Rules on gaining Italian nationality


The following laws currently apply to Italian citizenship, but you should check whether these have been amended before making any important decisions.

Any child born of an Italian father or mother is automatically Italian, as is a child born in Italy of unknown or stateless parents, or if the child doesn’t obtain the citizenship ( cittadinanza) of its parents under the law of their country.

  • A foreigner married to an Italian citizen can apply for Italian citizenship six months after marriage if living in Italy, or three years after marriage if living abroad.
  • A foreign resident who isn’t married to an Italian can apply for citizenship after four years’ residence if he is a European Union (EU) national, otherwise after ten years; stateless people resident in Italy and foreigners serving the Italian state can apply after five years.
  • A foreigner with a parent or grandparent who was an Italian citizen at birth qualifies for citizenship after living in Italy for two years after his 18th birthday or, if born in Italy, at any age.
  • A child born to foreign parents in Italy doesn’t automatically acquire Italian citizenship but has the right to it provided it’s requested before the child reaches the age of 18.
  • It’s no longer necessary to have to choose between your parents’ nationality and Italian, as Italy now recognises dual nationality ( doppi doppia cittadinanza), although anyone with dual citizenship arriving in or leaving Italy must do so with an Italian passport or identity card.

In order to obtain Italian citizenship, you must apply to the Minister of the Interior ( Ministro degli Interni) through the mayor of the commune ( comune) where you live or through an Italian consulate abroad. A concession tax must be paid and you must swear loyalty to the republic and that you’ll observe Italy’s constitution and laws.

As with most things involving bureaucrats in Italy, the process of applying for and obtaining Italian citizenship is a long-drawn-out affair often taking years, which will stretch your patience to the limit.

The documents required vary according to your situation and nationality (it’s allegedly easier for those married to Italians); up to 12 documents may be required, many of which must be on official paper ( bollo), translated by an official translator, authenticated or legalised.

A list of the necessary documents is available from your local government office ( prefettura). After you’ve made an application, the authorities have 18 months to make a decision.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

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