Our Law Firm assists foreigners that wish to acquire Italian citizenship and are eligible to obtain it.
In case you are looking for a lawyer in Rome for your citizenship application, you can contact us for a first free legal advice. We can also assist you if you live abroad, you will only need to grant a power of attorney to the Consulate.
The applicant that submits the request for Italian citizenship is supposed to have certain qualifications for eligibility, so that in case of approval he will be granted equal rights of Italian citizens.
But let’s get through it step by step, reading carefully the time provided by Law in order to be eligible. There are no deceptions or shortcuts, and beware of those who show you the possibility to obtain the citizenship when no cases laid down by law exist.
Table of contents
Who is eligible for Italian citizenship?
If you are wondering who is eligible to acquire Italian citizenship, you should know that in accordance with the law, the request for Italian citizenship can be submitted by:
1) subjects born in Italy, to foreign parents, who have legally and continuously resided in Italy, from birth until 18 years of age, requesting Italian citizenship before the 19th birthday;
2) foreign spouses of Italian citizens, namely those who have married an Italian citizen and after marriage have legally resided in Italy for at least 2 years; if the couple resides abroad. The application for citizenship can be submitted 3 years after marriage; if the couple has children together, the waiting period to apply for citizenship is halved;
3) foreigners born of a father or a mother or a direct ancestor, as long as the transmission of citizenship has never been interrupted:
- performing military service for the Italian State, who have expressed their will to acquire Italian citizenship;
- employed by the Italian public service, either abroad or on Italian soil, who have expressed their will to acquire Italian citizenship;
- that have expressed within the 19th birthday their willingness to acquire Italian citizenship and that at the age of 18, have legally resided in Italy, without interruptions for at least two years;
4) any minor child adopted by an Italian citizen;
5) the minor children of those who acquire Italian citizenship, when living together with them;
6) foreigners who have legally resided in Italy for a period of time and are regularly registered on the Italian soil. The required period of legal residence varies according to the personal situation of the person applying for citizenship for:
- EU Member State, 4 years of legal residence on the territory of the Italian State is required;
- non-EU foreigners, 10 years of legal residence on the territory of the Italian State is required;
- for stateless people or political refugees, 5 years of legal residence on the territory of the Italian State is required.
How can I apply for Italian citizenship?
After you have submitted your application to the Ministry of the Interior or through a CAF office, your request may be approved or rejected.
The refusal of your citizenship application is an administrative measure that can be contested by a legal adviser or through an appeal to the TAR or to the Ordinary Courts in case of citizenship by marriage (also known as iure comunicatione).
In order to bring an action against the rejection of your citizenship application, you will need a lawyer.
The appeal to the TAR (Regional Administrative Court) shall be submitted within 60 days of the date of notification of refusal.
An appeal to the Ordinary Courts does not have a limit for submission, but the earlier, the better.
Bringing an action against the rejection of your citizenship application is an administrative measure that requires an expert Law Firm. Our Law Firm is ready to help you if you are based in Rome, or within Lazio or if you’re abroad.
The search for certificates for Italian citizenship
The search for the necessary certificates to obtain Italian citizenship is often a complex and time-consuming task.
The certificates need to be researched at the civil registries of municipalities, parishes, or dioceses.
It often happens that certificates dating back to before the unification of Italy, which occurred gradually with the annexation of the Kingdom of Naples, then Veneto, then Lazio, and finally with the First World War, need to be searched for.
The search for certificates is carried out by the office with a request for a fee of €100.00 for each research activity (€100.00 for the request + €100.00 for retrieval), with the risk of not obtaining the desired answers, as it is often difficult to prove the genealogical tree coherently due to the lack of consistency in the information contained in birth or baptism certificates.
How does the petition for citizenship take place?
After hiring lawyers who specialize in immigration law, the case proceeds with the submission of documents that prove your right to citizenship.
