retire in italyItaly is one of the most famous countries in the world, known for its historical cities, celebrated cuisine, breathtaking countryside and coastal sites, and welcoming people. It is one of the best places in Europe to live, work, and settle down permanently. Whether your family members have long talked about its deep, long-lost ties to Italy, or if you are merely wondering if there is any Italian blood in your lineage, then you may be curious about whether you are eligible for Italian citizenship by descent.

Are you eager to become a citizen of Italy? Would you like to permanently reside in Italy and reap the most benefits as a citizen and permanent resident? Then, it’s time to dig into your family tree and see whether it is on the cards for you. Citizenship by descent offers a unique opportunity for individuals of Italian ancestry to reconnect with their roots and become part of Italy.

This article will take you through Italian citizenship by descent, starting with the historical context. Then, we’ll detail the eligibility criteria and required documentation for Italian citizenship applications, any legal procedures you’ll have to go through, and look at frequent challenges that tend to come up for applicants and how to solve them.

We’ll also go into dual citizenship, and if that is not available to you, explain the process and implications of renouncing your first citizenship. We’ll describe citizenship paths for adopted individuals and non-direct descendants. Finally, we’ll leave you with information on how professional assistance can help and any other resources you may need.

Italian Citizenship by Descent: Historical Context

“Jus sanguinis” and the history of citizenship-by-descent

The historical context of Italian citizenship by descent reflects the importance of “jus sanguinis,” the impact of migration, and the evolving legal framework governing Italian nationality. These factors have shaped the eligibility and application process for individuals seeking to claim Italian citizenship through their Italian ancestors.

The historical context of Italian citizenship by descent is closely tied to the evolution of Italian nationality laws, the concept of “jus sanguinis,” and the impact of legal reforms on citizenship claims.

“Jus sanguinis” is Latin for “right of blood,” or more literally, that citizenship is determined by bloodline, i.e., being born to Italian citizens or having Italian ancestors. For those with Italian ancestors, this principle is the most common way to get citizenship.

Lots of people around the world have Italian heritage. There was a lot of emigration from Italy in the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially to North and South America. This has resulted in a large Italian diaspora outside of Italy.

world war ii citizenship by descentIn 1912, Italy passed a significant nationality law that governed citizenship. This law was retroactive and allowed descendants of male Italian citizens to claim Italian citizenship, even if they were born abroad.

Italian nationality laws have evolved over the years with various changes and reforms. These changes affected the requirements and procedures for acquiring Italian citizenship by descent. However, there were different rules for the descendants of Italian women. Children born to Italian women were not considered Italian citizens, and retroactive citizenship rights were much more limited.

Then, in 1948, further changes were made to how citizenship was granted in Italy. This included allowing descendants of Italian women and men born after 1 January 1948 to be granted citizenship. These changes allowed a lot more people the ability to apply for Italian citizenship by descent.

A significant change in 2009 aimed to simplify the process of obtaining Italian citizenship by descent. In general, there were now no time limits on when your Italian descendant had to be born. There have been several updates since, so it’s important for those hoping to obtain Italian citizenship by descent to stay informed.

Since it’s been on offer, Italian descendants around the world have had the opportunity to claim their Italian citizenship and enjoy the privileges of being an Italian citizen.

Once you acquire Italian citizenship through descent, your children and grandchildren may also be eligible for Italian citizenship, provided they meet the necessary criteria.

Italian Citizenship Jure Sanguinis: Eligibility Criteria

Generational proof: Italian citizenship by descent is a possible path for individuals born to Italian parents, grandparents, or grandparents – there is no upper limit in terms of the number of generations.

In most cases, the Italian ancestor should not have renounced their Italian citizenship before the birth of the descendant. If your ancestor became a citizen of another country before you were born, then this may affect your eligibility and make the process more complex, depending on the laws that were in place at the time.

Required documents: To prepare your application, you must provide evidence of your Italian heritage. Therefore, it will be necessary for you to gather various documents to prove your connections to an Italian person. Documents should show a clear and verifiable link between you and your Italian ancestor. More details on these documents can be found below.

