All JS applications are lodged at the comune (city hall) that presides over your location of residency. This can be any comune of your choice and does not have to be the ancestral comune or place of last residence for your Italian born ancestor who emigrated from Italy. There are over 8,000 comuni in Italy.
When it comes time to select a comune, it is often a mistake to choose a large city as they are overwhelmed with requests and tend to be hostile to JS applications. People tend to have a better experience when presenting their application to medium sized or even small towns in Italy, as some of them appreciate the applicant’s choice to visit them and invest some money through their stay in that specific “off-the-beaten-path” municipality.
The danger in selecting too small of a town is the fact that they will have less experience with these applications and may need you to educate them on the law and guide them through the proper procedures to follow, so it is always a good idea to keep on hand a copy of the Ministry of the Interior’s instructions on how the comune should process these applications. The office in Italy that handles these applications is called the Stato Civile office. In some smaller towns, the Stato Civile is part of the Anagrafe office. There are also Citizenship (Cittadinanza) divisions within the Stato Civile Office of certain larger cities if one does end up applying in one of Italy’s big cities; some medium sized cities (population of 20k) may also have an Ufficio di Cittadinanza.
Where is the best location to apply? Counterintuitively, the answer to this question is best answered by YOU. You will need to research or have first-hand experience of different regions and cities. Finding adequate living arrangements will be a key factor, but also amenities in the area should be considered. Do you need easy access to a major airport or rail line? Would you prefer to be off the beaten path or around other foreigners? Do you have relatives or friends you would want to be near, particularly those who might help you navigate bureaucratic processes? Bear in mind that the comune you apply at will forever be your “birth” comune. This is unlike applying at a consulate where they forward your documents to your ancestral comune for registry. So, if you have a special connection to someplace or maybe just want to be registered at the place your ancestors lived, that city may be your answer.
Once you have created a short-list of desirable locations, it is important to investigate the city’s procedures for establishing residency and lodging a JS application. If possible, do so in person so you can meet with and discuss your desires with the people you will potentially be dealing with. If they seem uncooperative, it is a red flag. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a local help you make first contact. If you do not have a friend or relative in the vicinity, language schools can be a good resource to provide an interpreter and they may even have some knowledge of JS procedures through their students. Relying on recommendations from others who have been successful applying directly in Italy can be helpful. However, processing of JS applications is laborious; only bigger cities have special staff to handle such requests. The job usually falls to the vital records officer who is responsible for recording all births, deaths, and marriages within the city, as well as preparing ballot lists for voting and many other tasks. In smaller towns, the person who handles this and most other administrative functions may actually be the mayor or some part time officer who travels to work in different towns through the week. So, more than one applicant in a smaller city can overwhelm the comune and lead to delays and, potentially, problems getting cooperation from the officer. Because of this, beware of locations boasting “JS-friendly” status.
Note: It is important to remember the comune has to understand you are not asking to become an Italian citizen. That means Naturalization and is a totally different process. You are requesting to get the Italian citizenship recognized. You are already an Italian citizen, just undocumented.
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