Essentially, you will need to provide the Court with a family tree and all the translated and apostilled documents that trace the lineage from an Italian citizen to all of their descendants up to the present day.
The case can last several months, or in some instances, even two years.
At the conclusion of the case, the Court will issue a judgment (actually an order) that may either grant or reject your citizenship application.
If your application is rejected, you can file an appeal against the judgment.
The pre-notice of rejection of the citizenship application
When you submit an application for Italian citizenship, it initiates an administrative procedure in which the public administration must follow certain rules.
One of these rules is the obligation to communicate the pre-notice of rejection in accordance with Article 10 bis of Law 241/1990.
If, for any reason, your application for Italian citizenship is deemed inadmissible by the Ministry, you are given the opportunity to provide clarifications and add documentation that may change the opinion of the Public Administration.
Please note that from the moment you receive the pre-notice of rejection, you have only 10 days to submit your observations to the Ministry! In some cases, you may be able to respond beyond this deadline, but it is advisable not to take the risk if possible.
If you are curious about the most interesting judgments from the Courts of Rome, Milan, and other jurisdictions in 2019 and 2020, read our post here. If you have another issue related to your residence permit in Italy or have received a deportation decree, read here.
The delay of the Italian Consulate about the citizenship application
The delay of the Italian Consulate about the citizenship application is one of the reasons that allows to file the case through the Court.
More and more often the Consulate has delays in working the citizenship application.
The delay was a problem in Brazil and Argentina, but in the recent times this delay is usual also in USA United States of America, where some people are waiting for appointments since the beginning of the pandemic.
The people who cannot present their application through the consulate, in some cases may have interest in file the case through the Court.
In which cases applications are rejected?
There are cases in which the citizenship application is rejected by the Ministry, because of anomalies that prevent its approval.
In some cases, such as the followings, it is possible to redress before the court:
- Marriage of convenience;
- A “hole” in the continuous residence;
- Insufficient income to live in the country;
- Failure to provide the total income of the family;
- Criminal records that can be sorted out by a criminal lawyer.
Does the minor lose citizenship when the parent naturalizes?
It happens that the naturalization of a parent in a foreign country occurs during the minor age of the child.
So in these cases, does the child lose citizenship?
In particular, this question arises for US citizens, where citizenship was highly desired, and naturalization was not missed.
The answer comes from a judgment of the Court of Appeals of Rome in 2022, which distinguishes between different historical periods and the applicable legislation ratione temporis:
The legislation of 1901 did not recognize Italian citizenship to the child of an Italian who naturalized as a foreigner, regardless of the age limit. Therefore, the child of a naturalized father always followed the citizenship of the parent, losing the Italian one.
The law of 1912, on the other hand, established that in the case of the foreign naturalization of the father, the child, if a minor at the time, retains Italian citizenship (ius sanguinis) as the child of an Italian. Article 7 of Law 555/1912 established the principle that the minor descendant of an ancestor who lost citizenship due to naturalization would retain Italian citizenship, provided that the birth occurred before the date of naturalization.
The solid legal basis for what is provided in Article 7 is also found in circular k. 31.9 of May 27, 1991, and circular k. 28.1 of the Ministry of the Interior of April 8, 1991, both stating that “The offspring born on the territory of the state of emigration from an Italian citizen father acquired from birth both Italian citizenship and the citizenship of the state of birth and remained in the condition of dual citizenship even in the case where the parent, during minority, changed citizenship by naturalizing as a foreigner.”
On this point, the Council of State, in opinion n. 1820/1975 of October 24, 1975, also established that “the acquisition of Italian citizenship by the parent entails the acquisition of Italian citizenship by the minor child, but the loss of Italian citizenship by the parent does not automatically entail the loss of said citizenship by the minor child, precisely to avoid statelessness for the latter.”
Therefore, a minor born in 1932 in the USA (who acquired citizenship by jus soli) does not lose the Italian citizenship received from the mother by birth (ius sanguinis) if the mother naturalizes as a US citizen in 1946 during the child’s minority.
