I’ve gained a nationality: how I got Italian citizenship

Getting my Italian citizenship was a bitch. I couldn’t have done most of it without my dad, who tirelessly ran around Chicago fetching marriage licenses and death certificates for me while I was rotting away in Brazil.
I had a hard time finding information online about how to actually attain citizenship successfully, and the consulate website is thoroughly useless, so I thought I’d give a rundown of the process.

First of all, I had to find out if I was eligible. I am, because my grandfather was an Italian citizen when my father was born. If he hadn’t have been, I wouldn’t be eligible. If my grandmother was the one in my family who had Italian citizenship instead, I wouldn’t be eligible, because she was born before 1948. You can only claim citizenship through the maternal line if she was born after 1948. Bullshit, but better than not at all.

Next, I had to request new copies of all birth certificates in the blood line. That meant getting my Italian grandpa’s Italian birth certificate, which seemed difficult until a little-heard from Italian great uncle came into the picture and saved the day by sending it my way faster than I thought possible. It was the first birth certificate I received.

I then had to send out requests for the long form of the birth certificates of my dad (the son of my Italian grandpa), my mom, and my grandma. I also had to get my grandpa’s death certificate and marriage certificates for my parents and grandparents. There were spelling discrepancies in both my grandma and grandpa’s names. I got nervous after reading horror stories online of people who were never able to attain citizenship because of spelling differences between their name and their ancestor’s.

I then had to get all official documents apostilled by the states from which they were issued. An apostille is just a waste of a document verifying the actual document, which is already stamped and signed by all the appropriately official people.

From my grandma I got my grandpa’s U.S. naturalization document and old Italian passport. The passport wasn’t required, but I used it to prove that he did indeed spell his last name two different ways, as he did on one of the pages of his passport. I guess he was feeling creative.

Finally, the last step before being able to show these documents at the consulate was to get some of the documents translated into Italian, namely my and my dad’s birth certificates, my parents’ and grandparents’ marriage licenses, and my grandpa’s death certificate. My grandpa’s birth certificate was already in Italian and they didn’t need translations of the women’s birth certificates.

There were also a few forms I needed to print and fill out before going to the consulate. They were all available online. One was the application for Italian citizenship, another had to be signed by my dad saying he had never renounced his right to citizenship, and on the third I had to list all of the places I’ve lived in the past 10 years. Not an easy task.

I had emailed the Italian consulate whose jurisdiction I fall under to make an appointment months before. I had also called them. And called them again. There is a window of exactly two hours a few days a week when you can call to make an appointment at this particular consulate. My guess is that phone attached to that phone number is manned only half of that time, so it’s like playing Russian roulette trying to get a hold of someone. Once I did, a very short, brash woman told me I had to take the next appointment available, which was four months from then, when I would still be in Brazil and nowhere near Detroit. I had to call back months later to make the appointment. Still a four-month wait, luckily. I had a three-month window when I could have gone, so I had to time it right, and I did. I needed to send her a copy of my driver’s license, then I made the appointment for January 29th.

I was at the consulate for a surprisingly short amount of time. No one was there. I waited in the lobby for 15 minutes, then the very same short, brash woman I had been dealing with fairly inefficiently for months breezed in and took my stack of meticulously attained and organized documents. She started licking her fingers and flipping through them and throwing them into two messy piles. Luckily, I had Brazil to thank for teaching me how to deal with ridiculous bureaucracy and less than helpful attitudes, so I was ready to handle this notorious woman. I only spoke when spoken to. I answered in one-word grunts. I didn’t smile. I tried to listen to what she was telling her co-worker in Italian about the spelling discrepancy in my grandpa’s last name. Already knowing Portuguese enabled me to understand about 1.5 words. From what I gathered, it didn’t sound good.

She said as much in English, then said I would be hearing from the consulate. I asked when. She didn’t know. I left.

In May I emailed the consulate again, asking about the status of my citizenship application. They mentioned the spelling discrepancy and said they’d get back to me.

In June, I was wine drunk in Curitiba, eating pizza and getting molested by a dog, when I got an email saying I had been approved for Italian citizenship. They’re going to send an official certificate or something in the mail, I think.

The next and final step is to apply for my passport. I have to wait a few months to do it because apparently Italy doesn’t put all the new citizens’ information in for a while. Either way, it’s done. It was a two-year process, from getting the first document to becoming a citizen, and I’m relieved to finally and successfully be through with it.