Planning to live or work in Italy? You may have an Italian spouse or other family ties to the country, or already spend so much time in Italy that you want to become a permanent resident. If so, you may be able to apply for Italian citizenship.
It’s easy to see why so many expats flock to Italy and seek citizenship. The country is one of the most appealing in Europe when it comes to culture, food and employment opportunities – not to mention the famed beauty of its historic cities and idyllic countryside.
In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look into how to apply for Italian citizenship. This includes the eligibility criteria and ways to obtain Italian citizenship, plus all the nuts and bolts of the application process. So, let’s get started.
If you plan to live in Italy for any length of time and you’re not an Italian citizen or EU national, you’ll need a temporary residence permit. When combined with a long-stay visa, this gives you permission to live, work or study in Italy for a set period – either 6, 9, 12 or 24 months depending on the type of permit.
Once you’ve lived in Italy for five years using these temporary permits (which can be renewed), you can apply for an Italian Permanent Residence Permit.
Permanent residence gives you some of the same or similar rights to Italian citizens. For example, you’ll have the right to receive certain state benefits and be able to work and live in other EU countries without needing a work permit or visa.
Italian citizenship is the next step up from permanent residence. It grants you an Italian passport, which means free travel in and out of the country without worrying about expiry dates for visas or residence permits.
You’ll also be able to live and work freely throughout the EU, and access preferential treatment when it comes to seeking employment. You may also be able to access services in other EU countries, which is a handy bonus.
There are a few different ways you can get Italian citizenship, which we’ll explore in more detail later on in this guide.
What you need to know at this stage is this – if you have Italian parents (or grandparents in some cases) or were born in Italy, you can apply for Italian citizenship. The same goes for marrying or entering into a civil partnership with an Italian citizenship.
If none of the above apply to you, don’t worry – there are other options. You are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship if you’ve lived in the country for a certain amount of time, or by investment in a company or project in Italy.
Whichever route you take, you’ll need to complete quite a bit of paperwork, prove your eligibility and follow application processes for Italian citizenship to the letter.
There is also a relatively new requirement to pass an Italian Citizen Language Test². All applicants – except those applying for citizenship through birthright - need to demonstrate proficiency in level B1 of the European Union Common Language Framework. Pass this test and you’ll receive a proficiency certificate, which will be required during your citizenship application.
Italy does allow dual citizenship, which is when you’re a citizen of two countries at once. The law won’t make you renounce your former citizenship in order to obtain Italian citizenship – you can have both.
However, this also depends on whether the country in which you already have citizenship allows dual citizenship. If your circumstances are complicated, it’s recommended to seek advice from an immigration lawyer.
Here’s a rundown of the different routes through which you can obtain Italian citizenship:
If you are a non-EU citizen, you’ll need to live in Italy for 10 years before you can apply for Italian citizenship. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this:
- If you are a citizen of an EU Member State, only 4 years residence in Italy is required
- If you are a non-EU foreigner with a parent (or close relative) born in Italy, only 3 years residence is required.
This is a new route to citizenship for Italy, which has now adopted what is known as the Golden Visa programme. It joins many other countries which allow individuals to obtain citizenship through investment.
But what does this mean exactly? Golden Visa is a scheme targeted at high net worth individuals with an interest in immigrating to Italy. To be eligible to apply, you must either⁴:
- Invest €1 million in an Italian company which meets the Italian government’s strict criteria
- Invest €1 million in a project benefitting the Italian economy
- Invest €500,000 in a start-up company working in an innovative field
- Invest €2 million by purchasing bonds issued by the government.
You must also be over 18, have a clean criminal record and be in a good state of health. If you tick all the boxes, you can obtain a Golden Visa and get a head-start on the path to Italian citizenship.
You can apply for Italian citizenship if you are married to, or in a civil partnership with, an Italian citizen. This is one of the quickest ways to obtain Italian citizenship, but you will need to wait for 2 years before you can apply. You’ll also need to live in Italy with your spouse during this waiting period.
If you’re registering your marriage or civil partnership abroad, you’ll need to wait 3 years.
If one or both of your parents was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, you can apply for Italian citizenship.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to claim citizenship by descent through your grandparents. For example, if one of your Italian grandparents worked for an Italian public service such as the government or military.
