Orange is my favorite color

Good thing I wasn’t waiting on this to complete my Italian Citizenship! The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services finally responded to my FOIA request for citizenship details of my great grandfather. At the time I originally filed, I didn’t believe he had ever been a citizen so I was hoping for a “Records not found” response which would be what I needed to complete my application.

As it turns out, the road took a fork and I found he had become a citizen and with a copy of a declaration of intent to become a citizen, I was able to file my paperwork and receive my dual citizenship and passport last year. Here’s what the letter says:

This is in respnose to your Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) request received in this office March 4, 2008 regarding Prospero Ghidinelli.

We have completed our search for records that are responsive to your request. The record consists of 4 pages of material and we have determined to release it in full. The enclosed record consists of the best reproducible copies available.

Please be advised that the National Records Center does not process petitions, applications or any other type of benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you have questions or wish to submit documentation relating to a matter pending with the bureau, you must address these issues with your nearest District Office.

If you should have any additional questions about your request, please direct your inquiries to this office at the above address [etc]

I originally filed in late 2006 or early 2007 but my application was denied for being incorrect in some way so I had to refile and thus the 2008 date above. By the time I refiled, I already knew he had become a citizen but I sent it off anyways for completeness. The packet includes four photocopies:

  • Department of Labor Form 124A, issued 7/28/1919
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Petition for Naturalization
  • Declaration of Intention

The copies are not great but of interest is the Declaration of Intent had his name as Dante (what everyone knew him as and what’s on his tombstone in Italy) and the other documents all have his legal name, Prospero. Clearly someone informed him to get his act together. :)

I have received a few emails from people who are going through the process themselves and are seeking help but otherwise I haven’t thought much about this lately. I had a busy few months of work and then getting married last month and this was a fun surprise to receive in the mail. I will admit that I had a flash of panic when I first saw it, thinking somehow I had done something wrong, but alls well that ends well!

I’m still itching to use my passport for the first time…


  1. John Gag said:

    on May 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Wow, my italian teacher was telling me about this. This is great news to hear that you actually completed all the work successfully. I am def. going to give this a try myself. Thanks so much for giving me motivation.

    -John Gagliardi

  2. karina e bellassai said:

    on July 2, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I was referred to you by Gabriella Einaga. I am in the middle of a crisis with my application! I have a return appointment at the nyc consulate on july 10th and am moving to italy on the 20th. On my first appointment my application was rejected because:
    –on my grandfather’s naturalization petition and oath his birthday is off by one day! My father’s by 3! they want a judge’s declaration that the certificate is his! I haven’t been able to find a judge to do this, I am trying to get a letter from the comune that there weren’t two with his name born one day apart but I don’t know if they will accept it. I got nowhere with the department of labor and local uscis. Please HELP!! WHAT CAN I DO?

    -they are requiring my divorce decree, my legal name change and my father’s legal name change TRANSLATIONS to be apostilled. ever heard of that??

    -they are requiring a minor spelling discrepancy be corrected on a death certficate for my grandfather’s (in the line) wife (not in the line-i.e. my grandmother, not in the line, born in italy).

    PLEASE give me your comments/advice. I am very distraught.

  3. Brian said:

    on July 6, 2009 at 10:28 am

    @Karina – each consulate has their own “personality” if you will – some are stricter than others on the details. It sounds like NYC is going to be difficult. I had some minor issues with my paperwork that I thought were going to be tough but the SF consulate approved them without hesitation so I lucked out.

    To me, it sounds like the verification from the comune should be a reasonable guarantee that your ancestors are who you say they are. Birth date is obviously important – the more documentation you can amass that points that they are the same person, the better. Even if it is not documentation required by your filing, the consulate MAY accept additional information as evidence they are the same person.

    The real problem is that if your consulate is requiring the changes above – your only choice is to make them or move somewhere so you can use another consulate. My advice would be to ask them if there are any alternatives – other documentation or something else they would accept in lieu of those changes.

    I do not believe translations need an apostille. In fact, I don’t think you can get an apostille for the translation because they are not government documents. The apostille guarantees the document is authentic – it’s like an international Secretary of State seal. Is it possible they are asking for a translation of the apostille? I would think that is strange too, but maybe?

    Best of luck – it can be a long road but keep plugging away at it.

