Becoming Italian Part 6: Disqualified (Or: How I did NOT become an Italian citizen)

I walked into the waiting room and could barely hold back my tears.

“What happened?” my father asked.

“I can’t talk about it. Let’s go,” I said.

We walked out of the Italian consulate of New York into a cold February day.

My father, like most men, struggled with how to handle my tears. 

Did I tell him on the walk back to the car? Or during the two hour ride back to my parents’ home? I can’t recall. I just remember an immense feeling of defeat.

Basically, over the past two years, I had every record I thought I needed in order to obtain my Italian citizenship.  I then put it all together and sent it to a consultant who told me my documents were “sufficient to get your application approved.”

But they weren’t.

I had letters from the federal government saying my great-grandfather, Luigi Gallo, never applied to become a citizen. But that, according to the Italian consular officer, only meant they couldn’t find any record.

Well, yeah. Isn’t that the point? They can’t find a record, so one doesn’t exist?! But I couldn’t say that to the consular officer. I had read about showing them respect, doing your best to stay on their good side. But I wasn’t sure this guy had a good side. I don’t think I’ve met an Italian as unnecessarily gruff as this one.

Oh, wait. Yes, I have. I was born to one.

But I digress.

So this quite unhappy man told me he needed further proof.

“Like what?” I asked.

“The 1915 census,” he said.

I went silent. I knew New York State had conducted a census in 1915. I also knew my great-grandfather wasn’t on it.

I couldn’t believe this. Really? After all this work?

The consular officer printed a document saying that all my application materials were accepted and all that was needed was the 1915 census record. He handed my pile of papers back to me.

As I recall, it took me months to look at those papers again. But a writer does her research. And my research shows that, as defeated as I felt, within a month I was back at it.

But my research also reminded me of all it took after the consulate appointment. And about the number of people who said that the laws were on my side — that I should have been approved. More than one person knew of the consular officer I had and told me he was always very difficult and thankfully was about to retire. “If you had gotten any other consular officer, you would have been approved.”

In doing the research for this blog post, I looked at all the documentation and communications–between me and the consultant, between me and a genealogist, the letter the consulate gave me, the letter a genealogist later wrote on my behalf outlining the six additional documents and three laws that further prove my eligibility. And honestly? It has just made me angry and sad.

So for now, I am concluding this series. I don’t want to relive any of this.

(Spoiler alert: It took another FIVE years before I was approved. That was in May of 2022. Seven months later, I still don’t have my Italian passport. So for those of you saying, “You’re an Italian citizen! Are you going to move to Italy?” maybe now you understand why I say, “Absolutely not.” I believe in signs. And throughout this entire process Italy has not shown me many signs that it has any interest in welcoming me as a citizen.)

Visit Italy? Absolutely. Live there? Eh . . .

One Comment Add yours

  1. Dominic Bonavolonta says:

    Yeah, the experience that I had at the Italian consulate in LA many years ago when I was trying to get an Italian passport was not great either.

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