Laws regarding Italian citizenship are regulated by the Italian government. In line with many other European countries, the jus sanguinis principle is utilized, permitting those of Italian descent born outside of the country to be granted citizenship if they meet the criteria. Those wishing to become Italian citizens can do so in a variety of ways, such as by descent, marriage, residency and, for a special group of people, the re-acquisition of citizenship.
OBTAINING ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP THROUGH ANCESTRY (JURE SANGUINIS ) The concept of jure sanguinis (by right of blood/descent) is a key component of Italian citizenship law, as it is for many other European nations. This principle grants an individual the right to automatically obtain Italian citizenship at birth if either of their parents is a citizen of Italy or has the right to become one (women were only granted the ability to pass citizenship on to their children as of January 1, 1948). It is possible for foreigners to obtain Italian citizenship through descent if one of their ascendants (parent, grandparent, etc.) was an Italian citizen. The individual must be able to demonstrate that citizenship was passed from the ancestor to them and that none of the ascendants in the Italian lineage chose to renounce their right to Italian citizenship. This recognition of Italian citizenship can be applied for either at a municipality in Italy or at the Italian consulate that covers the jurisdiction where the applicant resides. The legal criteria for citizenship jure sanguinis remain the same no matter if the petition is submitted in Italy or at an Italian consulate abroad. If you are interested in obtaining Italian citizenship by descent, the steps to take can be found here.
GETTING ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP THROUGH THE COURTS Acquisition of Italian Citizenship can be achieved through a court case in the country. The 1912 Italian Citizenship law only allowed men to give their citizenship to their children, regardless of where the children were born, under the condition that they were Italian citizens at the time of their birth. However, this changed when the Italian constitution became effective on January 1, 1948, granting women the same rights as men in regards to passing citizenship. In 2009, the Court of Rome determined that the principle of gender equality must be applied retroactively, providing a precedent for those with 1948 cases to acquire Italian citizenship. Further information about court cases can be found here.
CITIZENSHIP BY MARRIAGE One way to acquire citizenship is by marriage. Marrying someone who is a citizen of a particular nation grants the other partner the right to citizenship in that country. It is possible to apply for Italian citizenship through marriage after two years of being wed or entering a civil union with a native Italian. If there are minor children, the waiting period is decreased to one year. If the couple resides outside of Italy, the time frame to apply is extended to three years and reduced to 18 months if minor children are involved. This same timeline applies to same-sex civil unions, which became legal in Italy in 2016. Marriage to an Italian citizen before April 27th, 1983, granted foreign wives citizenship in Italy. Check out this page to learn how to apply for Italian citizenship through marriage.
CITIZENSHIP THROUGH RESIDENCY In order to gain citizenship through naturalization, residency is a process one must go through. This form of naturalization is acquired by living in a certain country for a certain period of time. Those who have been lawfully dwelling in Italy for a period of at least a decade are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by naturalization if they are able to furnish evidence of a clean criminal background and proof of their income. If specified criteria are met, the number of years needed to apply is lessened. In particular:
Those from an EU member state must have been living in Italy for 4 years before they can gain citizenship;
Those whose parents or grandparents were born in Italy, or who were born in Italy themselves, only need to have resided in the country for 3 years;
Those without a nationality, or those adopted by Italians after they had reached adulthood, must have been in the nation for a period of 5 years.
SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION FOR CITIZENSHIP DUE TO SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES Under specific conditions, applications for citizenship can be made for various reasons, including the following:
Those whose parents or grandparents were Italian citizens at the time of their birth: to be eligible for this, they need to have either served in the Italian military, worked for the Italian government, or resided in Italy for two years prior to turning 18.
For those born in Italy to foreign parents, they must have lived in Italy without interruption from birth to the age of 18.
REACQUISITION OF ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP Prior to August 16, 1992, those of Italian descent who had naturalized in a foreign nation would lose their Italian citizenship. However, with the implementation of the date mentioned, Italy began to permit dual citizenship. Consequently, if you happen to fit this description, re-acquiring your Italian citizenship is an option if you establish your residency in the country.
Words to remember
An ascendant is an ancestor of an applicant.
A descendant is a person who is descended from a certain ancestor.
A long-form birth certificate, also known as a "full-size birth certificate" or "book copy", is a document that provides complete information regarding a birth. On the other hand, a "short-form birth certificate", "certification" or "abstract of birth certificate" only has selected details (e.g., name and date of the newborn, parents' names, and county of birth). These short forms are not accepted for dual citizenship applications.
A certified copy is an exact duplicate of the primary document issued by a government agency.
An apostille is an official certificate provided by a government to make a document from one country valid in another that is part of the 1961 Apostille Convention, also known as the Hague Convention. In the U.S., apostilles are issued by the Secretary of State or the Department of State for federal documents and bear the seal and signature of the issuing governmental office. It is important to note that countries that are not signatories of the Hague Convention cannot issue apostilles.
An Italian-born ascendant is a closest relative or ancestor of an applicant born in Italy.
An intermediate ascendant is a forebear in the direct Italian lineage (note: spouses are generally not included).
Jus soli (or "right of soil") is the right to citizenship of any person born in the territory of a state.
Jus sanguinis (or "right of blood") is the right of an individual to claim citizenship of a nation through being born to a parent who is a citizen of that nation or has the right to citizenship of that nation.
Naturalization is the process by which a foreigner becomes a citizen of a country.
Dual Citizenship is the capability of being a citizen of two nations at the same time. Italy did not allow dual citizenship before August 16, 1992, but made an exception for individuals born abroad to an Italian parent who involuntarily acquired the citizenship of the country in which they were born by the principle of jus soli.
Getting your Italian dual citizenship may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be. With the right information and help, you can definitely make it! I have helped a lot of clients like you, in various ways: through translations, by recommending the right expert, finding Italian documents for their ancestors... If you need help, just reach out!