Dual Citizenship USA Italy: everything you need to know
So, you’re an American wondering about the path on how to apply for Italian citizenship. Both Italy and the United States allow for dual citizenship. There are a couple paths you can take—all of them long, not necessarily difficult, but very specific.
The first you’ve probably seen in movies or on TV: marriage. Marrying an Italian citizen opens up the path to Italian citizenship for you and American citizenship for your spouse. This, thanks to EU law, also extends to civil unions.
Descent is the other, if you are related to an Italian citizen. Every country has different citizenship laws that determine who and how someone is a citizen. That is, you are a US citizen if you are born on the territory (jus soli) and you are an Italian citizen if you are related by blood (jus sanguinis). Of course, this is not as strict in many countries: a person born to American citizens abroad can still claim citizenship, but in Italy it is a little more complicated.
What is the process?
If you’re interested in applying for Italian citizenship by descent you’ll need to do so through the Italian consulate in your jurisdiction. To start this you’ll most likely have to dig around in vital records offices, namely through Census Records and the National Archives. First of all, the birth certificates, marriage and death certificates of the Italian relatives as well as your parents and yourself.
If your Italian ancestor was naturalized in the US, you’ll need the naturalization records too and here is where you can run into problems obtaining Italian citizenship. There are a number of caveats:
Each of these documents will need to be translated into Italian and then taken to the Department of State to receive an Apostille which is the official seal of your particular state that verifies the document’s validity.
All of this will need to be done before the process of applying can begin, but it is also the bulk of the citizenship application. If you have all of the paperwork in order, most of the time will be spent waiting to hear about its status.
It’s a lengthy process that can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years. At the end, with a lot of preparation and a bit of luck you can end up with Italian dual citizenship, an Italian passport, and the ability to reside in Italy.
How much does it cost?
The big question. Everything mentioned above has a cost of course. And, be prepared to do a bit of running around. Costs tend to vary, mostly depending on whether or not you complete the process yourself. Using a lawyer can run upwards of $8,000 and there are no guarantees.
The application fee alone runs about $340 and is non-refundable even if the application is declined, so it's best to be absolutely sure that you have everything in order before you submit.
Birth, marriage and death certificates run between $25-50 each, depending on your state. An Apostille is $25 per document. The most expensive part of the process of applying is having everything translated into Italian, which can be in the neighborhood of $60-100 for each document, sometimes even more. It is possible to translate them yourself if you happen to be fluent, but the consulate generally asks them to be professionally completed.
Are there any benefits to having dual citizenship?
Definitely. Once you're a dual citizen, you'll be afforded a number of benefits. You'll be able to live and work in Italy or any other European Union country.
Education and healthcare are also huge benefits. Italy's universities are much more affordable than American ones (think $1,000 per year maximum for a public university) and its universal healthcare system covers all residents with little or no cost for services.
If you meet the requirements and are willing to put in the time you can have access to the best of both worlds.
Do you want to learn more? Check out our video about double tax treaty.
Planning to move in Italy? Check out if you are eligible for a tax credit for new residents, and our guide for immigration in Italy.
After moving back to Italy from the United States in 2013, I realized how much an accounting and tax firm was needed to help expats living in Italy to comply with the local tax regulations.