Italian citizenship applications are being submitted with escalating frequency, but the process of receiving citizenship has evolved in recent years and, in some ways, become more complicated. A drastic drop in the percentage of applications accepted has resulted, contrasting with the increase in requests for citizenship.
Obtaining Italian citizenship is governed by law no.91 of 1992, and the changes made by laws no.94 of 2009 and n.132 of 2018. The changes introduced have resulted in increased difficulty in submitting and receiving approved applications.
With these points in mind, it is becoming necessary to have the assistance of an experienced professional when submitting an application for citizenship, to ensure that you meet the necessary requirements to apply.
Italian citizenship: who is eligible
The qualifications for becoming an Italian citizen differ according to the status of the applicant. Citizenship can be obtained in different ways, including birth right citizenship 'jus sanguinis' (blood rite) and 'jus solis' (law of the soil), through marriage, naturalisation, and other special circumstances.
Those born in Italy are not automatically Italian citizens, unless a parent is an Italian citizen; those who are born in Italy to foreign parents can become Italian at 18 (age of majority).
In the same way, a child adopted in Italy can be recognized as an Italian citizen if one of the parents is or they choose to become a citizen at 18.
In the case of children born or adopted in Italy by non-Italian parents, to become an Italian citizen must be made within a year of turning 18.
Children born abroad from Italian citizens will also be considered Italian but must transcribe their birth certificate to the Italian Municipality.
If a cohabiting parent acquires Italian citizenship, the minor will automatically be entitled to citizenship, too.
Any other way of acquiring Italian citizenship must be done by request to the competent authority, which may be the local consulate of the place of residence, or at the Italian Civil Court.
Dual citizenship is an appealing option for many, and subject to foreign law, is possible through either an administrative application at the applicant's local consulate, or if the case is more complicated, by judicial application via legal representation at the court of Rome.
For Italian Descendants
The descendants of Italian nationals, even if born abroad, are able to obtain Italian citizenship, without generational limitations, as long as the transmission of citizenship has never been interrupted. An interruption can be, for example, an ancestor that formally renounced their Italian citizenship.
Citizenship by descent can be obtained through either a male or female ancestor; the difference between claiming via female or male is that via a male ancestor the process is administrative, done by submitting the request to the local consulate of residence. To apply through a female ancestor, the process may be administrative or judicial, depending if the line of descent traverses the year 1948.
For spouses of Italian Citizens
Another way to become an Italian citizen is through marriage to an Italian national. The application can be submitted if, after the marriage, at least 2 years of residence in the country has passed.
If the couple resides abroad, the application for citizenship can be submitted 3 years after marriage.
In both circumstances, the couple must be unseparated. If the couple have children together or adopt, the waiting period to apply for citizenship is halved.
For those living in Italy
Italian citizenship through naturalization can be granted to foreigners who have legally resided in Italy for a period of time (a period which is determined based on several factors, listed below).
The required period of legal residence varies according to the personal situation of the person applying for citizenship:
- Three years for those who had an Italian parent or grandparent at the time of birth.
- Three years for foreigners born in Italy, but whose parent/s were second-generation Italians at the time of birth.
- Four years for citizens of the European Union
- Five years (following adoption) for the adult foreigner adopted by an Italian citizen. The same period applies to the adult child of a naturalized Italian foreign citizen. In the latter situation, the five-year count may start from when the parent is granted Italian citizenship.
- Five years for recognized stateless persons or political refugees.
- Ten years for non-EU foreigners.
The requirement to obtain Italian citizenship is that one must live continuously in Italy for a determined period of time and demonstrate the capacity to support oneself financially.
Legal residency differs from 'regular stay' and is obtained only by registering with the municipality where one resides. 'Regular stay' is obtained by visiting the Questura (police headquarters) of the municipality where the foreign citizen (from outside the EU) lives and is prepatory to the request for legal assistance.
In regard to citizenship via naturalization, only the period of legal residence is taken into account.
Residence must be continuous without extensive interruptions of residence abroad. Changes to this aspect of residency requirements occurred with Law 132/2018, which further restricts the resident from being abroad from Italy for lengthy periods of time.
If there are lengthy periods of time away from Italy, it is advised to attach certificates such as evidence of historical residence in Italy to justify any absences.
Citizenships for employees of the Italian State
Employees of the Italian State have the privilege of obtaining Italian citizenship after 5 years of service, even if the service is carried-out abroad.
