Most people dreaming of moving to Italy have an ultimate goal – Italian citizenship (or European at least). Having an EU citizenship opens many doors for individuals, allowing them to live and work throughout the European Union freely. Having Italian citizenship of course makes it much easier to navigate a move and get settled into a new life in Italy. There are of course some who aren’t yet planning on a move but would like to have the reassurance of dual citizenship and a solid connection to their heritage. There are a few ways you can obtain Italian Citizenship – through blood, marriage, or even long-term residence. Let’s explore how to get Italian citizenship!
Italian Citizenship by Descent or Birth
The first, and most obvious way to get Italian citizenship is by birth, or ancestry however, it isn’t as simple as being born in Italy. One must be born in Italy to at least one Italian parent, otherwise, the newborn is issued a long-term residence permit.
But citizenship by descent is one of the most sought-after. If you have Italian ancestry, you may be able to apply for citizenship through “jure sanguinis” or bloodline.
So how to get Italian Citizenship by descent?
You’ll need to prove your lineage to an Italian citizen, who did not naturalize or renounce their Italian citizenship. Remember also that Italy only existed after 1861, so if your ancestors left before then, it is doubtful you will be eligible. But the technicalities don’t end there – in fact, multiple factors might affect your claim to citizenship.
- Your Italian ancestor must be a male if born BEFORE Jan 1, 1948,* (can be male or female after this date)
- Your Italian ancestor must not have renounced their Italian citizenship before the next ancestor was born.
- Your Italian ancestor must NOT have naturalized before June 14, 1912
- Your Italian ancestor must have died AFTER March 17, 1861
If you meet all the criteria listed, you can take steps to apply for your Italian citizenship. There are many documents to collect but each Italian consulate will have the required documents listed on their website. The process involves a lot of paperwork, and then presenting your case to the Italian consulate, or directly in Italy.
However, it’s worth mentioning that currently in the US the wait times are YEARS long, with no end in sight. Additionally, even making an appointment has become nearly impossible at some consulates in the US. If you wish to move the process along faster, you may want to obtain a lawyer. This will be costly (15k- give or take) but it will make the process easier and quicker.
One last note -The 1948 cases
One last note on ancestry. Women could not pass on citizenship unless they were born after Jan 1, 1948, because they were not given citizenship themselves until this time (thus couldn’t pass it to offspring). However, if you find yourself with a female Italian ancestor who meets all the other criteria, you can hire a lawyer and fight this law in court in Italy. People are winning these court battles because saying women didn’t count as citizens is ugly, and so many judges will rule in favour of the applying party. If this is you, hire a good lawyer and see what your options are.
Citizenship by Marriage
A way that foreigners can get Italian citizenship is through marriage to an Italian citizen. Once they are married, it can be granted after two years, if the couple lives in Italy, or three years if they live abroad. If you choose to have children during this time (or already had children) the time is cut in half.
While the requirement used to only be a marriage certificate, since 2018 foreign spouses must also pass a language test, or show proof that they have a B1 language certification.
You can make an appointment on this site, then you will need to present backup documents regarding your marriage and residency.
Italian Citizenship through Residency
Wondering how to get citizenship through residency? There are two particular situations. If you remember we mentioned that foreign citizens born to foreign parents in Italy are not awarded citizenship, but a long-term residence permit. At 18 they have one year to decide if they wish to apply for citizenship that is, if they continuously resided in Italy since birth. If they move away, they will need to return to Italy as a resident for 3 consecutive years. These individuals are also required to show a B1 level of Italian.
Then if you are a foreign-born individual who moved to Italy, your countdown to the Italian passport begins once you obtain residency. If you lived in Italy but did not register officially as a resident with the local comune, these years do not count.
From the moment you get residency, it takes 10 years to be eligible for citizenship (4 if you are an EU citizen!), at which time you can apply, again showing a B1 level of Italian.
To make an appointment and find more information on the necessary paperwork, check out the Ministero dell’Interno’s portal.
This post was written with the help of Rachel (@theitalianista). Rachel Vermiglio Smith made Italy her home for over 12 years and now helps expats learn Italian, plan trips, and learn all about Italian wine. She prides herself on being an “Italian culture decoder” and putting her years of experience to good use helping others adapt to life abroad.
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