During the adoption process we never even wondered once about the citizenship and passport of an adopted child. Somehow this seemed to be of very little importance. How wrong we were!

Every week both Diego and I call our parents in Italy. Every week both conversations go more or less like this:

Parents: So, will you be coming in Italy in August? We could all go to the seaside, Ben will love it!
Us: No
Parents: You’ve never been in Italy with Ben. Why don’t you come?
Us: You know why! Ben doesn’t have a passport!

Every week I get annoyed by the same questions, every week I give the same answers, but our parents are resilient and they keep asking, week after week, as if Ben’s passport would suddenly materialise!

Right now Ben is a stateless child. He has lost his British citizenship, he’s not Italian yet, and in all this bureaucratic nightmare he acquired 3 different birth certificates: one he had before the adoption, one after, and one issued in Italy. Crazy, right?

One and a half year ago, when the adoption certificate came through, I phoned Home Office and I explained our situation: we adopted a child born in UK, from British birth parents, both my husband and I are Italian, with Italian passports, but resident in UK for the last 15 years. Can we apply for Ben’s first British passport?

Home office was very helpful and told me what to do: send an application form, pay a fee, and provide documentation from Inland Revenue showing that both Diego and I have been working and paying tax in UK for at least 5 years before Ben’s birth. Sounded easy and straightforward enough.

A couple of days later, we sent out our application. Weeks passed by in which nothing happened. After 2 months I called Home Office again. I was told then that the application for Ben’s British passport had been rejected because he had lost his British citizenship. I was shocked, I hoped I misunderstood, but that wasn’t the case. I got quite crossed on the phone, I could not understand how this was possible. My reaction might have been a bit brash, I may even have raised my voice slightly. Then the lady on the phone told me something that sounded a lot like “If the law changes and UK leave the EU, you will lose the right to stay in UK, and you will need to return to Italy!”. I apologised for losing control and, still in disbelief, I hung up.

Apparently, although both Italy and Britain are part of the EU, we should have asked for an “unlimited permit to stay in UK” when we entered the country 15 years ago. That would have granted Ben a British citizenship. We didn’t even know something like that existed until that phone call! After all, there is free movement of people within the EU, isn’t there?

And just like that, in a split second, Ben lost his right to be British. Did he become Italian then? No, Italy didn’t even know he was alive!

We had to start the whole process from the beginning, but this time we had to deal with the Italian bureaucratic system, which is not famous to be the speediest. We are now 8 months into the process of getting his adoption and citizenship recognised in Italy, and we are not in the position to apply for his passport yet!

So much of this situation is frustrating.

First and foremost, Ben lost his birth-right of being British, and with it he lost the right to vote, apply for scholarship, get a job in the Police force or army, claim certain benefits… the list could go on. He will eventually become an Italian citizen, a place he never seen before, and he never lived in.

I feel I stripped my son of a part of who he is, his identity, and his origins. Other than his first name, been British was the only other thing left to him from his birth family, and now it’s gone! So much for preserving his sense of identity!

Next month the United Kingdom will vote whether or not to remain in the EU. What will it be of us? How this will impact Diego and I, and mostly Ben?

It’s a catch 22 situation! As the lady from Home Office “kindly” pointed out, Diego and I can always be sent back to Italy, or travel somewhere else. But if immigration law changes next month, what about Ben? He cannot leave the country, but he cannot stay here either.

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