Requirements to obtain Italian citizenship

Italian citizenship is based mainly on the right of blood (“ius sanguinis”), whereby a child of an Italian father or mother is Italian. Citizenship is currently regulated by Law n. 91 of February 5, 1992 and the implementing regulations.

Fundamental principles of Italian citizenship

  • The transmission of citizenship by right of blood (“ius sanguinis”);
  • The acquisition of citizenship by right of soil (“ius soli”), which occurs only in exceptional and residual cases;
  • The possibility of dual citizenship;
  • The manifestation of will for the acquisition or loss of citizenship, unless otherwise provided for in international agreements.

Italian citizenship can be recognized automatically or through an application to the competent authority.

When is recognition of citizenship automatic?

1) By right of blood (“ius sanguinis”):

Occurs when the person has at least one parent who is an Italian citizen, either by birth on Italian territory, by recognition of paternity/maternity or by declaration of filiation during the child’s minority. In these cases, it doesn’t matter where the child was born.

In the case of naturalization of one or both parents during the child’s childhood, the child acquires citizenship automatically.

If the recognized child is of legal age, it is necessary to apply for Italian citizenship within one year of the date of recognition.

2) By right of soil (“ius soli”)

  • stateless parents: occurs when a person was born in Italy and has stateless parents, i.e. individuals who do not hold any nationality;
  • unknown parents: this occurs when a person, the child of unknown parents, is found abandoned on Italian territory and it is impossible to determine their civitatis status;
  • parents who do not pass on their nationality: this occurs when parents do not pass on their nationality to their child born abroad, because the law of the state of citizenship does not provide for “ius sanguinis” citizenship.

In such cases, in order to prevent the child from having any citizenship, the Italian state recognizes the child as an Italian citizen.

3) By adoption

A foreign minor who is adopted by an Italian citizen, either by legal provision of the Italian Judicial Authority, or by an adoption made abroad which becomes effective in Italy with an order of transcription in the Civil Registry issued by the Court for Minors, is automatically Italian.

If the foreign adoptee is of legal age, they can acquire Italian citizenship by naturalization, by applying to the competent authority, after a period of legal residence in Italy of 5 (five) years following the adoption. 

How long does it take to apply for Italian citizenship?

1) By right of blood (“ius sanguinis”)

Citizenship is also granted to the descendants of Italians without generational limit if they are paternally descended. For children of Italian mothers born before 1948, click here.

2) By length of residence in Italy

2.1) By legal residence: if the foreigner has been legally resident in Italy for at least 10 (ten) uninterrupted years and meets all the requirements laid down by law, they can apply for Italian citizenship.

The term is reduced in the following cases:

3 years of legal residence in Italyfor a foreigner who has a father or mother or one of the ascendants in a direct line, up to the second degree, who is/was Italian by birth; for foreigners born on Italian territory (“ius soli”).
4 years of legal residence in Italyfor a citizen of another member state of the European Union.
5 years of legal residence in Italyafter the adoption of a foreigner of legal age; after recognition of the status of stateless person or political refugee; a foreigner who has rendered services, even if abroad, on the premises of the Italian State

There is no residency requirement for foreigners who have worked in Italy or abroad for the Italian State for at least 5 years.

2.2) By benefit of law: If the person, the child of foreign parents, was born in Italy and lives legally and uninterruptedly in Italian territory until reaching the age of majority. In this case, the declaration for recognition of Italian citizenship must be made within 1 year of reaching the age of majority.

2.3) By naturalization: Naturalization is an act by which a foreigner voluntarily acquires a citizenship that is not their original one, usually associated with people who immigrate. Recognition of citizenship by naturalization requires an act by a Public Authority, usually the Head of State, and the fulfillment of certain requirements that vary according to national legislation. In Italy, citizenship by naturalization is provided for in the following cases:

3) By marriage to an Italian citizen

If after the wedding the foreigner:

legally resides in Italy for 2 yearsafter 3 years if he lives abroad

These terms are halved if there are minor children born of the marriage or adopted by both spouses (Law 94/2009).

Foreign women who married Italian citizens before April 27, 1983 were automatically granted Italian citizenship.

To apply for citizenship by marriage, the foreign spouse must prove their knowledge of the Italian language through an official certificate (minimum B1 level). This certificate must be presented when applying for citizenship.

4) By special merits

Italian citizenship can be granted in special cases to a foreigner who has rendered relevant services to Italy, i.e. when there is an exceptional interest on the part of the Italian state.

5) Recognition of Italian citizenship based on the Special Law

For more information on this type of citizenship, write to us.

Useful link:

Ministero degli Affari Esteri

Cavalcanti de Albuquerque is at your disposal to answer any questions you may have.

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