How I got Italian Citizenship (and how you could too!)

Today is a year since I was notified my Italian citizenship application went through. I posted that it happened, but gave very little further detail. As it was a huge life moment, it’s beyond time I posted about how I became recognized Italian Citizen (and how potentially you could be too!).

I think perhaps the best way to start would be to go back to the beginning. It was 2010, I had just come back from studying in London, and was desperate to get back to Europe. It was my first time out of the country, and I had loved London, and my visits to France and Spain.

I did some research and quickly discovered I didn’t qualify for Irish citizenship, as my great grandmother was born there and it only allows you to go back to grandparent. (My mom, however, did qualify, and she’s in the process of applying as well!)

Then I looked into Italian citizenship jure sanguinis (by blood) and lo and behold – there was no generational limit! There were some other requirements though—my qualifying ancestor couldn’t have renounced his Italian citizenship (aka become American) before the next person in my lineage was born—otherwise he wouldn’t have had the citizenship to pass down to his child, my great grandfather. Yes, that’s right—I qualify because my great-great grandparents were born in Italy. It’s a tenuous claim, but a legal one nonetheless. Other technicalities include a woman not being able to pass on citizenship prior to 1948, however this is never upheld in court, so if you fight that you’ll win.

My first step was getting my great great-grandfather’s immigration paperwork from USCIS/NARA. It took quite a while to come, and wasn’t cheap, but when it finally arrived I had confirmation that I qualified for citizenship—Giovanni (my great great grandfather) declared his intent to naturalize in his 70s, but died before he could ever finish the process. Either way, my great grandfather was born well before the declaration of intent, and therefore the citizenship was passed, unbeknownst to us, “by blood” right down to me, born almost 150 years later.

Another requirement to note that is your ancestor must have been born after Italy became a country, which didn’t happen until 1861. My great-great grandfather came a bit close to this date, but was born in 1866. Lucky me! I’m the first generation that can really go back so many generations—my parents great great grandparents were all born before Italy existed—which I think confused the man who runs the Italian consulate in Boston. The first time I called, he told me I didn’t qualify and couldn’t go that far back. It wasn’t my favorite conversation, but obviously all worked out.

After getting the naturalization paperwork and confirming I was eligible, I began collecting documents. Exactly what you need varies from consulate to consulate, but I applied in LA and needed:

  • My great, great grandfather’s birth certificate – from Italy
  • My great, great grandmother’s birth certificate – from Italy
  • My great, great grandparents’ marriage certificate – from Italy
  • My great, great grandfather’s death certificate – from MA
  • My great, great grandmother’s death certificate – from MA
  • My great grandfather’s birth certificate – from MA
  • My great grandmother’s birth certificate – from MA
  • My great grandparents’ marriage certificate – from MA
  • My great grandfather’s death certificate – from MA
  • My great grandmother’s death certificate – from MA
  • My grandfather’s birth certificate – from MA
  • My grandmother’s birth certificate – from MA
  • My grandparents’ marriage certificate – from MA
  • My grandfather’s death certificate – from MA
  • My father’s birth certificate – from MA
  • My mother’s birth certificate – from MA
  • My parent’s marriage certificate – from MA
  • My birth certificate – from MA

After collecting everything, I needed to get all the certificates not from Italy Apostilled and translated into Italian. Not exactly cheap!

At my appointment with the LA consulate in December of 2014 I was accepted, paid my fee, and was told to expect to hear back five months later, in May of 2015.

Many, many months passed, and finally I heard back in May of 2016 that I was retroactively rejected. To be honest, I wasn’t completely surprised—I had a lot of errors in my application. My great grandfather was called Secondino Negrotti, Secondo Negrotti, and Andrew Negrotti on different documents. My great, great grandfather went by Giovanni, Joseph, and John. Dates didn’t match, spellings changed. But, I had expected to be denied back in 2014, meaning I could begin working on corrections. Instead two years went by and suddenly I was back at square one. Only worse, because I was halfway through year two of a long distance relationship and beyond ready to move to Europe.