The Italian citizenship laws may have different requirements for individuals born before certain dates, particularly those born before Italy’s unification in 1861 and changes to the constitution in 1948.

The application process can be complex, and it often involves submitting your documents to the Italian consulate or embassy in your home country. The specific requirements and procedures may vary depending on your country of residence and the consulate’s jurisdiction.

Italian language skills: It is also possible that you may be required to demonstrate proficiency in the Italian language. However, this requirement is often waived for individuals applying through a grandparent or great-grandparent.

Criminal background: You are typically required to have a good character and not have a criminal record. This may involve providing a criminal record certificate from your country of residence.

Possible changes: It’s crucial to note that Italian citizenship laws and eligibility criteria have evolved over time, and they can change. Therefore, it’s essential to consult the Italian consulate or embassy in your area for the most up-to-date information and guidance on your specific case. They can provide you with the most accurate and current requirements and procedures for Italian citizenship by descent based on your unique circumstances.

In case you don’t have Italian ancestors, no worries. Other routes to Italian citizenship include the Italian Golden Visa, an attractive program that grants temporary residency for individuals who make a qualifying investment in Italy. To read more about the scheme, please refer to Ultimate Italian Golden Visa Guide

Italian Citizenship by Descent: Required Documentation

required documentsNow that you have checked that you are eligible before you begin the process, you will have to check that you have all of the necessary documentation needed for the application. This includes identifying and obtaining the vital Italian records showing your lineage.

You will need to request your family member’s official documents from their place of residence at the Italian Consulate or Embassy. You can source Italian citizenship assistance from a third-party company to help you with the entire process.

It’s also necessary to have a registered address in Italy and live in the country for at least three years before applying through this option. The minimum residence requirement is six months and one day per year.

What documents do you need?

Here is a list of the documentation that is generally needed to apply for Italian citizenship by descent. This list is subject to change, so please keep an eye on the latest updates to the citizenship application.

  • Various documents to prove your connections to an Italian person, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization records, etc
  • Certified copies of official documents from your ancestor’s Italian town of residence or origin
  • Documentation from the Italian Consulate confirming neither your ancestors nor you have ever renounced Italian citizenship
  • Income certificates from the last three years, along with the documents of income tax returns
  • Prove that your ancestor was not a naturalized citizen of any other country before you were born

Please note that it will be necessary to get these documents translated into Italian prior to submitting them.

Benefits of Italian Citizenship

There are many benefits to gaining Italian citizenship. Obtaining it can provide you with the right to live in Italy, work there, and even vote in elections and referendums. You will also be able to acquire an Italian passport upon becoming an Italian citizen.

An Italian passport is not just a travel document but also an invaluable gateway to numerous opportunities.

Perhaps the most significant advantage of holding Italian citizenship and a passport is your inherent visa-free access to all European Union (EU) countries and the freedom to move around member states of the Schengen Area without restrictions on time, provided they formalize their stay.

The EU passport gained when obtaining Italian citizenship makes you an Italian and an EU citizen. Holders can immerse themselves in Europe’s diverse cultures as official residents indefinitely. Should they wish to apply for residency in any EU member state, the application process is merely a formality.

Besides visa-free access, having an Italian passport can facilitate your employment prospects across the EU. You can work for any employer without requiring them to sponsor a work permit or endorse you. Moreover, if you are interested in continuing your education in Europe, possessing an Italian passport could make it easier for you by lowering tuition fees, providing access to greater scholarship opportunities, as well as expanding your education options.

Europe green pass

Applying for Italian citizenship can be a long process; however it helps to know how what steps you will need to take to get there.

  1. Order your necessary documents from the Italian town of your ancestry origin. It’s possible that some records may be lost over time, so the sooner you get in touch, the sooner you can confirm their existence.
  2. If necessary, locating alternative documents, such as baptismal certificates or beaurocratic documents
  3. Finding a certified, Consulate-approved translator to translate all non-Italian documents into Italian
  4. Get your documents audited by a professional to ensure that you have the correct documentation and any missing information is accounted for
  5. Book an appointment at the Italian consulate
  6. At the appointment, submit your documents and fill out further applications. You will also have to pay fees to submit the application.
  7. Finally, you wait. It may take a while to hear back about the status of your application.

