Why Is Italian Citizenship So Popular?

An interview with Marco Permunian, Founder of Italian Citizenship Assistance (ICA).

Attorney Marco Permunian of Italian Citizenship Assistance.
Attorney Marco Permunian. Photo coursey of Italian Citizenship Assistance.

Applying for Italian citizenship has become increasingly popular in recent years. While becoming an Italian citizen is not an impossible dream, it is daunting for many people who are interested in pursuing Italian citizenship due to the genealogical research and bureaucracy involved, and the potential language barrier, especially if you decide to apply in Italy. However, there are professionals and dual citizenship experts both in Italy and the U.S. whose goal is to make your journey towards Italian citizenship as smooth as possible. Italics spoke to Italian attorney and founder of Italian Citizenship Assistance (ICA) Marco Permunian, who has been devoting his career to helping hundreds of people with Italian descent reconnect with Italy and fulfil their dream of becoming Italian citizens. In particular, Marco discussed what his company does, and the motivations that have driven many people to apply for Italian citizenship by descent in recent years.

Marco, tell us more about you and what led you to start Italian Citizenship Assistance.

My interest in immigration law has its roots in my personal experience. In fact, when my foster sister who immigrated from Lithuania petitioned to become an Italian citizen, I witnessed first-hand the practical implications of immigration law and how it affects an individual’s everyday life. I decided to pursue a degree in Law in Ferrara (Italy), and shortly after graduating I moved to New York where I worked for an Italian-American law firm that specialized in cross-border negotiations and real estate acquisition on behalf of Italian citizens and other European citizens in the United States. When I was living in New York I was introduced to the Italian-American community and I realized how Italian culture was a big part of American society. As I met more and more people, I saw the passion that they had for a country which they had only heard about through the stories of their family members who had left Italy generations before. I was also impressed by the traditions and cultural events that had survived many generations and by how so many people wanted to reconnect with their heritage. This is why I decided to focus on citizenship law and Italian citizenship by descent more specifically. In 1992, in fact, Italy allowed for dual citizenship but individuals who naturalized voluntarily before that year lost their Italian citizenship, nevertheless, if you can prove that the ancestor who was born in Italy naturalized after his or her child’s birth, you can claim Italian citizenship by right of blood. I realized that the eligibility requirements to apply and the application process can be daunting for many, so I decided to start Italian Citizenship Assistance in order to help people to navigate the process. ICA now has offices both in Italy and in the United States and it is made up of a team of attorneys, legal experts, genealogists, translators and dual citizenship experts.

How can ICA help you obtain Italian citizenship?

Firstly, our client intake team conducts a free preliminary assessment in order to determine whether an individual is eligible to apply. The assessment entails verifying that the individual has an unbroken chain of Italian descendants. As I mentioned earlier, there a number of eligibility requirements that must be met. In particular, none of your ancestors in your direct line of descent must have renounced their Italian citizenship, and your ancestor (who was born in Italy) must have been alive when Italy was unified as a nation on March 17, 1861, or he/she must have been born after that date. If you meet these requirements, you can apply for citizenship via an Italian consulate or a municipality in Italy. On the other hand, if there is a woman in your Italian lineage, her child must have been born after January 1, 1948, which is when Italy’s constitution came into effect, granting men and women equal rights. As a consequence, women could pass their citizenship onto their children. A legal precedent was established in the Civil Court of Rome in 2009 and since then, applicants with a female ancestor who gave birth to their child prior to January 1, 1948 can file a lawsuit in a court in Italy and apply for Italian citizenship retroactively.

If the individual is eligible to apply, ICA provides an A-to-Z service. The citizenship specialist who is assigned to the case will retrieve all the applicants’ family’s vital records, authenticate them with Apostilles and translate them into Italian. It is worth pointing out that prior to legalizing all the records with Apostilles, the citizenship specialist will evaluate whether there are any discrepancies on the records that might affect the outcome of the application. If there are inconsistencies on the records, they will be amended in order to ensure that all the information is coherent. In fact, the ultimate aim is to provide the Italian authorities with all of the proof that verifies the applicant’s Italian lineage. Finally, when a citizenship application is approved, ICA will help the client to apply for an Italian passport and register with the AIRE.

