A few weeks ago I wrote about considering dual Italian citizenship. Hopefully, you’re not dissuaded by the initial hoops you have to jump through. In case you missed it, please click here for part one.
Hopefully now you’re thinking, “Yes, I qualify! Yes, I want to DO EEEIT!” Okay, awesome! But look, I’m not going to lie … now you’re starting the hard part: getting shit loads of certified documents and then having those aforementioned documents Apostilled.
APOSTILLE: additional authentication required for international acceptance of notarized documents.
In the United States, an Apostille is a legalization issued by the Secretaries of the fifty states. It’s a separate page bearing the seal of the state and the signature of the Secretary of State, stapled to the document it legalizes.
Yeah, that’s right folks. After you receive certified documents you’ll need to send those to out to STATE for further authenticity.
Did I lose you yet? Before you grab that bottle of wine, keep going
As I wrote in blog one, I claimed citizenship through my great-grandfather, Pasquale. I never met Pasquale, obviously, but as my ascendant I claimed Jure Sanguinis or law of the blood.
Before you even get STARTED, call or email the Italian Consulate and get an appointment. Trust me. It will most likely take almost a year for you to get in (maybe longer now). It will take almost that long just to gather all the documents.
To help organise what you’ll need, I’ve broken the process into FOUR separate categories:
- Certified documents. These are the long form birth certificates, death, marriage, and divorce. They must be certified copies. You will need to get them from county records.
- Certification of Naturalisation: County or USCIS. If you cannot find the certificate of naturalisation through the County courthouse, you will need to request your ascendant’s naturalization record through USCIS’s Genealogy Program, or a Freedom of Information Act request. OR, USCIS will issue you a document saying naturalization could not be found.
- Your Italian-born ascendant’s birth certificate from a Comune in Italy (and marriage!). You will need to write to the Comune and ask for them to send a copy.
- Apostille documents which link YOU to your ascendant. The state government conducts all apostilles. You’ll need them translated into Italian. Do NOT use Google translate, get yourself a legitimate Italian translator (unless you already speak it yourself, fluently).
Yes. It is a SHIT load of work! However, you’ll find that once you get started it moves quickly. You may also find a treasure trove of forgotten family history. Apparently, my great grandmother had property in North Italy. I also found countless pictures, letters written in Italian and even their original passports from Italy to New York!
PART ONE: CERTIFIED DOCUMENTS
Depending on who you are claiming through, the list might be longer or shorter. To give you an example, here is a list of documents I needed:
- Pasquale’s birth certificate (in Montegrosso, Italy!), marriage certificate to my great grandmother, Cristina (Calosso, Italy!) and his death certificate (Madera, CA).
- Pasquale’s certificate of naturalisation (USCIS).
- Cristina’s birth certificate (in Calosso, Italy).
- Birth certificate for my grandmother, Adele (Madera). Her marriage certificate to Charlie, my grandfather (in Nevada — yes, they eloped!).
- Charlie’s birth certificate. (Manteca, CA).
- Birth certificate for my mother, Kathy (Madera). Marriage certificate to my dad, Tony (Madera).
- Tony’s birth certificate (New York).
- My birth certificate (Fresno, CA).
You may not believe it, but gathering certified documents is EASY. Just find the county, download/fill out the appropriate forms, send in a check and wait for it to arrive. For all my local documents, I just dropped by the county office to pick them up. Since none of my family members divorced that cut down on time and cost.
Word of warning: New York takes a long time!
This should come as no surprise, given the massive Italian population. For my dad’s birth certificate I ordered online, but it took over a month. In comparison, I received my other certified documents from California and Nevada in less than a week.
You might get lucky (I didn’t on this) and get all naturalisation paperwork from the local country courthouse. Until 1991, naturalized U.S. citizens were sworn in at a local or federal courthouse. As a result, many U.S. Counties’ courthouse records include naturalization records. Except when an applicant has his or her ascendant’s certificate of naturalization, a County record is always required. Remember that a County record must have the signature and seal of a County official.
If, like me, you cannot locate these at County, you’ll need to search at Federal. It takes more time, but it’s definitely doable. Take a look at the USCIS Genealogy website. You’ll need to request a FILE NUMBER. I pulled some documents through Madera County which had my great grandfather’s case file number, but the rest of the documents were illegible. If you DO NOT have the file number, conduct an Index search. This will cost about $20-30 dollars.
Anticipate federal taking two or three months, maybe longer. Email them every few weeks and call. Ask to speak with someone. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. I hounded these people and they finally sent me what I needed. It’s not their fault, they have only a few staff members and too much demand. They will most likely not send you a certified copy, which is perfectly fine. Just remember to keep the envelope, as you’ll need that as proof for the Italian Consulate.
PART THREE: WRITING TO ITALY
When I first started, I thought writing to Italy would take the longest. I’ve heard horror stories about the postal network and figured I’d have to write two or three times. Boy, was I totally wrong. I got them in few weeks! They even sent the postage back. Color me pleasantly surprised!
Hell, even locating where to send is easy. In my own example, I just googled “Comune di Montegrosso di Asti”. BOOM!
Address: Via Re Umberto, 60, Montegrosso d’Asti, Province of Asti, Italy
So, write to the “Comune” where your ascendant was born, request a birth certificate in “formato internazionale”, or in “estratto per riassunto” (showing his/her parents’ names), enclose three/four dollars for shipping and handling and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. When writing to the Comune, address your request to:
COMUNE DI ____________________
Ufficio Anagrafe – Stato Civile
(zip code) _______ (City) _____ (province of) ________
I had a friend write a little note in Italian explaining I needed information to process my Italian citizenship. Maybe that helped speed up the process, I’m not sure! Either way, it’s incredibly easy.
PART FOUR: APOSTILLE DOCUMENTS AND ITALIAN TRANSLATIONS
You’ve gotten everything above. AWESOME!! You’re really getting there. Now, only a few things remain:
- Your birth certificate needs an Apostille and translated into Italian
- All your marriage certificates, if any, with Apostilles and translations
- All your divorce decrees, if any, with Apostilles and translations
For the Apostille, just look up the Secretary of State online, find the document needed, fill out and send with the appropriate check amount. You may need to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope (I know I did).
The Italian Consulate does not require you to go through a professional translator, which is great. So if you or a family member speaks fluently you can do this all yourself. By far, translations are the most expensive part of this process. I went through a family friend and had no problems. Please note, you do NOT have to get the Apostille translated, only the certified document. This is because they will send your birth certificate to the Comune in Italy. So for example, my birth certificate is now located in Montegrosso in their records which proves I’m an Italian citizen.
Now, this might have changed but when I applied for citizenship I needed to do a few extra steps:
- Provide Adele’s (grandmother) birth certificate and marriage certificate with Apostille, and translation
- Provide Kathy (mother) birth certificate and marriage certificate Apostille and translation
I needed to get those done to PROVE my blood line to Pasquale. Check with your Italian Consulate if this has changed.
Once you have this all finished, you’re well on your way! BE PROUD! Celebrate with some wine and gelato!
In part three, I’ll discuss problems you might come across and solutions if they do happen. Grazie!