Welcome to my Italian citizenship journey! I’m going to be posting here in chronological order as things happen.
Jure Sanguinis, or “right of blood”, is a principle of nationality law that many countries uses to determine citizenship. I grew up hearing about my maternal great-grandparents who emigrated from Italy. I discovered jure sanguinis and wondered if I was eligible. If I was eligible, I would be able to claim my citizenship, and eventually apply for an Italian passport, allowing me to live and work in the EU indefinitely.
I won’t go into the full details of understanding if you qualify. There are some great resources on wikipedia and on dedicated citizenship services like MyItalianFamily.com. Edit: The BEST resource for this process is the Italian Dual Citzenship Facebook page.
If you determine you qualify, you’ll essentially need proof of unbroken Italian lineage (ending at you) in the form of birth, marriage, death, and naturalization certificates. This includes official birth records of your most recent Italian ancestor. You’ll need all of these internationally certified and translated to Italian. You’ll then need to book an appointment with an your local Italian consulate, pay Italy some money, and then wait for Italy to give you the thumbs up.
The Boston consulate website provides this informational document that clearly lays out all the documents they expect the day of your appointment.
A key thing to note for many Americans (that may disqualify you) is whether your Italian relative renounced his citizenship in favor of naturalizing in a foreign country (like the US), and whether their child (your next link in the chain) was born before or after. You’ll need to take another close look at the dates if your Italian relatives were female (due to some antiquated Italian statutes…ugh).
Some things to note for my particular search. I (1) live in Boston and am under the juristiction of the Boston Italian Consulate, (2) all of my ascendents relevant to this process have lived their lives completely in Massachusetts (birth, marriage, etc…). I’ve seen online some people that had to get certain documents and apostilles from numerous states (eg: Mom was born in state X, Dad in state Y, and married in state Z). That is not the case for me, which simplifies a lot! Your mileage may vary if you live outside New England, and definitely if you live outside the US.
Below i’ll be live updating this post through my process for claiming (or failing in claiming) Italian citizenship. A warning - this process is not particularly simple, cheap, or quick. Proceed at your own risk of sanity.
Below is the lineage i’m using to claim my citizenship.
Great-Grandfather b. Torremaggiore, Italy in 1890s n. Became US Citizen in 1930s | | Grandfather b. Boston, MA in 1920s | | Mother b. Quincy, MA in 1960s | | Me | | b. Boston, MA in 1990s
December 31st, 2019
This process all began at a New Year’s Eve party. I was told by a friend that her parents had claimed her Italian citizenship through jure sanguinis. I knew my maternal family had emigrated from Italy - that got me curious (and down this rabbit hole!).
January 1st, 2020
I first started by asking my family (namely my mom and my aunt) about what they remembered of their grandparents. They were very helpful - my aunt even had a couple relevant documents (and photos of my grandfather!).
I then moved onto a free trial on Ancestry.com, which was incredibly helpful. Most of my family tree was already partially constructed. Ancestry showed that my maternal grandparents had arrived to the United States around the turn of the century, with my grandfather being the first one of my maternal family born in the United States.
The most interesting find were the original Petition for Naturalization records for my great-grandfather. I found original scans of the documents on Ancestry stating his full name, birth date, date of arrival in the US, and more.
As I said above, an important “gotcha” is to note when my great grandfather actually naturalized as a US citizen. There are several steps before actually “being naturalized”, including several petition phases. Here an an excerpt from archives.gov regarding the US naturalization process.
In general, naturalization was a two-step process* that took a minimum of five years. (1) After residing in the United States for two years, an alien could file a “declaration of intention” (“first papers”) to become a citizen. (1) After three additional years, the alien could “petition for naturalization” (”second papers”). (1) After the petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship was issued to the alien. These two steps did not have to take place in the same court. [*Exceptions can include cases of derivative citizenship, processes for minor aliens 1824-1906, and special consideration for veterans.] from: archives.gov
Ancestry helped me find the petition documents (which was SO helpful in drawing an accurate immigration timeline).
January 3rd - January 6th, 2020
I did three things between these dates that, according to others online, took a long time. (1) Got Italian relative’s birth record, (2) Try to book consulate appointment, and (3) Run a US naturalization search.
(1) After my initial research I was fairly confident I was eligible under current Italian Law. I saw others online had a lot of difficulty getting original Italian birth records, so I decided to start with getting my great-grandfather’s birth record from his hometown in Italy (which I found from that naturalization record!). I used a website which, in exchange for a fee, would reach out and request the birth record on my behalf.
Future Note: While I did successfully get my g-grandfather’s record from this website, I was also able to successful get my g-grandmother’s record by simply sending a letter to the correct Italian comune. The Italian comune sent me the birth record for free! YMMV - but won’t hurt to try asking yourself first before turning to a service. Just expect the comune to take a month or two to respond.