1948 is a very significant year in Italian history. Amongst other changes to the Italian citizenship law, it finally allowed women to pass down their citizenship to their children. Previously, only men were permitted to pass down citizenship.

For those with a connection to Italian heritage via a woman, her child must have been born after 1 January 1948. If her child was born before 1948, it is likely that she will have to proceed through the Italian judicial system with an Italian lawyer so that she can obtain citizenship.

Common Challenges and Solutions

It’s possible that you will encounter issues over the course of your citizenship application. Here, we have outlined some of the common hurdles and some advice for overcoming them.

Overcoming document discrepancies

If there are any issues with your documentation, your application may be sent back or it may not be submitted. Therefore, before submitting your documents, try to ensure that everything is in order and that the documents are correct. This will help to

Managing expectations around processing times

It may take a little longer than you anticipate to get to each step of your application. This is especially true depending on any issues you may have with your documentation, the method of application, and whether your application is in order. The Italian bureaucracy is can also be slow at times, and therefore applicants can experience long wait times during the process.

Dual Citizenship Considerations

The Italian government allows for dual citizenship, meaning that your capacity for dual citizenship will depend on the rules of the country that you currently have citizenship with.

Advantages of Italian dual citizenship

Italian dual citizenship grants the ability to live, work, and study in Italy and other European Union (EU) countries without a visa or work permit, as well as the country of your current citizenship. It also grants access to the Italian healthcare system, education, and other social services.

Its membership of the European Union gives Italy a pride of numerous citizenship benefits. Claiming Italian citizenship means you can travel freely without any restrictions to all 26 Schengen countries, such as Hungary, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Germany, and Greece. Meaning, if your current citizenship does not allow visa-free access, holding dual citizenship can give you that option.

Understanding the responsibilities and tax requirements

As an Italian citizen, you are not required to pay taxes to the Italian government unless you live in the country. Italian tax responsibilities only apply to Italian citizens when they live in Italy for more than half the year. Therefore, if you obtain Italian dual citizenship, and then you spend more than 183 days in Italy, your income will be subject to income tax. You may also have to pay other kinds of taxes that Italian residents are subject to.

Many people who pursue Italian citizenship often ask themselves whether dual citizenship will automatically qualify them to pay taxes in Italy. An Italian citizen’s personal income tax liability depends on whether the individual lives in Italy for more than half a year. In other words, if you obtain Italian citizenship and decide to spend more than 183 days in Italy, your income will be subject to personal income taxation. On the other hand, if you do not live in Italy, you will be exempt from paying personal income taxes. However, if you are registered as a resident in a municipality in Italy or own property in Italy, you will be required to pay personal income taxes by law.

The process and implications of renouncing citizenship

If you intend on taking on Italian citizenship, and if in doing so means that you must renounce your current citizenship, you must be aware of the process and implications that come about from this choice.

However, this depends on the rules of the country whose citizenship you currently hold. It’s possible that you may lose rights and privileges associated with your citizenship, lose travel and residency rights, it could affect your inheritance rights and impact your right to vote, among other implications.

Citizens of the United States are permitted to hold dual citizenship. On the other hand, Austrian citizens are not permitted to hold dual citizenship, in most circumstances.

Citizenship for Adoptees and Non-Linear Descendants

italian citizenshipIt’s possible to obtain Italian citizenship-by-descent through your legal adoptive Italian parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc.

The key factor in such cases is whether the Italian citizenship of the adoptive parent(s) can be transferred to the adopted child. However, it’s possible that legal requirements can vary depending on the laws in place at the time of adoption.

Therefore, when submitting your citizenship by descent application, you should also submit your certificate of adoption, birth certificate, and any other relevant documents.

Given the complexity of Italian citizenship laws, it’s advisable to seek legal advice and consult with the Italian consulate or embassy in your area. They can provide guidance on your specific case and the procedures involved.

