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Italian Citizenship: Maternal Line Before 1948 and the 1948 Rule
Italian citizenship law allows those of Italian descent to obtain citizenship by descent, subject to certain conditions. In some cases, people with maternal Italian heritage might be denied based on the date their mother was born. Why does the 1948 rule exist and will it really prevent you from becoming a dual Italian citizen if you would otherwise qualify?
What Is the 1948 Rule?
The 1948 rule came about because of a 1912 citizenship law that only allowed citizenship to be passed on to those born to an Italian father. Only men could pass on their citizenship based on the 1912 legal statute.
The Italian constitution was adopted on January 1, 1948, and it allows citizenship to be passed to children born of an Italian mother as well. Therefore, current Italian citizenship laws allow descendants of female Italian ancestors to apply for citizenship if they qualify, but only if their mother was born after January 1, 1948.
Then, in 1983, the Italian Constitutional Court reviewed the 1912 law and declared it to be unconstitutional due to the inherent inequality between men and women. That same year, a new law was passed ensuring that women’s rights to citizenship were upheld. This means that children born after 1983 can obtain Italian citizenship “jure sanguinis” by maternal bloodline.
How the 1948 Rule Affects the Italian Dual Citizenship Process
To illustrate how the Maternal Line before 1948 works, let’s assume for a moment that your grandmother was born in Italy and did not become a naturalized U.S. citizen before the birth of your mother. This could qualify you for dual Italian-American citizenship:
- If your mother was born before 1948, then you would not immediately qualify under the 1912 rule. If you were born after 1983, you would still qualify but would need to follow a slightly different process. If your mother or you were born before 1983 and your Italian grandmother was born before 1948, you might still be able to obtain Italian citizenship by petitioning the Civil Court of Rome.
- On the other hand, if your Italian mother (or grandmother) was born after January 1, 1948, then you will likely qualify for dual citizenship status, provided they did not give up their right to Italian citizenship when they immigrated to the United States.
The 1948 rule went into effect after Italy became a republic. Even though it has been over 70 years since this rule took effect, the Italian government has never updated or changed it to reflect the modern equality between men and women. So, in some cases, you may need to work with a law firm and file a legal case in order to obtain Italian citizenship based on a female ancestor.
Will My Application Be Rejected Because of the 1948 Rule?
The Italian Supreme Court has been reviewing cases brought before it regarding this matter where qualified people are challenging the 1912 rule. The challenge to the law in Rome has been successful in many 1948 cases. The Italian Supreme Court has ruled that the 1912 rule goes against constitutional equality.
As such, this has been a potential part of the dual citizenship process for some people who initially qualified but were later disqualified because their ancestor or they were born before 1948. However, taking this path does require filing an appeal in Rome with the Italian Supreme Court. U.S. courts and Italian consulates still must adhere to the 1948 rule.
This means that if your female Italian ancestor was born before 1948 and is the only basis for your citizenship application, you should expect it to be denied by the regional Italian consulate. This is a normal part of the process for applicants in your circumstances, and it does not mean you cannot obtain Italian citizenship.
However, before you go this route, it is beneficial to seek Italian citizenship assistance to explore other potential paths you might explore without having to take the matter to the Italian Supreme Court. There are sometimes alternate paths you may not be aware of that an expert in citizenship assistance can help you investigate.
How Do I Become an Italian Citizen?
If you are relying on female ancestors to apply for dual citizenship status, then you should be aware of the 1948 rule and how it might affect your application process.You may want to review your Italian male ancestors to see if that could potentially be an option allowing you to avoid the legal process.