I hired a lawyer to make the changes. The case was rejected, my lawyer took a few months off from responding to my emails, and finally on Christmas day, 2016, I heard she’d gone back to court and had success! I had the changes I needed and a much stronger case. I sent the court order to the LA consulate and on March 21st at around 3:00 am Spain time, I saw an email with the subject: ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP.

It had happened!

For anyone who is also thinking about applying for recognition of their Italian Citizenship, please see my tips and advice below.

  • As soon as you decide to start the process, step number one should be making the appointment at the consulate. These appointments are a year+ out at nearly every consulate, and it would be incredibly rare for it to take more than a year to gather everything (unless you need to make amendments, which can take a while).
  • The next step should be getting the naturalization paperwork, as this can take a few months. I ordered through both NARA and USCIS, as I wasn’t sure exactly how it worked, and they both sent me copies of the same documents, however NARA was much faster and the copies were much, much clearer. So in my experience, they are the better option.
  • At the same time, you should reach out to to your ancestors’ comune in Italy. There is a template you can use on the Facebook page, in case you don’t speak any Italian. I used that and google translate, and had a fantastic time with my comune. They sent me multiple copies of everything after I had some paperwork destroyed, each time for free.
  • A huge and costly mistake I made was getting all my vital records from city hall in my hometown. These versions aren’t accepted–they need to come from the state records (most people use Vitalchek to order them, but it’s quite expensive).
  • You can only have records Apostilled in the states they are from, another mistake I made. Give this a few weeks, as if you’re mailing it in it can take quite a while.
  • Make sure you use a translator that is approved by your consulate.
  • For more information about how to obtain Italian citizenship, go to your local consulate’s website. Additionally, there is a Facebook group which is an amazing resource—I don’t know how anyone could DIY it without them.

Please note  that this was just my experience from the requirements in LA. In 2015 they made me produce all my non-linear records, which weren’t required in 2014, though they didn’t need to be translated or Apostilled and could come from city hall. But requirements vary massively from consulate to consulate, and can change from one month to another.

All in it cost me about 3,000 — the application fee is 300 euros, and the documents, Apostilles, and legal fees were about 2,700 more. If your case is easy, with few documents and no errors, it could come to much less. If you apply within Italy using a service, it’ll be at least 1,000 more. Though at the time spending the money was incredibly stressful and felt quite risky, looking back I feel confident saying it was the best 3,000 I’ve ever spent in my life!

Pisa and (finally!) getting my ID card!

A few months ago I had my first interview at my current job, and left it so (unusually) confident, that I arranged a spur of the moment flight to Italy for the next day, as I knew if I was hired I’d need my proof of right to work in the EU. I had originally planned to get it a few weeks out, and fly into Milan, rent a car, and drive out to the tiny mountain town my ancestors were from. However, with one day’s notice, Pisa ended up being much cheaper, and was about the same distance as Milan. It was also quite close to Cinque Terre, and this unplanned, last minute trip became one of my all time best travel experiences.

I flew into Pisa and stayed at Hostel Pisa. It was walking distance from the airport, and can I just say any city where you can walk to the airport is OK in my book. I was only spending one night in Pisa, and didn’t arrive until 4:00, so my expectations weren’t high. However, I had the best night. I don’t have major Pisa recommendations, other than the tower, obviously, and the most fantastic dinner/drinks place.

I headed straight for the tower because the light was fantastic and I wanted to see it in all its glory. While there I asked two girls to take my photo, and they recognized me from checking into the hostel. They were returning home to Germany a year volunteering at in International Hospital in Jerusalem, and we also met up with a guy who had just arrived in Europe for a year abroad in Florence.

