On April 2, 2015, I got the official letter from US Customs and Immigration stating that my great-grandfather, Luigi Gallo, never became an American citizen.
I couldn’t believe I held, in my hands, the document that could be my ticket to getting my very own Italian passport!
“Why might one want an Italian passport?” you ask.
Well, I like lots of places in Europe. And taking an overnight flight to spend a week or two seeing just a small part of the continent. . . it’s not enough for me. Even going for three months (the maximum allowed to Americans without a visa) just seemed too limiting.
So I’d have to live there.
But getting a job in a European country isn’t easy–and it’s nearly impossible if you’re over 35 and don’t hold citizenship in any European Union country.
Thus my research into becoming an EU citizen.
I was a more than a bit surprised to read that one of the benefits of holding a second passport was that if something ever happened in the US and I wanted to get out, it was a good thing to have.
“Nothing’s ever going to happen in US,” I thought back then. Ha. Never say never.
Another perk to an EU passport? Cheaper–if not free–college education for my children. Of course, I never planned on having children. But I did bring this up to my only sister that had offspring at the time. And now that my brother has a child? There is definitely some interest. . .
Should any of my relatives ever benefit from the Italian Passport I will soon hold in my hands, I’d like a record of what it took to get there.
Don’t get me wrong.
I don’t need acknowledgement.
I enjoyed the process (until I got rejected by the Consulate. . . but we’ll get to that).
But just in case anyone thinks this was/is an easy process, let me be the first to tell you it is anything but . . .
You would think that document gathering would be the next step in applying for Italian citizenship.
You would be wrong.
On 5/11/15 I contacted the Italian Consulate in NY to make an appointment to show them all my paperwork–hardly any of which I had yet gathered. Why call before having all my paperwork?Because the next available appointment was almost two years away on February 13, 2017.
At least this gave me plenty of time to get all my documentation. Or so I thought.
Remember that letter I got from US Customs saying that my great-grandfather Luigi Gallo was never naturalized? My next step was to send that letter to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and request a Certificate of Non-Existence of Record.
Things moved quickly! I had the NARA in my hands on 5/24/15. (However, a year later, I noticed I had a typo in my great-grandfather’s date of birth on it, so I submitted for a corrected one the week of June 29, 2016 and received it 7/18/16.)
Below is the list of all the records I had to get.
And then I had get to get a “county clerk certificate” on some of them.
Then I had to send them to the state capital to get an Apostille (which lets other countries know the document is official).
And then most of these documents had to be translated to Italian.
I started keeping track of what I did and what I needed to do next. And thus, I present it to you. For your reading pleasure or to put you to sleep. (Or you can just skip past all of this and read the ending.)
Note 1: When I started this process I was living in New York State. Then I moved back to North Carolina. So when you see things like, “When I went back to visit NY,” now you know why.
Note 2: For reasons I won’t get into, in New York State there exists the City of Poughkeepsie and the Town of Poughkeepsie. I have no idea what the differences are between them. But sometimes I refer to some mix-ups between getting records from the city versus the town.
Note 3: I’d especially like to thank my parents for their help with numbers 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9. Oh. And thanks for giving birth to me, too.
Without further ado:
- Great-Grandfather’s birth certificate–Since he was born in Italy, I decided to pay a company $65 to track this down. Request made:April 2, 2016. Follow-up call made: May 14, 2016. Received: May 17, 2016. No need for translation as it’s in Italian.
- Great Grandmother’s birth certificate–First I mailed a death certificate request to the Town of Poughkeepsie ($10?) as I needed her date of birth. I then hired MyItalianFamily.com to get her birth certificate for me ($65) on April 14, 2016. On May 14, I called to follow-up and they said they just received this one. Doesn’t need to be translated as it’s in Italian.
- Great Grandparents Marriage certificate — It took a little research to figure out when they got married. I knew it was before my grandfathers birth (August of 1915). My mother went to the church in which they were married and gave the secretary their names and a date of “before August, 2015.” Miraculously (pun intended), she found it! I went to the City of Poughkeepsie and got their marriage record on May 11, 2015. That same day I also got the County Clerk Certificate ($3). (Thankfully, Poughkeepsie is also the county seat). And then I mailed the form up to Albany to get the Apostille ($10). As of May 20, 2015, all I had left to do was get this document translated. 12/28/16 Noted this says “Luigi” instead of “Louis” so contacted NYS Vital Records at 518-473-8821. They sent me the forms (by mail only) that I needed to fill out to get this corrected. I wasn’t sure if I’ll be able to correct it in time–it took one month to get great-grandfather’s DOB and name corrected on his Death Certificate (see below). On 1/2/17 spoke with Marco from ItalianCitizenshipAssistance.com and he said Italian to English translations of names are fine (e.g. Luigi on one document and Louis on another) and don’t need to be corrected. Sent for translation on 1/7/17 (Gabriella Einaga).
- Grandfather’s birth certificate — This I got on May 11, 2015, along with the County Clerk Certificate ($3). Then I mailed it to Albany for the Apostille ($10) along with my great-grandparents marriage certificate (see above) and my own birth certificate (see below). Sent for translation on 12/28/16 (Gabriella Einaga).
