Any child born to 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 two years after marriage if legally residing in Italy, or three years after marriage if living abroad. Time frames are reduced by half in the presence of children born or adopted by the spouses.
- 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 residing in Italy and foreigners serving the Italian state can apply after five years, as well as foreigners over the age of 18 adopted by Italian nationals. Those who have served in the Italian military for a period of at least 5 years require no period of legal residence.
- A foreigner with a parent or grandparent who was an Italian citizen at birth qualifies for citizenship after living in Italy for three 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 within one year of reaching 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 Prefecture of the Province of residence, if in Italy 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 fee for acquiring the citizenship is 200 euros (in 2014).
The required documents vary according to your situation and nationality (it’s allegedly easier for those married to Italians); up to 14 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), or you can find the information online via the Ministry website. After you've made an application, the authorities have 18 months to make a decision.