Applying in Italy at your own pace is a great way to discover if you like living in Italy before taking the plunge and moving permanently, or a great way to take advantage of your birthright citizenship after you have already decided to live in Italy long term.
Today many towns require that you stay in Italy the entire time your application is processing, so that is what I also recommend. The amount of time you must stay in your town depends on how long your application takes to process (more on this later). The vast majority of applications go smoothly and quickly but some may take up to 6 months or longer. For stays over 90 days, you must obtain a permit to stay (permesso di soggiorno) based on your citizenship application so you are fully legal the entire time.
There are no shortcuts here, but you will find that by applying in Italy your application will be processed quicker than if you applied at the Consulate. It is also just a really rewarding experience, if I do say so myself. :)
You can apply anywhere in Italy as long as you are a resident where you apply. You do not need to apply in your ancestral hometown.
People who are eligible for Italian dual citizenship can currently apply for recognition in one of two ways:
1) If they live outside Italy, they can make an appointment at their local consulate;
2) If they live in Italy, they can apply in the town where they are an official resident. In accordance with Circolare k.28 of 1991, anyone who is eligible for dual citizenship can apply in Italy as long as he or she has established residency there. In the past, aapplicants had to obtain a permesso di soggiorno per turismo (permit to stay for tourism) in order to enter and stay in Italy to file their application. However, Circolare no. 32 of June 13th, 2007 changed that: after that date the permesso di soggiorno for tourism was abolished, allowing Americans to come to Italy for up to 90 days on just their passports alone. Potential applicants in Italy must apply at any time during those 90 days in order to stay legal and obtain further permits to stay while their paperwork is being processed. Italy is incredibly generous in allowing applicants to do this.
As mentioned, there is only one requisite for applicants in Italy—they must be lawful residents of the town where they intend to apply. That’s it! The residency process in Italy is started using one of two paths:
1) If you are flying directly to Italy from the U.S., the stamp on your passport serves as your official entry into Italy and the first step for residency;
2) If you have a layover in another Schengen Country before arriving in Italy, you must file a declaration of presence (“dichiarazione di presenza”) with the Questura (police precinct) within 8 days of your arrival—this will substitute the lack of a stamp on your passport, and also serves to start the residency process.
Keep in mind that just the passport stamp or the dichiarazione di presenza are not sufficient to complete the residency process; rather, they serve only to start it. In order to be an actual resident of Italy you must use one of the above in conjunction with either a valid rental contract that is signed and filed with the Agenzia delle Entrate or a declaration of hospitality (dichiarazione di ospitalita’) prepared by a friend, landlord or family member willing to officially host you as their guest.
You cannot start the residency process without any combination of the above passport stamp/declaration of presence and rental contract/declaration of hospitality. It is advisable to find a place to live and square away all residency questions before entering Italy. There are numerous websites such as idealista.it, mioaffitto.it, eurekasa.it, subito.it, immobiliare.it, and soloaffitti.it which allow users to contact realtors or private individuals renting their homes. Realtors are well-informed of the laws regarding lawful contracts and can help.
Once you have the requisite paperwork, you must go to the appropriate comune office to ask for residency. This is most often the Ufficio Anagrafe. Some comuni are busier and require appointments after a nominal wait while the vast majority will accept walk-ins. As with many things in Italy, this is highly variable and not standardized.
At the Ufficio Anagrafe you will fill out paperwork for your residency application. You will most likely be asked for your codice fiscale, which is a unique Italian tax code and is used for anything from gaining residency to going to school, akin to a U.S. social security number. You may not yet have an official one, so you can use a provisional code that you can generate on www.codicefiscale.com (you can also have an official codice fiscale generated by the Agenzia delle Entrate if you are not comfortable using a provisional one or feel you may make a mistake). You will also be asked to provide a copy of your passport. Once you are done with your residency application, you will be given a receipt.
The residency paperwork may look something like this:
In Italy, confirmation of your residency is a two-step process.
1) Once your paperwork for residency is accepted, it takes 2 days (48 hours) to go into the town’s system.
2) After the 2 days are up, your residency must be officially verified. Depending on the town, they will either send an officer (vigile) to your address to make sure you live there, or they will send no one and simply wait the 45 days mandated by law until your residency is implicitly accepted.
