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.
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.
That’s all for now! I’ll be updating this as more develops!