Italian Citizenship (or not)

Italian Citizenship (or not)

Saturday, March 26th, 2022

Since I am married to an Italian citizen I can request Italian citizenship after two years if I live in Italy during that time, 3 years if I lived elsewhere. So I could make a citizenship request in October of this year. What are the requirements and what are the advantages? For me the two advantages are that (1) I would never again need to renew my permesso di soggiorno – which is a major pain in the ass and (2) I wouldn’t need to renew my inscription in the national health system (the SSN) every year. However after I’ve been living here for 5 years I will make my last renewal for the permesso di soggiorno since it will be like a green card in the US. It will not need to be renewed and I will be considered a permanent resident. So the only significant bureaucratic hassle will be the SSN.

So now let’s look at the hurdles to make the request for the citizenship.

  1. Get a birth certificate from the U.S. with an apostille . The apostille is like a internationally recognized notarization. You are probably familiar with getting documents notarized in the U.S. (or some other country where you live). So this makes things a bit more complicated. Since I was born in Oklahoma I had to get a copy of my birth certificate (long-form with all of the details) and then have that sent to the Oklahoma office of the secretary of state where they attach an apostille to the document. Then when I have it in Italy I need to have it translated into Italian by an approved translator. I have the document here now but I have not had it translated yet since I’m now having doubts about whether I want to jump through all of the necessary hoops to become a citizen. So far it has cost about $200 to get the certificate authenticated and sent here. In the process of getting the birth certificate I had contact with the woman who does the apostille in Oklahoma. Maddie is her name and she restored my faith in humanity. It’s easy to complain about bureaucrats and sometimes it’s well deserved but Maddie was a great help to me, including putting me in contact with the records department in Oklahoma where they find the original birth certificate and make a copy.
  2. Get a certified copy of the marriage certificate. This would be pretty easy since we were married here in Bologna and I would just need to go to the appropriate office of the city government and the cost would probably be relatively minor. I think that I’ll do this regardless since it may be useful in the future.
  3. Take an Italian language exam (and pass it). The level is an intermediate level (B1) but it’s a bit simplified for a citizenship request. I have already paid for the test and will be taking it on April 7. I’ve been studying and feel pretty confident that with a little bit of study about pronouns I will pass. The cost are going to be about €120 – which includes a study book that I bought which I found well worth the price.
  4. I would need to pay €250 when I make the application with all of the required documents at the Prefettura. That is the local office that deals with national government affairs.
  5. Now comes the killer part. I need to get an FBI background check. I had to do this to get the visa to come to Italy to live. Since I’ve been a good boy I have zero records with the FBI so it’s something of a formality and easy to do in the U.S. However getting the check from here involves getting suitable set of fingerprints which turns out to be incredibly hard. I finally made contact with the U.S. consulate in Florence (which was also difficult) and finally had a conversation with them to clarify what was involved. It turns out, at least as of that conversation, that I had to go through the following process. Fill out an affidavit saying why I need the fingerprints. Then I need to go the Embassy in Rome and have it notarized there. Then I need to send a copy of said notarized affidavit to the ONLY place in the country as far as I can tell where they take the appropriate fingerprints. This is a branch of the polizia di stato (the national police) in Rome where they do technical work. I would then make an appointment with them and go there to get the fingerprints. Given my experience of getting appointments for other things, who knows how long I would have to wait for this one. Then I would send these fingerprints to an enterprise that contracts with the FBI to funnel requests to the FBI. From there the report would need to go to the U.S. State Department to have an apostille affixed and then have that sent to me in Italy for the translations, etc. Now this may seem like a bureaucratic nightmare, which it is, and would probably cost much more than the $200 for the birth certificate (2 round trip train tickets to Rome plus whatever I would be charged for the fingerprints. So maybe we’re talking about $350. But it gets worse, MUCH worse. I noted on an English language website that I needed to not only get the FBI report but a similar report from any state that I have lived in after the age of 14. Since I lived in Oklahoma until I was 16 years old then that probably counts as 1 state, then Virginia for 10 years and then California for about 46. So that’s 3 states doing the same bureaucratic dance. I thought perhaps this was just an erroneous translation from Italian since “state” in Italian in this context means “country”. Since I happen to know a woman here that works at the prefettura, I asked her if she could talk with a person there that deals with citizenship applications to clarify that point. Unfortunately she reported back that yes, in this case it means in other states of the U.S. This requirement is absolutely absurd since the FBI gets their info from the states but that’s the way it is. So I don’t think that avoiding a once a year trip to the AUSL (the office where I renew my subscription in the national health service) is worth this huge investment in time, money and anxiety. By the way the FBI report and probably the others are only considered valid for 6 months so I would be doing all four under that time pressure. I would probably need to return to the US for at least a week and perhaps more to get fingerprinted there (a MUCH easier process) and contacting the various bureaucracies. Of course that raises the cost by quite a lot. So we’re talking about quite a significant investment with, frankly, little benefit. So screw it.

So, it has been an adventure but it has also been pretty stressful. If I change my mind some time in the future I’ll already have the language test and the birth certificate part taken care of.

Oh, yes, one last note. After making the request for citizenship it’s probably a 2 year wait to get the results although that can be legally stretched to 3 years.


4 Responses to “Italian Citizenship (or not)”

  1. Joy Says:

    That sounds like more than my entire lifetime of bureaucracy!

  2. Joe Says:

    Well, the Italians are big on bureaucracy. I think the U.S. is in a sense fortunate to have a lot less since we started establishing bureaucracy only about 300 years ago rather than the more than 2000 years for Italians and other old world countries. I hear that the French have insane bureaucracies too.


  3. Cynthia Salamy Says:

    Screw it is right. A wise choice I think. I can’t believe what you have had to go through to settle into Italy. Takes a lot of perseverance, Joe, which you’ve had in spades.
    I read an article on a local’s guide to Bologna. I’ll email it to you. I imagine you may have been to some of the places he mentions.
    Take care,

  4. Joe Says:

    Hi Cynthia, I replied to your email. A lot of places he mentioned I’ve never heard of. But of course there are lots of great choices here in Bologna.


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