  4. karina bellassai said:

    on July 6, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Thanks for your reply, Brian. well, my appointment is in 4 days and so far nothing from the comune. As far as back-up documentation, I presented my grandfather’s passport and 2 census forms plus all of the usual documents required –there is a preponderance of evidence that everything jives, the consulate is choosing to be unreasonable. There is someone in USCIS in buffalo who is supposed to be looking up my grandfather’s file and checking to see if there is a reason for the discrepancy and issuing a letter. I contacted the supervisor at the embassy to ask if they would accept that and she said no, only a judge’s statement or letter from vital statistics. I have contacted two judges, 2 immigration attorneys, the vice-consul in monroe county italian consulate, monroe county and albany vital statistics, the one in buffalo i mentioned above, the comune, uscis nationally and locally in hartford and nyc and the dept. of labor, national and local. No one is helping me.
    I am moving to italy on july 20th and will take my documents with me and apply at the comune there. There is a way to do that. Just scarier than going over as a citizen and starting your life in a new country, you know?

    Actually translations can be apostilled–the translator prints out a professional statement and affixes it to the document. They sign it in front of a notary. That is taken to the secretary of state and apostilled. If you apply in italy translations must be apostilled as well as documents. When people apply through jure sanguinis at the consulates here in the u.s. your documents go to the legal department before being sent over to the comune and everything has to be legalized by them (in addition to the apostilles) including the translations. My picky official is making me get additional U.S, legalization (apostille) of the translations as an extra step for some reason.

  5. Brian said:

    on July 6, 2009 at 11:19 am

    @Karina – scary maybe, but I suspect you will have far more luck in Italy applying than here, particularly if you do it through a local comune (where you may still have family residing). I hope to move there someday for awhile… it’s a great country.

  6. karina bellassai said:

    on July 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Actually my cousin (who I have met) works in the comune. Maybe that will help. I also will be singing opera and dancing tango in siena from july 20 to august 15 so maybe I will come across someone with good will and connections in that comune. Thanks for your replies!

  7. Daniel Ragona said:

    on July 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Hello, I am Daniel Ragona and I red your experience. I would like to clarify about the timing. It seems that you presented the papers in August 2008 and you got your passport in October of the same year. Is that quick? .
    The second question: I am going to present the papers in houston, but here it doesn’t seem that they need anything from the Grandmother side , which is reasonable but different than in other places. Do you think there is something wrong with this?

    thank you,
    my email [email protected]

  8. Brian said:

    on July 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Daniel – you are right, it took only about six weeks to go from submitting papers to having my passport. I had some extreme luck in timing with how the consulate was restructuring the process and brought on new help to process their backlog. Generally in SF the wait between submitting papers and getting the approval is quoted as 3 years. The time from having your citizenship to getting the passport should not be more than a few weeks in general.

    I have no experience with the Houston consulate so you should ask them about it if you’re concerned. You can always bring along the documentation in case they have a question, even if you don’t submit it.

  9. Daniel Ragona said:

    on July 15, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Thank you Brian. Yes, it was a very short time. I will try to find out in Houston. Hopefully it goes quick.
    How long did you have to wait for the appointment in SF?,
    thanks a lot, your post is very useful



  10. Brian said:

    on July 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    @Daniel – I waited one year for my appointment.

  11. Daniel Ragona said:

    on July 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Ok, thank you. I will post my new from Houston, if you don’t mind.



  12. Maria said:

    on August 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I would very much like to talk with you re: SF Consulate. My appt. is in a few weeks. UFFA! Your story is so similar to mine it makes me laugh & cry at the same time. I am 4 years into this process and pulling the plug to move feel so hopeful when I read how FAST you got this passport. BUT I read on the application website WARNING will take 2 years to get.

    A reply and some feedback before I go would be SO helpful, I am sure you know this. This is the road less traveled. Having all the paperwork & waiting just a few short weeks (3) … Then it all rests in her hands!

    Grazie Tante!

  13. Brian said:

    on August 10, 2009 at 11:29 am

    @Maria – my quick turnaround was a stroke of luck because of a change in processing where Anna Maria was handling new applications in parallel with a new person processing old applications. It’s quite possible that Anna Maria is now backed up as well (each application requires about 4 hours of processing apparently). You will only find out when you show up. Had my application been even a week earlier, I would have been at the end of the multi-year queue. Good luck with your appointment! Anna Maria can be short via email but she’s a nice woman in person – just relax, be friendly and cross your fingers.

  14. Rosemarie Irish said:

    on November 16, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I am just beginning my search of paperwork for Italian citizenship. Can anyone tell me which FOIA agency to make a request for my grandfather’s naturalization paperwork. I read the request must go to the precise office. Any other tips are appreciated. Thank you.

  15. brian said:

    on November 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    @Rosemarie – sorry, I don’t know much about FOIA requests. I’d look on some of the Jure sanguinis forums as people discuss it in more detail.

    @Maria – your appt was in September, what happened and how did it go?

  16. Rosemarie Irish said:

    on November 17, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Thank you Brian, I will.

