finally, after two long years of scouring New York archives and records, I completed gathering the required documentation. The road was long and frankly very arduous.
A hundred years ago records were manually written, names were often changed or spelled differently from form to form, and many people were illiterate. My Vincenzo went by so many variations of Vincent and even Anthony, I had a tough time nailing down the right person to the right dates.
Luckily a family member had kept records of many documents I needed - namely marriage, death and birth records. These vital records helped tremendously, but in other cases I had to go blind based on rumor.
Manila envelopes came and went from my mailbox as months turned into years of research and data capture. About $1000 later I was ready to make my appointment with the consulate in Miami to finalize the paperwork and become a citizen.
Make an Appointment
Make an appointment on the consulate website as soon as you feel you are getting close to done. The wait time can be months!
What to Expect at your Italian Consulate Appointment
The day came and as I slid my massive envelope of evidence under the glass window slot in the Miami waiting room, a woman calmly reviewed.
I was nervous - anything could go wrong - Vincent or Vincenzo may need to have the same name on every form - would I have to go get them officially changed? Were all the Italian translations that I paid someone to do accurate? Did I miss any tiny details? My heart pounded as she completed her review and looked up to me in reply.
“OK, good. Now you wait two years.”
What!? Two years? It took me two years to get here. “Two years for what?”, I asked anxiously. “Processing,” she replied. And so I waited.
Two years I waited until I received a casual email from the consulate that I was able to book an appointment to go get my Italian Passport in person. Appointments for both visits were hard to come by, so I booked them as soon as I knew I was ready. I felt like a winner that day. I was successful, just one more step to go.
One Last Appointment - Getting Your Passport!
I wore my silver Italian horn necklace, I slapped on lipstick and an off the shoulder blouse, determined to look as Italian as I could. This time I was invited past the waiting room and into the office of a fellow Italian. We chit chatted, exchanged stories of our ancestors, and within minutes my maroon Italian passport was created before my eyes. I walked out a proud dual citizen of Italy and America.
Perks of Using Your New Italian Passport
I understand that reading this article will probably send you running for the hills in fear of all the hard work, but trust me it is worth it. I had no idea when I got started on how to get my dual citizenship with Italy. I just had a dream of living abroad, finding an Italian man, and waving off the sunsets with a glass of red in hand, overlooking my vineyard. You know, normal dreams.
I never did use my passport to find an Italian man though, because I met a Spaniard first! Meeting him led me to actually open a lot of doors in Europe - not just in Italy.
I now own property in Spain because of my access to the EU. My dual citizenship allowed me to get an NIE - a special tax number in Spain - to buy a home, not to mention it allows me to jump all the lines at customs when flying in from the States.
One additional advantage is that as an EU citizen, I'm given medical coverage anywhere in Europe, and I can also live and work there. I even get discounts at tourist sites around Italy by being a citizen, and it is not necessary to get a VISA in places like Turkiye (Turkey), either.
I'm even eligible to vote in Italy and regularly receive voting paperwork in the mail.
With my hard work I got my daughter an Italian citizenship and even my parents, too! So for all the years that I proudly exclaimed in checkered tablecloth restaurants that "I am Italian!" because of my last name and background, now I can really say "Sono Italiana" - "I am Italian" and mean it.
If you need any help or have questions about this process, please feel free to email me through my contact form or leave a comment below. Hang in there, you can do this!