Obtaining dual citizenship is becoming a more and more popular pursuit for a variety of reasons.
Keep in mind that this privilege is not available to just anyone. Each country has its own laws and requirements about who is eligible and how to apply, so it is a good idea to research those stipulations before beginning the process. If you don’t know much about your ancestors and are still not even sure if you qualify, that will be the first goal – to look at your ancestral lines, extend them as needed, and determine if you qualify for dual citizenship based on the requirements of the country you are interested in.
If you live in the United States and are interested in obtaining dual citizenship with Italy or Ireland, we can help with most of the process. If your dual citizenship goal is from or to a different country, we can help with the genealogy part — learning names and dates/places of birth, marriage, and/or death for your ancestors — but you’ll likely need to work with an immigration attorney and/or your consulate to obtain the official records you need.
As part of the dual citizenship application process, you’ll be required to obtain very specific types and pieces of documentation for yourself and each family member going back to the target ancestor. While each country has different requirements, (and, if you are in the U.S., each consulate also has slightly different requirements), you’ll generally need to obtain birth, marriage, and death records for each direct-line ancestor going back to the one you are applying through. These will usually need to be “long-form” copies, meaning that they show the town of birth (not just the county) and normally list the parents. You’ll also generally need to obtain naturalization paperwork for your immigrant ancestor, as well as possibly passenger lists and census records.
Depending on where you are from and from which country you obtain dual citizenship, having two nationalities can help you reconnect with your ancestors’ heritage, give you better access to low-cost higher education, provide you with easier business practices and access to tax shelters, give you access to the medical and/or retirement benefits of the other country, accommodate easier travel to other countries, and many more perks. For example, having Italian dual citizenship allows you to enter 172 other countries and territories without needing a visa, making travel simpler and less expensive.
Take Ireland for example. The 2010 census reported that over 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and those who are of more recent extraction may qualify to obtain dual citizenship. For example, Ireland’s citizenship laws stipulate that foreign-born individuals whose parents were born in Ireland are automatically Irish citizens by descent. However, this means that Americans (and those from other countries) who have an Irish grandparent – that is, one who was born in Ireland – can still apply.
Here’s how this works. Say John was born in Ireland in 1905. His son William, however, was born in the United States in 1933, as was William’s daughter, Mary (born in 1960). John is a native-born citizen of Ireland, and even though William was born in a different country, he still automatically possesses citizenship by virtue of being the child of a native-born Irishman. So where does that leave Mary, the granddaughter of John? Well, since Mary is the daughter of an Irish citizen (though not a native-born citizen), she qualifies to apply for citizenship, even if she didn’t inherit it. Her status as the daughter of an Irish citizen is what makes this possible.
Mary would first need to collect birth, marriage, and death certificates connecting her to both her father and grandfather – including her grandfather’s original Irish birth certificate and marriage certificate. She would also need to be prepared with several forms of legal identification (driver’s license, passport, U.S. Social Security card, etc.) and proof of residency in her home country. Then, after paying fees (which can range upwards of 400 USD or more), she would need to apply for an Irish passport, as well as inclusion in the Irish Foreign Births Register.
The website IrishCentral.com also reports that under very specific circumstances, a great-grandchild of an Irish citizen can also qualify. To continue our case study, let’s assume Mary had a son named Matthew, born in 1983. As the great-grandson of John, Matthew would only be eligible to apply for Irish citizenship if his mother, Mary, had already become a dual Irish citizen before Matthew was born. This also works if the grandchild (Mary) registered before 30 June 1986 and if the great-grandchild (Matthew) was born after 17 June 1956. (In this example, Matthew would qualify under both rules, having been born in 1982.)
Phew! Confused yet? This is just one sample country with a fictional family. Other nations have similar but not necessarily identical rules. And the country in which you currently live still matters!
Spain, for example, recently passed a highly publicized law opening up potential Spanish citizenship to individuals who could prove that their Sephardic Jewish ancestors were expelled from Spain in the late 1490s. However, this would not be considered “dual” for most people, since Spain requires that claiming this offer (or any right to Spanish citizenship at all) requires one to relinquish citizenship in their country of birth. Thus, an American wanting to claim Spanish citizenship for any reason would have to choose between the two.
Germany has similar rules to Spain, and in general it can be difficult to obtain dual citizenship (or German citizenship, period) if one was not born in Germany, or was not a child of at least one German citizen.
Italy, though, is more like Ireland in that it allows foreigners to apply for dual citizenship on the basis of having Italian ancestors (typically your grandparents). It has its own quirks, however, like the fact that an Italian woman born before 1948 can only transmit citizenship to offspring and other descendants born after 1948. However, this law was recently and successfully challenged in the Italian courts. Therefore, it is not impossible to obtain citizenship in this case, but will likely require extra legal action beyond simply applying and paying fees.
Overall, the various countries do not make this easy, so the process for obtaining dual citizenship isn’t usually easy and/or quick! But the benefits for those who obtain it are usually worth the time and effort.
