I recently posted a photo to our social media channels of my Italian passport, as I was using it to travel for the very first time to Vietnam. I had a flurry of comments and messages, from ‘I didn’t know you were Italian’ and ‘How did you get an Italian passport?’
When I first started investigating the process to get my passport I found it very difficult to interpret the limited information I could find, as a lot of it pertained to citizens of the US and not Australia where there are different laws. I desperately wanted to read of someones personal account of going through the process themselves but to no avail. After engaging in the long process myself and coming out of it the other end successfully, I thought I would write about my experience and relay the information so that others might benefit.
Please note, I do not believe myself to be an expert on this matter and that rules and regulations may vary from state to state (within Australia). I also only know the ins and outs that relate to my particular family situation, so if yours varies from mine than the process may be different. The best place for further information is to contact your local Italian Consulate with any questions.
My maternal grandparents were born in Rome, Italy, where they both grew up, met and married and had two children. The emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in January 1970, and their third child, my mother, was born a few months later in May 1970. Being born in Australia, she automatically became an Australian citizen, however as her parents were still Italian citizens themselves at the time, she also inherited their Italian citizenship – but this was never formalised. My grandparents went on to become Australian citizens 12 years later, in 1982.
Eligibility for dual citizenship through inheritance (as opposed to marriage) is all dependant on what is referred to as naturalisation – which to be completely honest, is a term I still don’t completely understand. In a nutshell, when my mother was born as an Australian citizen, she also inherited her parents Italian citizenship as that’s what they held at the time. If they had become Australian citizens prior to her birth, then she would not have been able to inherit this.
When I first started looking into this process, I was fairly sure I was eligible however it was all dependant on this situation of my mum’s and unfortunately when in contact with the local Italian consulate they couldn’t provide me a specific answer without coming in for a verification appointment.
It took me six months to get an appointment, and I was advised to bring as much evidence as possible related to my grandparents and my mothers history. Even though my mother had ‘inherited’ the citizenship, she’d never formalised it therefore for myself to become eligible to become a citizen, my mum had to also go through the process and therefore she accompanied me to my appointment. Unfortunately this also mean twice the processing cost – an application fee of 400 euros was required as payment PER applicant and this has to be paid upfront, regardless of the result or not. It was a lot of money to outlay to not be 100% sure about the end result!
Fortunately my grandparents had retained all their paperwork, and I had both their old Italian passports, immigration papers, marriage certificate and Australian Citizenship certificate, and my mum had all of hers also. The evidence was more than enough to confirm that my mother had inherited Italian citizenship at birth and could formalise it – therefore meaning I could do the same. It was a massive relief!
It was the start of the paperwork process though, as further evidence was required to be provided to be submitted to the consulate in Rome to register both my mother and myself as dual citizens. This included:
- Having my birth certificate, my mother’s birth certificate and her marriage certificate all translated into Italian by a certified translator registered with the consulate. This cost me $200.00
- Taking the three original certificates to the Department of Foreign Affairs and having them legalised with an apostille. This cost me $90.00.
- Returning to the local consulate to submit all documents.
I was advised to wait at least two months for the documents to be successfully submitted before applying for a passport. As the wait list for appointments was quite a long time, I booked a return appointment before leaving that day and returned three months later to get a passport.
This was a much quicker process as passports are made up in house within your 20 minute appointment, and all I had to provide were four new passport photos. The passport cost was $179.00 – I obtained mine in January 2015.
It was a process that took 8 months and cost me over $1600.00 AUD, but its a cost that I think was well worth it. I now have the privilege of holding dual citizenship to two incredible countries and it opens up a world of possibilities. As Italy is a member of the Schengen area, I have the opportunity to both live and work and move freely between 26 European countries. It was one of the reasons why we decided it was worth pursuing, especially as living abroad is one of our long term plans.
Having two passports also makes travel a little easier. Right now I’m in Vietnam on my Italian passport. I was previously in Malaysia, and had submitted my Australian passport to obtain a visa for India – I didn’t have time to also obtain a Vietnamese visa, but I really wanted to visit Vietnam and only had a certain timeframe in which to do so. That’s when I found out that at present, Italian citizens amongst a handful of other nationalities are granted 15 days in Vietnam visa free until mid next year – so that solved that problem, and saved me an $80 visa cost if I had applied on my Australian passport.
I realise this article may have little interest for anyone not in my situation, but I know when I was looking for information that I would have loved to have read someone’s personal account to see if my situation aligned with theirs – it would have made it so much easier!
So in a nutshell – if you have Italian grandparents who emigrated to Australia, had a parent born (father or mother) in Australia, and then your grandparents became citizens of Australia, you should definitely be eligible to claim citizenship through your parent. If they have already formalised this (perhaps got a passport themselves when they were younger) then your process should be even quicker and easier – and cheaper!