According to the Italian regulations presently in force, different cases apply through which the Italian citizenship is acquired; some of them are automatic, whereas other ones depend on the occurrence of specific conditions, on the expression of intent and on a decision by the Authorities.
In particular, the Italian citizenship is obtained on the basis of the following:
- Automatic granting (i.e. birth, adoption, recognition or judicial statement of descent, etc.);
- Privileges and obligations granted by the law (descent, birth and continued residence, etc.);
The acquisition of the Italian citizenship is not prejudicial for the maintenance of the citizenship of the Country of origin, unless the laws in force in such country prohibit dual nationality.
The acquisition of citizenship occurs automatically in the following cases:
BY BIRTH (IUS SANGUINIS): the sons of mothers or fathers owning the Italian citizenship (including the sons born abroad from Italian citizens) are considered as Italian nationals.
The acquisition of citizenship by birth in the Italian territory from non-Italian nationals is envisaged in two cases only:
- if both parents are either unknown or stateless;
- if the son does not have the same citizenship as his/her parents according to the law of the State of which they are nationals.
Finally, the son of unknown parents found in the Italian territory, if not owning any other citizenship, is considered as Italian national;
BY RECOGNITION OR JUDICIAL STATEMENT OF DESCENT: if the son of Italian citizens, recognised subsequently to his/her birth, is a minor, the acquisition of citizenship is automatic and retroacts to the moment of birth. If, conversely, the recognition or the judicial statement occurs with an adult son, he/she maintains one’s nationality but is allowed (within one year as from the recognition, the judicial statement or the acknowledgement of efficacy of the foreign measure) to chose the Italian citizenship.
BY ADOPTION: any foreign minor adopted by Italian nationals acquires the citizenship by right; if, conversely, the child adopted is an adult, the acquisition of the Italian citizenship is possible only upon application by the interested party, after five years of legal residence in Italy.
BY ACQUISITION OR REACQUISITION ON ONE OF THE PARENTS’ SIDE: minor children of parents who acquire or reacquire the Italian citizenship directly acquire it provided that they steadily and effectively live with them.
Art. 12 of the Regulation implementing the Law (Presidential Decree no. 572/93) clarified that the cohabitation shall be stable and effective, and supported by suitable evidence and documentation. Furthermore, it shall be in force at the moment of acquisition or reacquisition of citizenship by one of the parents. If, conversely, the cohabitation takes place subsequently or is discontinued, the minor child shall not acquire the Italian citizenship.
In all these cases, the acquisition of citizenship is automatic.
What happens if children were born abroad from Italian parents that did not register the birth in the Italian registers of births?
If the Italian registers of births contain no evidence of the descent of a person from Italian parents or ancestors it is necessary to apply for the ascertainment of the Italian citizenship, that is to say an assessment of the existence of circumstances entailing the entitlement to the Italian citizenship as from the day of birth.
To whom shall the ascertainment of the existence of the Italian citizenship be applied to?
The competent authority performing the ascertainment is determined on the basis of the place of residence:
- for residents abroad, such authority is the diplomatic-consular authority having territorial jurisdiction;
- for residents in Italy, such authority is the Registrar of the Municipality of residence.
The ascertainment procedure is generally rather quick if the assessments to be performed show no particular difficulties.
The acquisition of citizenship occurs on the basis of the so-called naturalisation in the following cases:
BY DESCENT: either foreigners or stateless persons, wherever born, whose mothers and fathers (or one of their grandparents) were Italian citizens by birth and subsequently lost the Italian nationality, acquire the Italian citizenship if owning one of the following requirements:
effectively do the military service in the Italian Armed Forces and preventively state they intend to acquire the Italian citizenship;
perform a public employment, also abroad, for the Italian State;
when turning 18, have been legally resident in Italy, with no interruptions whatsoever, for at least two years.
BY BIRTH AND RESIDENCE IN ITALY (IUS SOLI): foreigners born and resident in Italy without any interruptions until the age of eighteen, stating within the day in which they turn nineteen that they intent to become Italian nationals, may acquire the Italian citizenship.
This is a “conditional” form of ius soli, subject to enforcement only if three of the requirements above apply: birth in Italy, uninterrupted residence until turning eighteen, and statement of intent within one year as from the day of reaching one’s majority.
The Ministry of the Interior, however, by means of a circular letter dated 7th November 2007 clarified that the late registration of a minor in an Italian Municipality, shall not be considered as prejudicial for the purpose of acquiring the Italian citizenship in case documents are available showing the presence of minors in our Country in the period preceding the birth registration (i.e. vaccination certificates, medical certificates in general, etc.). Therefore, if short interruptions are identified during the periods following births, the interested parties may produce additional information such as school or medical certificates showing their presence in Italy, in order to give evidence of their uninterrupted presence in the Italian territory.
In case legal requirements apply, who shall the interested persons address to express their will to become Italian nationals?
