I’ve been interested in obtaining Italian citizenship since my time in the Navy, about 17 years ago. I started the formal process for dual citizenship in earnest in 2004. I have been applying through a process called jure sanguinis, or “by law of the bloodline”. In short it states that my ancestor who immigrated to the United States had Italian children on US soil before giving up his or her citizenship through naturalization. The children were legally born into dual citizenship, according to Italy, and I inherit that status as a descendant.
It’s not as simple a process as it seems, though. In order to prove this very basic fact, you need an overwhelming amount of paperwork to prove each point. In my case, my great-grandfather on my father’s monther’s side is the ancestor I’m referencing for my application (dad’s mom’s dad). To prove my claim I needed to provide the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia with the following:
- Great-grandpa’s birth certificate from Italy
- Great-grandpa’s death certificate
- Great-grandpa’s marriage license
- Great-grandpa’s naturalization certificate
- Grandma’s long-form birth certificate
- Grandma’s notarized application form
- Grandma’s marriage license
- Grandma’s ID
- Dad’s long-form birth certificate
- Dad’s notarized application form
- Dad’s marriage license
- Dad’s ID
- My long-form birth certificate
- My notarized application form
- My notarized declaration as applicant
- My statement of commune declaration
- My marriage certificate
- My marriage license
- My ID
- Translations of every above document to Italian
- Apostille’s (international notarization via State Department) for each document above
Once I had all of that done, I was able to schedule an appointment with the consulate to submit my application. The consulate gets a lot of requests for a lot of reasons, so when I finally made my appointment the date I was given was a full year away.
I went to my appointment a year later with everything in hand, confident I was ready to go. Unfortunately I was missing a couple things at the time.
- My Grandmother’s ID was needed
- My birth certificate from Virginia listed my county, but not the city of birth. This was a change in the format of the VA document years ago and took a really long time to get past. In the end, I just needed the long-form birth certificate, but it took me 4 separate document requests to the VA special requests division to get it.
- Finally, there was a big issue with the name of my great-grandfather. You see, it’s very common in my family to have a given name and go by a completely different one. In the case of my great-grandfather, his name was Vincenzo DiMartino, and he went by the name James. In fact, I’m named after him! This made for some awkward paperwork, though. He is listed by one name or the other, or various spellings (he wasn’t literate when he immigrated) or a combination on various documents.
I left the application appointment with next steps. I took care of #1 very quickly, and as I mentioned before #2 took a little trial and error. #3 was the big problem. I didn’t have a clear path to prove my great-grandfather was the same person by all these different names. I could point to census records that listed him and his family members under various spellings at the same location in subsequent years. I thought that was a good angle. But there is no official way to get the US government to make a statement supporting that fact. There’s no body to go to with the power to officially say, “of course it’s the same guy.”
I was working through my local congressman’s office to try and get before a judge to make a sworn testimony to that effect when the consulate told me to hold. They said they were no longer going to accept that type of statement as proof of the name discrepancy any longer. I was obviously worried that this would be the end of my process, but in the end they dropped the need completely. I think they ran into enough of the same problem that they realized a bit of common sense could connect the dots.
This took me to September of 2015, when I thought my application was ready to go. The consulate reached out one last time to tell me they were missing my marriage license. I thought they were misunderstanding the difference between PA’s marriage license and certificate and I emailed them to explain that proof of marriage in this state is done via the certificate, which I included in my file. I figured that was the end of the story as I heard nothing back, and we were off to the races! Well, the very slow races as I waited to hear a response from Italy.
Fast forward two years and a couple of “check-in” emails. Italy doesn’t provide status updates on files, so I continued to think things were going ahead normally, but slowly. This past week I was finally able to connect with someone at the consulate who informed me that my file was inactive because they were missing the marriage license! OH NO!
I emailed them again about the certificate thing, with some helpful links and whatnot, when I got back the most helpful sentence from the consulate in years: “We require both.”
There it is! I have been waiting around for no good reason thinking things were moving. Now that I have that last bit of clarity, I reached out to the Office of Clerks and the Office of something else at my county seat with an explanation of what I needed and they were incredibly helpful. I have the document on its way to me now. Once that arrives I’ll get it translated to Italian, send it to get an apostille attached, and submit down to the consulate.
This should be the final step before “The Long Wait” part two. Wish me luck.