Italy: Obtaining Citizenship Via The Female Successor Line

Last Updated: 28 September 2017
Article by Calogero Boccadutri

Can a law established before the constitution be unconstituional?
In 1912, when legislation on citizenship was drafted in Italy regarding the tranfering of citizenship from parents to children, it maintained a distinction between the transfering of citizenship through paternal and maternal succesor lines.

The phenomenon of emigration happened en masse and so many Italian women ended up marrying foreigners. These women acquired their husbands' nationality and so relinquished the right to transfer Italian citiznehsip to their children.

Although most part of our emigrants have not explicitly renounced their origins, according to the law of 1912 marriage with a foreigner erased their Italian roots.

The constituion, valid from the first of Janurary 1948, has restored the posibility for those Italians who moved abroad and married foreigners of not cutting all ties with Italy.

Thus they were able to transfer their Italian citizenship to their descendents. However, what resulted was that only those born after the constituion were able to obtain recognition of their citizenship being able to be transferred in a simple linear fashion, by means of iure sanguinis. They could do this through a request to the consulate if resident abroad, or by means of the mayor, if they were Italian residents.

The situation is quite different for those of whom the female Italian successor line began before 1948, because Italian citizenship can only be obtained via judicial action.

In practice one is obliged to turn to the judge in cases of transferring citizenship, if a descendent of an Italian woman born before 1948 is present.

Yet, in many countries citizenship is not automatically transferred to a foreign wife through marriage. Therefore, the women in question have never lost their status as Italian citizens, the law however does not take this into account. This leaves judicial sentences to establish who has the right in each individual case to Italian citizenship in the presence of a female ancestor.

It just so happens that two brothers born one after the other in 1948, had different outcomes regarding the recognition of Italian citizenship. They were at different times, but the outcome risks being different, given the undpredicatability of the verdict in the absence of a clear and unequivocal law. According to Italian law these two brothers cease to have the same rights.

The laws

Law no. 555 of 1912, continues to discriminate against Italian women and their descendents that have chosen to move abroad. According to this rule the son or daughter of a mother with Italian citizenship does not have to be recognised as an Italian citizen if the son or daughter's father is a foreign citizen.

But this does not occur in all foreign states, the marriage act does not function as an extension of the wife's citizenship, which the court does not always take into account.

If citizenship is not lost through marriage, Italian women who have not requested citizenship of the husband's country, have remained citizens of our country.

The law of 1912 has also created problems for women that have had children with foreigners to whom they are not married.

According to the 1948 constituion, the 1912 law was declared constitutionally illegitimate and this took effect the day after the publication of the decision. The article 136 from the constituion reads:

"When the court declares the illegitimacy of a law or an act that has the force of the law, the regulation ceases to have any vailidty, the day after the publication of the verdict."

The law n.151 of 1975, recognises Italian women's right to citizenship, which they have lost independent of their own doing, by way of marriage to a foreign citizen before the first of January 1948.

In 1983 the law 123 ratified that a minor of an Italian mother or father will be seen as an Italian citizen.

In spite of the court of Cassazione declaring itself in favour on multiple occassions of the policy of an individual obtaining citizenship through means of an Italian ancestor born before 1948,in practice this is not the case with the public administration.

The public addministration has not adapted to the new situation and continues to uphold the belief that an Italian mother only has the ability to transfer her citizenship to her children after the consitution came into force.

Law 91 of 1992, has not had a retrospective effect, therefore there is always need for a sentence to enforce the right to Italian citizenship for those descended from a woman born before 1948 and had married a foreigner.

The Verdicts

The Constitutional Court's verdicts for the most part have agreed with the notion of the invalidty of the law 555/1912. In 1975 with sentence number 87, and in 1983 with sentence number 30, the previous court first contested the validity of the law of 1912 at the point at which it considered the marriage to a foreigner to automatically remove the Italian women's citizenship of origin.

As a result, there followed discrimination towards the children of a mother with Italian citizenship, but not towards the children with fathers who have Italian citizenship.

In 2009 the court of Cassazione, with the sentence of the Chambers of 4466, attribuited a valid retrospectve judgement for both verdicts of the Constituional Court.

It recognised the legitimate children from an Italian mother born before the first of January 1948 as Italian citizens by means of iure sanguinis.

What has emerged from the majoirty of sentences is that individuals can be recognised as Italian citizens if they have Italian ancestors that have never renounced their Italian citizenship, regardless if the ancestor was a man or woman.

The Procedure

Those who want to assert a claim for their Italian ancestry, having had an ancestor move abroad, can do so in an Italian court, one does not necessarily have to do it in person. An advocate can represent your appliation in court.

In cases with a postive outcome, the advocate will notify the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Revenue Agency with the verdict.

It will then be up to the client to inform the Italian Consulate of the country where they reside, in order that one can request a copy of the citizneship document from the state's citizenship office at the place of birth of the Italian ancester. One cam then ask to be reigstered in the Italian Registration Office for Italian citizens abroad, (AIRE) in order to acquire an Italian passport.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.