  17. Maria said:

    on November 17, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Well, you will be happy to know my appt. went VERY WELL! :) ! With one appt. I was granted my citizenship. Now, I am assisting others with there citizenship via (blood line) Jure Sanguinis. I wrote here as I was nervous about what to expect on my appt. and I learned a lot there. It seems as if the Consulate was back logged for awhile but are getting caught up. However, someone I am assisting is not able to get an appt. until sometime into 2011 at this point. As for your FOIA requests, I am not sure what you are looking for, etc.

  18. brian said:

    on November 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Congrats @Maria – I assume what you mean is that your application was accepted as correct and valid at your first appointment, and then they processed it and sent it off to Italy?

    My brother, who was unable to apply with us because he lived in Florida, has an appointment sometime next year (about 14 months out). Hopefully the extra help will cut that time down!

  19. Maria said:

    on November 18, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Yes my Cert. of Recognition should be here this month I was told. I watch the mail CLOSELY!

    I hope it goes well for your brother. I try to tell people to enjoy the process because “the process” is MOST of the journey. I also say, when I stepped out of the Consulate & took a breath of crisp S.F. air my eyes filled with tears and a RUSH of emotion that was overwhelming & gratifying. So much so, I could care less about the $52.00 street cleaning ticket on my car :) !
    People who go through this do it for a reason & typically GET THIS!

  20. Steph said:

    on November 23, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Well, I’m pretty much at the end of the document gathering phase. Today I submitted my “request for appointment” to the SF Consulate and got back an auto-reply – 2 year wait for an appointment for application by decent!!! I’m so discouraged, especially after all these months of gathering documents, making phone calls, trying to find supporting documents to cross-reference documents that didn’t look quite right, etc. My parents live in So Cal and will be contacting the LA Consulate this week – it will be interesting to see when their appointment is.

    Thank you so much for this blog – it helped immensely! I learned some very interesting things about the family, a few that no one else knows – not sure whether I should tell them… The last document slipped into place today when my Grandfather’s birth certificate arrived from Italy! I sent eveything out to Gabriella to translate, thank you for posting her contact info, and the originals have been sent to the various states for apostilles. Given how bad handwriting was back then I’ve found several spellings of Pellegrino, and sometime along the way my Grandmother’s family changed their name from Gambone to Gamble, and I’ve come across multiple versions of each. Hopefully the application doesn’t get bounced for that, especially after waiting 2 YEARS to present it. My Dad is 75 and is so very excited about claiming his citizenship – I want this more for him than any of us! I was just hoping to get it before our trip next fall.l..

    Anyway, thank you again for sharing your “journey”, and now that I’ve been down this road myself, what a “journey” it’s been!


  21. Steph said:

    on November 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    This is reply/suggestion to Rosemarie.

    I found my Grandfather’s naturalization documents on the wedsite of the Clerk of Courts for his county. I was able to obtain a certified copy through a library in that county that works in partership with the Court for archival/old documents. I was able to print my own copy, and it took about a week to get a certified copy from the county. It’s probably worth trying that route – it sounds a whole lot faster than what you’re going through.


  22. Rosemarie Irish said:

    on November 23, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Steph, Thank you for your reply. Are you saying that you actually found the naturalization document on the website or that you found the address/phone number on the site and contacted them to obtain it? Also, the apostille(s) required for each document, do you have to go to the Secy of State where each document originated to get the apostille? I am getting documents from at least 4 states. Your help is so appreciated. Rosemarie

  23. Brian said:

    on November 24, 2009 at 9:49 am

    @Steph – great point, this is where I found my great grandfather’s intent of naturalization and his draft signup details.

    @Rosemarie – you are FAR better off trying to work with the county clerk, librarian and any other record keepers in your local jurisdiction (or the jurisdiction where your ancestors lived) than dealing with any of the Federal offices. In my case, my grandfather (from other side of the family) lives in the county where my GGF lived. He went to the county clerk I believe and they helped him dig out the info needed. In my case, the SF consulate was willing to take those documents (properly certified of course) as enough data.

    On the spelling thing, I didn’t have any issues with the fact that my GGF was born Prospero but lived his life as Dante (and was buried with that on his tombstone in Italy). What’s important is to get enough of the dates and names to line up so you can prove they are the same people. You’re effectively telling a story. I was able to show my GGF going through Ellis Island under his original name and then one name on the draft card and the other name on my GFs birth certificate but they all had the same date of birth and hometown on it. When a reasonable person looks at it, it’s obvious it’s the same person.

    I’ve heard stories on the east coast that they are much more demanding but that was my experience in SF.

    The apostille comes from the state where each document originates. In my case, my mother was born in Colorado so first I requested it via fax, received it, and then immediately mailed it off to the Secretary of State of Colorado to get the apostille.

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