To my regular readers, this post has been written to clarify the process of regaining Italian citizenship by establishing residency in Italy. I am writing this because I contribute to an online forum, expactexchange.com, that has had a flurry of questions about this subject. Since the forum, by definition is made of individuals that contribute, many opinions have been put forth. Some of those opinions tend to muddy the already turbid waters. Therefore I decided to write this post on my blog to help filter the silt and mud and clarify the waters of citizenship.
First things first. The biggest source of confusion is the VISA. If you are trying to have your citizenship recognized or reinstated, you do not need a visa other than the tourist visa that is automatic when you go to Italy. Please read that again. Don’t listen to people who tell you you must have a visa. I was told this by the New York Consulate when I was seeking a visa to go to Italy to get my citizenship.
Let’s start with the basis of the process, that is who is qualified and who is not qualified to claim Italian citizenship. All of this is based on the June 13, 1912 law, 555, that defines Italian citizenship. Subsequent laws have been written but the way Italian law works, people who were born after the subsequent laws are regulated by those laws, specifically the 1992 law on citizenship. Since most of us are older, we will stick to the laws that pertain to us.
Italian citizenship is based on blood and not soil. It is not where you are born but who your parents are that counts. If your parents were Italian at the time of your birth, you are Italian no matter where you are born. If, however, your parents lost their citizenship before you were born then you are not an Italian citizen (note that not all is lost). Therefore there are two situations that we should be concerned with. One is direct lineage and the other is interrupted lineage. If you can prove that you are the descendant of an Italian citizen, without interruption, then you are an Italian. We will refer to that person as Person A. However, if your direct ascendants naturalized (in effect renounced their Italian citizenship before your birth) then you are not an Italian citizen. We will call that person Person B.
Person A is an Italian citizen and is looking to have his/her citizenship recognized. Person B is no-longer an Italian but has Italian heritage and is, therefore, looking to have his or her citizenship reinstated. Please read this paragraph again so you understand the difference. It will matter further down.
Person A can move to Italy, get a permesso di soggiorno and residency, apply for recognition of citizenship which will be granted once the process is completed.
Person B does the same as person A but after the start of residency must wait, live in Italy, for one year if he/she directly lost their citizenship or two years if the parent lost his or her citizenship. After that they can apply for citizenship.
Under the Italian system, jurisdiction for these matters is controlled by the place of residency of the individual. Where you live is what matters. That is why if you live in Connecticut you can only deal with the New York consulate. There is no getting around this. Where you live matters. Again, understand this paragraph. But here is a work around.
To live in Italy one must either be an Italian citizen or have one of the many visas that exist. There is also the option of living in italy for the express reason of having your existing citizenship recognized or having your lost citizenship reinstated. There is a provision for these situations in the Permesso di Soggiorno process. The application kit that one gets at the post office has several modules such as immigration for religious reasons, health reasons or for citizenship. Also important is the module for family reasons which I will cover later. The competent agency will always be found in the territory (commune) of your residency. As long as you live in the United States or Mongolia, you need to go to the appropriate consulate to start and complete the process. However, if you live in Bergamo or any other Italian community, that community is responsible for the process of recognizing or reinstating your citizenship.
So where do we stand? You are the descendant of an Italian citizens, either interrupted or uninterrupted, and want to be an Italian citizen . The place where you live matters. In New York you need to deal with the Italian consulate. Good luck with that one. Or you can simply move to Italy. But wait, don’t I need a visa? No, no you don’t. If you have the right to Italian citizenship as discussed above you have the right to move to Italy and start the process. If you don’t have the Italian bloodline (again interrupted and uninterrupted) then you can’t without a visa. I am not going to discuss visas here.
You, as a once-was or still-is Italian, can simply move to your commune of choice and start the process. Remember that it is the commune of residence that has jurisdiction. Outside of Italy it is the consular system. In Italy it is the Town Hall. It’s that simple. So what needs to be done? Below are the steps:
Gather all of your documents and make certain that they comply with the Italian requirements. That is, that any document that originates outside of Italy must be apostilled and legally translated (by a certified translator). Documents that originate from Italy should be in their long form version (integrale). A list of needed documents can be found in the attached links, below.
Go to Italy. It is wise to try to have a place to live before you go. You can get a vacation type rental but before you apply for residency, but once you need to apply you need to have a non transient housing contract. Either a rental apartment or house or you can move in with friends or relatives but you need a domicile agreement that is approved by the commune. Remember, if nothing else happens, you have the right to remain in Italy for three months.
Once you have a place to live, with a piece of paper (contract) that can be shown to the Town, and a mailing address and a codice fiscale (like a social security number that you get from the agencia del entrate (IRS in Italy) then you can start the Permesso di Soggiorno (PdS) process. This is the critical process that controls everything that follows. The PdS allows you to stay in Italy for a set period of time (renewable). It also allows you to have residency. With residency you can then apply for your citizenship. So one follows the next. It has to be done in sequence. That sequence is: suitable housing and codice fiscale; permesso di soggiorno; residency; citizenship application.
The PdS process takes several months to complete and many hours of standing on line. But the very first part, at the post office, is the most important. That is the initial submission of the application. At that time you will be given a receipt. It is not a cash register receipt that you can discard. It is an important piece of paper that gives you the right to be in Italy. It is your interim PdS that you can use to initiate the next few steps of the process. Specifically getting your residency. Once you have your residency then your citizenship is in the hands of the commune and no-longer the consular office of where you used to live.
More specifically, you pick up a kit at the post office (central post office) and take it home. You could try to fill it out yourself or you can ask the person at the post office if they know of a service that can help fill out the forms. It is an assistance for immigrants. The forms are actually not difficult to fill out, if you can read Italian. You just need to fill out the forms, modules, that apply to you. Make sure you ask for an extra kit to practice with. The modules you are concerned with are the citizenship and family. The person applying for citizenship fills out the citizenship form and the spouse completes the family reasons form. See the links for completing the PdS (since you are not a VISA holder you will not be asked about health coverage. But each office is different)
Understand that the spouse of an Italian citizen has the right to be with their spouse. But they have to have a permesso di soggiorno. And residency. The spouse of the citizen can be eligible for citizenship after two years of common domicile in Italy or three years outside of Italy. But only after the citizenship has been recognized or reinstated. Let me repeat: the spouse has a right to be with her partner. That is also true for minor children.
You take your PdS receipt to the commune with all your documents (originals and copies) and apply for residency letting them know that you want to apply for citizenship recognition or reinstatement. The agent will check your documents and certify the copies, which they will keep. They will keep the original of the birth and marriage certificates so it is good to have extras. They keep those because you will be placed in the registry of that commune. From that point if you need a birth certificate or marriage certificate, you can have one printed by the commune.
At the time of the residence application, ask for a form to bring to the health office (Azienda Sanitaria Locale) to get your health card. At that point you will have health coverage.
After this you wait. The Town will send a vigile (an old man on a scooter from the police department) to check on your residency. A couple weeks after that you can pick up your residency booklet or card. The clock is now ticking for the reinstatement of citizenship and also the acquisition of citizenship for the spouse, should they desire to become citizens. Its not required but then they need to keep getting PdS’s.
At this point you will have plenty of time to figure out what to do next. Good luck.
Click on the links below for additional information. I suggest you install a translator on your browser so that the Italian is automatically converted to almost English.