How to keep last name if you become an Italian dual citizen.
Changing a surname in Italy has long been a difficult process, with the default position being that one’s surname at birth is fixed and unchangeable. Furthermore, according to Italian law children are to be given the surname of the father, although recently a provision has been added allowing the maternal surname to be added to the paternal one at the express request of the couple. These laws have always created obstacles for those seeking dual citizenship, as the transcriptions of vital records are often complicated by a previous change of surname. From the point of view of the Italian state, the subject requesting citizenship should also have a surname in line with Italian law.
Italian law expressly requires the registrar to provide a correction report when he or she receives a birth or marriage certificate from an Italian citizen born abroad (art. 98 of Presidential Decree no. 396 of 2000). Moreover, in the past the Ministry of the Interior have insisted on the “forced” correction of the surname of a foreigner to whom dual citizenship was recognized (by descent or adoption) or who acquired Italian citizenship through other channels (by marriage or residence).
These “forced” corrections often led to an appeals process, with all cases resulting in the restoration of the subject’s original surname; not a surprising turn given that surnames have come to be closely associated with one’s identity and personhood.
To justify the restoration of the subject’s original surname given at birth in the foreign country, judges invoked the constitutional provisions on the protection of identity, the Munich Convention of 1980 on protection of surnames imposed by the State, and the European Union Treaty and New York Convention of 1989 on the protection of surnames imposed at birth. Italian judges passed judgments to restore surnames arguing that the Italian law was in contradiction with European and International accords. However, this solution leaves art. 98 in the legal system and will be up the registrar decide whether to apply it or not.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has dealt with similar transcription issues on several occasions. In 2003 the Strasbourg Court declared that Belgium had to transcribe the double surnames imposed by the Spanish state, in accordance with norms provided by the EU treaty. In 2008 the same court ruled that Germany was obliged to transcribe a double surname imposed on a German subject born in Denmark (which allows double surnames).
Following these cases, Italy’s Ministry of the Interior issued new instructions in 2008, restricting the area of applicability of art. 98. However, there are still some cases where registrars cannot waive correction reports and will impose surnames according to the Italian law (that being the father’s surname).
In conclusion, legal complications involving the change of surname and the acquisition of Italian citizenship remain, and when in doubt, registrars will continue to apply the Italian law faithfully.
If these issues arise in your pursuit of dual citizenship, do not hesitate to contact us.
At My Lawyer in Italy we will be happy to provide you with a legal opinion tailored to your case and provide all official legal support necessary to avoid a forced change of surname.