Article 1 of Italian Law no. 91/92 states that Italian citizenship is acquired by birth to a father or mother who is an Italian citizen. Hence the principle of ius sanguinis.
Recognition of the possession of citizenship by foreigners who are the descendants of Italian ancestors who emigrated to countries where ius soli is in force.
The conditions for this recognition are based, on the one hand, on proof of descent from the person who originally held the status of citizen (the ancestor who emigrated) and, on the other hand, on proof that there have been no interruptions in the transmission of citizenship (no foreign naturalisation of the ancestor before the birth of the children; no declarations of renunciation of Italian citizenship by other descendants before the birth of the next generation, thus proving that the transmission of citizenship has not been interrupted).
There are several ways of applying for Italian citizenship by descent.
The decidedly preferable and most advisable method, as it is extremely quick, is to take up residence in an Italian city and submit the relevant application to the local mayor.
The other two methods, on the other hand, take much longer and involve submitting the application through an administrative procedure at the Italian consulate in the applicant's country of residence and through a judicial procedure before the competent court in Italy, the latter in two specific cases that we will illustrate below.
Whichever way you choose to apply for Italian citizenship, you will need to find and submit to the Italian authorities the following vital documents proving your descent from an ancestor born in Italy:
- the original birth certificate of the first ancestor born in Italy
- Marriage and death certificates of the ancestor born in Italy
- Naturalisation/non-naturalisation certificate of the ancestor born in Italy
- Birth and marriage certificates of all descendants and their spouses
- Birth and marriage certificates (if applicable) of the applicant for citizenship and his/her spouse
- Birth certificate(s) of the applicant's minor children
This procedure allows you to apply for Italian citizenship by taking up legal residence in an Italian town or city. As mentioned above, this is by far the quickest way and the whole process can be completed in an average of 3/6 months, depending on the town in Italy where you choose to live temporarily. Once Italian citizenship and a passport have been obtained, the applicant can remain in Italy or return to his or her country of origin.
An applicant for Italian citizenship may enter Italy as a tourist and make a declaration of presence at the Immigration Office if he/she has arrived in Italy via the Schengen area within 8 days.
After that, the applicant must apply for residency at the office of the municipality in a city of their choice.
At the same time, the applicant will also have to apply for a permit to stay at the police immigration office to continue residing in Italy for more than 90 days.
In all cases, it is necessary to have accommodation in which the applicant can legally reside. A hotel or Airbnb is not suitable. Most towns require a tenancy agreement or a deed proving ownership of the property.
The local police will check within the next 45 days whether the applicant is actually living at the address given in the application. After 45 days, the applicant can apply for Italian citizenship at the vital record office.
The vital record office will examines the documents submitted by the applicant and, after carrying out all the necessary checks, will summon the applicant for the official granting of Italian citizenship.
Once citizenship has been formally granted, the applicant can apply for a passport directly in Italy. The other option is to register with the AIRE (anagrafe dei cittadini italiani residenti all'estero) and apply for an Italian passport at an Italian consulate abroad.
If the applicant does not wish to move to Italy, they need to apply for Italian citizenship at the Italian Consulate in the country where the applicant lives.
Again, the application is to be supported by the same documents as above.
However, waiting times can be extremely long, in some cases up to 10 years, for this type of citizenship by descent.
Until 1948, Italian citizenship was transmitted only through the father.
Italian law recognised women's right to transmit Italian nationality to their children with the Constitution, which came into force on 1 January 1948 and which guaranteed the full application of the principle of equality between men and women with regard to the transmission of nationality to children.
However, this right was not made retroactive. According to Italian law, a woman could only transmit nationality to children born after 01.01.1948.
In 2009, the Court of Cassation, with ruling No. 4466, determined the reacquisition of Italian citizenship for the descendant of an Italian woman who had married before 1948 and who would have lost her Italian citizenship.
As a result, it is currently possible for the descendants of these women to apply to the Court for recognition of Italian citizenship, while it remains impossible to obtain recognition of this status by administrative means.
It is well known that in some countries (especially the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, etc.) the Italian consulates have serious time problems in dealing with applications for citizenship, due to the large number of petitions, and the processing times are very long. In some cases, the date for naturalisation is fixed even after ten years.What can be done if the waiting list at the consulate is too long?
In such cases, it is possible to apply for citizenship directly to the Italian court, without queuing at the consulate.
In fact, the trend that is becoming established in the Italian courts is that the response times of the consulates are unreasonable and contrary to Article 3 of Presidential Decree 362/1994, which sets a two-year deadline for the completion of citizenship procedures.
These long delays amount to a denial of justice, which is why the interested parties are given the opportunity to appeal directly to the judge, who, having established parentage on the basis of the above-mentioned documents, declares the Italian nationality of the applicants.
Spouses of Italian citizens may apply for nationality. The following requirements must be met in order to submit the application:
a) Legal, continuous and uninterrupted residency,
2 years of residency from the date of the marriage
3 years from the date of the marriage, if resident abroad;
2 years from the date of the oath and the date of marriage, in the case of a naturalised Italian spouse. These terms are reduced by half in the presence of children born to or adopted by the spouses.
b) Knowledge of the Italian language proven by one of the following qualifications:
- a qualification issued by a public or equal education institute recognised by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, such as
- a Secondary School Diploma, Bachelor's Degree;
- or a certification of language level L2/B1 of the CEFR issued by a certifying body recognised by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The certifying bodies are: University for Foreigners of Perugia; University for Foreigners of Siena; University of Roma Tre; Dante Alighieri Society;
- or the integration agreement referred to in Article 4 bis of the Consolidation Act referred to in Legislative Decree 286/98 (details of which must be provided);
- or the valid residency permit for long-term residents - EU or EC, as per Art. 9 of the aforementioned Consolidated Law.
c) Marriage or civil partnership:
If it was celebrated abroad, it must be entered in the civil-status registers of the local authority of residence.
At the moment the application is presented and until the decree granting nationality is adopted, the marriage or civil partnership bond must persist, so there must be no dissolution, annulment, cessation of the civil effects of the marriage or legal separation.
The foreigner residing abroad applies to the competent Italian Consular Authority, through the Ministry of the Interior's portal.