(2) I also saw others say online how long it took to book a consulate appointment, sometimes waiting years after acquiring all the necessary documents!
The Boston consulate only opens new appointments the first Monday of each month (at around 3:55 PM ET)! I logged in on January 6th, and with a blink of my eyes all the apppointments appeared and vanished. I’d have to be faster next month…
(3) I began a geneology index search to get the proof my great-grandfather naturalized after his son (my grandfather) was born. This is necessary to prove continuity in the Italian bloodline. Even if your relative didn’t naturalize, you’ll still need to run this to provide a “No Record Exists” to the consulate. All I needed was basic info about my great-grandfather to kick off the search.
January 10th, 2020
I realized my application would be more complete if I also had my great-grandmother’s birth record. She was born in Casalvecchio di Puglia, Italy. I decided to try my luck and send them a letter explaining what I wanted (my great-grandmother’s birth record). I used my little knowledge of Italian to write a letter to their conmune’s government office. I signed the letter and also attached a copy of my ID.
I found the address of the comune with a quick Google search, and mailed the letter off, expecting little of it returning.
Feb 4 - Feb 18th, 2020
Another first Monday of the month! I was sure to be logged into the consulate website a few minutes before 4pm to be ready to snag a citizenship appointment. (I was actually in a different time zone - Japan - at the time and woke up at 6am local time). To my disappointment, I was not quick enough again.
I logged in every couple days to see if I could snag a canceled appointment. One day I did actually see an opening - it was for the next day, and I was neither prepared with all the documents, nor in Boston! Oh well. It’s good to note that cancellation do show up outside of the “first monday” openings.
Feb 19th, 2020
Some movement! I got an email back from USCIS. They had found the required naturalization documents I need, and confirmed for me that my great grandfather had been naturalized after my grandfather had been born. Good news! The bad news - I need to pay another $65 to actually get the documents mailed to me…
I began the USCIS genealogy search on January 3rd, and it completed on February 18th.
I started the actual record request (to be mailed to me) on February 19th.
March 2nd, 2020
What a surprise! I opened the mailbox one day to a letter from Casalvecchio di Puglia! Inside the officials had included my great-grandmother’s birth record! I’m sure there is usually a fee associated with this - I think they did me a favor by not writing back asking for money, thanks guys!
March 3rd, 2020
This was now my third month in a row trying to get an appointment. Thankfully, I got one this time! Bad news, it is in September 2021.
Once I get all my documents together, i’m going to continue to check for earlier appointments due to cancellations. For now, it’s nice to know I have something on the books.
March 4th, 2020
I got an email back from the Italian document service saying they had received my great-grandfather’s birth record back from Italy!
I saw a scan of the document, and got a tracking number for the original document to be sent to me.
June 15, 2020
Due to Covid, this process has seemed to slow even further. Nonetheless, today I received the official historical documentation on my great-grandfather’s naturalization from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. I was given an official letter and photocopies of my great-grandfather’s “Petition for Citizenship” and “Certification of Naturalization”. The letter and consulate state that along with the original envelope, they will accept this as official proof of naturalization. The certificate also comes with a picture of my relative - pretty cool!
I also received a bonus photocopy of another man’s naturalization documents. I had never heard of this man before, but somehow he must be related to me. Unfortunately USCIS didn’t explain why they included this. Guess I have a bit more research to do!
While i’m sure Covid did delay the process slightly, remember that we first wrote to USCIS 4 months ago in February.
This month I decided to finally start collecting the local documents i’d need. Since (i’ve heard) you don’t get these documents returned to you, I have to get new copies for each certificate i’d require, even if I already had a copy at home.
My entire lineage from my grandfather forward has lived in Massachusetts (very convenient!). I recieved 9 new, certified documents in total.
1. Mother's Birth Certifcate 2. Father's Birth Certifcate 3. My Birth Certificate 4. Grandmother's Birth Certifcate 5. Great Grandfather's Death Certificate 6. Great Grandmother's Death Certificate 7. Grandfather's Death Certificate 8. Grandparent's Marriage 9. Parent's Marriage
The process was pretty painless (details on the Mass Vitals site). Each document cost $20, and there were some hoops to jump through due to COVID, but overall not bad. I dropped off the forms and had the documents mailed to me within a week.
I originally ordered 11 documents but two (Grandfather’s birth and Great Grandparent’s marriage) occurred prior to 1926. Prior to 1926 you can’t go to the vital records office in MA, you need to contact the State Archives (see next section).
