How I Gained A Second Passport: Dual USA-Italian Citizenship

Mar 11, 2022 at 06:50 am by Jana Aplin


Murfreesboro may be America’s #1 boomtown, but it still has a small town feel. If we crossed paths in Aldi or on the Greenway, I’d introduce myself as Jana. I’d tell you that I’ve lived here before the Avenue was built, graduated from MTSU, and currently work as a freelance copywriter and content editor. 

We probably wouldn’t make it far into the conversation before I mentioned Europe. Here’s why: well, I just love Europe, but I also have dual Italian citizenship! Let’s step back in time a few generations to meet my ancestors, because they’re the reason I have two passports.

Sicily in the early 1900s

If HGTV existed a century ago, my great-grandparents could have been on the show. They lived in a charming hilltop village made entirely of stone. Imagine window boxes filled with colorful blossoms, wildflowers sprouting up beside the roads, a gentle summer breeze beside the village castle — and don’t skip the views! On one side is the sparkly blue Mediterranean water dotted with a few islands. On the other side are salt flats and a patchwork of farms. 

This is Erice.

If you wander into the village today, it looks much the same. Visitors soak up the charm and eat up the handmade pasta. They swoon over the authentic Sicilian vibes and, of course, the tourist shops. But to me, Erice is more than another destination on my European vacation.

My family lived here. They settled here for generations, growing flowers and raising goats and having babies. They never went farther than a few kilometers to the coast or a couple of villages away. And yet when the opportunity came, they left.

In the early 1900s, most Sicilians were poor. There were gray rumors of war and bright hopes of the American dream. Some of their friends and neighbors had already said goodbye to the island in search of a better future in the USA.

I wish I knew more of the story, but my limited research all points to one decision: they left. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother (who didn’t know each other yet) packed up their belongings, said their goodbyes, and boarded a ship. Two or three weeks later, they landed in New York, then followed other Sicilian immigrants to Michigan.

And then my people lived there. My great-grandparents met each other in Detroit. They grew flowers, raised rabbits, and had babies. They started businesses, saved money, built homes, and established a new life. And their Italian heritage slowly became watered down over the years. 

A new dream

Growing up, I knew I was Italian. We ate pasta every week. Bread was a daily staple. And we displayed family heirlooms from Sicily. Although no one spoke Italian anymore, a few words lingered. Bella (beautiful). Mangia (eat). La Rota di Fortuna (The Wheel of Fortune…my grandpa’s favorite show).

My husband is not Italian (as evidenced by his red hair) but he is just as passionate about Europe as me. In fact, he’s the reason I have dual citizenship. He read a blog about a lady who gained Italian dual citizenship because her great-grandparents were born in Italy…just like mine. 

How I gained Italian citizenship

Our research revealed that I was only eligible to become an Italian citizen if I met three qualifications

  1. First, my Italian ancestor (my great-grandfather) had to be born after March 17, 1861. 
  2. Second, that same Italian ancestor could not have become an American citizen before June 14, 1912. 
  3. And third, my Italian ancestor (my great-grandfather) must not have become an American citizen before the next person in my lineage (his son, my grandfather) was born. 

Check, check, check. 

After the initial shock, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. First, I scheduled an appointment with the Italian consulate. It often takes up to one year to get on their schedule, but I somehow snagged a slot only six months away. 

Next, I jumped into the scavenger hunt of finding the necessary documents. I had to track down every birth, death, and marriage certificate for me, my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents — including their documents from Sicily! I also had to prove my dual citizenship eligibility with census documents and naturalization records. 

Then, each of those documents was translated into Italian and apostilled with a fancy seal that proves the document’s authenticity. To keep all of these oddly shaped papers organized, I stored everything in an extra large scrapbooking binder with sheet protectors.

Finally, I traveled to the Italian Consulate in Detroit, Michigan for my appointment. From there, it was a six-month waiting game until I was finally declared an official Italian citizen!

The benefits of dual citizenship

Having two passports is pretty sweet. It’s the secret agent stuff little kids dream about! But aside from honoring my ancestors, being a dual citizen has some incredible benefits.

First of all, my husband was able to apply for dual citizenship through marriage. The process is similar, although it took quite a bit longer — he waited nearly 4 years! Nonetheless, he also has an Italian passport and I lovingly tease that he is the only redhead in Italy! One day when we start a family, our children will be born as dual USA-Italian citizens.

One of our favorite benefits of dual citizenship is the ability to spend as long as we want in Europe. As an American, you have a 90-day limit to your European vacations. But with an Italian passport, I can stay in the European Union for as long as I want. So far, we’ve spent at least two months a year across the pond.

And although we haven’t taken advantage of all of the benefits yet, here are a few we’re looking forward to: becoming residents anywhere in the EU, buying a home, utilizing national healthcare, and giving a second passport to our children and future generations. 

4 Tips to Start your Dual Citizenship Process

I know, dual citizenship is pretty sweet! And I can already see your wheels turning: my kids could study at a foreign university for affordable rates, we could spend our summers abroad, I can whip out two passports at our next dinner party — what a legacy! We’re not the only lucky ones; a second citizenship may be possible for you too! Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Dual citizenship by ancestry. Call up Great Aunt Bertha or Grandpa John to find out where your ancestors are from. Don’t forget that you have two sides to research: maternal and paternal.
  2. Eligibility. Find out if that country offers dual citizenship. We have Italian dual citizenship by ancestry and many countries around the world have similar programs!
  3. Dual citizenship by other means. You can gain dual citizenship by ancestry (like we did), by residency (living there for a certain length of time), by investment (if you have that kind of spare change), or by giving birth in that country. 
  4. Don’t forget. Dual citizenship is just cool, but keep these things in mind. The USA allows its citizens to hold more than one passport, but not all countries do. You may be required to complete compulsory military service in the country of your second citizenship. Acquiring a second citizenship could have tax implications you aren’t expecting. Be sure to research the benefits and the responsibilities! 
  5. Get started today! If you’re eligible for a second passport, don’t give up! Contact that country’s consulate, fill out the paperwork, find chat forums, and keep going until you have that passport in your hand! 

Now if we run into each other around the ‘Boro, we can talk about your second citizenship instead of traffic or the weather. 

Jana Aplin has been a wordsmith (aka copywriter) since 2015. She reads at least one book a week, could eat gelato everyday, loves discipling teen girls, and speaks Italian like a 4-year old. She and her husband Brett have been married for ten years, and have spent nearly three of those years traveling Europe. Learn how you can travel Europe on a budget by watching their YouTube channel, Aplins in the Alps, or hang out with her on Instagram and Facebook.