3 Ways to Get Italian Citizenship
Ciao a tutti!
Today, we’re going to talk about 3 ways to get Italian citizenship. These are not the only ways to obtain an Italian passport, but they’re usually the easiest (with the word “easy” being relative… Italy did invent bureaucracy, after all!).
- Marry an Italian citizen
- Naturalize as an Italian citizen after living in Italy
- Be of Italian descent and qualify for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis
Let’s dive in!
Get Italian citizenship by marrying an Italian citizen
Law no. 123 of April 21, 1983 governs Italian citizenship by marriage.
Before this date, women who married Italian citizens were automatically granted Italian citizenship themselves. However, this law changed that. The result? People who marry Italian citizens are able to get Italian citizenship, but women who marry Italian citizen after this date are no longer entitled to automatic Italian citizenship upon marriage. Men, on the other hand, were never entitled to automatic citizenship upon marrying an Italian woman.
Today, people married to Italian citizens must formally request citizenship. The spouse of an Italian citizen may start their citizenship process after 6 months of marriage if they both live in Italy. If the couple lives abroad, the non-Italian spouse must wait for 3 years of marriage before requesting citizenship.
If the couple has dissolved or annulled their marriage, or sought a legal separation, the non-Italian spouse may not request citizenship. A non-Italian spouse cannot request citizenship if the Italian spouse has passed away.
In order to request citizenship by marriage, the couple must register their marriage in Italy. If the couple lives abroad, the Italian spouse must also be registered in A.I.R.E. (Registry of Italians Abroad) at the consulate or embassy with jurisdiction over where he lives.
The non-Italian spouse must register at this link and fill out Form AE (Modello AE). The website is in Italian.
Once that is done, the non-Italian spouse must upload a series of documents including their birth certificate, police record/background check, FBI clearance, copy of passport, and proof of payment to the Italian Ministry of the Interior. The couple must also obtain but not upload their Italian transcribed marriage certificate, the Italian spouse’s certificate of citizenship, and the “certificate di stato di famiglia.” Then, the non-Italian spouse must make an appointment with the local consulate and hand everything in.
They will issue a receipt and the wait begins. It takes 2 years for a non-Italian spouse to be recognized as a citizen once the documents are handed in.
For another overview of this process, click here to see the Italian Embassy’s website on Italian citizenship via marriage.
Get Italian citizenship by living in Italy and naturalizing as an Italian citizen
The second way of obtaining Italian citizenship we will discuss is through living in Italy and naturalizing as an Italian citizen. Just like getting citizenship through marriage, you do not need to be of Italian descent to naturalize as an Italian citizen.
Any person who has been living in Italy legally for at least ten years may apply for (and be granted) Italian citizenship. All applicants must have a clean criminal record and sufficient financial resources.
This residence requirement is reduced to three years for descendants of Italian citizens and grandparents who otherwise do not qualify for Italian dual citizenship jure sanguinis because of a naturalization before the birth of a child, thus “breaking” the chain of citizenship. The residence requirement is shortened to four years for EU nationals, five years for stateless persons or refugees, and seven years for someone adopted by an Italian citizen.
Get Italian citizenship by being of Italian descent and qualifying for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis
If born in a jure soli country and descended from an Italian ancestor, a person may have a claim to Italian citizenship jure sanguinis (by derivation).
Italian citizenship is granted by birth through the paternal line with no limit on generations, or through the maternal line for individuals born after January 1st, 1948.
A person may only acquire Italian citizenship jure sanguinis if one or both of that person’s parents was an Italian citizen on the birth date.
There is a “fun” loophole in this law.
It is possible that a child whose father naturalized before his or her birth can obtain citizenship through a non-Italian parent. Up until April 21, 1983 Italian law automatically granted Italian citizenship to women marrying Italian men. Thus, if an Italian spouse naturalized as an American, as long as he and his wife were married before that date she not only obtained but also could maintain Italian citizenship!
This way, a child born to an Italian father who lost his own Italian citizenship may actually obtain citizenship from his non-Italian mother who herself gained Italian citizenship years before by marrying an Italian man. We’ve actually had clients who have obtained citizenship this way! Confused? Ask us to clarify this and we’ll be happy to help!
There are basic conditions for acquiring Italian citizenship jure sanguinis.
- There was no such thing as Italy before March 17, 1861. Thus, a person’s last Italian-born ancestor must have been alive anywhere in the world on or after that date (and must not have naturalized as a citizen of another country before that date).
- Any child born to an Italian citizen parent is also usually born an Italian citizen, with a few exceptions.
- The Italian parent must not have naturalized as a citizen of another country before that child’s birth.
- If the child had an Italian mother and a foreign father, the child must have been born after January 1st, 1948. This rule has been effectively challenged in Italian courts (see more info here on our 1948 cases).
- If the Italian parent naturalized in another country on or after July 1, 1912, the child’s acquisition of Italian citizenship survived the parent’s loss if the child was already born in a country whose citizenship he or she held because of that country’s jure soli laws.
- If a child was not born in a jure soli country, the child could lose Italian citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of the naturalizing parent. Italy does not attribute citizenship based on jure soli, so an Italian child born in Italy could lose Italian citizenship if the father naturalized as an American citizen while the child was still a minor, even though the child did not actively naturalize on their own.
- If a person reached Italy’s legal adult age, they were no longer bound by citizenship changes that might occur to their parents. If an Italian parent naturalized as a citizen of another country, the child’s citizenship could survive the parent’s loss if the child was either 21 prior to March 10, 1975 or 18 after that date, by the time of the parent’s naturalization.
- If the child’s Italian father naturalized as a citizen of another country prior to July 1, 1912, then the child’s Italian citizenship was not impacted by the father’s loss as long as the child was at least 21 years old by the time the father naturalized, or if the child was any age and still residing in Italy.
In order for a person to successfully obtain Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, all of the above conditions must be met.
Note: When you “apply” for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis, you’re actually not applying at all. You’re asking the Italian government to recognize your status as a citizen, which you have held since you were born. If you qualify, you’ve been a citizen since birth but simply have not had it formalized!
Do you have Italian citizenship? Do you want Italian citizenship? If you could, which way would you apply?
Sound off in the comments below and let us know!