You could be eligible for Italian citizenship by descent. Here’s how to find out.

In 1992 Italy legalized dual citizenship. Since then, a large majority of Italian-Americans have been eligible to become Italian citizens by descent.

You could be eligible for Italian citizenship by descent. Here's how to find out.
For almost 200 years, Italians have been migrating to the United States in search of a better life. Source; Getty Images

Many Italian-Americans who have Italian ancestors are not aware that they may have inherited a right to Italian citizenship by descent, otherwise known as Italian citizenship jure sanguinis. We’d like to know, where do your Italian ancestors hail from – and are you planning on reclaiming your family heritage? 

We also explore how you can prove your right to citizenship, in the necessary legal sense. 

Taking the first steps

The first thing you need to do if you’re looking to apply for Italian citizenship by descent is to make a note of the dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths of your family members in your Italian line of descent, including your Italian ancestors. If available, you also need to find out the exact dates when your Italian-born ancestor(s) became naturalized citizens of the United States.

Once you have this information, the rule of thumb is that you are eligible if you meet the criteria right below. If you are still uncertain whether you qualify, free eligibility assessment services such as the one offered by Italian Citizenship Assistance, a network of Italian and American lawyers with offices in Italy and the US, are a useful resource.

Criteria for eligibility

  • You are of Italian descent or were adopted by at least one person of Italian descent as a minor (21 if born before 1975; 18 if born after 1975)

  • At least one of your Italian-born ancestors was alive and an Italian citizen after the year 1861 (the Italian unification)

  • Neither your Italian-born ancestor nor any of your ascendants in your Italian line became a naturalised citizen of another country before the birth of the next person in the Italian line 

You may never have set foot in Italy, but your family heritage could be the key to a world of experiences. Photo: Getty Images


Look out for these exceptions

Unfortunately, even if your first steps indicate that you qualify, there are a few exceptions to the general rule. The first disqualification is if you have renounced your Italian citizenship voluntarily before August 15, 1992. Other things that would make you ineligible for Italian citizenship by descent include:

  • Your Italian-born ancestor was naturalised before June 14, 1912

  • You have an Italian female in your Italian line who gave birth to her child before January 1, 1948. 

  • You were born before 1948 and your only Italian legal parent is female. 

Note: People whose cases fall in the two latter categories may pursue Italian citizenship via the Italian court system.

READ ALSO: A new Q&A with Marco Permunian of Italian Citizenship Assistance: could you be eligible for Italian citizenship by descent?

Which part of Italy does your family hail from? We want to know! Photo: Getty Images

The documents you need

If you have established your eligibility, gathering the required legal documents is where things get a bit more complex. The first thing to know is that all the U.S.-issued vital records (including birth, marriage, and death certificates) that are relevant for your application must be certified “long form” copies (i.e. an abstract will not do). In addition, they must bear the official seal of the Registrar’s Office as well as the date when each certificate was filed. Finally, each document must not be a genealogical copy or photocopy, and also have an affixed APOSTILLE, the legalization provided by either the United States Department of State or the Treasury Department.

Now the catch is that it is never enough for you to merely obtain your own certificates. In all cases, you have to collect – and translate into Italian – the certificates of all the people who are relevant to the transmission of your right to Italian citizenship by descent. Unless you are making use of a legal service such as Italian Citizenship Assistance’s Executive Full Service package, the process of identifying, obtaining, authenticating, and translating all of the required documents is often the most time-consuming and complicated phase of the application process. There are no simple answers here, since it all depends on your particular family history and Italian lineage, your state of residency, as well as whether you are applying in Italy or the United States.

Applying in the US or Italy

Once you have secured translations of all of the required legal documents – and had the translations certified by an Italian consulate or Embassy – it is time to submit your application either to the Italian consulate nearest to where you are legally residing or to an Italian municipality in Italy. If you let Italian Citizenship Assistance handle the application process for you they can cover this step too.

If you choose to apply in Italy, Italian Citizenship Assistance can assist you throughout the entire process as part of one of their Full Service Executive packages. Italian Citizenship Assistance will also be able to assist you in setting up your legal residence in Italy, which is required if you want to apply in Italy.

