FAQ on Italian Citizenship by Descent

FAQ on Italian Citizenship by Descent

In this article, we present the most frequently asked questions about Italian citizenship by descent. Remember to also consult another article on our blog for more in-depth information.

General Characteristics

What is Italian citizenship by descent (“iure sanguinis”)?

Italian citizenship law is based on the principle of iure sanguinis (citizenship by blood). This means that those with Italian ancestors may be eligible to acquire Italian citizenship, regardless of the number of generations involved. To begin the recognition procedure, you must provide proof of being a descendant of an Italian citizen, without interruption in the transmission of citizenship.

Where should you apply for citizenship?

If you live abroad, you should contact your local Italian consulate. Alternatively, you can apply for citizenship directly in Italy, once you have established residence in an Italian municipality.

How can you schedule an appointment at the consulate?

Online, on the website of your local Italian consulate. Many Italian consulates’ websites have a page called “Book Online” where you can create your account and then make the reservation.

Is it necessary to know the Italian language to apply for Italian citizenship by descent?

No, it is not a legal requirement.

Is it possible to apply for citizenship without registering marriages, divorces, or minor children?

No, it would be illegal. Citizenship iure sanguinis is a retroactive recognition of citizenship; therefore, all these documents must be legally registered in Italy.

How long does it take to be formally recognized as an Italian citizen?

The timing varies and depends on the specific circumstances of the case. The fastest method is to submit the application at an Italian municipality (standard timing is from 8 to 12 months).

In the case of adoption of non-Italian children, are they also recognized as Italian?

Yes. The parent must be recognized as a citizen before they can request citizenship for an adopted minor child (unlike biological minor children, who are automatically citizens). Adoptions of minors must undergo judicial scrutiny by the Juvenile Court.

Can you apply for citizenship by descent from a female ancestor?

Yes. We advise you to contact our office to assess your eligibility and check the options available for your situation. If you need to file a court appeal for citizenship because one of your ancestors in the genealogical tree is a woman, we can assist you. This is the only way for applicants born to a woman before 1948 to claim Italian citizenship through descent. In such cases, the legal process could conclude within 1 or 2 years. After the court hearings, the judge evaluates the citizenship request and finally issues the decree. Since June 2022, jurisdiction for cases related to maternal descent of those born before 1948 no longer belongs to the Court of Rome but to selected courts depending on the Italian ancestor’s place of birth.


Is there a limit to the number of generations?

No. Italian citizenship is passed from father to son without any limit in the number of generations, provided that neither the ancestor nor any family member of the descent has ever renounced Italian citizenship.

Does a spouse have the right to citizenship?

Yes, but the spouse must apply after the couple’s marriage has been registered in Italy. Only foreign women who married Italian men before April 27, 1983, automatically acquired Italian citizenship and, therefore, have the right to request recognition simultaneously.

If the ancestor born in Italy naturalized before the birth of their children?

If you are a child or grandchild of a former citizen, you can obtain Italian citizenship by residing in Italy for a period of three years.

Useful Documents for the Application

What are the requirements that non-Italian documents must meet to be accepted by the consulate for the citizenship application?

Documents must be original or “certified copies”; moreover, once retrieved, they must be legalized (if necessary, by means of Apostille) and then translated into Italian. Remember that documents issued by foreign authorities may require different types of legalization: for countries that are part of the Hague Convention, an Apostille is required. For other countries, legalization must be carried out through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then completed through the local Italian Consulate. There are some exceptions. The Brussels Convention of 1987 completely abolished the need for legalization for the exchange of documents between the following countries: Belgium, Denmark (excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia. Under the Athens Convention of 1977, birth and marriage certificates issued by the following countries also do not require legalization when presented in Italy: Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Portugal. Finally, Italy has signed a bilateral agreement that abolished the need for document legalization with the following countries: Austria (1990), Germany (1969), Spain (1983), Argentina (1987), Switzerland (1966), Hungary (1977). In any case, all non-Italian documents must be translated into Italian, unless they are issued in a multilingual format under the Vienna Convention of 1976.

What is an apostille?

It is a form of authentication required for the international acceptance of authenticated and official documents. It was implemented by the Hague Convention of 1961.

Which documents need to be translated into Italian?

All birth, marriage, divorce, and death certificates issued in languages other than Italian.

Who is qualified to translate documents?

Documents must be professionally translated into Italian. The websites of consulates have lists of approved translators.

Do documents expire?

Documents submitted for the citizenship application legalized by means of Apostille do not have an expiration date and can be filed at the consulate at any time. If not apostilled, it is possible that retrieved documents may not be legalized if issued too far back in time (usually more than 5 years from the date of issue). Attention. Not all states have the same Apostille requirements: it is always advisable to check with the competent Secretary of State whether a document in your possession is still suitable for an Apostille or not.

What happens if there is some discrepancy in the documents?

It depends on the type of discrepancy. For major discrepancies (such as errors in dates or places of birth and significant distortions of names), if possible, you should amend the incorrect data through the competent registration office.

Particular Cases

If a family member has already applied and received iure sanguinis citizenship through the Consulate. Do I need to duplicate all the documentation?

No, usually the documents on file at the consulate do not need to be duplicated when additional family members use the same consulate. If it involves different consulates, since 2012 it is no longer possible to share documents between them. Therefore, if your relative was granted citizenship by another consulate, you will need to provide new original documents to the consulate you will turn to.

Is it possible to change the name and register it in Italy?

Italian law generally allows name changes in two situations: danger to life or obscenity of the birth name. However, if the name change occurs abroad (and there are no contrary Italian judgments), Italian law allows the registration of the foreign judgment. If you changed your name before applying for citizenship, you should present a certified copy of your name change to the consulate, as well as a modified copy of the birth certificate. If, on the other hand, you want to change your name after submitting your citizenship application, you must present the name change decree to the consulate; the latter will then send it to the Municipality, where it will be annotated in your birth registry.

What to do if you cannot find the birth certificate of the Italian-origin ancestor?

Usually, the alternative is to send a letter to the Municipality stating that you do not have the birth certificate and a copy of the baptismal certificate from the local parish with the Diocese’s stamp. (see this article for how to request an Italian baptismal certificate) It is possible that, in the case of male ancestors, military documents from Italy will have the parents’ names and place of birth of the ancestor, along with the date of birth. Without one of these substitutes or the birth certificate from the Municipality, it is not possible to apply for citizenship.

How can the lack of a document affect the citizenship application?

It depends on which document is missing. The lack of a death certificate usually does not represent a big problem. Death records are useful for proving that ancestors have died and for giving a detailed picture of where the ancestor lived, but it is not strictly required by law. The same goes for the lack of civil documents or the presentation of religious documents as substitutes (e.g., baptismal certificate instead of birth certificate). (See this article for how to request a marriage certificate in Italy) In fact, Italian law on Italian citizenship by descent specifically states that applicants must submit (at least) the birth and marriage documents related to the Italian lineage people, from ancestors born in Italy to themselves.

If you renounce Italian citizenship, can you reacquire it?

Yes. If you have been an Italian citizen during your life, you can establish residence in Italy and proceed with the reacquisition of citizenship.


We hope to have clarified the major doubts about obtaining citizenship by descent. If you wish to pursue your goal to the best, you can contact one of our lawyers specialized in citizenship who will be able to advise and assist you optimally.

Dott.ssa Elena Capodacqua

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