Old photograph of an Italian family

Can I get Italian citizenship through my parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents?

One of the most successful routes to US-Italian dual citizenship is citizenship by descent. And millions of Italian Americans could be eligible for dual citizenship through their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents who immigrated to America from Italy. 

Regardless of your current stance on US immigration policy, odds are your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents immigrated to America, and Italy is one of the most likely countries of origin.  

Seriously, could you imagine New York City without Italian Americans?

America was once called The Great Melting Pot for a very good reason. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, America grew because of the influx of immigrants. 

The vast majority of those immigrants started families and became naturalized American citizens – creating the modern Italian American population. 

So, is it possible to get US-Italian dual citizenship by descent? 

Yes, it is, and here’s how easy it is.


Who qualifies for Italian Citizenship by descent?

Essentially, every Italian American has the potential to qualify for Italian citizenship by descent. 

Bear in mind, this is not an immigration or naturalization procedure. 

If Italian citizenship successfully passed down to you, then you were born a dual citizen with both US and Italian citizenship.

The process of Italian citizenship by descent is known as recognition because you are declaring to the Italian government that you are – in fact and law – an Italian citizen and they need to recognize that fact. 

And it is your right to apply for recognition.

There are only two basic qualifiers that determine if someone is eligible to be recognized for US-Italian dual citizenship by descent –

  1. Having a direct ancestor who was born in Italy and immigrated to America, and
  2. Italian citizenship was successfully passed from generation to generation down to you


And the number of Italian Americans that this could apply to potentially reaches into the millions. 

According to the US Census Office, per the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS), there are nearly 16 million Italian Americans in the United States.

And the National Italian American Federation found the Italian American population to be over 17 million with a realistic probability it’s over 26 million. 

If you are Italian American, it’s very much worth discussing your family story with US Italian citizenship by descent experts to gain a realistic understanding of the possibility that you could qualify for Italian citizenship by descent. 

Old family photo

How to get Italian citizenship through family ancestors

If you are eligible for US-Italian dual citizenship by descent, the steps involved in realizing the reward of having dual citizenship and an EU passport are very straightforward.

Italy has one of the world’s most relaxed citizenship by descent laws, making it a viable route for countless Italian Americans.

The process is essentially the same regardless of how far back your Italian-born ancestor, also known as your LIRA, dates. 

However, the farther back you go, the more difficulty you can expect to have in finding and acquiring the necessary documentary evidence. And, the number of generations that you go back also increases the number of records you will need. 

The good news is, nothing is impossible – in fact, Futura Italian Citizenship has successfully helped Italian Americans whose LIRA dates to the birth of modern Italy itself.

One of the most important things to remember is, your LIRA must be in your direct line, meaning –

        ✅Great-grandfather[GGF] -> Grandfather[GF] -> Father[F] -> You

              ❌Great uncle -> Father -> You ❌


All of your blood-related ancestors between your LIRA and you are called in-line ancestors. The spouses of your in line ancestors are not-in-line.

Using the above example –

Your GGF – GF – F are in-line. 

Your GGM – GM – M are not-in-line


For most Italian Americans, the route to Italian citizenship by descent will be through their parents, grandparents, or their great-grandparents. 

It cannot be stressed enough – no one should give up before knowing and understanding their unique situation completely.

Step 1 – Identify your LIRA

Everything begins with Italy and thus your Italian ancestor – your LIRA or Last Italian-born & Registered Ancestor. This is the person who was born in Italy, came to America, and started your family line. 

Most cases involve a LIRA that dates back to the early 20th century, making grandparents and great-grandparents the most common LIRAs. Though it’s not uncommon for Italian Americans to use their great-great-grandparents as well. 

It doesn’t matter how far back you need to go, as per Italian law and the Italian constitution, Italian citizenship passes on from generation to generation without limitation. 

The most important date to remember is March 17, 1861, as the modern state of Italy did not exist before that and thus there was no Italian citizenship prior to that date to be passed on.

So what does that mean for you?

Very simply, your LIRA needs to have been born and came to the United States after that date.

If that is your case, then the only thing that can break the line of citizenship is naturalization or renunciation – and even those need to occur in very specific ways to break the line.

So first things first – who is your LIRA?

You could have more than one LIRA and many Italian Americans do. 

If possible, using a male ancestor as your LIRA is always the best way to go. 

Before 1948, women could not legally pass on Italian citizenship to their children – the 1948 Rule – citizenship could only pass from father to child. 

However, the 1948 Rule is not written in stone and females, in fact, can pass on Italian citizenship – it simply depends upon how and where you apply. 

The bottom line is, when a female is in your direct line, additional rules can come into play. So, if using a male ancestor as your LIRA is possible, it’s always the best route to take.

