Tag Archives: italian emigration

Italian Citizenship – continued

Repubblica Italiana

Repubblica Italiana

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why the current citizenship regulations that apply to Italians who became naturalized Americans are capricious and inconsistent.  First off it makes no sense that there should be a cutoff date, totally arbitrary, that separates the “haves” from the “have-nots”, so to speak.  Why should it make a material difference WHEN a person became a naturalized American?  Why should a person who became naturalized in September 1992 be allowed to retain his Italian citizenship, whereas a person who did the exact same thing in March of the same year  should be deprived of it?  Allowing double citizenship is either good or bad: if it’s good, then make the law retroactive and let everybody have Italian citizenship who otherwise meets the requirements for it,  if it’s bad then rescind the law and let NOONE have it.

Second, the current rules lead to absurd family situations.  Take the case of Italian Gianni Stecchino who emigrated to the USA in 1980 at the age of 25.  After a couple of years he marries and has a child, let’s say in 1983.  In 1985, after the canonical 5 years have elapsed, Gianni becomes a naturalized American.  Meantime the child grows up in America, does not speak Italian, feels only a distant connection with his father’s country of birth; in short, he is for all intents and purposes American.  Nevertheless, the child can now easily claim Italian citizenship, because he was born BEFORE his father’s naturalization, whereas his father cannot.  The father, who was born in Italy, who is fluent in Italian, who knows its history and culture, who grew up there and has undoubtedly friends and connections there, CANNOT be a citizen.  Even more absurdly, it is possible to concoct scenarios where persons who are two or three generations removed from Italy can be citizens, but Gianni Stecchino, born and educated there, of full Italian blood, cannot.

The Conundrum of Italian Citizenship

Mille lire

Mille lire

For the majority of people in the world the citizenship issue never arises: they are citizens of the country in which they are born and of which their parents are citizens.  For large numbers of people who have emigrated or otherwise been displaced from their country of birth the citizenship issue can be vexing.  A case in point is the status of those Italians who became U.S. citizens prior to August 15, 1992.

If an Italian immigrant became a naturalized American citizen before this date he automatically forfeited his Italian citizenship.  This was a little-known fact, because large number of immigrants never bothered to register with the AIRE (Anagrafe Italiani Residenti all’Estero), largely because the existence of the AIRE was itself a little-known fact.  Many immigrants, therefore, went through the American naturalization process without being aware of the negative consequence that such a move would have on their Italian citizenship.  Certainly some of them, had they known, would have paused to consider, and to perhaps change their plans.  In any case, they would have made a more informed decision, which is always preferable.

Many of these people would now like to recover their lost Italian citizenship, but when they try to do so they run against bureaucratic restrictions which seem capricious at best and downright punitive at worst.  The whole issue is clouded by inconsistencies and obfuscation to the point where many people eventually throw up their hands in frustration.  There are many reasons why this, while exasperating for the individuals involved, is bad for Italy herself.