While building my family tree and gathering info about my grandfather, who was born in Forio, Italy, I came across the concept of Jure Sanguinis. It's a principle of nationality law where citizenship is conveyed not by where you are born, as in the US, instead a person's nationality is the same as that of his natural parents. Italy is one of a handful of countries which conveys citizenship in this manner.
In other words, if you are descended from an Italian citizen and the citizenship chain remains unbroken you may be an Italian citizen with some caveats. Was it possible that I was an Italian citizen and never knew it? The search was on.
The key documents to track down were my grandfathers naturalization paperwork. If he never became a US citizen, or became a citizen AFTER my father was born then I would have an unbroken chain of Italian ancestors, my grandfather, father, and me. It turns out that he didn't become a citizen until 1924, my father was born in 1921. Voila, full speed ahead.
It took me approximately a year to collect the documents I needed, get them Apostilled (certified) and have any non-Italian documents translated into Italian, which my attorney did. I even had to get my grandparents marriage record from South Africa which was no small task.
Since I am officially a resident of Montana I appeared at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco for my documents to be reviewed and for them to make the final decision on my citizenship. I did this on November 12th and it was the second-most nervous day of my life. My appointment was supposed to last an hour but only took 15 minutes because my file was so well prepared. After their review I was told that indeed I was a citizen and should make an appointment to come back for my passport. At the end of November, on my birthday as a matter of fact, I was sent an email, yes, an email, that I was now officially an Italian citizen. I was so excited, but the letter was in Italian so I couldn't read it! Needless to say I am now taking Italian lessons.
My birth certificate has been filed with the "commune" or municipality of Forio, and I have full Italian rights and benefits. I can even vote in their elections. A note about my Italian name - in Italy women keep their maiden names, so officially I am Denise Di Maio.
I returned for my passport on Feb. 5th and have dual US/Italian citizenship. Now what?
There are some people who may ask why I would go through all this effort and there are several reasons for doing so. It gives Jim and I options for living and traveling. Although my passport is Italian, it allows me to travel, live or work in any of the 28 countries of the EU. We are eligible for Italian healthcare, which would cost about $1000.00 per YEAR rather than $1000.00 per MONTH. It is also part of who I am and I would like to travel to Italy to find more of my family. I can't imagine a Sunday dinner with a bunch of Di Maio's, the din would be overwhelming, but wonderful. Regardless, it's a big world out there and I am a citizen of it. I plan on using this passport quite a bit.
What about Jim? If he chooses, he can also obtain an Italian passport as my spouse but his process takes two years, not really too long in the scheme of things.
We will keep everyone posted on where we go next - there may be names like Basilicata, Puglia and Campania in our future. Arrivederchi for now!