The 1948 Rule, also known as the female line rule, enables children born to an Italian mother prior to 1948 to claim Italian dual citizenship before the Courts in Italy.
Before the rule came into effect, those claiming Italian citizenship jure sanguinis could only do so through the male line of ancestry. The law governing citizenship, enacted in 1912 (no. 555), did not allow for citizenship to be passed from the mother.
In 1983, the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that this provision of the 1912 law was unconstitutional because of the unequal treatment of men and women at its core. The Court said that the provision should be read as a child can acquire Italian citizenship from either an Italian father or an Italian mother. In the same year a new law was passed, ensuring Italian citizenship rights for women (no. 123/983). The law included a provision which states that a child derives Italian citizenship equally from either parent, putting women’s Italian citizenship rights on a par with men’s citizenship.
But what about children born to an Italian mother prior to 1983? The law was not retrospective, and this legal dilemma led directly to the 1948 Rule.
How the Government applies the 1948 Rule
For those born prior to 1983, the Ministry of the Interior requested a specific ruling from Italy’s highest legal-administrative consultative body, the Consiglio di Stato.
The Consiglio affirmed that the equality principle applies only to children born after January 1, 1948–this being the date the Italian Constitution was adopted.
For this reason Italian consulates and city halls only accept applications for Italian citizenship from children born to an Italian mother after January 1, 1948.
How civil judges apply the 1948 Rule
Although most civil judges initially agreed with the ruling of the Consiglio di Stato, legal opinion began to shift over time. The Italian Court of Cassation in 2009 retrospectively extended the equality principle to cover cases of citizenship transmission where the claimants were born to an Italian mother prior to 1948.
This does not mean, however, that all citizenship applications are handled in the same fashion. Italy has a civil law system. As the 1948 Rule is not considered case law, it does not carry the weight of judicial precedent it would under a common law system. Italian consulates and city halls, where cases of children born after 1948 are handled, are still duty-bound to reject claimants born to an Italian mother (or grandmother, or great-grandmother, etc. etc.) before 1948. This means that Italian citizenship maternal line cases (for children born prior to 1948) must go directly to the Courts in Italy.
The 1948 Rule and loss of citizenship through marriage
The 1948 Rule also extends the equality principle to the area of marriage to a foreign (non-Italian) citizen. In 1975 the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that Italian women should not automatically lose their citizenship when marrying a non-Italian citizen (as the law had been previously). However, like the 1983 ruling about transmission of citizenship through the maternal line, this ruling did not apply to cases (marriage in this instance) occurring before 1948.
The 2009 precedent from the Court of Cassation (the 1948 Rule) changed that, reinstating citizenship to Italian women who had married a foreign citizen prior to 1948. If you are claiming dual citizenship through such a female relative, the 1948 Rule allows you to have your case heard before the Courts in Italy.
If your case is one where the 1948 rule on Italian citizenship applies, call MY LAWYER IN ITALY® and a dual citizenship expert will give you free advice on how to pursue your Italian citizenship through the Courts in Italy.