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.