There are some name descrepencies (My GGM’s name is “Grace” on American docs vs “Grazia” on Italian ones). Since this write-up is iterative over several years, you can scroll down to see if i’ve encountered any problems with that yet 😅.
Next step, get these apostilled and translated.
For translations, i’m currently looking into getting that done of Fiverr thanks to the info in the Dual US-Italian Citizenship Facebook group.
IMPORTANT NOTE! I realized this later, but the Boston consulate requires a NOTARIZED signature from the translator (for each translation) and then that needs to be APOSTILLED. One person the Facebook group recommended to handle this was avepally on Fiverr.
Early Nov 2020
There are two more documents I needed from Massachusetts pre-1926 - my grandfather’s birth certificate and my great-grandparent’s marriage. For this I need to contact the Massachusetts State Archives. Luckily these docs are much cheaper (only $6) and can be conducted entirely over mail. I mailed them on November 3rd.
On November 6th I mailed out the 9 MA documents I already had to get apostilled, while concurrently engaged with someone to provide Italian translations for those docs (tip: take scans of your docs as soon as you receive them - it’s nice to have a digital copy!).
Late November 2020
I received the two necessary records from the Massachusetts State Archives on Nov. 21st. There is again a slight name discrepency (Luigi -> Louis), but everything else (dates, parent names) seem to be in order. This doc also confirms that my great-grandparents WERE married when my grandfather was born (this was some discrepency on online resources). I didn’t know if that would be an issue, but now I don’t need to even consider it.
On November 24th I received back the nine docs i’d sent out to get apostilled. I had called a few days earlier to get the status and the woman said the office was really backed up, and it still only took 2.5 weeks. Nice!
Around this time I also engaged another translator to retranslate and certify/apostille my vital record documents. She will handle that entire process and mail them to me. I expect that to take a little over a month. That’s what I get for not reading Boston’s consulate page well enough.
I used Avepally from Fiverr for the translation/apostille/certification process. He was fantastic and got everything processed and mailed to me in record time. He apparently lives in Ohio since my apostilles are from that state, which is great because their turnaround time was much faster than MA’s.
Since it seems i’ll have some time until my appointment, I decided to explore the other Italian branch of my family (my grandmother’s parents). I did a search online and found that both my great-grandparents on that side are from a city in Sicily. Out of curiosity (and perhaps insurance in this whole process in case I missed a key fact) I wrote the comune to potentially get their birth certificates. While not needed for the ancestry line i’m going to be using, it would certainly complete my set of family documents.
December 6 2020
Reading some posts on the Dual citizenship Facebook group, I decided to try to get additional documentation from NARA Boston on my great grandfather’s naturalization. These docs are on top of the USCIS docs that I have (since it appears just having the USCIS for Boston is often not enough).
My great-grandfather naturalized in Suffolk county, so in my case NARA held the records federally. For other counties in MA your records may be held in county court records. The NARA Boston office in Waltham is closed due to COVID, but a few people are still working to fulfill certificate requests via email. I emailed the office, getting a cryptic “we’re closed” email in response. Rest assured a week later I got an email from an employee named Joe. They had found my great-grandfather’s NARA naturalization records, and could mail them to me for $10 (+ a $15 certification fee, which of course we want!). I paid over the phone and the docs should be on their way now.
December 21 2020
I had three more documents (GF’s BC, GP’s MC, and GM’s DC) that I needed to get apostilled in MA. I sent those in and got them back last week (~3 week turnaround time.)
Nearly one year since I began this process and I think that I have all of the documents I need! 🎉
My consulate appointment is still scheduled for September 2021. I’ve been (constantly (obsessively)) checking Prenota to find an earlier appointment via a cancellation - hopefully I get one! Regardless, very happy I have something scheduled.
My consulate appointment is a month away! For the past 8 months i’ve mostly just been waiting out the appointment, but I also:
- Took my mom to our local bank to get Forms 3 and 4 notarized (she’s planning on coming with me to the appointment, but just in case something came up)
- Heard back from USCIS Geneology regarding my great-grandmother’s naturalization. While not strictly needed, I wanted to have this document as a backup, and to provide additional information on my great-grandmother. I sent in the request on Nov. 21, 2020, and got the “Index Search Completed” email on July 30, 2021. They found the C-File for her naturalization as well as an “AR-2 Form”. I paid $130 for those two documents the next day and am awaiting them to arrive in the mail. I don’t expect them to arrive before my appointment, but having them on the way is reassuring nonetheless.
- Organized my document binder many times!
Early September 2021
This is the month! A week prior to the appointment I receieved an email from Prenota to confirm - it was very nice to officially turn my appointment to booked!
Don’t forget your money order! It dawned on me the morning before my appointment to go out and get the money order - after two years you are suprised you still have things to do before the appointment. I went to my local post office and got a money order in the amount currently posted on the consulate website (~310 USD).