On the walk to the tower I had stopped to take passport style photos for my ID card. (They did not come out well—Gareth kindly pointed out the shading makes it look like I have a 5:00 shadow, which is an accurate analysis of the photo). Nearby, I saw a dock on the river that looked like it may be a restaurant. I mentioned it to the crew I had met, and we decided to head there for dinner. It ended up being such a lovely night. Two of us were heading home after a long journey, both to graduate school. One was arriving for the first time in a country he was about to make into a home, and I was there to get proof of my newly recognized European citizenship. Arno Vivo was half on a dock and half on a floating raft, where we grabbed a table. There was live music, mood lighting, and the buffet style food was free with a drink. We shared a bottle of wine and swapped travel/life stories, and it was one of those moments that reminds you how absolutely wonderful travel can be.

The next morning I walked back to the airport to pick up a rental car, and headed out for Vernasca. I was so nervous the whole drive, that they would be closed (our communication was all in Google-translated Italian, and I wasn’t sure they’d be open until I arrived), or that I didn’t have the proper documentation. It seemed too easy, honestly, after the process leading up to it had been so drawn out and difficult.

The drive was beautiful, through the mountains and farmland, and the little village was so cute. I headed straight for the municipal building, and there was one woman working behind the counter. She was expecting me, and we chatted away—her in Italian, me half in Spanish and half in hand gestures. She filled out my ID card right there (so easy, it’s just made of paper!), and handed it to me with a big huge and a congratulations. It was such a surreal moment, being in my ancestors old village, even being in Italy, and I’m honestly so grateful that’s how I received my ID, rather than at a consulate in LA or London. Afterwards I wandered around the town a bit—there’s a big church up a hill right behind the municipal building that offered incredible views, before getting some lunch and starting the drive back.

downtown in the village

I was eager to drop the car off because that night started the second part of my trip—Cinque Terre!

IT HAPPENED

Are you ready for this?

I’m here with the update I never thought I’d get to write. I honestly still can’t believe it, and I think it will be a while before the reality truly sets in. But as of Tuesday night, I am officially a recognized citizen of Italy.

To be honest, this whole process became a bit of a nightmare. I had serious doubts it would ever get done, and was sure I was years away from any progress. Then Christmas happened, and while I suddenly felt sure it would happen at SOME point, the missing middle name correction was something the LA consulate had rejected plenty of people for in the past. I expected to need another court order. Because obtaining a court order takes a lot of work, time, and money, and I figured I should at least give what I had a shot. What was a few more months in the years this has taken? I’m so happy I did! I feel like as soon as I stopped stressing about it, it happened. NOT to say that had I stopped stressing before it would have worked, because it took a LOT of determination, commitment, and belief to get to this point.

From my research on the consulate, I was expecting to hear back sometime around now. So when I got an email at 1:00 am with the subject line ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP, my heart stopped for a second. The email was so short, I had to read it multiple times to understand. Like it couldn’t possibly be official. Do you remember when I got my first email with the huge list of problems that needed correcting? I didn’t read that one carefully enough, and mistakenly believed it had gone through. But this one was different. It was maybe three lines, most of which explained how I could obtain a passport. A EUROPEAN PASSPORT.

This means I can stay in Europe as long as I want, and I can get a proper job. It means no one can force Gareth and I apart (um, until Brexit happens). It’s weird because I have very little connection to Italy. Other than my love of the food, I´ve never been there (though give me a few weeks!), I don’t know a word of the language, and even my actual genealogy isn’t very Italian. The true value of this passport is Europe. I can stay in Spain for as long as I want. I can move to France. I can live in the UK. I suddenly have 28 more countries in which I can legally work. The amount of languages I can study, cultures I can get to know, and food I can try has just increased by so much! Also a lot of places in Europe have nearly free or actually free masters programs. So, that´s also a PRETTY big plus.

I can’t believe it’s over, but WOW, am I happy to cross #1 off my list!

More Italian Citizenship News

I know haven’t updated on this in a while, mostly because it turned into a bit of a nightmare, and I couldn’t really handle posting about it until I had something positive to update on. AND NOW I DO! It’s long, sorry.

I think the last thing I posted was that my lawyer was going to get the court order in the beginning of September. Then nothing.

