How to Request Birth Certificates From Italy
First off, if you’ve made it to this point in the process of applying for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, congratulations. You should already know that you’re eligible; now all you need is the paperwork. I’m currently at this stage myself and I know it’s a little exciting, but very frustrating.
Whether you’re looking for documents pertaining to your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, if your Italian relative didn’t bring their birth certificate with them, you probably need to get a certified copy directly from Italy in order to prove that you’re eligible for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis. In my case, which is on the difficult side, I’m looking for birth certificates for my great grandmother and my great grandfather, who were born in different towns. I’m also looking for their marriage certificate.
The problem with these and other Italian certificates is that they may or may not exist. They may be in little towns, and they may be under slightly different names. That makes requesting these certificates tricky. There are guidelines on how to request birth certificates from Italy on Italian consulate websites throughout the U.S., but they leave out a few key points. Here’s how to request birth certificates from Italy, along with most other Italian certificates, and what the consulates don’t tell you.
- You MUST request the certificate by mail. Italian consulates give directions on how to request birth certificates by mail, but they don’t tell you that you NEED to request them by mail. Italian city governments, more commonly called comunes, require you to request birth, marriage, and death certificates by mail.
- Send your request to the city where your ancestor was born. No other city will have the record. If you don’t know where your ancestor was born, find out. You can use this website to help you find the city’s address: www.comuni.it. If that doesn’t work, Google it.
- Include a copy of your photo ID. Consulate directions don’t mention this, but more than likely you need to do so. Certain cities in Italy, including Rome, won’t accept your request without a copy of a government issued photo ID. Smaller towns may or may not accept your request without an ID, but why take the chance?
- Fees for a certified copy of a birth certificate range from free to ten Euros, from what I’ve seen. The consulates instruct you to include $3-$4 for reimbursement of expenses, but if you want to be sure your money doesn’t go to waste, convert that to Euros. The city government is more likely to bother with a random certificate request if they don’t have to go through currency conversion.
- Include a self-addressed, stamped return envelope. This is the nightmare instruction. Why? Because you can no longer do this for under a hundred dollars. The United States Post Office cannot calculate return shipping costs, so they won’t stamp an envelope for you. They no longer provide international reply coupons either, and furthermore, the envelope most likely won’t be returning via USPS since it’s coming from the Italian mail system, so any amount of U.S. postage may not help. You can pay return shipping via UPS, but it’s usually over $100 per envelope. Don’t want to pay it? You can try sending additional Euros in the envelope to cover shipping, which is usually around 16 Euros. You can purchase Euros from major banks, including Wells Fargo. That’s the route I’m trying. If you find a better one please LET ME KNOW. I’m dying for a better answer.
- Use the document request form provided by the Italian consulate. It’s on their website with the directions on how to apply for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, or the instructions on how to request birth certificates from Italy, or how to request documents from Italy. Exact sections depend on which consulate you’re going through. Personally, I’m also sending a letter in addition to this form explaining that I’ve included Euros to cover shipping costs, and detailing extra information about my relatives including name variations, which will hopefully make the certificates easier to find. I’ve also requested a formal letter if they cannot find the certificates, that way I’m not perpetually waiting for a reply that may never come.
Those are the general rules that I’ve found on how to request birth certificates from Italy, along with any other certificate requests you may have. None of this guarantees that the city will find your certificates, or that they’ll even bother with your request. It should help, though.
A few more hints? Try e-mailing the city you’re requesting the certificate from. You can search for the city’s website, or the website of the comune, and find e-mail addresses listed there. You’re looking for a general e-mail, or an e-mail that has anagrafe in it. That’s the department that handles documentation. Send an e-mail asking for specific directions on how to request birth certificates from Italy, from that specific city, where to send the request, what fees are involved, and what needs to be included with the request. Send the e-mail in Italian and in English. I used Google Translate to translate my e-mails for free. The translation isn’t perfect, but it’s free, and it gets the message across. Usually. Some cities will never reply, and some e-mail addresses are undeliverable, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
If you’re researching the Italian comune via the Internet, I also suggest using Google Chrome. For websites in a foreign language it will give you a pop-up message at the top of your screen that offers to translate the website. This will make researching everything a lot easier if you’re like me and don’t speak a word of Italian.
That’s the best advice I can give you right now. If you know anything about how to request birth certificates from Italy, or tricks to make applying for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis easier, let me know. I’d love to hear them.