This past Monday, I fulfilled the biggest dream of my life and became an Italian citizen. As some of you may already know, I applied online for citizenship back in December 2016 when we were still living in London. (You can read more about the process here and about the most recent update that shortened the wait times back to two years here. ) I’ll give you a brief time line, so you can get an idea of the timing of the whole process.
Time line of my Italian citizenship
- Dec 2016 – Uploaded my application on the Ministero dell’Interno website.
- Oct 2017 – My application was accepted by the Italian Consulate in London and I handed in my original documents.
- Nov 2017 – We moved to Italy and established residency at my mother-in-law’s house in Venice. The London consulate sent my application to the Prefettura di Venezia who started the process.
- Jan 2020 – We changed our residency to Ischia. (We had been living in Ischia since Dec 2017, but we took our time before moving our residency.) I notified the Prefettura di Venezia of my move and they sent my application to the Prefettura di Napoli.
- Sept 2020 – After checking the citizenship portal every day since I first uploaded my application, I finally saw an update on my application and I moved from stage 1 to stage 5.
- June 2021 – I received an email through the citizenship portal from the Prefettura di Napoli. My citizenship had finally been granted from the government and I needed to go there with Marituccio and bring some requested documents to pick up the decree. Basically, we had to show them that we were still married and that Marituccio was still alive in order for me to get citizenship. I then took that decree and my certified birth certificate that I had submitted with my application long ago to the comune where I lived to make an appointment for the giuramento (oath).
- July 2021 – I did my giuramento at the comune and finally became an Italian citizen. My birth certificate was registered in the comune registry and I made an appointment for a new carta d’identità that shows that I’m an Italian citizen. I can also now apply for an Italian passport.
It was funny. I had an appointment a few days after I gave the decree to the office in the comune, , but they forgot to tell me. They called me and said they were sorry they forgot, but asked if I could come anyway and I was like No! I was all sweaty and wearing a housedress and Marituccio was at work, so they gave me another appointment the following week.
And what perfect timing it was because the night before Italy had won the final of the 2020 Euro Cup. This was particularly special because three years earlier the national team had not made the qualifications for the 2018 World Cup, a terrible defeat. The coach was sacked and the new coach Roberto Mancini had the task of building a new team from scratch. This Euro Cup competition was the first test of the new national team and coach. The country didn’t know what to expect from them and to downplay the pressure, the media reminded the country how it was a young team and the most important thing was to have fun. But as Italy kept winning each match and made its way to the finals, the excitement throughout the country was electric. Here on the island, there were Italian flags hanging from windows and balconies and makeshift roadside stands popped up selling flags, hats and horns in the lead-up to the final.
And for me, it felt like everyone was getting ready for my citizenship! It was especially poignant for me because the final match was Italy vs England. During my years in London, the ever-changing immigration laws, aggressive attitude at the Home Office, and subsequent Brexit had caused me such woe and sadness for a country that I really loved. So, I was a big sack of emotions watching the match and knowing that the next day I was to become an Italian citizen. Everything felt so big.
The next morning, we got ready to go to the comune and my next-door neighbours wanted to come, too, and we all piled in the car. My friend Barbara was waiting for me outside the comune and we, me and my entourage, went into the mayor’s office. There was me and another young woman from the Dominican Republic named Margarita who were getting our citizenship. Margarita came on her break from work and she was by herself so we stuck around for her giuramento too to celebrate with her and take photos.
The giuramento, or oath, is a short sentence where you promise loyalty to the Italian Republic and to observe the constitution and laws of the state. The mayor reads aloud your act of citizenship and then that’s it. I was expecting it to be treated like a mundane bureaucratic task, but the Sindaco Del Deo made it feel special and gave us plenty of time to take pictures. Marituccio brought an Italian flag and he gave it to the mayor who raised it up behind him for some photos. It was lovely!
The biggest accomplishment of my life
I would categorize getting Italian citizenship as the biggest accomplishment and achievement of my life. Getting married to Marituccio was also a big moment and milestone, but it wasn’t an achievement or something I worked towards my entire life. This is something I’ve wanted since I was a little kid and something I asked my parents for many, many, many times. They always told me I was Italian and that I could get my citizenship, and so I’d say, okay, can we go to the consulate and get my citizenship then? But in reality, I couldn’t get citizenship through them as they had to give up their Italian citizenship to become American. This happened before I was born so the citizenship line had been severed and I technically was born to American parents. I finally found this out when I went to the Italian Consulate in New York when I was 21 and they told me that if I really wanted Italian citizenship, I had to marry an Italian. (You could read more about that story here.)
I feel like I’ve been asking for permission my whole life. That’s what an immigrant does, has to ask for permission to live and work in a country, and now that I’m an Italian citizen I don’t have to ask for permission anymore. But what I’m feeling now is not really a sense of relief that I don’t have to deal with immigration laws anymore (although that’s really nice). I feel a huge sense of peace now that I’ve become an Italian citizen, like something has been repaired. I think my parents and their siblings must have dealt with a huge sense of loss and trauma when they left their home, language, family and community and moved to the US. They never expressed that sadness, maybe they thought they couldn’t, they just had to shove it down and work hard to create a new and better life for themselves and their children. But that unspoken trauma carried on and was passed down to us and came out in strange ways – a sense of estrangement, insecurity, poor social skills, and never feeling like we fully belonged either in the US or in Italy – or at least that was the case for me. Becoming Italian feels like I’ve healed a bit of that grief inside of me, that the severed line has been repaired.
I wish my parents were still alive so I could tell them. I think they would be proud. My mom had mixed feelings about Italy, but when I saw my birth certificate again at the Prefettura, I thought how much my mom would have marveled that my birth certificate with her name on it was going to be registered on the island where she came from. My dad and I shared a love for Italy and he wanted to move back here after he retired so I think he would have been proud that I didn’t give up even when there were a lot of obstacles put in my way. I miss them so much; they would have understood how much getting Italian citizenship means to me.