It must have been at least 20 years ago when I discovered my relatives in Italy and visited them for the first time. Since then I’ve been studying the language in hopes to better understand their culture and life. I have recently started the process for dual citizenship and for those who need direction like I did when I first started the process here is my journey.
The Process of Dual Citizenship with Italy
I lived in New York City for 11 years and had the most culturally rich experiences and life there. But due to different life events I moved to several other cities and eventually ended up on the west coast. Being half Italian and having relatives in Rome, living on the east coast is definitely an advantage if you spend a lot of time in Europe or are studying the language. I didn’t realize the impact of that until I left. None of the places I lived after New York had the history, culture, edginess and rawness that the city and the boroughs have. I really missed that. I missed having a lot of Italian teachers to choose from and practicing the language while helping lost tourists find their way through the city. They were grateful to hear a local Italian speaker! I missed the food and all the energy every day walking through the streets. I missed Central Park and all the miles to get lost in. I missed everything about it even the not so romantic things like crowds on the subway, the traffic and how expensive it is, just to name a few. I also missed the opportunities to visit my relatives more in Rome. Sadly, I didn’t get to know my grandparents well since I was so young when they passed but as I got older I felt that need to connect back to my roots. There was always some kind of pull for me to come back and I think that’s what it was.
I was finally able to make it happen. I remember the tears when I walked through Grand Central Station again, realizing I was home. I don’t know what it is about this city but the electricity has a way of flowing through your veins and imbedding itself in your mind and so many creative ideas come from just being in the thick of it all. It’s a constant source of inspiration and culture buzzing around at all times. I don’t know how else to explain it.
It was after taking another trip to Ellis Island, where my grandfather arrived in 1910, when I got the idea to explore dual citizenship. I heard about it but didn’t really think I could qualify for it since my mother was born in the U.S. Once I started doing the research I realized I might be a perfect candidate after all.
Since my grandfather was born it Italy I had to prove that he was still an Italian citizen at the time my mother was born. In other words, was my mother born before or after he became a U.S. citizen? That was the question and a very difficult one to answer since he is no longer here. If he had not naturalized prior to her birth then she is considered, in the eyes of Italy, an Italian citizen. Therefore, my brother and I are considered Italian citizens too! We just have to prove it.
After asking around I was told that in the New York area alone there are so many people applying for dual citizenship that the wait for an appointment with the Italian Consulate is at least a year out. This is the very first step in the process. Even if you don’t think you can qualify make an appointment right away. You’ll have plenty of time to figure it out after and cancel if you need to. If you don’t live in New York, find the closest consulate that covers your state and make an appointment there. You can only apply at a consulate in the region in which you reside.
My appointment will be coming up in the next few months so once that happens I will write about my experience there and if there were things I missed in the research.In the meantime, here are some steps I’ve taken to help get you started.
Step 1- Make an appointment
There is a fee for the call but mine took about three minutes to complete and get an appointment. This is probably the least expensive part of the process.
On the same page in the above link you’ll also see links to the different ways you can obtain dual citizenship. I’ll be explaining the process of jure sanguinis, through the parents or grandparents. Clicking on that link will bring you to the categories which apply to your specific situation. Category 4 is what I am following for my situation and what I will be explaining here.
Step 2-Naturalization records of Italian born descendant
The reason I suggest this as the second item on your to do list is that if you don’t know if or when your Italian born descendant became a citizen you won’t know if you qualify. Once you have this information you will have a clear path for the rest of the research. Another reason is that it takes up to three months to get this information.
My first stop was the National Archives building in New York. If you’re lucky enough to have had your descendant naturalize in New York then the records should be easier to find. If you don’t live in New York they have a lot of information that may help you on their website.
If you don’t know where he/she may have naturalized you can use their online databases for free to do your research. The staff is very knowledgeable and they will do whatever they can to help you find what you need.
With the staff’s assistance I was able to find the following records for my grandfather:
- Certificate of Arrival
- Declaration of Intention
- Petition for Naturalization
- Oath of Allegiance
- Citizenship Petition Granted
From these documents I was able to determine when my grandfather became a citizen. I was able to move forward. From here you will go the the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) website to request ‘original’ copies from them.
Once on their website you can ‘order online now’. You will pay a fee for them to do a search. If they find the information you will receive a letter with your search results. This took about three weeks to receive.
Once you receive the letter you can go back to the website and request copies of the records and pay another fee. I received the documents almost three months later. They came in an envelope with a cover letter. DO NOT thrown the envelope or letter away. This is an informal verification that these documents came from UCIS.
This will get you started and I will continue the process with step 3 in another post. In the meantime, please leave comments if you have any questions and have fun with it. In bocca al lupo!!