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Complete guide to the procedures and requirements of becoming a citizen of Italy

So, you fell in love with the beautiful country of Italy and now you’re wondering how to get Italian citizenship. Or you’re wondering if you even can…

Getting citizenship in any foreign country is not an easy feat, unless you are entitled to it by right of birth. Normally, obtaining citizenship in another country if you have no connections to it (such as a spouse or an ancestor) involves years of living there as a temporary resident.

There are many reasons why a foreign national might want to obtain Italian citizenship. For one, Italian citizenship grants the holder the chance to live and work in Italy and all other European Union countries because of the EU right of free movement.

With Italian citizenship, you would also have access to Italy’s free healthcare, its educational benefits, and you would be able to pass on the Italian citizenship to all your children who are under 18 years old or who will be born in the future.

The three main ways how to get Italian citizenship is through:

  • Birthright
  • Marriage
  • Naturalization

Getting Italian Citizenship through birthright

The Italian jure sanguinis law or “right of blood” says that if you are born to Italian parents (even if you are born outside Italy) you’re entitled to Italian citizenship. This is what is meant by obtaining Italian citizenship by descent.

What’s more is that the law doesn’t only apply to your parents. If your grandparents or any other ancestor was an Italian citizen and did not renounce their citizenship (nor did any of their descendants) at any point before you were born, you can claim your Italian citizenship.

So, let’s say your great-grandfather was an Italian citizen and he moved to another country but did not renounce his Italian citizenship. He would have passed the citizenship to your grandfather. Then, provided that your grandfather did not renounce his Italian citizenship, he then passed it to your father, who, in turn, passed it to you.

However, if any of your ancestors renounced their Italian citizenship before their child was born, they could not have been able to pass it on. The same applies to you. If your parent renounced Italian citizenship before you were born, you do not qualify as an Italian citizen. However, if they renounced it afterward, then you can still claim Italian citizenship.

The law applies to both the maternal and paternal line, though the maternal line extends only as far as 1 January 1948. The paternal line, however, can extend to 17 March 1861, which is when Italy became a nation state.

Through the jure sanguinis law, you do not apply to become an Italian citizen per se. You already count as one, and you will just have to reclaim it. However, you still have to submit an Italian citizenship application proving all the conditions above at the Italian consular services in the country where you live.

You will have to dig deep into your family history and old records to prove that none of your ancestors renounced their Italian citizenship – at least not before passing it on.

The jure sanguinis law also means that you can have Italian dual citizenship.

Getting Italian citizenship through marriage

The other way through which someone can get Italian citizenship is if they marry an Italian citizen. Or, in the case of same-sex relationships, if you enter into a civil partnership with an Italian citizen.

If you are married or in a civil partnership with an Italian citizen, you are entitled to Italian citizenship of your own, except in the following cases:

  • If you have a criminal record for a serious crime that was committed either inside or outside Italy.
  • If you are considered a threat to Italian security.

However, before you can apply for Italian citizenship by marriage/civil partnership, you will have to fulfill some conditions.

You can only apply after you have lived together in Italy for two years (one year if you have children together) following the marriage/civil partnership.

If you have lived together outside Italy, you can apply for Italian citizenship after three years (18 months if you have children together.)

Getting Italian Citizenship through naturalization

Finally, if you have no blood or marriage ties to Italy, your best bet of obtaining Italian citizenship is through naturalization. However, the naturalization process is very long, especially if you are a non-EU citizen.

EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Italy – they just have to register for residency. After five years of living in Italy, if you are an EU resident, you can get a permanent residence card. Another four years after that, you are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship.

However, for non-EU citizens, the wait time is longer and the entry procedure is far more complicated.

First, you will have to obtain an Italian long-stay visa to enter Italy at your home country. In some cases, such as for an Italian work visa or family reunion visa, you need prior authorization from Italy for you to apply.

After receiving an Italian long-stay visa, you can enter Italy, where you have to apply for an Italian residence permit within eight days.

Depending on your reason for moving to Italy, residence permits are valid for up to two years. Before the current residence permit expires, you have to renew it if you want to keep living in Italy.

Once you have lived in Italy with a temporary residence permit for five years, you can get a permanent residence card.

Then, only after having lived in Italy with a permanent residence permit for ten years, you can submit an application for Italian citizenship through naturalization.

During your residency, you are not allowed to leave Italy for longer than six months within a year or you will lose your residence permit.

Italian Citizenship Application Processing Time

Up until October, 2018, an Italian citizenship application was processed within two years. However, in October, 5, 2018, the Italian government temporarily entered a new decree which pushes the processing time for an Italian citizenship application to four years. The decree, called the Decreto Sicurezza, was finalized in December, 3, 2018.

So, if you are applying to become an Italian citizen through marriage or naturalization, the new decree means you may have to wait four years before getting your citizenship.

However, the new decree does not affect applications for Italian citizenship through jure sanguinis. In this case, the processing time is still two years.

Italian Citizenship Language Test

In addition to raising the processing time for an Italian citizenship application, in December, 4, 2018, a new requirement for obtaining Italian citizenship was introduced. An Italian language proficiency test.

According to this new requirement, all Italian citizenship applicants have to be proficient in at least level B1 of the European Union Common Language Framework. So, you would have to enter an Italian language test and provide a proficiency certificate issued by a school (in Italy or abroad) that has been approved by the Italian government.

Again, the language test does not apply to Italian citizenship applications through birthright (ure sanguinis).

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