Examples of successful applications

Applying at the consulate:

Theresa*, who lives in Brooklyn, found out she may be eligible for Italian citizenship by descent since her grandfather Vincenzo was born in a small village in southern Italy at the end of the 19th century. While working on her family history, she found out her Italian-born grandfather Vincenzo emigrated to the US in 1910, where he met Mary, Theresa’s grandmother. In 1911, Theresa and Vincenzo got married in the borough of Queens. Theresa’s father was born in 1920, just a couple of years before Vincenzo’s naturalisation as a US citizen. Thanks to ICA’s findings, she was able to confirm her eligibility for Italian citizenship. ICA started preparing Theresa’s application for Italian citizenship, which was submitted at the Italian consulate in New York City in August 2017. Her appointment at the consulate went smoothly and no integration was required. Less than one year later, she received an e-mail from the Consulate, formally stating she is an Italian citizen by right of descent. She was then entitled to apply for her Italian passport, and she is now living in Europe as an Italian citizen.

Applying in Italy:

Joseph* has always wanted to reconnect with his Italian roots and, once retired, move to Italy with his entire family. When he found out that he was eligible to apply for Italian citizenship, he reached out to ICA seeking assistance in the process of applying for Italian citizenship by descent directly in Italy. He wanted ICA to provide an “assistance package” tailored to his needs (he wanted to apply together with his son). His case was very peculiar, as it involved some discrepancies in his documents to be fixed on some key documents, and some records that were hard to locate. After ICA successfully amended all the inconsistencies and retrieved all the missing records in the correct format, Joseph and his son were ready to move to Italy and file their citizenship application directly in Italy. ICA helped them finding appropriate accommodation in town and walked them through every step of the process, from establishing the residency in Italy to submitting the paperwork to the citizenship clerk. A few months later, Joseph and his son received the confirmation of Italian citizenship from the Municipality, and they are now in the process of purchasing a property in Tuscany.

Reconnect with your Italian heritage. Start the journey with Italian Citizenship Assistance today. 

For members


The bumper Italian tax guide for 2024

From filing deadlines and rules on foreign income to second homes and tax breaks, these are the things you need to be familiar with as Italy's tax season gets underway.

The bumper Italian tax guide for 2024

With income declarations now open in Italy, there are several details of the Italian tax system that you need to know, especially if this is the first time you file.

From deadlines to rules on foreign income and assets to second homes, here is our guide to the 2024 tax season.

2024 tax deadlines

Late spring is generally the busiest time of year for Italian taxpayers as that’s when the window to file the yearly income tax declaration (or dichiarazione dei redditi) opens.

Barring some rare filing exemptions, anyone who’s considered an Italian resident for tax purposes (or fiscal resident) is required to file income taxes in Italy.

But even if you’re not an Italian tax resident, you may still have to file and pay Italian taxes on any income generated in Italy.

Depending on your personal tax situation and income source, you’ll have to file one of two forms, whose official deadlines for this year you can find HERE. The window to file either form is open as of May 20th. 

It is strongly advisable to keep the main income tax dates in mind as the Italian taxman shows little in the way of leniency when it comes to late filing and failure to file.

Besides income tax deadlines, there are two other dates you need to be mindful of if you own property in Italy. The first instalment of Italy’s tax on second homes IMU (Imposta Municipale Unica) is due by June 16th, whereas the second instalment is due by December 16th. You can find these and other key tax dates for 2024 in our calendar.


If this is your first time declaring tax in Italy, your first task will be to request a codice fiscale (a personal identification number similar to an American Social Security number or a British National Insurance number) if you don’t already have one. Find a guide to doing that HERE.

The 2024 income tax declaration covers the 2023 tax year, which runs from January 1st 2023 to December 31st 2023. As a result, if you moved to Italy after January 1st 2024, you will not have to complete the declaration until next year.

On the other hand, IMU payments are always relative to the year when you make the payments – in this case 2024.

Online v paper

Most people in Italy file their tax declarations and make payments using the personal profile area (area riservata) of the Italian tax office (Agenzia delle Entrate) website. 

This is also where taxpayers can find a pre-compiled version of tax return form 730 (or modulo 730) – which is the income tax declaration form generally used by employees and retirees in Italy. 

Though most tax declarations can be filed online, there are provisions for people who don’t have internet access or are not comfortable completing tasks online. In this case, you can visit or call your local tax office and request paper versions of the forms, which you can then submit at the same office or, in some cases, at local post offices. 

