HOW TO BECOME ITALIAN (SERIOUSLY)
If you have Italian heritage, you may be eligible for Italian citizenship — here’s how
Jennifer Sontag is a one woman show. At the age of 19, Jennifer opened her first boutique, specializing in maternity and baby clothing. At 28, she sold The Stork’s Nest to Macy’s. From there, she owned high end boutiques that catered to clients like Michelle Obama and Madeleine Albright.
In March 2022 she moved to Terrasini, Sicily and launched Italian Citizenship Concierge, a bespoke agency that helps people searching for Italian citizenship through jure sanguinis — Latin for “right of blood” and the principle of nationality law by descent. Italy is favorable towards bestowing citizenship this way.
Jennifer feels that her move to Italy was about more than getting a new passport — nice passport though it is, FYI — but really about a new life. We interviewed her to get the skinny on everything you need to know for obtaining Italian dual citizenship. (Yes, you can keep your current one.)
How can someone find out if they are eligible?
The easiest path to citizenship is if you have Italian ancestry. However, there are some hitches along the way. You can take a quiz on our Italian Citizenship Concierge website to see if you are eligible. There are a few key qualifications to keep in mind.
For one thing, Italy did not become a country until 1861, so it is important to know if your ancestor was alive at that time or after. It’s also important to know when your ancestor naturalized to a country other than Italy. It needs to be after the next of kin was born and after 1912. [It’s complicated, to put it mildly, but that’s what Jennifer is there for.]
For women to transmit citizenship, if the next of kin was born before January 1, 1948, they may be eligible, but they will need to lodge a legal case in court for recognition.
Ah! Already it’s confusing… What is needed to move forward with the process?
First step is to determine eligibility, this can be done using searches on Ancestry and FamilySearch to locate the ancestral records and citizenship status. Once the research is complete, it is time to start ordering documents in the correct form from the various state and local agencies where vital and civil records are held. Once documents are collected, we move on to preparing them for presentation in Italy for Citizenship Recognition.
We are a full-service agency, we can provide all of the research, document collection and preparation as well as assistance applying through a fast track process in Italy.
Do the words fast track” even exist in Italian?
Yes and no! It’s what we Americans consider as fast in comparison. It’s not really fast or easy but we do all of the heavy lifting.
Since obtaining dual citizenship can be overwhelming and somewhat stressful, what do you do to encourage your clients to relax and have fun?
Yes, the citizenship process can initially seem like a lot, but we want our clients to have fun along the way. After all, this should be an exciting time for them! We take the stress away by handling everything from start to finish. I’ve assembled a team of amazing women who are all dual US-Italian citizens specialized in citizenship recognition. We have been through the process many times before, so we know a few shortcuts to save you time and money. Since we have all been through this process ourselves, we also know first-hand what our clients are going through.
Once you arrive in Italy, we are there to help you assimilate. Not only do we make all of the arrangements, from Comune selection to housing contracts to meeting on your behalf at the various agencies, but we also add fun to the process. We plan day trips, dinner parties with a mix of locals and others seeking their recognition traveling through Sicily.
We want our clients to experience and actually feel their citizenship from the get-go. By including some fun in the process, we are showing this is about so much more than all the legal stuff and documents. This is about their new life. Our goal is to help clients feel at home from the moment they arrive. We do this by pairing them with local property owners who are welcoming and will host family meals and celebrations.
So gaining citizenship is more than a passport?
The passport is a means to an end, honestly. Moving to my ancestors’ home country felt like coming home after so many years away. The sounds, the smells, the sights of my childhood came rushing back. For the first time in 30 years, I tasted bread that was exactly as I remembered as a child. I decided to stay and live in Italy after my recognition, since Sicily just felt like home. I quickly developed a community of new friends and family who embraced my naivety with open arms.
What has your new life opened up for you?
I started a new company, made amazing friends, met long-lost relatives, learned a new language, cut my stress by 1000%, regained my confidence and physical health with access to the beach and mountains year round in amazing weather.
What do you say to someone thinking about applying?
What are you waiting for?!
Start researching your ancestors and let me help you on the road to living la dolce vita. You only live once and why not live in bella Italia?