How the ‘1948 rule' could grant Italian citizenship to even more Americans

Over the last few years, many Americans with Italian roots have discovered they are eligible for Italian citizenship. However, the actual number of eligible people could be far higher.

Published: Mon 1 Jul 2024 08:38 CEST
How the ‘1948 rule' could grant Italian citizenship to even more Americans
Since 2009, Americans have been able to use the Italian courts to gain Italian citizenship through their matrilineal line of descent. Photo: Arno Senoner / Unsplash

Italy has long been considered one of the European countries with the most generous citizenship offerings for those whose families originate there.  

With a significant number of Americans having Italian heritage due to migration over the last century, many have opted to take advantage of this generosity. 

Some seeking to reclaim their heritage have found a specific obstacle blocking their path - the gender of their Italian ancestor and how that relates to Italian law. 

The good news is that a legal precedent has established that more Americans than ever can apply for Italian citizenship. Together with Italian Citizen Assistance, we explain the law change. 

The 'right of blood' 

Since August 1992, when Italy legalised dual citizenship, Americans have had the option of becoming Italian citizens through jure sanguinus, or the 'right of blood'. 

This was done by proving to the authorities that the applicant had a direct male Italian ancestor, as established by the Italian Citizenship Law of 1912.

This meant that those born to an Italian woman were not granted automatic citizenship. 

However, this state of affairs would be challenged and changed in 1983, when the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that jure sanguinus could granted from both the patrilineal and matrilineal lines, meaning both Italian men and women could pass their citizenship to their children. 

However, this ruling was not retrospective, leaving those born before 1948 with no recourse  - for the time being. 

The ‘1948 rule' and the legal route

Over the last two decades, several legal proceedings have attempted to find this application of the law discriminatory. 

One such case succeeded in 2009, establishing a legal precedent—the current law must be applied retroactively before the Italian Constitution took effect on January 1, 1948. 

This would become known as the ‘1948 rule' - and the resulting cases as '1948 cases'.

Now, those born to an Italian mother before that date have an excellent chance of obtaining citizenship through an appeal in the Italian legal system. 

While there is no guarantee that an Italian court will favour a litigant, courts have demonstrated a firm tendency towards granting citizenship in such cases. 

Italian citizenship could be yours, via a '1948 case'. Learn more about how you can take advantage of this unmissable opportunity

Meredith's story

Meredith Savadove and Donna Scarola are two Americans who used Italian Citizenship Assistance. founded by attorney Marco Permunian to help them obtain citizenship through the ‘1948 rule'. 

Meredith, who lives in Washington State but whose family originates in Sicily, learned that she was eligible for citizenship while living in the country. 

"I became aware when I lived in Italy that I could become an Italian citizen, but my only avenue was through my father and grandmother, via a 1948 case."

“A 1948 case requires going to court and filing a discrimination lawsuit against the Ministry of the Interior.”

"You're filing a case, saying my grandmother couldn't pass citizenship on to my father."

With ICA acting as her representative, she obtained her citizenship working with ICA's staff based on the ground in Italy.

"I worked with Susanna Viola (of ICA), and I have to tell you that I have incredibly high expectations for responsiveness. She exceeded them. She was knowledgeable and knew exactly what she was doing. 

"She and I communicated extremely well; we worked very well together. I got a response the same day if I sent an email. I don't know if I would have citizenship if it weren't for her."

"Now we can use my citizenship to live longer in Italy and enjoy our time in that part of the world. I'm proud of my Italian heritage."

Meredith Savadove and Donna Scarola used Italian Citizenship Assistance to obtain their Italian citizenship via the '1948 rule'. Photo: Supplied

Donna's journey

Donna Scarola, who comes from New York, had always wanted to embrace her origins.

"My grandfather's side is from Bari, and my grandmother's side is from Naples. I grew up learning Italian from my father, who attended college in Rome but was born in the US.

"It was always something that I considered."

Working with ICA, she obtained her citizenship in four years via a 1948 case—even despite the coronavirus pandemic. 

"It took just under four years, from 2018 to 2022, although the coronavirus held some things up."

"They helped me tremendously with my case. and they took ninety percent of the work off my plate, which was great because I had a demanding job. 

"They did all the translations, all the investigative work, and went to court to present the case since it wasn't straightforward."

"They were great, always giving me updates whenever I checked in. They also clarified the entire process, which helped when we had to wait and see what the court would rule."

Donna plans to use her new citizenship to explore and later retire in the European Union. 

"Having the option an Italian passport provides has opened up a whole new world for me. I can go and work and travel long term in the EU, and later, I can retire there and learn more about my family."

Explore the possibilities

You may have explored taking up Italian citizenship before but hit a speed bump regarding a direct male antecedent.

Conversely, you could be exploring your Italian roots for the first time - and wondering whether you could claim Italian citizenship.

A number of services exist to guide prospective citizens through the process. Italian Citizenship Assistance is one such service, with offices in both Italy and the United States. 

Services such as ICA can advise you of your options and tell you whether using the ‘1948 rule' via the courts could be your key to discovering and reclaiming your family's history and legacy. 

Start an obligation-free discussion with Italian Citizenship Assistance today, about beginning your journey towards a new life in Italy




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