As a youth, I read that
the Italian government welcomed Americans of Italian heritage that
could speak Italian. I didn't think too much about it. I was taking
Italian, but had no pressing plans to move to Italy. Gradually through
the years, I had found myself leaning further and further towards
Italian citizenship, but with two children and a full time job, I
didn't have much time for it.
Enter the internet… fast easy
access to information on how to get dual citizenship for Americans with
Italian heritage. I sent away for information, after reading confusing
accounts of what you needed and how to do it. I read this stuff over
and over and over again, even up to the very end, trying to figure out
whether or not I even qualified.
After my father's home was
ransacked by family members the day after my stepmother died, there was
very little left of any value. Of any value to anyone except me, that
is. I was given, out of everything that had been in that house, two
things. My own daily Missal from my youth, and a little black steel
box. Inside of it were absolute treasures for me but of no use to
anyone else. I have no idea why they weren't tossed as trash.
Inside the box: my grandfather's
birth certificate, two certificates of matrimony for my grandparents
(one for the church and one for the city of Newark) and three
certificates of Naturalization. My grandfather's, my grandmother's and
my great grandfather's.
Meanwhile, in 1998 I went to the
County deeds department in Newark, and got copies of my grandfather's
declaration of intent. Since I had just gotten his Naturalization certificate, with
all the dates and numbers on it, it was easy to get those papers. I
still had no idea how important this stuff was, I was just doing it for
genealogy, family history, hoping to glean a few facts from papers that
my grandfather filled out nearly 100 years before. Sometime in 1999 I
contacted the consulate's office and got their official directions for how to obtain Italian Citizenship. It
explained who could get their citizenship recognized, and which
documents were needed to prove your line of descent from an Italian
I discovered that I had almost everything. What I needed:
needed: Birth certificate for my father and mother, birth certificate
for my grandfather, my birth certificate, a marriage certificate for my
grandparents and for my parents and my own marriage certificate, which
had a little name problem... So I sent away for the ones I didn't have.
Got them. That vitalchek website was very convenient for this, you can
get certificates ordered from most states instantly, and they come
Then the Apostille. An Apostille
is a specific authenticating certificate that is required by certain
countries, including Italia. Each state has a different price. The only
thing that is the same, is that you have to send your newly acquired
certificates AWAY in the mail to the Secretary of State of whichever
state that the birth or marriage certificate was issued in.
For me, that was, one in Idaho,
and 4 or 5 in New Jersey. At that time, New Jersey charged $25.00 for EACH ONE. When
I was calling around trying to find out how to get an Apostille, I was
told that they would only accept certificates with the current county
assessor's seal on them or if they less than 2 years old! Oh no. My
grandparent's certificate was over 80 years old! So then I had to write
and get all those certificates again. That is, new ones.
I still wasn't certain whether or not I needed an Apostille for the
certificate of naturalization. Some people said yes, some said no. So I
investigated. I finally sent that precious document to some office
in Washington DC with a check, certified overnight air; terrified of
losing it in a federal vault somewhere. It came back. Quickly in fact.
I was told it had to go somewhere else.
Then I decided to visit the
Naturalization department right here in Seattle and ask someone in
person. THAT was an experience. I had to stand outside in a line for an
hour. It was 45 degrees out and but fortunately sunny. The people around
me were a veritable rainbow. All different faces, languages, dress.
My turn finally came up, and I
explained my problem. I needed documentation, I needed an Apostille.
Was this the correct document? I handed the leather bound certificate
to the guy, and he cradled it in his hands. Oh, he said, "this is ours.
I've never seen one this old! This is wonderful" he asked how I got it,
and enjoyed my story. He assured me it was the right document, and that it was all
I needed and sent me on my way.
Time passes. I called Dr Luciani
in San Francisco, because I thought I was ready to submit all my
documents to her and she said, "By the way, we want birth certificates
for your mother, your grandmother, and your husband too. but lucky you, they don't
need Apostilles!" How nice! And neither does that naturalization
certificate of your grandfather's and by the way, everything needs to
be translated by an OFFICIAL translator." The translation only cost $52.00, they charged me by
I went to Italy in September,
2001. I strolled into the Comune office in my grandfather's home town and got a brand new copy of
certificate. It cost nothing and they were very kind and pleasant. I wished
I had more time there.
Finally I flew to San Francisco.
I sat before Dr Luciani. She looked at the papers, writing down dates,
names, numbers. She got to the certificate of naturalization, which had
more than 1 typo on it, including my grandfather's name, and the date
of naturalization. She crossed her arms, took a deep breath, and said,
"I'm afraid we have a problem.....". what's that?
"This name and date, they're not
right, they could be anyone" So I pulled out the declaration of intent
that I had obtained just for fun in Newark. Filled out by my
grandfather. The name spelled right, the right dates. "ah," cried Dr
Luciani "This is very good! it's a good thing you have this."
That was in October 2001. She
called me the following January to tell me I needed my grandfather's
birth certificate. "WHAT! I cried, you have that already!" I could hear
papers shuffling. "Oh, here it is"
Next thing, February, she lets
me know that all my stuff was going to the consulate in New Jersey
because most of my documents originated there, and they needed to do
some checking. So more anxiety. Now I am dealing with TWO consulates!!
Imagine the possible amount of damage that could occur with two of them!
I waited until June and finally
called New Jersey. Paper shuffling. Ah, yes, we have your application,
no we haven't done anything with it, but we will soon!
Then finally, in July, comes a
fat envelope. For my son Tom, who had applied with me. Where was mine?
Almost 3 weeks later, mine showed up. They had had the address wrong!
In this packet were several
forms. I had to fill out 3 separate applications. One for my town in
Italy; Sersale, the town where my grandfather was born, is where my
birth certificate will be kept. One for passport, and one to be an
Italian citizen abroad. I thought I would be getting something else
official, besides the passport, but I was told that the Identity card
that all Italians have is only issued to Italians living