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Citizenship by descent, i.e. for having Italian parents or ancestors, based on the principle of ius sanguinis

Article 1 of Law No. 91/92 lays down that a person acquires Italian citizenship when born of a father or a mother who are Italian citizens. Hence the principle of ius sanguinis – already enshrined in the previous legislation – is reaffirmed as a key principle for the acquisition of citizenship, while the principle of ius soli remains an exceptional and residual case.

While explicitly stating that also the mother can transmit citizenship, the Article fully acknowledges the principle of equality between men and women with regard to the transmission of citizenship.

Recognition of the possession of citizenship to foreign nationals descending from Italian ancestors who emigrated to countries where the principle of ius soli is in force.

While Article 1 of the Law of 1912 reaffirmed the principle of recognition of Italian citizenship through paternal lineage to the citizens’ children regardless of their place of birth, as already provided for in the Civil Code of 1865, Article 7 of Law No. 555/1912 was meant to ensure that the children of Italian emigrants could maintain the link with their ascendants’ country of origin, thus introducing an important exception to the principle of single citizenship.

In fact, Article 7 of Law No. 555/1912 enabled the children of Italian citizens, born in a foreign State which had granted them citizenship according to the principle of ius soli, to retain the Italian citizenship acquired at birth, even if the parents lost it when minors, thus recognizing to the persons concerned the significant right to renounce it when coming of age, if living abroad.

That special rule derogated not only from the principle of single citizenship, but also from the principle whereby the fate of the minor children’s citizenship depended on the father, as provided for by Article 12 of Law No. 555/1912.

Hence the conditions required for such recognition are based, on the one hand, on the demonstration of descent from the person originally having the status of citizen (the ancestor who emigrated) and, on the other, on the proof that there were no interruptions in the transmission of citizenship (failed foreign naturalization of the ancestor before the birth of the children; absence of declarations of renunciation of Italian citizenship by further descendants before the birth of the next generation, thus proving that the transmission of citizenship did not stop.

The procedures for recognizing the possession of Italian citizenship iure sanguinis were specifically formalized in the Interior Ministry’s circular letter No. K.28.1 of 8 April 1991, the legal validity of which was not affected by the subsequent entry into force of Law No. 91/1992.

The authorities competent for carrying out the related ascertainment procedures shall be determined according to the place of residence: for those living abroad, it is the competent consular Office having territorial jurisdiction.

The recognition procedure follows the following steps:

– to ascertain that lineage started with an Italian ancestor (there are no limits of generations);

– to ascertain that the Italian ancestor retained Italian citizenship until the birth of the descendants. The lack of naturalization or the date of any naturalization of the ancestor shall be proven by a certificate issued by the competent foreign authorities. Descent from the Italian ancestor shall be proven by means of civil status documents of birth and marriage; said documents shall be duly legalized, where requested, and accompanied by an official translation. In this regard, it should be noted that the transmission of Italian citizenship through maternal lineage is possible only for children born after 1 January 1948, e.g. the date of entry into force of the Constitution;
– to certify that neither the applicant nor the ascendants have ever renounced Italian citizenship – thus interrupting the transmission of citizenship – through appropriate certificates issued by the competent Italian diplomatic and consular authorities.

The applicant shall submit his/her application accompanied by the required complete documentation designed to prove the requirements and conditions listed above.

The application shall be submitted to the consular Office of the district in which the foreign national of Italian origin lives.