Double citizenship: the foreigner's double surname cannot be amended without his consent

Italian Supreme Court, case n. 17642/2013

Categories: Family Law
Typology: Case Law

In a recent decision, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassazione ruled that foreign surnames of naturalized Italian citizens may not be amended without the individual’s consent, even when the amendment is compliant with the default Italian rules on surname attribution and transmission.

In the instant case, a man of Peruvian origin had been granted Italian citizenship. The man,  as is usual in Hispanic countries, had two surnames, -the first being the father’s first surname and the second being the mother’s first surname. Pursuant with a “circular” (“circolare”, i.e. a non binding legal instrument, issued by a Minister, which sets forth directives for the interpretation of legislative or sub-legislative acts), the civil registry officer in charge of handling the man’s practice had amended the man’s name by eliminating the mother’s first surname; the same had been done with the surnames of the man’s children –who had also acquired Italian citizenship.

By reversing a previously settled case-law, the Supreme Court ruled that the right of each individual to one’s own name (which, in its turn, is a constitutionally protected “personality right”) prevails over competing interests –i.e., ensuring consistency in the attribution of surnames- which had pushed the Italian authorities to follow the Italian rules even with naturalized citizens. The Court therefore ordered that the man’s request to keep both surnames for himself and for his children was complied with.

Similar questions had previously been considered by Italian courts -even with regards to Slavic surnames which are inflected with a feminine suffix when the bearer is herself of female gender- but had been resolved by applying the standard Italian rule.

The new case law appears to be in line with the CJEU’s case-law (most famously, the case Garcia Avello c-148/2002, relied on in the Italian decision), which favours the preservation of the original surname attribution rules to avoid hampering the freedom of movement of individual.

(Altalex, 26 August 2013)



Sentenza 22 gennaio – 17 luglio 2013, n. 17462

Text of the Italian Supreme Court's Judgment





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