Citizenship is the relationship between an individual and a country to which the individual owes allegiance and the country, in turn, provides the individual with protection.

Initially, citizenship is ordinarily gained by birth within a country or by descent from a parent who is a citizen of a country. However, it is possible to gain citizenship or dual citizenship of a country (depending on your status) by marriage to a citizen of a country, by naturalization if you have lived in a foreign country for a period of time or by having direct relatives who are citizens of your country of choice.

Since the European Union has been established, citizens of all the member countries automatically became citizens of European Union. European citizenship is supplementary to national citizenship and affords advantageous rights such as the right to free movement, settlement and employment across the EU. European citizenship will not be available to British citizens when the UK leaves the European Union.

For this reason, Italian citizenship became more desirable for the non-EU citizens, who are obliged to obtain a residency permit if they wish to live anywhere within the European Union.

Italian citizenship is currently regulated by a new Security Degree 113 initiated by Matteo Salvini, the interior minister of the League, on 4 October 2018. Whilst it does not change the routes to Italian citizenship it has lengthened the process for some individuals wishing to obtain Italian citizenship.

The three main routes to obtaining Italian citizenship are:

  1. Italian citizenship is based upon the principal of jure sanguinis (blood right). An individual can apply for Italian citizenship through the paternal line with no limit to the number of generations from the creation of a unified Italy, prior to 17 March 1861 there were no Italian citizens as this was when Italy was unified, therefore a relative that you rely on for your Italian citizenship application must have been alive on or after this date. Italian citizenship through the maternal line can extend from 1 January 1948. The time limit remains the same for individuals attempting to obtain Italian citizenship through this route.
  2. Italian citizenship may be obtained by marriage to an Italian. This is an actual right of all spouses and can only be denied to those who have a criminal record for a serious crime committed either in or outside of Italy. It can also be denied to those who are considered a threat to the national security and public order.

    Following your marriage to an Italian citizen certain requirements must be met under Italian law to enable you to obtain Italian citizenship; for instance, legal residency in Italy for a period of at least two years, or three years if you and your spouse are living abroad. Also, the marriage must subsist throughout the entire process of applying for citizenship. Furthermore, following Security Decree 113 there is now a requirement to speak Italian to intermediate level.
  3. A non-EU citizen who has legally resided in Italy for ten years or more may apply to be a naturalised Italian citizen and EU citizen after four years.

    A foreigner whose native-born Italian parents or grandparents have lost their citizenship, which thereby prevents them from passing on Italian citizenship on by jure sanguinis, is entitled to apply for Italian citizenship after three years of legal residency in Italy.

    Non-EU citizens who obtain Italian citizenship will enjoy the benefit of

    • the ability to work, reside in Italy as well as in the other 27 EU countries (the UK, Germany, Sweden and etc.) without the need for a visa;
    • access to medical benefits, including free healthcare;
    • access to educational benefits, including potentially free high education;
    • access to certain financial investment rights which may only be available to EU citizens;
    • an easier path to buying property in Italy;
    • the ability to automatically transfer the citizenship (Italian and EU) to all children under 18 years old.

Depending on where you reside, an application can be submitted either at an Italian consulate in the foreign country in which you are located or at an authorised police office (Prefettura) in Italy. It is highly recommended to use the services of an Italian immigration lawyer as the application procedure can be complex and time-consuming, and you will avoid rejection due to errors or omissions in the paperwork. This is particularly important as you will go to the back of the queue if your application is rejected.

For further information about Italian citizenship from our immigration team please click here

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.