Orange is my favorite color

My Road to Italian Citizenship

While I’m going through the ropes of obtaining all of the documentation needed to earn my Italian Citizenship (through my great grandfather), I am going to record how much it costs and how long it takes to get everything.

Update 12/1/15 – I used my Italian Passport in Europe. I’ve been to Europe several times where I would have the opportunity to use my Italian passport but haven’t for various reasons (usually traveling with a non-citizen). But, I just did it in Germany and it was easy and FAST. Here’s the guide on which passport to use when. I’ve now officially been an Italian citizen!
Update 9/5/08 – I received my Certificate of Recognition! My process is complete and my next step is to get a passport. Bennisimo! The process from took approximately four years and cost $785USD. Read on for the details…
Update 10/4/08 – My passport is here! I am a citizen! It’s all over! Well, I guess it’s technically just the beginning!
I am now a dual citizen and have received my Italian passport!
Update 2/22/09 – Translator Info I have had several people ask me about my translator, Gabriella Einaga, who did my papers for $15/page last year. She is based near Sacramento, CA and you can reach her at gabriella_einaga -at- att -dot- net.
Update 8/10/10 – Shortcut for children/siblings My brother just had his appointment and since our father became a citizen with me two years ago, he may not have needed to wait! Read more here.

Phase 0: Am I giving up my American Citizenship?

This is one of the first questions I am asked when I mention my journey. No matter what you’ve heard from your cousin’s best friend, the official answer is no for common I’m-getting-dual-citizenship stories like mine.

Phase 1: Obtain Documents

Document Cost Date Sent Date Recv’d
Grandmother’s Birth Certificate (Germany – Gotha) Free 9/13/2005 (Email) 9/22/2005
Mother’s Birth Certificate (CO – Larimer) $17
+$6 convenience fee for sending by fax
7/7/2006 (FAX) 7/17/2006
Grandfather’s Birth Certificate (CA – Humboldt) $14 (Mail)
+$10 Notary fee
7/13/2006 7/21/2006
Parent’s Marriage Certificate (CA – Del Norte) $13 (Mail) 7/13/2006 7/19/2006
Father’s Birth Certificate (CA – Sacramento) $13 (in-person) 11/21/2007
Grandparent’s Marriage Certificate (CA – Sacramento) $17 (in-person) 11/21/2007
Grandmother’s Certificate of Naturalization (???) Not needed
My Birth Certificate (CA – Shasta) $10 (via Mom) 12/3/07
Brother’s Birth Certificate (CA – Shasta) $10 (via Mom) 12/3/07
Proof of no Naturalization for Great Grandfather No up front cost, $10 Notary, $4 USPS Priority mail 10/23/2006 Invalid request – turns out he was naturalized!
Great Grandfather’s Proof of Naturalization In person by grandfather in Crescent City, CA 11/3/2006 11/5/2006
Great Grandfather’s Naturalization Certificate Unneeded according to consul but getting for insurance via NARA UCICS Mar 08
Great Grandfather’s Birth Certificate (Italy) In person by cousin 10/6/2006 11/1/2006
Great Grandmother’s Birth Certificate (Italy) In person by cousin 10/6/2006 11/1/2006
Great Grandparent’s Marriage Certificate (Italy) In person by cousin 10/6/2006 11/1/2006
Great Grandfather’s Death Certificate (Italy) In person by cousin 10/6/2006 11/1/2006
Great Grandmother’s Death Certificate (Italy) In person by cousin 10/6/2006 11/1/2006
Estratto Per Riassunto Del Registro Degli Atti Di Matimonio (Italian Marriage Certificate) Mail – 14.76€ 9/20/2012
Wife’s Birth Certificate (Colorado) Internet – $27.75 10/21/2011 11/1/2011
Wife’s Background Check (FBI) Mail – $18 11/5/2014 3/2015
Wife’s Background Check (California) Mail – ? 11/5/2014 1/2015

Phase 2 – Obtain Apostilles

Technically, apostilles are only needed for US documents related to the Italian side. Thus, my mother’s and grandmother’s birth certificates should be OK without the apostille but it is only a couple of bucks and guarantees there are no questions on the validity of the documents.

This is the quote from the SF Consulate’s paperwork: “U.S. Birth/Marriage/Death records related to the ‘Italian side’ (starting with your ancestor and ending with you, and including any Italian born spouses) must bear an “APOSTILLE” of the Secretary of State of the State in which the document was issued, (except for the Certificate of Naturalization and/or similar documentation).Please note that you do not need death certificates for people who were not born in italy.”