You mentioned that there are several paths towards acquiring Italian citizenship by descent; could you expand on that, please?

That’s right. You can apply for Italian citizenship via a consulate or a municipality in Italy. If you have a 1948 case, you can only apply for citizenship via a court in Italy. If you apply via an Italian consulate you will need to book an appointment for citizenship by descent by registering on the consulate’s online booking system called Prenot@Mi. You can only apply to the consulate that covers the jurisdiction where you reside; in fact, on the day of your appointment you will need to provide the consulate with proof that you reside under their jurisdiction; this can be a utility bill or a bank statement showing your full name and address. If you decide to apply in Italy you will need to establish residency in the country and you will need to file your application in the townhall of the municipality where you established your residency. Finally, if you have a 1948 case, one of ICA’s attorneys will represent you in court and file your lawsuit, and your case will be assessed by a judge who will schedule the hearing.

Why do you believe so many people are interested in applying for dual citizenship with Italy?

I think that many people have a desire to reconnect with their roots and visit the places where their ancestors lived, in addition to being able to experience life in Italy as true Italian citizens without being bound by time restrictions. Indeed, in recent years ICA has witnessed a sharp increase in enquiries for Italian citizenship by descent. The surge might be due to the period of political instability in the U.S. in 2020, which resulted in many people seeking alternatives to the political and social situation they were experiencing at that time. In addition to this, many companies started to allow remote working during the health emergency, which is another factor that might have fueled the surge in applications for Italian citizenship by descent.

What are the benefits of holding Italian citizenship?

Firstly, if you hold an Italian passport you can stay in Italy for as long as you like without having to apply for a visa. In fact, non-EU citizens are only allowed to spend 90 days in Italy. Holding an Italian passport also means that you can travel around the European Union without any time limitations and you can work, study or reside in any of the EU’s member states. Italian citizenship is also attractive due to the country’s national healthcare system, which is considered to be one of the best in Europe, providing universal coverage for its citizens and residents. If you move to another EU member state, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card, which will allow you to have access to other EU member states’ healthcare systems. Another benefit of being an Italian citizen is linked to Italy’s higher education system. Many Italian universities rank highly on an international scale and university fees are considerably cheaper compared to the United States. In addition to this, many Italian universities offer students the opportunity to participate in the EU’s exchange programs, such as “Erasmus”, and therefore they can study in another European country as part of their degree course. Finally, another benefit of applying for Italian citizenship is that if you have minor children who you would like to be recognized as Italian citizens, you would only need to register their birth records via the Italian consulate. The same applies without any limits to future generations, provided that the Italian parent registers the child’s birth before the child turns 18 years old. In fact, if you decide to register your child’s birth after that age, your child will need to apply for the recognition of Italian citizenship and submit all the vital records pertaining to the individuals in the Italian lineage, starting from the ancestor who emigrated from Italy.

Do you also help people to relocate to Italy?

Sure. In addition to helping people to acquire Italian citizenship, we help those who do not qualify to obtain a visa, and we also assist people to purchase a property in Italy. In fact, there is a branch within our company that specializes in real estate law. We have a team of real estate experts, attorneys and translators who assist clients from carrying out market analysis to suggesting a list of properties and locations that might be of interest to the potential buyer. Our team of lawyers also carries out due diligence on the property and they take care of the entire purchasing process from A-to-Z.

Why do you recommend moving to Italy?

Italy is famous for its culture, art and amazing food, but I would also add that it is in a strategic position in Europe and thus it is very easy to travel around the continent. You can jump on a plane and visit almost any European capital in just a couple of hours. Some people also like the adventure of using an Interrail pass to travel around Europe.

Italy’s variety of natural landscapes is also an asset. The country features majestic mountains, golden beaches, amazing lakes and rolling hills like the ones in Tuscany.

Many people love Italian culture, its history, and its values such as family and social relations; in fact, Italians are extremely family-oriented, they value a healthy and balanced lifestyle, their traditions and food, which probably represents the biggest expression of culture as a way of socializing and enjoying the so-called Dolce Vita.  

If you would like to learn more about Italian citizenship, feel free to contact ICA at info@italiancitizenshipassistance.com or at +1 (951) 742 5830.