Naturalization Documents

Obtain naturalization-related documents for your ancestors who emigrated from Italy.

THE KEY TO QUALIFYING for Italian citizenship Jure Sanguinis is you have to prove either that the ancestor you are applying through did not become a US citizen before the next person was born in your line of ascendants, or that they never became a US citizen at all.
Note: Recently (2017) the USCIS started sending out CDs rather than paper documents. And what they send is often almost impossible to read. Print it out and bring it along with the CD to your appointment at the Italian Consulate.

Proving Someone Naturalized in the United States

1. There are 3 sources of naturalization records in the US: (a) NARA, which has only naturalizations from federal courts, mainly between 1906 and sometimes in the 1950s. (b) USCIS, which is part of Homeland Security, used to be called INS, and was establish in 1906. They have records of most naturalizations after 1905 including recent ones. (c) County courts and local archives of records from county courts, scattered throughout the county, which have records from before 1906 and include naturalizations from after then that did not take place in federal court. One can also use an original certificate of naturalization that was issued to a relative who naturalized.

2. You definitely need either a certificate of naturalization (sometimes called a certificate of citizenship) or an oath of allegiance. These are the only official docs that actually state that someone has naturalized. If you have an original copy, take it and a photocopy with you to your appointment. The consulate will examine the original and only take the photocopy for your file.

3. The oath does not contain enough info to be used by itself, so it always must be accompanied by either a petition for naturalization (sometimes called a petition for citizenship) or a declaration of intent. We’ve actually only seen one case where someone used a declaration and oath without the petition, a long time ago, so I can’t promise that this will work now.

4. The certificate of naturalization is usually acceptable by itself, but not always. This is because it often lacks identifying information such as an exact date of birth (instead of just an age). For this reason, if you present only a certificate of naturalization, you may get asked to submit a petition as well. And if you get asked for the petition, then you may get asked for the oath, too, which is usually on the back of the petition, because if they’re not sure that the certificate is really for your ancestor then they’ll also need proof of naturalization and a petition without an oath does not constitute such proof. Of course, if you already have the petition and oath then you didn’t need the certificate in the first place.

5. An original certificate of naturalization is much more likely to be accepted by itself than a certificate of naturalization from some other source, such as USCIS or a county court. This is because if someone has an original certificate, then in all likelihood it belonged to a relative. OTOH, anyone can obtain docs from USCIS, so a certificate from them is more likely to be for a person who just happens to have a name that is similar to your relative’s.

6. When one submits docs from a source (USCIS, NARA, etc.), you will often be asked to submit all docs from them, even though all of them wouldn’t have been necessary if they weren’t available. For uncertified docs you are more likely to be asked for a cover letter or the envelope they came in, too.

7. Consulates generally like to see certified docs. Those from NARA are certified, and often county court ones are, too, although recently we’ve seen more local archives refusing to certify docs. USCIS docs were certified a long time ago, but now are not, although it is still possible to get a special certification for them, which is necessary if you want to use them overseas. Consulates differ in their requirements for certification. For example, Boston (and only Boston) requires an additional extra certification from a courthouse in Boston for NARA docs from Massachusetts. (They seem to have a harder time dealing with NARA docs from other regions which lack this extra certification.) San Francisco insists that, unless you submit the original certificate of naturalization, then you must submit some sort of certified naturalization doc, although all of them do not have to be certified.

8. NARA docs, so long as they include the petition and oath, are properly certified (which has a different meaning in Boston), and do not contain “major” discrepancies, have always been accepted as sufficient by themselves, at all consulates in the US, even though NARA rarely, if ever, has the certificate of naturalization.

9. County court documents are often the best – they tend to include both the certificate of naturalization and the petition/oath, as well as other docs such as a certificate of arrival; they usually can be certified; they tend to be better quality copies than those from USCIS; and they usually contain a cover letter. The problem with these docs are that they can be hard to find, since there is no centralized source for them, and it may be hard to get the archives/county to certify them. Still, especially for naturalizations before 1906, they may be your only source for the naturalization docs.

10. Note that the sources mentioned in the last 2 items (NARA and county courts) do not overlap. You will be able to find docs at one or the other but not both. And sometimes neither, since some docs that were held at county courts have been transferred to USCIS and now can only be found there.

11. Some naturalization records, including those for more recent naturalizations, are only available from USCIS. USCIS records are uncertified (although with some difficulty can be), so they are not accepted by themselves at some consulates, such as SF. Even some consulates, namely, NY and Chicago, that will usually accept USCIS records by themselves will sometimes ask to see other records, too, because the USCIS records are uncertified, often of poor quality, and have some identifying info blacked out.

Proving that Someone Did Not Naturalize

What if you cannot find any record of your ancestor’s naturalization?

You then must provide “proof” that he didn’t. For US consulates, to prove no naturalization, you need a lot whereas to prove naturalization you need much less. So, you will need the following under all name and birth date variations for your ancestor:

  • USCIS certificate of non-existence of naturalization (known as a “CONE” in the forum.
    • To receive a Certification of Non-Existence of a Naturalization Record, write an original written request and mail to the following address. Only original written requests on paper will be processed, no original requests are received via email:
      • USCIS Records Operations Branch
        U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
        ATTN: Records Operations Branch
        1200 First Street NE  MS 2202             
        Washington, D.C. 20529-2202
  • No Record letter from the relevant National Archives NARA) branch
    • You ask them to do a search and then put in writing that they found nothing.
  • No Record letter from the local county courthouse where your ancestor lived.
  • Certified first census from NARA showing both your ancestor and next in the line of descent on it so the first one available after the next in the line of descent’s birth. They want to see your ancestor listed as an “alien” (notated by “Al”) or as “first papers” (notated by “Pa”).
    • Note that for census records after 1940, you have to go through the census bureau and request an “age search”. If your ancestor cannot be found on the census, a negative search result from the census bureau or NARA may suffice. Also note that a census incorrectly stating your ancestor naturalized is not, in itself, grounds for denial of your request, particularly if you have all the other information indicating otherwise. You might be asked for additional documentation, though.
  • Optional (depending on the consular officer) but useful to have as supporting evidence.
    • You may also need to present an A-File (“alien file”) if your ancestor was alive during the 40’s. (You can get this from the USCIS.) This requirement also depends on which officer you get. 
    • If you have access to them, it’s nice to show your ancestor’s old Italian passport and their copy of an American green card (if applicable) as they had to have a right to live here as a non citizen if they never naturalized.

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