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How to get Italian citizenship

You can acquire Italian citizenship by birth, marriage, or residence. Read on to learn the rules for applying for naturalization, the legal requirements, and what documents you’ll need.

8 min read

Whether you want to spend your time marveling at ancient art and architecture or sampling a different pasta or beach every day, there are plenty of reasons to want to live in Italy long-term.One way to do this is to become an Italian citizen. But applying for Italian citizenship is no easy task. You'll need to meet a fairly stringent set of requirements andfollow a complex procedure that has its fair share of documents. The good news? If you meet the requirements, Italian citizenship is well within your reach. Here, we’ll explore some options in more detail. Let’s go!  

General requirements for Italian citizenship

First, let’s dive into what criteria you need to fulfill to become a citizen. The most common way of acquiring Italian citizenship is to be born to Italian parents (citizenship by descent). In fact, even if only one of your parents is an Italian citizen, you’ll automatically acquire Italian citizenship from birth, even if you were born abroad and have never set foot in Italy. This also applies to adopted children—international or not.

However,“ius soli,” or birthright citizenship, is not a law in Italy—although its inclusion has been proposed and debated many times. 

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Cases in which ius soli can be applied

It’s worth noting, however, that there are a few cases in which birthright citizenship is applied. Children born on Italian soil will acquire citizenship in one of three cases:

  • If their parents are stateless, meaning they are not citizens of any country
  • If they are an orphan or their parents are unknown
  • If their parents are citizens of a state where there is no bloodline citizenship, and therefore cannot pass on their citizenship

Because each of these circumstances result in children not receiving citizenship by descent, Italian birthright citizenship is granted.  

Italian citizenship for foreigners

If you're a foreign citizen, you can get Italian citizenship in two ways: through marriage or residency. Let’s take a look at these two cases separately.

How to obtain Italian citizenship through marriage

According to Law No. 91 of 1992 (Article 5), the spouse of an Italian citizen can obtain citizenship through marriage, but not immediately after marriage or as a direct consequence thereof. So, if you’re married to an Italian, and are a foreigner or stateless person, you can apply to become an Italian citizen in one of two ways: 

  • After two years, if you reside in Italy
  • After three years, if you reside abroad 

Of course, your marriage must be valid when you apply for citizenship, meaning that in the case of dissolution, annulment, or divorce, you won’t be able to apply.

Note: If children are born or adopted during your marriage, the time limits are cut in half. In this case, you’ll only need to wait one year before applying, or one and a half years if you reside abroad. 

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Who approves the application for citizenship through marriage? 

Your citizenship application is approved by the prefecture of the Italian province where your spouse resides. If you live abroad, the Head of the Department of Civil Liberties will need to give the green light. However, if for some reason they feel that security of the republic is at stake, this duty will be performed by the Minister of the Interior.

How to obtain Italian citizenship through residency

For an expat, the most common way of obtaining citizenship in Italy is to simply take up residence there. Also, according to Law No. 91 of 1992 (Article 9), citizenship is granted to the applicant through residency by decree of the President of the Republic, after a consultation with the Council of State and upon the proposal of the Minister of the Interior. Let’s look at what you need to get citizenship through residency.

The requirements for obtaining Italian citizenship through residency

How long you need to reside in Italy depends on your circumstances, and it varies from three to ten years. Here’s a breakdown of the different cases and how long you’ll need to wait:

  • Three years: If one or both of your parents or grandparents were Italian citizens by birth (the years drop to two for a minor who reaches the age of majority and declares within one year that they wish to acquire citizenship), or if you were born in Italy. The circumstances are different if you are born in Italy but hold foreign citizenship. In this case, you’ll have to reside in the country without interruption, and can apply within one year of becoming a legal adult.
  • Four years: If you’re a citizen of a country that belongs to the European Union
  • Five years: If you are a legal adult and have been adopted by an Italian, or if you are considered stateless
  • Ten years: In all other cases

There are, however, two exceptions to the above rules

  • You can obtain Italian citizenship if you have served for at least five years as an employee of the state, a foreign employee of the embassy or consulate, or offices located outside Italy. 
  • You can secure Italian citizenship by merit if you’ve made outstanding contributions to the country of Italy, or when the state has an exceptional interest in you getting citizenship. 

The timeline for receiving Italian citizenship

Deadlines are set by law for those applying for Italian citizenship, meaning public administrators can't leave applications sitting around for too long. Applications submitted by December 20, 2020 have a deadline of 48 months, while applications after that date have a maximum deadline of 24 months, which can be extended up to a maximum of 36 months.

Requirements for Italian citizenship 

What are the requirements for Italian citizenship? Knowledge of the language, provable income, and a spotless criminal record are definitely plus points for your application. Not all of these requirements are mandated by law, however.

As far as language proficiency is concerned, to become an Italian citizen, you must demonstrate a B1 language level with a certificate. This can be self-certified if you obtained it at a public institution, or through a document produced by one of the four certifying bodies in Italy. In any case, if you’ve signed the mandatory integration agreement to obtain a permit to stay, or are a long-term EU resident or permit holder, you are exempt from these requirements.

The income requirement is also flexible, but in principle, the ceiling for the health care expenditure exemption is used for this purpose. This means the required income is capped at €8,263.31, though this rises to €11,362.05 if there is a dependent spouse, with an additional €516.46 for each dependent child.

Finally, the absence of a criminal record isn’t required by law but is considered a default requirement. Here, the seriousness of the offense and any ongoing danger to society is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The documents you’ll need to apply for Italian citizenship

You’ll need a variety of documents to acquire citizenship. Here’s a list:  

  • Your ID (an Italian Identity Card or passport)
  • A birth certificate issued by your country of origin
  • A criminal record certificate issued by the authorities of your country of origin
  • A certificate of your Italian language proficiency (except in the cases mentioned above)
  • Receipt of payment of the required €250.00 fee 
  • Proof of your €16 telematic revenue stamp

Depending on which path you’re applying through, you may need your marriage certificate and your spouse's official documents, or your certificate of residence, as well as your income certificate, income tax returns, or 730 forms.

You can also apply for Italian citizenship through the Ministry’s telematic service. However, note that the service isn’t available 24 hours a day, but only during "office" hours: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

How to obtain your residency in Italy

So, with the exception of marriage, the basic requirement for Italian citizenship is residency. This begs the question: How do you obtain residency in Italy? In short, you can obtain legal residency by registering with the Resident Population Registry of your municipality. 

Note that there's a difference between residency and a permit to stay in the country. The latter is a requirement either way—if you aren’t staying in the country legally, you can’t apply for residency. The two are linked, just like regular entry into Italy and civil registration are connected.

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You’ll get access to advanced features like Income Sorter, which lets you automatically transfer a portion of your monthly income to a selected Space. And with Round-Ups, you can round up each purchase to the nearest euro to maximize your savings. Or, try N26 Standard, the free mobile account where you can access our budgeting basics. 

You’ve just read an article that was compiled with the highest level of accuracy based on official sources, laws, and institutional sites. Despite this, however, it is not featured on an official government site. Given that regulations can change from one moment to the next, we encourage you to consult the Ministry of the Interior’s website for general information on applying for Italian citizenship and useful links to apply on the same portal.

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