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Italian Citizenship By Blood

Updated on January 16, 2014

A way to get Italian Citizenship

I’ve been looking for ways to legally live and work abroad, and for Americans looking into ways to live and work abroad, particularly in Europe, this might be the holy grail. Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, or Italian citizenship by blood. I’d never heard of it, but apparently it’s actually quite common.

Italian citizenship jure sanguinis literally means Italian citizenship by blood, or by right of blood, and the basic premise is that the right to be an Italian citizen is passed along through families. Italy is fairly unique in doing this, as most other countries pass on citizenship based on birth location. If you’re born in the United States, for instance, you’re a United States citizen. If you’re born in Italy, however, you’re not automatically an Italian citizen. You need a mother or father who’s an Italian citizen before you became eligible to be a citizen.

For those of Italian ancestry born and living in the United States and other countries Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, or Italian citizenship by blood, is a way to become a European Union citizen, allowing you to live and work in the European Union for as long as you want.

With Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, Italian citizenship is passed down to an Italian citizen’s child involuntarily, regardless of where the child is born. As long as that citizenship remains intact and is never voluntarily renounced, it can be passed down through generations.

Jure sanguinis situations and requirements

Some rules of Italian citizenship jure sanguinis are noted below:

  1. You need a direct ancestor who was an Italian citizen. That means a parent, grandparent, or great grandparent.
  2. That Italian citizen needs to have been an Italian citizen when their child was born. If your Italian ancestor is your mother or father, they need to have been an Italian citizen when you were born. If it’s your grandparent then they need to have been an Italian citizen when your mother or father was born, and so on. Your ancestor could have lost their Italian citizenship in several ways: naturalizing, becoming a U.S. citizen, renouncing their Italian citizenship, or serving in the U.S. military, which makes you renounce the citizenship of other countries. These things constitute a voluntary loss of Italian citizenship. Simply being born in the U.S. or another country is involuntary, and thus does not result in a loss of citizenship.
  3. Your ancestor’s child needs to have been born after 1912.
  4. If your ancestor is a woman, her children need to have been born after January 1, 1948. Until 1948 Italian citizenship could only be passed on through the male line, so women weren’t eligible to pass on their citizenship. Anyone born after 1948 can receive citizenship from a woman.

It’s a little confusing, and if you think you may be eligible for Italian citizenship by blood, you should check out the guidelines listed on an Italian Consulate’s website, but here’s an example of how Italian citizenship jure sanguinis may work.

In my case, I’m eligible for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis from my great grandfather. My great grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy. He was born in 1889, and had my grandmother in 1927. He naturalized as a United States citizen in 1930. Because my grandfather was an Italian citizen when my grandmother was born, which was after 1912, my grandmother received Italian citizenship involuntary.

Now, regardless of the fact that my grandmother doesn’t know that she’s an Italian citizen, she is. Had she at any time in her life renounced her citizenship, even without knowing she had it, it would be gone. She didn’t. My father was born in 1949, a year after women were allowed to pass on citizenship. Therefore my father is eligible to become an Italian citizen. He, however, has to apply to be recognized as an Italian citizen. It’s not automatic like it was with my grandmother. That’s a little confusing to think about, but it’s important. The first child who receives Italian citizenship by blood receives it involuntarily. They’d need to apply for a passport, but they are a citizen. Anyone after that needs to apply for recognition.

This is important because if you’re going back to your great grandparents like I am, then chances are someone in your family was in the military. My father was in the military, and renounced all other citizenships other than U.S. But since he wasn’t recognized as an Italian citizen at the time he was in the military he couldn’t renounce a citizenship he didn’t have. That’s a handy little loophole in the law that you should be aware of, and that you should verify directly with the Italian Consulate in your area. In this case, I’m working off the guidelines from the San Francisco Italian Consulate’s on U.S. military service. The Chicago Italian Consulate, on the other hand, doesn’t mention anything about U.S. military service. I strongly recommend speaking directly to the Consulate that services your area to determine if any military service has disqualified you from Italian citizenship by blood.

But, basically, my great grandfather was an Italian citizen, who passed that citizenship to my grandmother. Through my grandmother my father can apply for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, and through that same bloodline I can apply for Italian citizenship by blood.

Italian flag.
Italian flag. | Source

Applying and other details

Actually applying for Italian citizenship by blood is a complicated process, and it involves a lot of documents that may be very difficult to find including Italian birth and marriage certificates. I’m currently looking into locating the ones for my family, and as I go I’ll share any hints I may come up with, along with potential problems you may run into if you’re considering doing this.

In the meantime, here’s the link to the Chicago Italian Consulate’s guidelines for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis: Keep in mind that you’ll need to go through the Italian Consulate that services your area. Different consulates have slightly different directions, so make sure you check into the correct consulate.


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    • OnBlackGlass profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from United States

      I certainly agree with you, fortunately I don't have to deal with that issue. My current problem is marriage. My great grandparents claimed to be married (and probably were) but I cannot locate the marriage certificate. Because of that the consulate has claimed that my grandmother is illegitimate and does not retain citizenship. Do you know anything about that kind of rule? It also seems like discimination to me.

    • profile image

      Kassie 3 years ago

      The 1948 rule is actually gender discrimination and can be overturned if you go through an Italian lawyer. I wrote a blog post about it, happy to help or answer any questions if people are curious about it.