Apostille for: Cost Date Sent Date Recv’d
Grandmother’s Birth Cert (Germany) 36 euros ($48)
+ $26 Int’l Express Mail
+ $35 wire transfer fee
7/21/06 8/13/06
Grandfather Birth Cert $20 (in-person) 11/21/2007
Grandparent’s Marriage Cert $20 (in-person) 11/21/2007
Father Birth Cert $20 (in-person) 11/21/2007
Mother’s Birth Cert (Colorado) $2 (Mail) 7/18/07 7/?/07
Parent’s Marriage Cert $20 (in-person) 11/21/2007
My Birth Cert $20 (Mail) 3/12/08 3/27/08
Brother’s Birth Cert $20 (Mail) 3/12/08 3/27/08
Del Norte Naturalization Letter (2 pgs) $20 x 2 4/08 4/08
Wife’s Birth Cert $5 (Mail) 3/14 4/14
Wife’s FBI Background Check $8 (Mail) + $20 (LiveScan Fingerprints) 7/15 7/15
Wife’s California Background Check $20 (Mail) + $20 (LiveScan Fingerprints) 7/15 7/15

Phase 3 – Translate Documents

Apostilles do not need to be translated. According to the SF consulate, these documents must be translated: “Birth, marriage, divorce certificates in languages other than Italian, relating to Italian born spouses and to you and your minor children must be professionally translated into Italian. Documents that do not need to be translated are those relating to the “non-Italian” side, death certificates relating to the Italian side, marriage, birth and divorce relating to “intermediate” ancestors who are not applying for citizenship and the U.S. Certificate of Naturalization or any statement releasing information on the naturalization status of the ancestor. “Apostilles” do not need to be translated.”

For translation services, I have used Gabriella Einaga (gabriella_einaga at – I just email scans of the documents to her and she turns them around quickly and accurately. I highly recommend her.

Document Cost Date Sent Date Recv’d
Grandfather’s Birth Certificate $15 5/08 5/08
Parent’s Marriage Certificate $15 5/08 5/08
Parent’s Divorce Decree (17 pages) $300 6/08 8/08
Father’s Birth Certificate $15 5/08 5/08
Grandparent’s Marriage Certificate $15 5/08 5/08
My Birth Certificate $15 5/08 5/08
Brother’s Birth Certificate $15 5/08 5/08
Wife’s Birth Certificate $15 7/15 7/15
Wife’s FBI Background Check $15 7/15 7/15
Wife’s California Background Check $15 7/15 7/15

The tricky ones are going to be the Italian documents and getting the German apostille for my grandmother’s birth certificate.

My cousin Laura near Milan helped by going to the government office and obtaining all of the birth, death and marriage certificates for my great-grandparents. A slight snafu is that my GGF is really “Prospero Ghidinelli” but was known to everyone (and on legal documents) as “Dante Ghidinelli”. It will be interesting to see if we need to amend other documents to reflect this or not which is a judgement call by each individual consul as I understand it.

Update Nov 07 – the San Francisco citizenship office has indicated the name does not need to be amended and that the Department of Labor letter that states my GGFs date of Naturalization should be valid. I’ve got my appointment for August, 2008. Awesome!

Update Nov 22 07 – I visited Sacramento yesterday and obtained my grandparent’s marriage certificate and my father’s birth certificate. I obtained four apostilles for those two documents and my parents’ marriage certificate and my grandfather’s birth certificate from Del Norte county. If I had known, I could have also had his naturalization letter done too but I didn’t realize I needed it. That’s OK, I have to get mine and my brother’s birth certs done so I can do it all at once then. Getting closer!

Update Mar 28 08 – I had my mom pick up my and my brother’s birth certificates from the county courthouse back in December. I mailed them off in February for apostilles and they showed up yesterday. I forgot to send in the DOL letters so I’ll need to ship those in and get them notarized. Translation is the next step – it’s bloody expensive! Most people I talked to wanted $40/document but I found a woman who will do them for $15/page: Gabriella Einaga ([email protected]). You scan and email everything to her so it doesn’t really matter where you are located.

My brother confirmed he can make the August appointment but thought he was showing up to get a passport. I explained that they probably wanted to meet him before giving him citizenship and we had a good laugh. The lucky bastard is piggy backing on all of my work so I can forgive him for being so glib. :)

On the downside, it’s being reported that people who applied in 2004 at the San Francisco consulate are just getting their approvals and passports in 2007. In other words: a three-year wait! At the Detroit and Houston consulates however, you don’t even need an appointment and can get a response in about three weeks! I’m considering temporarily moving to one of those places to speed up the process as the rules require you to have residence where you apply. Three years is a long time.

Update Aug 12 08 – One week until my appointment! My brother shows up this weekend from Florida and my Dad is coming down Monday night. Tuesday at 11am we go to the consulate to present the paperwork and apply. I’m waiting on one final translation but otherwise I’ve got everything ready to go. I’m very excited but pacing myself since this is only the beginning of another long period.

Update May 9, 15 – I’ve finished collecting all of the paperwork for my wife to become a citizen. It included FBI and California background checks, fingerprints, our marriage registration from Italy and her birth certificate. The consulate has a new online system for uploading documents and then they review and schedule an appointment with you. There is a note that it takes 2 years for Italy to review the documents and issue a citizenship but that part is out of my hands. Getting close!