The declarations of intent to acquire the Italian citizenship shall be made to the Registrar of the Municipality of Residence or, in case of residence abroad, to the Italian Diplomatic or Consular Authority, by filing the documentation showing the ownership of necessary requirements. Additional information is available in the official website of one’s Municipality or of the Consulate of the Country of residence.
Is it possible to file self-certifications instead of the original documents?
As from 1st January 2012 the general rules on self-certifications apply in all the procedures on the granting of the Italian citizenship.
Therefore, the municipality cannot ask the interested party to produce documents certifying statuses, personal qualities and facts that can be found at the municipal office through an application filed to another Administration. The interested person shall however include in his/her application all the necessary elements to allow the Administration to find the information or data required.
The acquisition of nationality occurs by naturalisation in the following cases:
MARRIAGE WITH AN ITALIAN NATIONAL: foreign or stateless spouses of Italian citizens may become Italian nationals after two years of legal residence in Italy or, if resident abroad, after three years as from the day of marriage, unless dissolution, annulment or separation occur, and if no legal separation intervenes. The terms and conditions above are halved in case of children born from or adopted by the spouses.
The acquisition of nationality by marriage is not possible if foreigners were imposed criminal convictions either in Italy (offences for which a punishment of at least three years of imprisonment is imposed) or abroad (offences for which a punishment exceeding one year is imposed for a non-political offence acknowledged by a decision of Italian Authorities). Rehabilitation ceases the preclusive effects of the conviction.
To whom shall the application for the acquisition of the Italian nationality following a marriage with an Italian person be filed?
The application for the Italian nationality shall be filed to the Prefecture – Territorial Office of the place of residence (or, if the interested person is located abroad, to the relevant diplomatic-consular authority) by means of a suitable written application (form A). The application shall be equipped with a serried of documents listed in the application form. Additional information is available in the official website of each Prefecture.
Which is the competent authority deciding on the application?
As from 1st June 2012, the competence to issue the decrees granting nationality by marriage pertain to the following Authorities:
a. the Prefect in case of applications filed by foreigners legally residing in Italy;
b. the Ministry of the Interior – Head of Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration, in case foreign spouses reside abroad;
c. the Ministry of the Interior in case of National Security issues.
ORDINARY NATURALISATION: foreigners may apply for the Italian citizenship after ten years of legal residence in Italy, decreased to five years in case of foreign nationals being granted the status of stateless persons or refugees and to four years for nationals residing in EU Countries.
Citizenship by naturalisation may also be granted in the following cases:
a) if one of the parents or second direct ancestors of the foreigner, which have been legally residing in Italy for at least three years, are Italian citizens by birth;
b) if adult foreigners adopted by Italian citizens have been legally residing in Italy for at least five years following the adoption;
c) if foreign nationals have been State employees, including abroad, for at least five years;
d) if foreigners born in Italy have been therein residing for at least three years.
To whom shall the application for the acquisition of the Italian citizenship by naturalisation be filed?
In these cases the application for nationality, addressed to the President of the Italian Republic, shall be filed to the Prefecture – Territorial Office of the place of residence. The Form B to be used for the filing of the application is available in the websites of the competent Prefectures. The documentation to be enclosed to the application is listed in the application form.
The citizenship by naturalisation is granted through a Presidential Decree.
According to the Law, the procedures for the granting of nationality shall end seven-hundred and thirty days (2 years) as from the date of filing of the application.
POSSIBILITY OF CHECKING ON-LINE THE STATUS OF NATIONALITY APPLICATIONS
As from the 5th July 2010 a service is available in the website of the Ministry of the Interior allowing all those who filed an application for the Italian citizenship to check in real-time the status of their records. In order to register in the website, users shall indicate their e-mail address and personal data. Once the registration procedure is completed, it is possible to access the information requested by entering the code of one’s citizenship application.
As from 1st June 2012 the Italian public administrations shall acquire the information, data and documents already owned by the Public Administration, upon indication by the party involved of the necessary items to find the information or data requested.
Therefore, applicants shall not produce certificates bearing information or data already owned by the Italian Public Administration, but only include in the application all the elements necessary to find such information or data.
As from 8th August 2009 all the applications and declarations for the election, acquisition, reacquisition, renunciation or granting of the Italian nationality are subject to the payment of a 200 Euro fee.
The Italian law accepts double (or multiple) nationality.
Therefore, according to the Italian law, the acquisition of a foreign nationality does not determine the loss of the Italian citizenship, unless Italian citizens formally renounce it, unless otherwise provided by international agreements.
Similarly, it is possible to acquire the Italian citizenship without renouncing the nationality of one’s Country of origin. Naturally, the laws in force in the country of origin might envisage the loss of the citizenship of such Country in case of acquisition of another nationality.
According to the regulation implementing the Consolidated Law on Immigration (Presidential Decree 394/99 as subsequently amended), whenever the Italian nationality is pending, foreigners may obtain a residence permit authorising them to reside in Italy until the end of such procedure. The permit shall be applied to the Police Headquarters through the eligible Post Office by filing an application in a suitable form.
