This past week, an American expat friend of mine got her Irish citizenship – on July 4th of all days – and that got me thinking about what it means to be a citizen of two nations.
For me, I desired dual citizenship because I wanted to be able to live and work in Europe and I knew the chances of me getting a visa were next to zero. Let’s face it, for many Americans who dream to live overseas, visa is a four letter word.
Lucky for me, I am of Italian descent and Italy allows citizenship via jure sanguinis, that is by “right of blood”. My Maternal Great Grandfather never became an American citizen, which means he never renounced his Italian citizenship, which means all of his descendants (including me) are actually Italian citizens – I just had to get that citizenship recognized by the Italian government.
The day I got the letter in the mail from the Italian Consulate saying that I was now an Italian citizen was one of the happiest of my life. I imagine it’s how Charlie felt when he opened that chocolate bar that had the golden ticket inside. This was my golden ticket – now I could live and work just about anywhere in Europe!
But what does it mean, for me, to be an Italian citizen?
When I got my citizenship a lot of people assumed I would move to Italy, which is a logical conclusion. But I didn’t consider that as an option for very long – I’m just not that employable in Italy. Because I got citizenship that I was born with recognized rather than having to apply to become a new citizen, I didn’t have to swear any oath of allegiance to Italy – I guess it’s implied. I received a ballot in the mail to vote in Italy’s latest election, but the ballot was in Italian (duh!) and the only name I recognized was Berlusconi – I figured it was safer for Italy if I didn’t check any boxes.
So, being an Italian citizen has not really changed all that much about me – except for where I live. But even though I can’t speak the language, don’t live there and didn’t have to put my hand on my heart and recite an oath, that does not mean that I am not thankful every single day that I am an Italian citizen.
I have a friend who needs to get a new job in the next few months so that her visa can be renewed or she will have to leave Europe, I have another friend who would love to return to Europe but can’t without a work visa, and I have many, many friends whom I think would love to have the opportunity to be an expat but it just isn’t an option that is open to them.
I consider myself very lucky to be descendant from a country that is so open to recognizing citizens that may have been born elsewhere. Because I happen to be of Italian descent and Italy happens to have this jure sanguinis policy, I got to realize my dream of being an expat in Europe.
And for that I would like to say… Grazie, Italia!