Income tax brackets 

Italy’s income tax Irpef applies to employees, many self-employed workers (regular partita Iva holders, but not those on the flat tax rate) and pensioners.

The Italian government cut the number of available tax brackets from four to three last December, but the change only applies to income generated from January 1st 2024. 

This means that your 2023 income will be taxed based on the four-bracket system below:

  • Up to 15,000 euros: 23 percent
  • Between 15,001 and 28,000 euros: 25 percent
  • Between 28,001 euros and 50,000 euros: 35 percent
  • Over 50,000 euros: 43 percent

Like income taxes in many other countries, Italy’s Irpef is a progressive tax, meaning that you only pay the higher rate on the portion of your income that is over the relevant threshold (for instance, 43 percent on the portion of income exceeding 50,000 euros).

Foreign income 

It’s not unusual for foreigners in Italy to have some or all of their income coming from outside Italy – whether that is a pension paid from an overseas country, remote working for a non-Italian company or rental income from a property outside of Italy.

If you’re an Italian tax resident, you’ll be required to declare your global income – that is income generated not just in Italy but anywhere in the world. 

It’s important to note though that declaring your foreign income does not necessarily mean you will have to pay tax on it. 

Italy has dual taxation agreements with most countries, including the UK and US, meaning that if you have already paid tax on your income in another country, you won’t be taxed on it again – though you’ll still have to tell the Italian taxman about it. 

Foreign assets and bank accounts

Italian tax residents who hold financial assets abroad – this includes real estate, financial investments, unit trusts, and even foreign bank accounts – are required to declare them by completing the foreign assets section of their yearly tax return form (section W of form 730 and section RW of form Redditi PF).

Depending on the types of assets you own abroad, you may have to pay Italy’s tax on foreign real estate (IVIE) and/or a tax on foreign financial activities (IVAFE).

It’s worth noting that retirees who’ve opted for Italy’s special seven-percent flat tax rate are exempt from the requirement to declare (and pay IVIE and/or IVAFE on) foreign assets.

READ ALSO: How many people successfully apply for Italy’s flat tax for pensioners?

You can find further info about declaring foreign bank accounts HERE.

Tax breaks 

Italy has a number of tax breaks to help taxpayers, especially those with lower incomes, reduce their tax bill each year.

These are generally divided between tax deductions (deduzioni fiscali), which lower your taxable income, and tax reductions (detrazioni fiscali), which lower your final tax bill. 

Tax reductions for 2024 apply to anything from rent to public transport to education expenses, and include a 19-percent tax break on medical expenses applicable to amounts exceeding 129.11 euros. You can find a full list (in Italian) of tax reductions and deductions here

It’s also worth noting that Italy offers a number of favourable multi-year tax regimes for residents – these include the so-called ‘impatriate’ tax scheme and the seven-percent flat rate for foreign pensioners – as well as a number of home renovation bonuses.

Tax for second-home owners 

If you live outside of Italy but you own property in the country which you use as a second-home or holiday home, there are a few things to be aware of, with the first being whether or not you are an Italian tax resident. 

If you use your Italian property just for holidays then you probably won’t be. But if you tend to spend a significant amount of time in your Italian property, you should keep in mind that Italy’s tax office will consider you a tax resident if, for at least 183 days a year, you are registered with Italy’s National Registry of the Resident Population (or Anagrafe) or have your place of “residence or habitual residence” in Italy.

The other thing to consider is whether you have any Italian income through renting out your property, including on Airbnb. If you do, you will need to declare this income in Italy.

Finally, even if you’re not an Italian tax resident and don’t generate any income in Italy, you’ll still have to pay Italy’s property tax IMU (Imposta Municipale Unica), which is owed by all owners of second homes. You can find this year’s IMU deadlines HERE.

Getting help

If you’re completely daunted by the Italian tax system, don’t panic: help is available.

If you have a fairly simple tax situation (e.g. you have a single employer and no other sources of income) and speak some Italian, you may be able to get the assistance you need at one of Italy’s tax support centres (Centri di Assistenza Fiscale, or CAF).

READ ALSO: What is an Italian commercialista and do you really need one?

If, however, you are self-employed, are starting or operating a business, are earning income in multiple countries, or simply find the whole process too difficult, you may need the help of a chartered tax accountant, or commercialista in Italian. 

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. Find more information on the Italian tax office’s website or seek independent advice from a qualified tax professional.