The unification of Italy was a complex process that occurred in different stages, each significantly shaping the country’s borders and defining new lines of separation from its neighboring countries. This convoluted history has implications for individuals seeking Italian citizenship today, especially those with ancestors born in territories once ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Yugoslavia. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the eligibility requirements for Italian citizenship by descent (jure sanguinis) for these individuals.


The Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy:

In 1920, the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire saw the provinces of Trento and Bolzano, in Trentino-Alto Adige, and sections of northern Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia primarily belonging to the Province of Gorizia, ceded to Italy. This transfer of territories raised many questions for individuals of Italian descent whose ancestors were born in these regions.

If your ancestor was born in these territories and emigrated before July 16th, 1920, you cannot apply for Italian citizenship as per Law 379/2000 established in 2000. This law suspended the recognition of Italian citizenship by descent for these individuals, as the territories were not yet part of Italy when their ancestors emigrated.

However, if your ancestor emigrated after July 16th, 1920, when these territories officially became part of Italy, you might be eligible for Italian citizenship. The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, ratified between the former Austro-Hungarian empire and Italy on September 10th, 1919, necessitated each new Italian municipality to create a citizenship list. If your ancestor’s name appears on this list, you can apply for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis via an Italian consulate or municipality.

An essential exception is that even if your ancestor emigrated before 1920 but was registered in the municipality’s citizenship list, you could still apply for Italian citizenship. Please note that this is an exceptional circumstance and was only possible under specific conditions outlined by the Treaty.


The Former Republic of Yugoslavia and Italy:

The Paris Peace Treaties (1947) after World War II decided that several Italian territories, including parts of the Italian peninsula known as Istria, would become part of Yugoslavia. The requirements to apply for Italian citizenship by descent for individuals with ancestors born in these territories are different.

If your ancestor emigrated before 1940, before the Italian territories were transferred to Yugoslavia, you can apply for a standard application for the recognition of Italian citizenship jure sanguinis. However, if your ancestor was born in an area originally part of Italy but transferred to Yugoslavia post World War II, and they resided there in 1940, you could apply for Italian citizenship by descent only if you meet certain additional requirements.

These requirements include providing evidence of your ancestor’s residency and Italian citizenship in 1940 when the territory was transferred. You also need to prove your knowledge of Italian culture and language with official documentation from an Italian association abroad. Law 124/2006 governs the acquisition of citizenship under these specific circumstances and established a special committee within the Ministry of the Interior to evaluate such applications.

In 1975, Italy and the former Republic of Yugoslavia signed the Treaty of Osimo to define their borders and conclude disputes that started in 1947 about the “free territory of Trieste”. Law 124/2006 requires applicants with ancestors from territories permanently transferred to Yugoslavia in 1977 to provide proof of their knowledge of Italian culture and language.

The history of Italian citizenship is a complex tale of shifting borders and evolving laws. If your ancestors were born in territories that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire or Yugoslavia, your eligibility for Italian citizenship by descent becomes a more intricate process.

The story of the Istrian peninsula is a particularly poignant one. This region, extending from Trieste to Rijeka (known as “Fiume” in Italian), saw between 200,000 and 330,000 Italians emigrate when Istria was transferred to ex-Yugoslavia after World War II, particularly between 1943 and 1953. This mass movement of people was a direct response to the shifting geopolitical landscape, with implications for Italian citizenship that are still felt today.

In the face of these complexities, the pursuit of Italian citizenship for descendants of those from these regions is not straightforward. However, understanding the history and the laws that govern citizenship can empower you to navigate this process.

The Italian government is aware of these complexities and has created laws to address these specific circumstances. The committee established under Law 124/2006 is responsible for assessing applications involving Italian territories that were once part of the former Yugoslavian Republic. This committee evaluates applications submitted via an Italian consulate abroad or via a municipality.


This intricate history of Italian citizenship underscores the importance of thorough research and potentially seeking professional advice. It’s crucial to understand the specifics of your situation and how they align with Italian law. If you believe you are eligible for Italian citizenship through your lineage, consider reaching out to an Italian consulate or a professional specializing in Italian citizenship laws.

Remember, while the process may be complex, the reward is the connection to a rich cultural heritage and the rights and privileges that come with being an Italian citizen. If you’d like a free assessment or further information regarding applying for Italian citizenship, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In the end, the journey to securing your Italian citizenship is not just about navigating legal procedures; it’s also about exploring your personal history and reestablishing a link with your ancestral roots. It’s a journey well worth taking.