Thanks to a 1992 decision by the Italian government to expand its definition of citizenship, foreigners able to trace their Italian heritage up to four generations back can apply for Italian citizenship under "jure sanguinis” (Latin for “by right of blood”). The process costs around $1,000 and is bureaucratically complicated, but for the 5,000 Italian Americans who apply each year, the benefits of Italian dual citizenship are well worth the effort.
European Union Benefits
According to Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, “every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union.” As European nationals, Italian citizens have the right to live, vote, work and travel freely within all 27 European Union member states. European citizenship also provides certain travel benefits. Having both American and Italian passports, dual citizens can feel safer when faced with hostility abroad and circumvent government travel restrictions on one nationality that do not apply to the other.
Social Welfare Benefits
As Italian citizens, dual nationality holders benefit from Italian social security (“previdenza sociale”), which provides for unemployment, maternity and sickness leave. Those who have worked long enough in Italy can claim pension benefits in addition to social security benefits at retirement starting at age 57 for women and age 60 for men. Dual nationals also benefit from universal health care and access to largely state-funded universities throughout Europe.
Career and Financial Benefits
Dual citizenship facilitates career and financial growth. Italian dual citizens are attractive to employers because they can transfer between company branches in both Europe and the United States without restriction. Employers also target such employees because of the professional skills they develop as dual citizens. Italian and English language ability, comfort in multicultural environments and experience in foreign situations are all skills associated with dual nationality.
For entrepreneurs, dual citizenship facilitates the process of starting a business, allowing them to benefit from the shared currency and single economic zone that characterizes the European Union without facing the restrictions faced by non-EU citizens. Finally, Italian dual citizenship is a boon for investors in that it enables them to invest in offshore mutual funds, securities and real estate without restriction.
Unencumbered by the international residency restrictions faced by most, dual citizens have a heightened access to cultural exchange. Even if they choose to live in the United States, dual citizens have the right to vote in Italian elections, which can engender interest in and concern for the goings-on in the country. For Americans of Italian descent, dual citizenship is also an opportunity to discover and embrace a previously unexplored Italian heritage. With exposure to both American and Italian cultures, dual citizens are able to acknowledge the benefits and drawbacks of both. Such experiences promote cultural understanding and acceptance that are not only beneficial at the individual level, but also at also on a larger scale, providing both nations with citizens who are informed and culturally open.