Italian Citizenship Application: Why Work With An Immigration Lawyer

The process of acquiring Italian citizenship can be intricate and may require a careful review of the individual circumstances involved.

If you want to navigate the process successfully, it’s advisable you hire an immigration lawyer specializing in Italian law and citizenship. An immigration lawyer can assist you in navigating the Italian bureaucracy, address if you really qualify for Italian citizenship, and provide you with up-to-date advice on the specific requirements for Italian citizenship by descent. 

How Global Citizen Solutions Can Help

Expats and foreign investors can encounter many difficulties when applying for second citizenship and citizenship-by-descent, which is why it is worthwhile to have an expert on hand to provide personalized Italian citizenship assistance throughout the application process.

Here’s how our specialists can help with the jus sanguinis citizenship application:

  • Minimize the visits you have to make to the designated country
  • Have someone who works on your behalf
  • Reduce the hassle associated with putting your application together
  • Acquire insider knowledge from someone with years of experience in the market

Let’s get you moving forward in your quest to obtain Italian citizenship and an Italian passport. Get in touch with us to book a free consultation.

Frequently asked questions about Italian citizenship by descent

What does jure sanguinis mean?

“Jure sanguinis” or “jus sanguinis” are Latin phrases meaning “right of blood.” It is a principle meaning that citizenship can be dermined through your parents, or ancestors, citizenship, i.e., being born to Italian citizens or having Italian ancestors. It also means that children under the age of 18 are automatically Italian if one of the parents is an Italian citizen, and their birth certificate is registered in Italy.

Do I qualify for Italian dual citizenship?

If you hold Italian citizenship, and your second citizenship is held by a country that permits dual citizenship, then yes, you qualify for dual citizenship in Italy.

How do I find out if I am a citizen of Italy?

If you suspect you have Italian heritage, you will need to request your family member’s official documents from their place of residence at the Italian Consulate or Embassy. You can source Italian citizenship assistance from a third-party company to help you with the entire process.

Can I get an Italian passport if my mother or father is Italian?

Yes, you are eligible for Italian citizenship, and therefore an Italian passport, if either parent has Italian citizenship, or even heritage, if you can locate the documents to prove it.

How do I inherit Italian citizenship?

You can apply for Italian Citizenship by Descent when you have an Italian heritage. For example, if your paternal grandfather or grandmother was born in Italy and was a citizen or had the right to become one prior to the birth of your father. You’re also eligible if you were born to an Italian citizen parent or to a parent who has the right to Italian citizenship “jure sanguinis.”

Can a US citizen get Italian citizenship by descent?

Yes, if you’re a US citizen, you can get Italian citizenship by descent. You can become an Italian citizen if you can prove that you have legitimate ties to Italian ancestry. 

You’re eligible for Italian citizenship by descent if:

  • When you were born, your father was a citizen of Italy. He did not naturalize as a citizen of any other country.
  • When you were born, your mother was a citizen of Italy. She did not naturalize as a citizen of the US or any other country. Your birth date was not before January 1st, 1948. It was after.
  • Your father was not born in Italy, but his father or mother (your paternal grandfather or paternal grandmother) was born in Italy and was a citizen of Italy or had rights to Italian citizenship jure sanguinis when your father was born.
  • Your mother was not born in Italy, but her father or mother (your maternal grandfather or maternal grandmother) was born in Italy and was a citizen of Italy or had rights to Italian citizenship jure sanguinis when your mother was born. Also, your birth date cannot be before January 1st, 1948.
  • Your paternal grandparent or maternal grandparent was not born in Italy. Your maternal and paternal great-grandfathers or great-grandmothers were born in Italy and were citizens of Italy or had rights to Italian citizenship jure sanguinis when your grandparents were born.
  • Your paternal great-grandparent or maternal great-grandparent was not born in Italy. Your maternal and paternal great-great-grandfathers or great-great-grandmothers were born in Italy and were citizens of Italy or had rights to Italian citizenship jure sanguinis when your great-grandparents were born.


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