An entry visa for pending citizenship cannot be obtained from abroad. Foreign nationals residing abroad and owning the necessary requirements to obtain the Italian nationality may file the statement to obtain the citizenship directly to the Italian Consulates abroad.
Failing a specific law provision, a working activity through a residence permit issued for “pending nationality” cannot be performed.
Over the years, the Case Law clarified the requirements for the obtainment of the Italian Natonality and the limits of discretionary power of the Public Administration in relation to the decisions entailing the granting of citizenship, furthermore defining the obligations to provide the grounds upon which the decisions of such procedures are based.
Here it follows some of the main decisions.
Years 2012- 2013
Court of Reggio Emilia, Order of 31st January 2013 – Young foreign nationals born in Italy and therein living until their majority are entitled to nationality although failing to perform the birth registration for a few years.
Council of state, Division III,Decision no. 3306 of 5th June 2012. It is unlawful to deny the granting of nationality if applicants do not autonomously earn the income required but are able to obtain it thanks to the financial conditions of the their families as a whole.
Court of Appeal of Naples, Division I, Decision no. 1486 of 26th April 2012. Minors born in Italy from foreign nationals cannot be ascribed their parents’ defaults relating to residence permits and/or birth formalities; therefore, what matters is the actual and steady residence of minors in the Italian territory since their birth, as well as their inclusion in its social-cultural fabric.
Regional Administrative Court of Lazio, decision no. 730 of 25th January 2011The non-adoption of a measure granting or denying nationality within the deadline provided for by the law does not entail a silence-refusal approach, since the Ministry of the Interior shall in any case issue an explicit decision.
The judgement stated that the Administration shall notify the impedimental reasons for the rejection of the application, hence allowing foreign nationals to exercise their reasons or provide clarifications on the issues identified by the Authority.
The delay in completing the procedure for the granting of the Italian nationality (over 730 days as from the date of filing of the application) represents an unjustified behaviour by the relevant Administration, which although not leading to an implicit acceptance of the application, allows to place the Administration in default.
The residence permit pending the acquisition of nationality falls within the permits that guarantee higher stability “than all the other cases for the granting of a permit" and, therefore, although not mentioned in art. 28 of the Consolidated Law on Immigration, among those “suitable to allow family unity”, however entitles to apply for family reunification.
To be granted the Italian nationality, “it is not necessary to earn a steady or employment income; rather, it is sufficient to give evidence of the ownership of suitable means of sustenance" (i.e. scholarships, amounts received as compensation for damages, etc).
From a wider international perspective on the access to citizenship, the first element that comes out is that regulations considerablyvary, and no real convergence exists.
Also within the EU, the European Integration Process did not envisage any harmonisation of the rules regulating the access, passing and loss of nationality, being considered as inalienable prerogatives of the single national sovereignties.
Here it follows a series of websites where finding useful information and data on the acquisition of citizenship.
The EUDO (European Union Democracy Observatory) website contains up-to-date information on the regulations in force in all European Countries on the acquisition and loss of nationality, as well as statistical information, comparative analyses and debates on research strategies and political trends.
In particular, the website contains reports published by history experts and documents on the present regulations on citizenship in any Country, besides databases for the research on the laws regulating nationality and all international legal rules on this topic. Furthermore, the website also contains an extensive bibliography, a forum devoted to debates, a collection of news by mass-media and other useful tools and information for policy-makers, NGOs and scholars, with particular reference to nationality policies.
The project is funded by the European Commission Fund for the Integration of Third Country Citizens.
This website, developed in the framework of a project funded by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Citizens (2009), contains a comparative analysis on the regulations in force in Italy and in some of the main EU Countries - France, Germany, United Kingdom and Spain - on the acquisition and granting of citizenship to foreign nationals" .
For each of the five Countries involved, the website contains a research report (available both in Italian and in English) on the regulation and the procedures regulating the acquisition of citizenship, as well as a collection of regulations and an in-depth statistical analysis (updated as at 2009).
The volume published by the OECD in 2011 “Naturalisation: A Passport for the Better Integration of Immigrants?” contains a chapter (no. 2) devoted to a comparative analysis of legislations on the acquisition and loss of nationality in EU Countries, as well as in other important non-EU Countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, United States).
US citizenship – The Us Department of Homeland Security website contains the information and the forms necessary to acquire the US citizenship.
Canadian citizenship – The Canadian Government website contains the information on how to obtain the Canadian nationality and how to train for the citizenship test
Australian Citizenship – The website of the Immigration and citizenship Department of Australia contains the information on the acquisition of the Australian citizenship.
United Kingdom Citizenship – The website of the UK Border Agency contains information on the procedures to acquire the British citizenship as well as other forms of British nationality
French Citizenship – The website of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs contains information on the procedures to acquire the French citizenship.
German Citizenship – The website of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs contains information on the procedures to acquire the German citizenship as well as a series of useful FAQ