Lastly, you may be able to obtain Italian citizenship if you were born in Italy and lived there until you were 18 – even if neither of your parents was an Italian citizen.
Remember that during your application, you’ll need to be able to prove your connection to your Italian relative, as well as your own identity.
Think you may be eligible to apply for Italian citizenship? It’s time to talk about the application process. Before starting, it’s a good idea to double-check that you meet the eligibility criteria and requirements, and what documents you’ll need. You can find all the details on the prefecture website.
Once you have all the documents you need and fill in all the paperwork, you’ll make your application for Italian citizenship to the prefecture. In case you’re not familiar with it, the prefecture is the term used for the administrative jurisdiction for the region or country.
There is a fee to pay for submitting an application for Italian citizenship. The fee is €300 regardless of where you’re from or your reason for claiming citizenship.
This fee isn’t too steep, but it could become more expensive if you use your bank to send the money in an international transfer. This is because most banks charge administration fees, and use an unfavourable exchange rate. All of this can cost you more, but luckily there’s another option available.
Open Wise multi-currency account and you can send money internationally for just a small fee. Even better, you’re guaranteed the real, mid-market exchange rate on every payment. This means you can keep your Italian citizenship application fees down to the bare minimum.
The time it takes to obtain Italian citizenship varies depending on your circumstances and the route you take to claim citizenship. For this reason, there are no set timescales published by the prefecture, but it could take up to four years depending on your application type⁶.
There are also definite waiting periods for certain types of application. For example, you’ll need to wait at least 2 years to start the process of obtaining Italian citizenship through marriage. And for non-EU residents, you’ll need to live in Italy for at least 10 years before you can apply for citizenship.
With the UK exiting the EU on 31st January 2020, there was concern that it may become more difficult for UK nationals to apply for permanent residence and citizenship in EU Member States such as Italy.
If you’re looking up how to get Italian citizenship as a UK resident, you’ll come across both good news and bad news. The brilliant news is that if you’re a British national applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or descent, the process is unaffected by Brexit.
However, if you’re a UK national who has lived in Italy for four years and were hoping to apply for citizenship through residency, you may be disappointed.
Citizens of EU Member States typically only have to wait four years before they can apply for citizenship through residency. But now that the UK has left the EU, this means that British applications will need to live in Italy for the standard ten years before they can apply for Italian citizenship.
The process of applying for Italian citizenship and applying for an Italian passport are separate. Once your citizenship comes through, you can apply for your passport.
This unfortunately means more paperwork and fees, but the process is relatively easy to follow. The cost of an Italian passport comes to €116⁸, made up of two different administration fees.
As we’ve already mentioned, paying international fees can be expensive if you use your home bank. And if you’re applying for citizenship and a passport, there are likely to be a few different fees to pay. This is why it makes sense to use an easy, low-fee solution like Wise, where you’re always guaranteed the real exchange rate and no nasty hidden costs.
Spend abroad without the hidden fees. Get a multi-currency account for free⁹
As well as saving money making international payments (such as admin fees relating to your citizenship application), your new Wise account can give you lots of other perks too.
For example, open a multi-currency Wise account and you’ll get a Wise debit card as well. You can use this to spend like a local in 200 countries, or use Apple Pay or Google Pay if you prefer. Sending money back home or across the world is up to 8x cheaper than using your bank, and you can hold and convert 55 currencies from the one account.
You’ll always get low fees and the real exchange rate, and there’s even a handy Wise app so you can manage your money on the move.
So that’s it – your essential guide on how to get Italian citizenship by birth, marriage, residence or investment. It can all seem complicated at first and you will need to be patient, but Italian citizenship can be well worth the wait.
You’ll soon be able to enjoy the benefits of becoming a true Italian citizen, with free rein to live and work in this beautiful country. You can come and go as you please, as well as hopping all over the EU without all that pesky paperwork.
Visa Guide - residence permit
Visa Guide - how to get Italian citizenship
Esteri - Italian citizenship
Immigration Italy - citizenship through investment
Immigration Italy - how to get Italian citizenship
Visa Guide - Italian citizenship
Buckles Law - Italian citizenship applications
Esteri - Italian passport
Wise - multi-currency account
Sources checked on 08-January 2021.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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