This blog is not to explain all the steps and activities and costs YOU will have to do and pay to get YOUR dual citizenship - in my case Italian/EU Citizenship. Most of this information I found on the Italian Consulate of Chicago website, at: Consulate General of Italy Chicago – Official Website of the Consulate General of Italy in Chicago (esteri.it). There are 10 Italian consular offices in the US, including the one located with the Italian Embassy, in Washington DC. Which consular office serves you depends on your state of residence (check, The Consular network – Embassy of Italy in Washington (esteri.it).
Wikipedia claims (if you want to believe Wikipedia) that:
“There are over 5 million Italian citizens living outside Italy, and c. 80 million people around the world claim full or partial Italian ancestry.” (Italian diaspora - Wikipedia)
My father and his parents legally immigrated to the US, through Ellis Island, NY, during the 1920’s. In addition to widespread poverty in Italy at that time, the rise of Fascism convinced my father’s family to undertake the long, dangerous journey to the US.
By 1930, my father and his family were settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where I was born about 25 years later). My father and his father both found good laborer jobs, bought a house near where they both worked, and settled into an "American way of life".
While I was growing up, very little was ever discussed about my family’s hometown in Italy (Forli del Sannio, Province of Isernia, Region of Molise), see Municipality of Forlì del Sannio (IS)- Institutional Website (forlidelsannio.is.it). I later found out how poor my family was in Italy. They did not have good memories of Italy. And since most of my father’s family and extended family immigrated to the US, he and his family had no one to worry about that remained in Italy.
My family has always been proud to be living and working in the US and to be citizens. In fact, we were often scolded for speaking Italian, they wanted us to always speak English.
I found out later that confusions regarding naturalization and citizenship would give me a opportunity to apply for and gain my Italian Citizenship.
Fast-forward to 2011, over 20 years after my father passed away, I decided I was going to begin to inquire and obtain the information I needed to determine if I could get dual citizenship, my Italian Citizenship, through my father. It is described by the Italian Consulate as:
“Italian Citizenship is based upon the principle of “ius sanguinis” (blood right) meaning that the child born from an Italian father or mother is an Italian citizen regardless the place of birth.”
The consulate also describes this process as “Jure sanguinis”, meaning “by descent”.
My initial approach was to determine if my father was a documented citizen of the US. I never remembered that he had a US passport. I had my grandfather’s (my father’s father) US Naturalization papers dated years before my father came to the US. My grandfather came to the US first to get work and find a home, before my grandmother and father immigrated to the US. Starting with that information, I did document searches through the National Archivesthe U.S. Census Bureau, and the US Immigration Service.
Even though the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services responded to my request for naturalization and citizenship records for my father, they explained that no such records existed in their files. In that response, they sent me a multi-page Visa file document, used by my father to leave Italy with his mother.
The dates on this Visa document, prepared and issued in Italy, aligned with the dates on the Passport used by my father and his mother.
This process of requesting documents from various U.S. government agencies, reviewing the received document to make sure it would satisfy the Italian Consulate criteria, and then obtaining an Italian translation and an apostille to verify the document’s main signature, was a long process. Being married twice and divorced twice added to the complexity as I had to provide Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, and Court-issued Divorce Decrees for both ex-wives. Then translations and apostilles for each document.
During this long period, I made two trips to the Italian Consulate in Chicago to submit the documents to prove that I should receive my Italian citizenship. From both meetings, I came away with requests for additional information and documents.
Throughout this process, I had the invaluable help and services of Ms. Maria Chiacchio, Founder & President of the Italian Institute, in Denver, Colorado (Italian Institute | Language – Travel – Citizenship).
With all the COVID issues during 2019 through 2021, the Consulate sent me a reminder letter June 2021, letting me know that I had 30-days to do my final submission, or they would close my file. Not wanting to give up on my goal of dual citizenship, I did submit the remaining documents within the 30-day period. A few months later, the Italian Consulate sent me an email letting me know that they approved my application and have forwarded my file to my father’s hometown (the hometown mayor approves the application, and they keep a copy of the file). In that email, I was invited to set an appointment to apply for my Italian Passport – which I did.
All in all, a process that took me about 10 years and probably cost several thousand dollars. However, it was worth it. I felt I was honoring my father and my family. Finally, as I have learned on my travels to Europe, my Italian Passport gets me through all the EU passport controls quickly with no issues – the “fast lane”.
Note: Photos courtesey pf the Forli del Sannio website (see link in blog) also US Archives.