In the end, these are all the documents I brought in my binder, ordered by this list. This list also served as a “table of contents” for the binder.
Table of Contents
FORM 1 FORM 2 FORM 3 (Mother, Notarized) FORM 4 (Grandfather, Notarized) FORM 4 (Great Grandfather) Driver’s License and Passport Photo Utility Bill (Internet) == Great-Grandfather == Italian Birth Certificate (p.1) Italian Birth Certificate (p.2) NARA Naturalization Certified Packet (Stapled) NARA Response Letter NARA Printout (Certificate of Arrival) NARA Printout (Petition for Citizenship) NARA Printout (Oath of Allegiance) Small Envelope from USCIS USCIS Response Letter USCIS Naturalization Packet (Stapled, see envelope in front pocket) Death Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Great-Grandmother == Small Envelope from Comune Di Casalvecchio Di Puglia Italian Birth Certificate Copy of my letter to Comune (stamped and returned) USCIS Investigation Letter (USCIS Naturalization documents have been ordered) Death Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Great-Grandparents == Marriage Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Grandfather == Birth Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation ** Original Copy of Birth Certificate Available Upon Request Death Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Grandmother == Birth Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) Death Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Grandparents == Marriage Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Mother == Birth Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Father == Birth Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Parents == Marriage Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Myself == Birth Certificate (+ Apostille) Translation (+ Apostille) == Appendix == Massachusetts Vital Records Order Summary Commonwealth of Massachusetts Archives Letter Small Envelope: Registry of Vital Records Large Envelopes (USCIS, NARA, and MA Secretary of State)
My appointment was at 11:15 AM. I gave myself plenty of time, took the red line to South Station, and crossed the street toward the Federal Reserve building. I waited outside until around 11am, went through security, and took the elevator up to the 17th floor. After a few minutes of waiting I was greeted by Lucia, the employee that would be handling the case.
She asked me a few questions after introducing herself:
- Did you prepare this yourself? Yes
- Who is your Italian ancestor My Great-grandfather
- Do you know of any discrepancies? Yes, Two American-ized named
She seems ok with my answers, and told me it would take about 45 minutes to go through all the information. I ended up waiting almost 2 hours for Lucia to return, with news that my application was accepted (with a bit of homework)!
- On my GGF’s naturalization documents, the years for my GF’s birth and for my GGP’s marriage were off by exactly one year. Lucia asked me to try and get a NO RECORD of anyone being born on that date, to clear up my GF’s birth discrepancy. This seemed important to to do, and I’ll start working on getting a NO RECORD asap. It’s important to note that it’s not possible to amend naturalization documents that old, so that isn’t a route I could take for this.
- My GF’s birth certificate doesn’t have his parents’ ages listed. Lucia told me she didn’t think it would be possible to get a certified copy (since Boston didn’t typically add that information to the BCs pre-1925). I even had an original copy of the BC with me and showed her that there were no ages. Nonetheless, i’ll try to see if they can send me back something. This didn’t seem as important, since we didn’t think think this was something possible to get.
There are name discrepancies (Italian->Americanized names) that were noticed, but no action is (currently) needed to change those. I think this is because all of the name changes are pretty obviously the same person (
I was given a case number and my documents were kept (minus a few extras that were returned to me). I was told to submit documents to clarify the discrepancies in the noted remarks within 90 days.
Overall Lucia told me my case is fairly straightforward. Lucia also mentioned that my mother (not present at the appointment) could use my file if ever she wanted to apply herself.
Overall a seemingly successful appointment! 🎉
To resolve the “homework” I visited the Massachusetts Archives in-person (we’re currently between COVID shutdowns, so I got to finally go inside!). The archivists were super helpful. I checked the birth and marriage indices showing NO RECORD of the discrepant birth/marriage. The archivists wrote up a letter explaining this finding and printed it on their letterhead. The archivst also added a note to the letter to clarify remark 2 from above. Lastly, I took photocopies of the relevant pages from the indices (i’ll send that over too, just in case).
I emailed the consulate asking if this needed to be translated/apostilled, and Lucia told me nope - just mail it in (and so I did!).
September 20, 2021
It has now been 2.5 weeks since my appointment. Based on other peoples’ experiences, you really shouldn’t expect any other communication from the consulate for 1yr+ at this point (unless something goes wrong!). One signal you do have is whether or not the consulate has cashed your money order. Supposedly, your check isn’t cashed until your “homework” is complete and your pending application is a “good to go” state.
You’re able to check online whether USPS money orders have been cashed (make sure to take note of the serial number before handing it over). To my excitement, USPS now lists the money order as cashed! 💸
That’s all for now! I’ll be updating this as more develops!