You do not have to stay in your apartment the entire time looking out the window and waiting for the officer; the comune will let you know around when you can expect the vigile and the visit is actually quite informal. When I applied in Italy, I offered the vigile coffee and we had a nice chat. That was it!
In Italy, confirmation of your residency is a two-step process.
requested residency (whichever comes first), you can go to the ufficio di stato civile/ufficio cittadinanza/ufficio anagrafe (it will depend by comune) to file your citizenship paperwork.
The comune officer will want to see your residency paperwork, and will also spend time looking over your various documents including birth, marriage, death, and naturalization records. By this time, I will have already sent your documents to the comune officer in charge well in advance and we should have been able to rectify any missing paperwork/discrepancies.
As an aside: It should be noted that each comune is different in the documents it requires. Some want death certificates, while others do not. Some want translations apostilled, while others want them legalized instead by the consulate, and yet others are fine with simple printouts without further legalization. It is up to you to be proactive and find out what your comune requires. A good start may be searching the name of the comune + “cittadinanza jure sanguinis” in Google to see if they have a dedicated website including a list of required documents. Piacenza, a comune in Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy, is an example of a town with a comprehensive website, and a list of required documents:
Getting back to your documents: once everything is handed in, you will be issued a receipt.
After this step, the comune worker will send an official request to the consulates back home under whose jurisdiction you and your family members have lived. They will ask the consulates to check that nobody in your family has renounced his or her right to have dual citizenship.
The response time may vary depending on the consulate. Some will respond in weeks, while some will take months. Sometimes, a consulate may require more documentation from you: while this is unusual, this does not mean your application will be denied. It is just the consulate being nosey and wanting to make sure all ducks are in a row. If this happens, we will comply or we will have the comune worker phone the consulate to tell them—politely—to butt out. :-)
The attestato di non rinuncia (sometimes called the “dichiarazione di mancata rinuncia”) may look like this:
Once all of the relevant consulates have responded and confirmed nobody in your family has renounced his or her right to citizenship, you’re in!
The mayor will sign your citizenship into effect, and you will get a letter or e-mail from the comune. You will then need to ask the comune to transcribe your birth certificate into their local registry. Once that is done, you can obtain an Italian passport, either back at your Consulate in the United States or in Italy where you are living. You can even apply for a passport in Italy and delegate someone else to pick it up for you. Super easy!
Another document you can obtain directly in Italy is the carta d’identita’ (identity card). It will look like this:
The process for applying in Italy will generally go like this:
Contact the comune beforehand to inquire about the paperwork they accept or to show them scans of your documents.
Have your documents translated and legalized in accordance to the comune’s wishes.
Find a place to live or someone to issue you a declaration of hospitality.
Fly to Italy: if flying directly, get your passport stamped. If having a layover in another Schengen Country, go to the questura within 8 days to file a declaration of presence.
Go to the ufficio anagrafe to apply for residency. Use your codice fiscale.
Wait for your residency to be confirmed.
Hand in your vital records. Get a receipt.
Obtain the permesso di soggiorno in attesa di cittadinanza so you can stay in Italy legally while waiting for your documents to be processed (more info here in Italian: http://www.antonellapedone.com/guide/permesso-di-soggiorno-per-attesa-cittadinanza). This is fundamental, otherwise you will be illegal if you stay past 90 days.
Wait until you’re recognized!
Get your birth record transcribed after recognition.
Enjoy your citizenship! :)
1. Law 555 of 1912. This is “the” citizenship law establishing the principle of jure sanguinis (and is the reason why we’re all eligible!): http://www.amblima.esteri.it/resource/2007/03/12736_f_amb61Legge13giugno1912n_555sullacittadinanzaitaliana.htm
2. Circolare k. 28 del 1991. This is the circular sent around to all officials stating that anyone who is a lawful resident in Italy can apply there. http://www.esteri.it/mae/normative/normativa_consolare/serviziconsolari/cittadinanza/circk28_1991.pdf
3. Circolare no. 32 del 13 giugno 2007. This circular states that the permesso di soggiorno for tourism has been abolished, and those that apply in Italy can use the stamp in their passport or a declaration of presence to start the residency process. http://www.meltingpot.org/Circolare-del-Ministero-dell-interno-n-32-del-13-giugno.html