So How Can a Professional Genealogist Really Help You? Great question! First, before you can start ordering records, you need to learn all the names of your ancestors, as well as the dates and places where their births, marriages, and deaths occurred. Then you need to determine which records will be needed for your application and find out where the applicable records are currently held and what the requirements are for obtaining copies.
Once you have the records, depending on what country you are applying for dual citizenship with, you might need certifications, apostilles, translations, etc. of each record. While it’s generally a good idea to get the documents officially translated by a translation company approved by your consulate, a genealogist can also help you choose a translator and work directly with them for that process as well.
If you are a United States citizen applying for dual citizenship with Italy or Ireland, one of Legacy Tree’s professional genealogists can help you with many of these steps! For goals to or from a different country, we can help you with the research part of the process, but you’ll also need to work with an immigration attorney and/or your consulate to determine exactly what records you need and obtain the necessary certifications and apostilles.
Are you ready to undertake the adventure? Do you have questions regarding a specific country or your eligibility? Do you need help documenting your relationship to an ancestor? Contact us today for a free consultation. We would love to assist you, regardless of your current nationality.
 “Obtaining Italian Citizenship from Female Ancestors,” Italian Citizenship Assistance Program, http://icapbridging2worlds.com, accessed March 2016.
Adam S says
Do you know the estimated costs obtaining dual Italian citizenship? I saw your cost example for Ireland, but not Italy. Thank you.
Katy - Legacy Tree Genealogists Editor & Researcher says
Hi Adam. Good question. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that they currently charge a 300 Euro fee for initiating these proceedings (that’s around 337 USD). Then you would also be paying for the necessary birth/death/marriage certificates, which run $15-25 each (depending on the state), plus extra if you need apostilles. Depending on your level of Italian language proficiency, you might also require the services of a translator for help with paperwork as well.
If you were to hire Legacy Tree Genealogists, we would help with this process, and the cost would vary depending on the amount of work that would need to be done. Feel free to email [email protected] to speak with a project manager and we could figure out what costs would be for you specifically.
Gladimir Gamez says
My girlfriend parent’s live in Mexico, they own a house,,and want to give it to her , she was told she has to be a resident from Mexico and the US , I believe they said, it’s called a Dual Citizenship. My Girlfriend is Borned here in Los Angeles CA, she requires Assistance for this, can, you please help her out, or maybe? Refer her, to someone that handles this type of case. Thank you very much.
Amber Brown says
Hi Gladimir, we have helped many clients obtain dual citizenship, and would be happy to assist your girlfriend in this matter. Please complete the form at https://www.legacytree.com to request a free consultation.
I am an American citezen my father is an Italian citezen… but he never signed my birth certificate… I would love to apply for my Italian citezenship… any advise?
enrico pfeil says
I am related by my DNA with all existing royal houses, how can I say that, since in 1945 all documents have been burnt
Amber - Legacy Tree Genealogists says
Hi Enrico, there are alternative records that may be able to be used to either prove or disprove royal lineage. Here are a couple of blog articles you may find helpful: https://www.legacytree.com/blog/3-vital-record-substitutes; https://www.legacytree.com/blog/tracing-nobility. If you are interested in hiring our team of professional genealogists to assist you in tracing your lineage, you may request a free quote here.
Our family have Scottish and Irish heritage but cant obtain any information if this is true or not. Looking at getting a second passport but don’t know where to start. Please could you kindly assist?
Amber - Legacy Tree Genealogists says
Hi William, we would be happy to assist. I’ll have a member of our Client Solutions Team reach out to you today.
That will be wonderful thank you.
Karen Farrington Daniels says
Hi, My husband was born in England and is now a US citizen, but I believe that he can get his British passport by just supplying his birth certificate, being still a subject of the Queen. I have researched how I can get a British passport and read about the 3-year required residency prior to applying. However I have documented ancestrall lineage to British royalty, namely King Edward 1st (1279-1307) through his youngest son, Thomas Brotherton, Prince of England, Earl of Norfolk (1300-1338) The continued lineage is well documented down to Joseph Bolles, who was born in England but went to the colonies and was listed in the “Magna Charta Sureties” and in the “Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists who came to America before 1700”. Joseph Bolles’ daughter, Sarah Bolles (1657-1707) married Captain Humphrey Chadbourne Jr (1653-1694) m. 1678. from that marriage onward our family lineage is documented in the Chadbourne Family in America Genealogy 2004 supplement, down to Joseph Chadbourne, who daughter Olive married Simon Locke. The remaining lineage is documented in the History and Genealogy of Captain John Locke (1627-1696) down to my paternal grandmother. The Locke Family is updating their genealogy book that will include my father, myself, my children and grandchildren will be included in the new volume. They were extremely strict only allowing additions with copies of birth, marriage and death certificate. So my question is: would I be able to apply for a British passport based on my ancestral lineage or would the residency requirement be my only avenue?
Theresa Hays says
What about a Canadian duel citizenship?