How long does it take to get Italian citizenship by descent?

This article of the ICA series will focus specifically on the time needed to apply and to be recognized as an Italian citizen by descent.

Italian passport citizenship taken by descent photo
Italian passport on a luggage. Photo: Francesca Tirico on Unsplash.

When looking into the possibility of applying for Italian citizenship by descent, one of the first questions people ask is: how long does it take? While our previous articles have analyzed the different pathways towards moving to Italy, and the benefits of acquiring Italian citizenship by descent, this article will focus specifically on the time needed to apply and to be recognized as an Italian citizen, be it via an Italian consulate, a municipality or a court in Italy.

How long does it take to apply?

Prior to describing the process and the corresponding timeline to be recognized as an Italian citizen by descent, it is worth specifying that regardless of the pathway you will be pursuing (be it a consular case, an application filed at a municipality in Italy or a 1948 case), you will need to collect certified copies of your family’s vital records. These comprise birth and death certificates, marriage records, divorce decrees and proof of naturalization or no naturalization pertaining to the ancestor who was born in Italy and who emigrated to the United States. It is worth pointing out that some consulates in the U.S. or abroad, or municipalities in Italy, will only require the vital records pertaining to the individuals in your direct line of descent, therefore it is advisable to consult the requirements of the authority which will be responsible for processing your application before you submit your citizenship portfolio.

It generally takes 3 to 9 months to collect all the records, however, this mostly depends on the processing times of the specific offices issuing the vital records. There are also agencies such as VitalCheck, for instance, which provide a service designed to simplify and accelerate the process of obtaining vital records from the U.S., thus in some cases, obtaining a vital record via VitalCheck might be faster. It is also possible to request records in-person, however this depends on whether the specific vital records office allows walk-in services.

Once all the records have been retrieved, you will need to check whether there are any discrepancies on them that might negatively affect your application. If you need to amend a record, this may take up to several weeks depending on the specific vital statics office to which you apply. Finally, if all the information on the vital records is consistent you will need to authenticate the records with Apostille and translate them into Italian. Apostilles are issued by the Secretary of State or by the U.S. Department of State (for federal documents), and they generally take a few weeks to be issued. Some Secretary of State offices may offer walk-in services and they may be able to issue apostilles on the same day.

How long does it take to be granted citizenship via an Italian consulate?

Italian consulates in the U.S. have different waiting times, however, since the health emergency, many consulates have started to process citizenship applications via mail, thus accelerating the process. However, there are also consulates that have resumed in-person appointments.

By law, consulates have up to 24 months to process an application for Italian citizenship by descent, however, it could take less.

If you apply for Italian citizenship at an Italian consulate outside of the U.S., the processing time to be recognized as an Italian citizen might be shorter as these consulates have fewer applications to process.

How long does it take to be recognized as an Italian citizen if you apply at a municipality?

Applying at a municipality in Italy is generally faster than applying via an Italian consulate. Filing an application in Italy entails establishing legal residency in the country. In particular, you will need to provide the municipality with a lease agreement or a property deed, for instance, which proves that you can legally use the property where you intend to reside. The local police will then check that you are living in the property and generally, they have 45 days to do so from the date you submit your application, however, it could also take less. Once they have verified your address, you can submit your citizenship application at the municipality’s town hall. The waiting time to be recognized as an Italian citizen via a municipality varies greatly depending on the municipality to which you apply, however, on average, it takes up to a few months to be granted citizenship.

How long does it take to obtain citizenship if you have a court case?

If you have a 1948 case you will need to apply for citizenship via a court in Italy. Starting from June 22, 2022, all 1948 cases must be filed at the court that covers the jurisdiction of the applicant’s ancestor’s municipality of birth. In particular, once all the records are in order and you have signed a Power of Attorney that enables a lawyer to represent you in court, your lawsuit will be filed and your case will be assigned to a judge who will schedule the first hearing. The waiting time varies greatly depending on the judge’s availability, but it can range from a few of months to approximately 18 months. During the first hearing, the judge will examine your vital records and if no additional documents are required, the decision will be made whether to grant or deny your claim to citizenship on the same day on which the hearing is held, or within a few weeks from that day. Once you win the case and the court officially recognizes you as an Italian citizen, the ruling will be filed with the clerk of the court and the attorney who represented you will need to wait 60 days for the judge’s decision to become final and thus no longer subject to appeal. When that period of time elapses, you can request a certified copy of the final judgment in order for your ancestor’s municipality of birth to register it together with your vital records (birth, marriage and divorce records, if applicable).

How long does it take to get an Italian passport?

If you have applied for Italian citizenship via an Italian consulate, the consulate will send you an email or a letter stating that you have been recognized as an Italian citizen; it will also register you with the A.I.R.E. and your vital records will be sent to the municipality in Italy where your ancestor was born in order for them to be registered. Once they have been registered (this normally takes a couple of weeks), you will be able to apply for a passport. It generally takes between 1 to 6 weeks to be issued a passport. The same applies if you have a 1948 case in that when the municipality registers the final judgment and your vital records, it will also register you with the A.I.R.E and you will be able to apply for a passport at the Italian consulate that covers the jurisdiction where you reside.

Finally, if you file your application at a municipality in Italy, you will need to apply for a passport at the local police headquarters (“Questura”). The waiting time to be issued a passport in this case might be slightly shorter compared to applying at a consulate.

If you would like to learn more about the requirements and the process to apply for Italian citizenship by descent, do not hesitate to contact Italian Citizenship Assistance at info@italiancitizenshipassistance.com or at +1 (951) 742 5830.