That’s because the order was denied. My lawyer was based in NY and the NY courts didn’t think they had jurisdiction over my entirely MA documents. Not knowing how to proceed, we decided to basically throw a hail mary, and try one more time under my dad’s name and hope for a different judge. If this failed I could have found (and paid for) a lawyer in MA (I looked for months during all of this and didn’t find ANYONE familiar with these types of cases), or applied directly in Italy (something that would have cost THOUSANDS of dollars), obviously two options that were less than ideal. After a few months of back and forth about when the second court date would happen, my lawyer decided it would be best to apply under my grandmother, as we could use her maiden name and avoid the courts recognizing my last name and automatically assigning the same judge.

I waited about another month, and was promised the first week in December. Then the second week. And then I didn’t hear anything for a little while. It was two weeks of torture! I am not patient! Finally I got an email saying the case had been filed, which meant it would be heard in the next few days. This was the week before Christmas, so we were cutting it REALLY close to everything closing down. On Thursday I got an email saying to have hope–that the judge I had been assigned wasn’t familiar with these types of cases, but he wasn’t against them. He didn’t want to sign off until he talked to one other judge–one my lawyer had worked with a lot and felt very confident would be supportive. On Sunday, Christmas morning, I got an email saying it had worked! The order had been granted!

YOU GUYS. I was shocked. My case was REALLY difficult. Like Secondino changed his name to ANDREW and I was trying to prove they were the same person, even though his birthdates didn’t match and his wife was sometimes on documents as Stephanie and sometimes as Bella. None of these names match even a little! I thought after not hearing anything on Friday that I would have to wait until after the holidays, and even if this judge granted everyone else their orders, mine still might be rejected because of the NY/MA jurisdiction thing. So imagine my TOTAL joy of waking up on Christmas morning to an email saying it had worked! I cried. My mom cried. Everyone was insanely happy.

I sent it translated to the consulate, and the apostilled version should arrive there this week! Right now, the turn around has been about a month. Compared to the EIGHTEEN months I waited the first time around, that is amazing!

However. I’ve noticed a problem.

The LA consulate sent me a list of about 10 things that needed to be addressed in the court order. Only nine were. My dad’s middle name isn’t on his own birth certificate, but it is on mine. This is an issue for LA. It shouldn’t be, because it’s OBVIOUSLY THE SAME PERSON, but it is. I talked to my lawyer and apparently by filing through my grandmother, she didn’t think we could include my dad, because he is a generation below her. I’ve talked to a few people and they think this is going to be a real problem.

I’m really not sure what to do. I thought it was finally over, and now it feels far from it. After the email on Christmas, we decided I’d move in with Gareth this summer. Long distance could finally be over. Now, while I have hope maybe it’ll be okay, there’s a huge chance it won’t be, and that is not ideal.

That said. The court order I do have addressed the MAJOR issues with my case. I’m no longer worried I’ll never get Italian citizenship, just that it’ll take longer than I want (though it already has considering I applied back in 2014 and it’s now 2017!).

The last thing I might need changed is so small, and so manageable, I know I’ll get it done. I have a plan:

1. Hope LA accepts it as is, but assume the won’t so I’ll simultaneously be doing step 2
2. Obtain my dad’s baptism and confirmation records that (hopefully) show how/when he took his middle name and this will (hopefully) be sufficient.
3. If both of those fail, I now feel educated enough to represent myself in a court local to where my dad lives, and I’ll fly home and try to do it myself.

That’s the update for the moment. I’ll keep you posted and you guys keep your fingers (and toes!) crossed for me.

Dual Italian Citizenship: When the Going Gets Tough (you cry and then hire a lawyer)

Hi friends, I know it’s been too long since my last post, and while I have a huge backlog of stuff (G’s visit, I saw Kesha in Vegas!, etc), something really big/exciting happened last week that I want to talk about.

My last post about Italian Citizenship was not a happy one. I think we all deal with bad news in different ways, like I said earlier mine is to immediately get sad and feel beaten, and then get angry and SUPER motivated. My already low amount of patience ceases to exist, and I go into research overdrive until I come up with a game plan. This time was a little more difficult, because it was so dependent on other people, but when I’m determined, I’m pretty unstoppable.

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