To complete the requirements necessary for the acquisition of Italian citizenship, one may also need to:
- Have knowledge of the Italian Language (equivalent level B1)
- Income/Financial stability
- Absence of a criminal record/convictions
Knowledge of the Italian Language
Article. 9.1 of law n.91 of 1992, as amended by law n.132 of 2018, requires that the granting of Italian citizenship is subject to adequate knowledge of the Italian language.
This knowledge is defined by the parameters of the CEFR, i.e. the 'Common European Framework of Reference' for the knowledge of languages, with a minimum competency level of B1.
Knowledge of the language must be demonstrated by including a valid certification from one of the legally recognized bodies.
Linguistic certification is not required for those who have signed the integration agreement (art. 4-bis of the Consolidated Legislative Decree n. 286/1998) or for holders of long-term EU residence permits.
Another requirement in obtaining Italian citizenship is to demonstrate that the applicant has sufficient income to live in the country.
The income situation of cohabiting family members is also taken into account. In summary, the income must not be less than € 11,362.05 in the presence of a dependent spouse plus € 516.46 for each dependent child.
The family members who can contribute to the income are spouse, civilly united party or de facto cohabitant (linked by written contract of cohabitation), legitimate or legitimatized children, parents, sons or daughters-in-law, father-in-law and mother-in-law, brothers and sisters (Civil Code art. 433).
To demonstrate the presence of the income of other members in the family, it is required to attach specific documentation, be it Single Certification (documentation to certify the income of an employee), Declaration 730 (tax return) or Single model (tax return).
Absence of a criminal record/convictions
The request for absence of convictions and the assessment of social hazard have different interpretations. Specifically, this requirement is for applications for citizenship via marriage or naturalization.
The law considers the possibility of "social redemption" in regard to crimes committed, following rehabilitation recommendations outlined in #6 of law 91/92. The history of the individual will be assessed, checking if his presence in Italy could jeopardize the security of the country.
There are some crimes which are considered grounds for rejection for a citizenship application. These are:
- crimes against a state figure;
- crimes against an international state figure;
- crimes against an internal state figure;
- crimes against the political rights of citizens;
- intentional crimes (i.e. in full conscience and not accidentally) for which the law provides for a sentence of three years imprisonment or more;
- non-political offense with a custodial sentence of more than one year, by a foreign judicial authority, if the sentence has been recognized in Italy.
Documents needed to become Italian citizens
To become an Italian citizen, the documentation submitted must be as accurate as possible, under penalty of rejection of the application.
As of May 18th, 2015, applications for Italian citizenship by naturalization can only be submitted electronically.
The electronic forwarding service can be accessed on the website of the Ministry of the Interior. Once you have registered and obtained your personal access credentials, you can fill in the form provided.
The following documents will be requested:
- A photocopy of ID, passport, residence permit/certificate of stay and of the Italian identity card.
- A photocopy of the birth certificate, complete with all general information (translated and legalized or apostilled) provided by the authorities of the country of origin. Foreign citizens who have changed their maiden name following a marriage are also required to attach the marriage
- A photocopy of the applicant's criminal record provided by the authorities of the country of origin and of any other countries of residence (translated and legalized or apostilled). According to the Circular of the Ministry of the Interior of November 19th, 2015, the record must be attached even if the foreign applicant arrived in Italy when he was a minor.
- Certification acknowledging adequate competency in the Italian language, according to the parameters of the Common European Framework of reference for the knowledge of languages. The level must not be lower than the CEFR B1. (Those who have signed the integration agreement, art. 4-bis of the Consolidated Legislative Decree no. 286/1998, or who hold an EU residence permit for long-term residents are excluded).
- If the applicant has declared that they must rely on income privately or through members of their family, tax returns from the last 3 years are required.
- A photocopy of the receipt for the application fee of € 250.00.
- An electronic revenue stamp (marca da bollo).
- In the case of political refugees or stateless persons who are unable to obtain birth certificates or criminal records from their native country, an act of notoriety must be shown indicating their personal details and those of their parents, and a substitute declaration of the criminal record.
It may happen that the general information and data (surname, name, place and date of birth) present on foreign certificates do not correspond with those on Italian identity documents. In this case, the Ministry of the Interior has specified that "a birth certificate of the native country produced in support of the application is intended to prove the identity of the holder, in what contains its complete details, as well as, through marginal annotations, the facts or acts, legally relevant, which occurred after birth to modify or integrate the identification data".
All the documents produced are required to be professionally translated into Italian.
Foreigners of Italian origin who intend to move to Italy must apply to the Italian consulate in their country of residence. If they are in Italy, they must apply to the municipal office of the city in which they have residence and prove their Italian origins.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.