Italian Citizenship by Descent

Italian law considers all people of Italian heritage to be citizens, with no limit on the number of generations you have to go back to find it. This is known as “Jure Sanguinis” (“law of the blood”).

The main condition of jure sanguinis is at the time of each of your Italian ancestors birth, their Italian parent needed to still be an Italian citizen (even if they were not officially recognised at the time). The main ways that would “break the chain”:

  • An ancestor naturalised in another country.
  • An ancestor was a minor when their parent naturalised in another country.

In our family’s case, Bartolo naturalised1 in Australia in 1904. At this time, Giuseppe was 18 years old which was still considered a minor at the time. This means Giuseppe lost his Italian citizenship in 1904, 11 years before the birth of his first child2 with Maria Terzita. Therefore, none of the Santamaria children inherited Italian citizenship through Giuseppe.

However - Maria Terzita never naturalised3, she retained her Italian citizenship until the day she died. This means that all their children inherited Italian citizenship through Maria Terzita.

However - prior to 1948, Italian law did not allow women to transmit their citizenship, only Italian fathers were able to do this.

However - in In 2009 a precedent was set in the Court of Rome ruling “the 1948 rule” as unconstitutional. People are now able to have citizenship recognised through a judicial application, also known as a “1948 case”.

Long story short, descendants of Maria Terzita Santamaria can have their citizenship recognised through the Court of Rome. Read this explanation for more details.

Case Studies

In February 2020, 11 descendants of John Santamaria received a favourable judgement from the Court of Rome, deeming them to be Italian citizens from birth. Their lineage was traced through Maria Terzita as she never naturalized in Australia, leaving her Italian citizenship intact. They used the legal services of Andrea Permunian at Italian Citizenship Assistance.


  1. See Bartolo’s naturalisation certificate. ↩︎

  2. See B.A. Santamaria. ↩︎

  3. See Maria Terzita’s Australian Citizenship Status Confirmation. ↩︎