The Process of Getting Italian Citizenship

Philadelphia Italian Consulate - The Arduous Process of Applying for Italian Citizenship
Philadelphia Italian Consulate

I’ve been in the process of getting my Italian citizenship since the summer of 2011. The Italian consulate in Philadelphia had a wait of a year and a half for the next appointment. During that time, I had to gather all the necessary paperwork to recognize myself as an Italian citizen.

Sometimes I say I’m applying to become an Italian but that’s typically not correct. According to Italy, I’m claiming my right to become an Italian because according to them, I’ve always been one. It’s just the matter of showing the right paperwork to prove it. It’s called jure sanguinis, literally meaning the right of blood in Latin. It’s where citizenship is not determined by where I was born but rather by my family members who were/are citizens of the nation. Italy is one of the only countries in Europe with laws that allow for citizenship through blood that can go back many generations. Luckily for me, my grandmother was born in Italy and is alive and well.

Before my appointment a few weeks ago, I had to gather and prepare all of the documents. What did I need exactly to gain Italian citizenship?

Here’s the list of documents I had to bring with me:

1. I had to obtain a certified copy of my grandmothers birth certificate from Italy. I used My Italian Family and the turn-around was actually quite quick. I made the order on 7/11/12 and received it by 9/7/12.

2. I had to obtain a lot of documents from Argentina using Here’s what I had to get from them.

  • My grandpa was born in Argentina. I need his birth certificate.
  • My grandpa and grandma were married in Argentina. She never became a citizen of Argentina, just a resident. I need to get their marriage certificate from Argentina.
  • My mother was born in the US but my parents were married in Argentina. I need to get their marriage certificate from Argentina.
  • My dad was born in Argentina. I needed his birth certificate.

I had to get certified copies of all of these documents. They had to be translated from Spanish to Italian and the certified copies had to have an apostille seal. PartidasYa offered all of these services for Argentina.

3. I had to obtain certified copies of birth certificates from the US. This included my mom, sister, brother, and myself. The certified copies also needed an apostille seal. I drove out to Trenton, New Jersey to get both of these because only New Jersey Department of Treasury in Trenton can approve of these documents because I was born in New Jersey. All of these documents had to be translated from English to Italian too. I used My Italian Family for the translations too.

4. While I was in Trenton, I also had to get certified copies of the divorce certificates and the apostille seal. I don’t know why this matters to Italy whether someone in my family was divorced or not. How would it change anything? I don’t know. These documents also had to be translated from English to Italian.

Argentina Documents - All the documents I needed from Argentina to apply for Italian citizenship
All of the documents I received from Argentina.

I thought I had everything

After obtaining a lot of documents, I thought I had everything for my Italian citizenship. I went for my appointment at the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia a few weeks ago and came out a little disappointed. The lady there was very helpful and nice though and explained everything in great detail so the issue isn’t with the Italian Consulate but knowing who to contact to get the remaining documents. I have to keep reminding myself that it could have been worse as I’ve heard stories of people not qualifying when they thought they were.

Here’s what I’m missing for my Italian citizenship:

1. The translations that were made by for all the documents coming from Argentina needs to be approved by the Italian Embassy in Argentina. I tried contacting the company but they had no idea what I was talking about. They’ve never had to do this before probably because they never had an American contact them for documents that needed to be approved at the Italian Embassy. But I found out that I can send anyone to approve of these documents by showing up at the Italian Embassy in Buenos Aires. I can send another family member that I have in Buenos Aires to do this for me. Getting this information though was not easy to figure out.

2. I have to prove that neither my mother nor my grandmother were ever citizens of Argentina. Because they were married and spent a significant amount of time in Argentina, they want to make sure they were not and never were citizens of Argentina. I have yet to find how who to contact in Buenos Aires to get this information. These documents need to have an apostille seal and be translated from Spanish to Italian then approved by the Italian Embassy like the other documents. This is delaying the process of applying for my Italian citizenship more than anything else.

3. My moms birth certificate had my grandmother’s last name spelled wrong. Technically it ‘s not spelled wrong. My grandmother’s last name has an extra space on my mom’s certificate. In Italy, this could mean a totally different family. So I drove two hours to Trenton, NJ to get it amended at the same place I got the certified copies but I wasted my time because all requests for changes are done by mail and takes approximately 8 to 12 weeks to complete. Is it just one person doing all the changes for the state of New Jersey? Why would it take so long and why don’t they have an office for this? I have to just wait for the documents to come back amended now.

So what’s stopping me right now is Argentina and specifically number 2. I’ve tried contacting the Argentina Embassy in DC but they keep hanging up on me because they don’t know how to help. I’ve posted my issue on several forums like BA Expats and Expats in Italy where they’ve been helping me locate the right people to get the remaining documents. One lead me to a lawyer in Buenos Aires that has been helpful and is leading me in the right direction. Still, I don’t know which office to go to and whether I can send someone else to request these documents that are not direct relatives of mine or if I have to get a power of attorney. If you know who I can reach in Buenos Aires to get these documents, please help me!

It hasn’t been easy and poor Stephanie and my mom has had to deal with me getting frustrated because of the many levels of government bureaucracy I’ve been dealing with. I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without their support.  It is certainly arduous to apply for Italian citizenship.

Update: I’m now officially an Italian citizen, read more!

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