- Grandmother’s birth certificate — Grandma Gallo was born in Brooklyn. Getting a birth certificate from Brooklyn is a bit more complicated than getting one in Poughkeepsie. As far as I could tell, the best way to do it was on-line. But my 93 year old (at that time) grandmother doesn’t use the internet. So on April 24, while at my nieces First Communion party, I sat down with Grandma to order this, but found out that if she’s to order it, she has to do so with a credit card in her name, which she doesn’t have. So I had to apply by mail. Which required Grandma’s notarized signature (obtained 6/18/16. Mailed with check and SASE early July). Brooklyn said they sent the birth certificate to her house, but it was never received at my grandmother’s residence. So on 10/22/16 I submitted the request again (after having my parents fill out the form and bring her to get it notarized as by this time I was not living in NY) Brooklyn wouldn’t send my grandmother’s birth certificate to me, nor would they send it “in care of.” On 12/21/16 they cashed my check, Gram got the doc on 1/5/17 and then it was sent to Albany for an Apostille. Sent to translator on 1/7/17. Returned from Albany for lack of clerk certificate. Mailed to NYC for clerk cert, then back to Albany. Received 2/4/17.
- Grandparent’s marriage Certificate — On March 28, 2016, I mailed the request for this to the City of Poughkeepsie. It required a notary ($5) and a $10 fee. I got it in the mail, and when I went to visit family in NY on 4/22, I got the County Clerk Certificate ($3), sent to Albany for the Apostille ($10) on 4/25. Got it back on 5/3. Sent to translator on 1/7/17.
- Father’s Birth Certificate — Dad got this for me on November 17, 2015 (he paid for it –not sure how much) from the Town of Poughkeepsie. I got County Clerk certificate November 18, 2015. Sent to Albany and got Apostille ($10) on 4/4/16.Sent to translator on 12/28/16.
- Mother’s birth certificate — Went home to NY for my niece’s First Communion. Touched down in Newark at noon, and by 3:30 Mom and I were at the Town of Poughkeepsie Town Hall to get her birth certificate. But they couldn’t find her listed. That’s because she wasn’t actually born in the hospital she thought she was born in (St. Francis), so we had to go to the City of Poughkeepsie to get her birth certificate (because she was born at Vassar) ($10). Then I went to County Office Building to get the County Clerk Certificate (2nd floor, $3), sent to Albany on 4/25, rc’d 5/3. Sent to translator on 12/28/16.
- Parent’s Marriage Certificate — They were married in Poughkeepsie, but my father got their marriage license in Beekman. Why? He was working out there or something. . . I can’t recall. I helped Dad fill out a form to request the marriage certificate, and it arrived in the mail on Nov 19, 2015. Got the County Clerk Certificate on 4/22/16 when I was home for a visit ($3). Sent to Albany on 4/25/16. Rc’d 5/3/16 . 12/29/16: Noticed it doesn’t have their parents names on it. Called Beekman. Dad got the Short Form marriage certificate. I need the Long Form of the marriage certificate. They were closed until 1/3/16, so Dad went that day, with his ID and $10, to Beekman again and got the long form. Then he got the clerk certificate at the county office building. It was then sent to Albany for Apostille. Sent to translator on 1/7/17.
- My birth certificate — did this one on May 11, 2016 also. Got the County Clerk Cert ($3) and then sent to Albany for the Apostille ($10) – Sent to translator on 12/28/16.
- Death Certificate for Great-Grandfather. This required a special form ($10) be sent to the Town of Poughkeepsie on which I had to state my relationship in the following manner: I am the daughter of Louis Gallo who is the son of Dominic Gallo who is the son of Luigi Gallo. They also needed a copy of my license and the form had to be notarized ($5). I received it on January 15, 2016 but on March 29, 2016 realized the birthdate on it was incorrect, as was the spelling of his last name. If the dates or name spellings are off, it can delay or disqualify my citizenship request. Sent form to NYS, but they sent it back needing a different form filled out, notarized, and $30 fee to get a certified copy of the corrected death record. Mailed back out to NYS on 6/8/16. Corrected 6/24/16. I received corrected certified copy on 7/5/16. 12/27/16 Realized I didn’t need to get clerk cert as it was signed by NYS Director of Vital Records, so sent for Apostille on 12/28/16. Apostille rc’d on 1/7/17. Sent to translator on 1/7/17. The corrected copy is hard to read, so I sent her the original one as well.
- Death Certificate for Great-Grandmother — Had to fill out the same form for my great-grandmother’s death certificate. She died in the same hospital as her first husband Luigi–seventy years after his death. Mailed the notarized ($5) form with a $10 money order to the Town of Poughkeepsie on 3/28/16. Got Clerk Certificate ($3) in person on 4/22/16. Mailed to Albany on 4/25/16. Got Apostille in mail on 5/3/16.
- Death Certificate for Grandfather — Mailed form to the Poughkeepsie City Chamberlain, as he died at home in the city of Poughkeepsie (as opposed to the town). Listed my credit card on the form to save myself from having to go out and get a money order ($10). Required a notary ($5). Mailed on 3/28/16. Received in Asheville in April, and on April 22, 2016, got the County Clerk Certificate in the Dutchess County Office Building ($3). Sent to Albany on 4/25. Rc’d 5/3/16. Sent to translator on 1/7/17.
So, uh, no. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t too hard. But it’s certainly not for the disorganized among you. Or the impatient.
And no, I wasn’t finished yet. . . more on that in the next post.