Italian Citizenship by Descent through the Courts

Applying for Italian citizenship through the courts isn't longer or more difficult, it simply means that you are doing it in another way.

Applying for Italian citizenship through the courts - in the picture the juvenile court of Rome
The Juvenile Court of Rome. Photo: Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash.

When applying for Italian citizenship by descent there are three possible avenues: through the local consulate, through the municipality, or through the Italian courts. The focus of this article is the latter, which is typically used for “1948 cases,” meaning for those individuals who have a female ancestor who had the next-in-line descendent before January 1, 1948.

When can you apply through the courts?

Applications for citizenship based on the 1948 rule are submitted via the judicial system and are managed by Italian courts. This is compared to applications submitted via the public administration route, which involve having your documentation evaluated by an Italian Consulate or Italian Municipality.

This does not mean that the judicial process is longer or more difficult, it simply means that you are applying for Italian citizenship in another way. As mentioned above, a 1948 case requires a judicial route because the applicant has a female ancestor who gave birth to her child before January 1, 1948.

Historically, 1912 Italian citizen law stated that only males were able to transfer their Italian citizenship to their children. However, the 1948 Italian constitution set forth principles of gender equality, which in turn meant that children born after the constitution came into effect could receive Italian citizenship not only from their father but also from their mother.

A case brought before the Italian Supreme Court in 2009 argued that the principles introduced by the Italian constitution should be applied retrospectively. The court approved the case and many cases have since followed and have had positive outcomes. This means that the retroactivity of the Italian Constitution regarding a woman’s right to pass on her Italian citizenship has legal authority and a high likelihood of a successful outcome based on this rule.

Aside from 1948 cases, you can apply through the civil courts if you previously applied through the consulate, but did not receive an answer within 730 days, or if you are unable to get an appointment at your local consulate. If, instead, you have a situation where you believe your application was unjustly denied by the consulate, you would then appeal to the administrative court in Italy.

Another option to get around a lengthy consulate wait period is to apply through the municipality in Italy. However, you would have to be physically present in the country to do this, whereas with the Italian court you could give power of attorney to apply for you. We at ICA offer this service.

How to apply

In respect of 1948 cases, the judicial route starts by collating all your vital records. You will also need an apostille, and the documents must be translated into Italian. The documents to apply for citizenship by descent through the Italian courts are the same as if you were applying through the consulate. Consulates, generally, also require vital records for the spouses of those in the Italian line, while those extra documents aren’t needed for the Italian courts. The translations will need to be certified, which can be done by the consulate, an Italian court clerk, or by an Italian or U.S. notary. In this last case, the notary’s signature must be apostilled.

After you have gathered, legalized and translated all the supporting documents you need to appoint an attorney who can represent you, this means that your presence in court will not be required at any time. Your petition is then filed to the Italian court, along with all the supporting documents (original copies). The claim also gets served to the Italian Ministry of Interior’s office in Rome. The next stage is for a judge to be appointed and your case to be heard. The final judgment is generally issued shortly after the final hearing. If the outcome is successful, and your citizenship is recognized, all the vital records pertaining to the petitioner will need to be registered in the Italian municipality where your ancestor was born.

The time frame for court cases is variable depending on the court through which you apply. An approximate estimate is between 6 and 14 months. The court will make a final ruling; there will be no need to revisit the consulate.

For more information regarding the judicial process please see here.

Other considerations

It used to be the case that all court cases for Italian citizenship by descent would go through the Court of Rome. As of June 22, 2022, that is no longer the case; now applicants who reside abroad must file in the court of the municipality where their ancestor was from. Please see a related ICA podcast here.

Finally, those who have an Italian ancestor who naturalized when his or her child was a minor (below the age of 21, according to Italian law before 1975) might want to consider waiting for a consulate appointment or applying through an Italian municipality, if possible. This is because there have been instances in which the judges at the court of Rome have interpreted the law differently and claimed the foreign-born minor naturalized along with the adult parent. Neither the municipalities nor the consulates have a history of treating the law in this way, and if the case is rejected by the courts due to this interpretation, the applicant can choose to appeal. It is important to be aware of this possibility, so you can choose if you would prefer not to risk such a ruling and wait for a consular appointment instead. However, it should be noted that there are several judges within the Italian local regional courts who have applied the most widely accepted interpretation of the law.


This article has explained what a 1948 case is, as well as the circumstances in which one might want to pursue citizenship through the Italian courts even if one does not have a 1948 case. Generally, such a maneuver is done in extreme circumstances, but it is possible if your local consulate has an unusually long wait period and you are not able to relocate to another consular district, or travel to Italy to apply through a municipality. If you need help in your application process, Italian Citizenship Assistance will be happy to be of service. Visit us online at or email us at