Citizenship denotes the relationship between an individual and a state in which the individual owes allegiance to the state and in turn is entitled to its protection.

Citizenship may normally be gained by birth within a certain territory, descent from a parent who is a citizen, marriage to a citizen, or naturalization.

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. For this reason, Italian citizenship became more desirable for the non-EU citizens, who would otherwise be expected to obtain a residency permit if they want to reside anywhere in Europe. Once Italian citizenship is obtained, no visa or residency permit is needed for any EU country. Italian citizenship is currently regulated by Law no. 91/1992, which, in contrast with previous laws, reassesses the importance of an individual's intention in the acquisition or loss of citizenship and recognises the right to hold more than one citizenship simultaneously.

The three main routes to obtaining Italian citizenship are either by (1) descent, (2) marriage or (3) naturalization.

  1. Italian citizenship is based upon the principal of jure sanguinis (blood right), meaning the child born of an Italian father or mother is also an Italian citizen. Up until January 1 1948, It was not possible for an Italian mother to transfer Italian citizenship to her child. However, the Italian Supreme Court recently ruled that this provision was contrary to the constitutional principles and, more precisely, to the principle of equality between the sexes. Accordingly, children born by an Italian mother before 1948 may also be eligible for citizenship. However, an Italian bloodline is not in itself sufficient grounds for claiming Italian citizenship – a foreigner with Italian origin is eligible to apply for Italian citizenship only if he/she was born before the naturalization of his/her father/mother.
  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. After marrying an Italian citizen, certain requirements must be met under Italian law, for instance, a legal residency in Italy for a period of at least two years, or three years if the spouses are living abroad. Moreover, the marriage must subsist throughout the process of application for citizenship. Fortunately, there is no requirement to speak Italian or to pass any tests, unlike for instance, the UK, where a foreign spouse must pass the "Life in the UK" and English language tests.
  3. A non-EU citizen having legally resided in Italy for ten years may apply for Italian citizenship and a EU citizen after four years. A foreigner with native-born Italian parents or grandparents who have lost their citizenship and therefore unable to pass citizenship on, is entitled to apply after three years of legal residency in Italy.

In short, obtaining Italian citizenship can bring significant benefits, for example:

  • the ability to work, reside and study in Italy and in the other 27 EU countries (the UK, Germany, Sweden and etc.) without the need for a Visa;
  • more possibilities to further career, as many jobs and other professional opportunities are offered first to EU citizens;
  • access to medical benefits, including free healthcare;
  • access to educational benefits, including potentially free high education;
  • access to financial investment rights available only to EU citizens;
  • easier to complete all necessary purchasing requirements for buying property in Italy;
  • ability to transfer the citizenship (Italian and EU) to all children under 18 years old automatically.

Depending on the applicant's residency status, an application can be submitted either at a competent Italian consulate in the foreign country or at an authorised police office (Prefettura) in Italy. As the procedure is complex and time consuming, it is advised to consult an experienced Italian lawyer before submitting the application in order to accelerate the process and to avoid the rejection due the mistakes in formalities.

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.