However, it is necessary to highlight the existence of contrasting views and, therefore, judgments aimed at asserting that the minor child living with the naturalized parent also loses citizenship.
Italian citizenship and American citizenship
Italian citizens who emigrated to the USA present some peculiarities regarding applications for Italian citizenship.
In particular, the case of the naturalization of the ancestor who emigrated to America, resulting in the loss of Italian citizenship (which is not automatically lost by jus soli when children are born in America, as provided since 1868), is frequent.
Naturalization as a US citizen before 1992 led to the loss of Italian citizenship, while dual citizenship has been allowed since 1992. Those who lost Italian citizenship before 1992, in some cases, can apply for its reacquisition.
The Great Brazilian Naturalization of 1889
The term “Great Naturalization” refers to the Brazilian laws enacted between 1889 and 1891 to grant citizenship to all foreigners present in Brazil at that time, such as Italian immigrants.
With these laws, Italian emigrants in Brazil obtained Brazilian citizenship, but they did not lose their Italian citizenship as a result.
The loss of Italian citizenship is indeed governed by law, and acquiring dual citizenship is not among the cases that result in the loss of Italian citizenship.
In any case, even if the Great Naturalization had led to the loss of Italian citizenship for the ancestor present in Brazil in 1889, this provision cannot affect their descendants (e.g., a child born in Brazil to an Italian affected by the Great Naturalization would be an Italian citizen by jus sanguinis and a Brazilian citizen by jus soli).
The 2022 judgments of the Italian Supreme Court on the Great Brazilian Naturalization
With two judgments issued in 2022, the Court of Cassation has once again addressed the significance of the Great Brazilian Naturalization and its effects on the Italian citizenship of emigrants.
The judgments of the Court of Cassation are good news for Italian citizens who emigrated to Brazil because the Supreme Court has stated that the Great Naturalization does not constitute a renunciation of Italian citizenship, and working in Brazil does not equate to working for the Brazilian government.
As a result of these judgments, even if your ancestor naturalized as a Brazilian citizen due to their presence in Brazil in 1889, you have not lost your Italian citizenship by jus sanguinis. You can apply for Italian citizenship administratively or through the court, depending on the circumstances.
The issue has been resolved by the Court of Cassation, Joint Divisions, with judgments no. 25317 and no. 25318 dated August 24, 2022, which confirmed the irrelevance of the Great Naturalization for the loss of citizenship. The court also established that:
“Every person has a permanent and imprescriptible subjective right to the status of citizen, which encompasses distinct and equally fundamental rights. This is also relevant concerning the interpretation of the laws of the pre-constitutional state, where still applicable. The right can be lost through renunciation, but it must be voluntary and explicit, in accordance with individual freedom, and therefore never through tacit renunciation, which could be inferred from some form of tacit acceptance of foreign citizenship imparted through generalized naturalization measures.”
Territorial jurisdiction of the court in citizenship applications by residents abroad
Until 2021, residents abroad filed their citizenship applications before the Court of Rome.
Since 2021, a reform has been implemented to reduce the workload of the Court of Rome and transfer it to various courts with specialized sections in immigration matters.
The new criterion is based on the place of origin of the dante causa, i.e., the Italian citizen who emigrated abroad and transmitted Italian citizenship by jus sanguinis.
According to LAW November 26, 2021, no. 206, art. 36:
“In Article 4, paragraph 5, of the decree-law of February 17, 2017, no. 13, converted, with amendments, by law April 13, 2017, no. 46, the following sentence is added at the end: ‘When the plaintiff resides abroad, disputes relating to the determination of Italian citizenship are assigned with regard to the municipality of birth of the father, mother, or Italian ancestor.'”
According to DECREE-LAW February 17, 2017, no. 13:
“Art. 1 – Establishment of specialized sections in immigration, international protection, and free movement of European Union citizens. 1. Specialized sections in immigration, international