Step 2 – Collect documents

Having your Italian citizenship by descent officially recognized is all about proving your direct and unbroken Italian heritage to the Italian government. 

That means documenting your bloodline using government-issued certified records. 

And you’ll need records from both sides of the Atlantic – United States and Italy. 

Once you have determined who your LIRA is, for all in-line ancestors, you will need to collect –

  • Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records 
  • The naturalization records or a CONE for your LIRA
  • Your own records


Depending upon where and how you apply, you may need additional records including records for not-in-line ancestors. 

Immigration records are usually federal and are handled by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS. 

Your first step will be to submit an Index Search Request to USCIS to obtain an official determination of what occurred and when. 

It’s OK if your LIRA naturalized as long as it occurred after your LIRA successfully passed on Italian citizenship – again, how this is determined depends upon where you apply. 

If your LIRA did not naturalize, then you need to request a CONE letter – Certificate of Non Existence of Record – from the USCIS. 

Usually, the most difficult records to obtain are the Italian records of your LIRA. 


The great news – Futura Italian Citizenship’s document service has successfully found documents that date as far back as 1861, and our service can find any Italian records throughout Italy. If the record exists – we will find them and get them to you.


It is highly recommended to read our in-depth article addressing records and sources. 

Step 3 – Document preparation

Once you have all the necessary records collected, the next step is to prepare them for the recognition process.

All US records need to have an apostille. Then, both the document and the apostille must be translated into Italian. Finally, the translations need to be certified by a court. 

Federal records, such as the CONE or naturalization records, must also be sent out for an apostille. Once you receive them back, these records must be translated and certified as well. 

Italian records never need translation or apostilles, so once all of your US records are prepared properly, you are ready to submit your document package!

Application options for citizenship by descent 

It’s very important to understand that how you apply for Italian citizenship by descent has a direct impact on –

  • What the requirements are
  • How long the entire process could take
  • Total cost
  • Potential rate of success


All application methods will require, at the very least, the documents listed above.

However, there can be additional issues and requirements to consider.

Applying for Italian citizenship by descent in Italy

The most effective and fastest method to US-Italian dual citizenship is to apply in Italy. And, applying in Italy has an exponentially greater success rate. 

Applying in Italy means  –

  • NO filing fees
  • NO 1948 Rule issues
  • NO need for records of ancestors who are not-in-line
  • NO need to mail anything internationally
  • NO waiting months or years for an appointment
  • NO waiting months or years for a recognition decision
  • NO overly restrictive approaches to LIRA naturalization


In many cases, it can take less than a year from the time you order your US records to be recognized as a US-Italian dual citizen and have your Italian EU passport.


Applying for Italian citizenship by descent at a consulate in the US

Applying at an Italian consulate in the United States averages around a minimum time frame of 3 years and involves its own unique expenses.

Italian consulates charge a filing fee of $300. If you choose to apply for your Italian EU passport in the United States, that averages around $125.

Consulate applications require much more documentation than applying in Italy does. Thus, costs related to finding records, postage, translations, notarizations, and apostilles will be higher. 

And you will still need your LIRA’s Italian documents, so those will not only need to be found but sent to you via international mail.

Note, there are only 9 Italian consulates [plus the embassy in Washington D.C.] in the United States, and you don’t have a choice of which one to use. You must use the one assigned to your state and county – and you will need to appear in person.

If you live in North Carolina, for example, the Italian consulate in Philadelphia is the assigned consulate. 

If you live in Alaska or Hawaii, the San Francisco consulate is the one you must use. 

Finally, if your case involves the 1948 Rule, you will automatically be denied by the consulate and apply that decision to a court in Italy. 


What’s the best application method for Italian citizenship by descent?

There is no universal answer to that question – it genuinely depends upon your situation and how important having dual citizenship and an EU passport is to you.

Cases routinely approved for recognition in Italy are systematically and automatically denied in the United States by Italian consulates. 

The administrative rules are different for comune officials and Italian courts than for consulate staff. In fact, some restrictions, such as the 1948 rule, only apply to the consulate process. Thus, all 1948 cases must be presented in Italy in order to successfully be recognized.

For the fastest and best possibility of recognition success, applying in Italy is hands down the best route for all cases. 

Futura Italian Citizenship is very proud to be –

    • 🇮🇹 Among the few recognition services with nearly a 100% rate of client success
    • 🇮🇹 One of the most affordable providers while offering the same quality and spectrum of services as our $10,000+ competitors do.


Futura Italian Citizenship is also one of the few recognition services that are 100% Italian-based and deals personally with comune officials daily.

There is NO RISK to finding out how good your case for US-Italian dual citizenship is. 

Book your FREE consultation now