Italian Citizenship

In this article we will explore further the subject of Italian Citizenship, the acquisition, the loss, the dual citizenship and the riacquisition of Citizenship.


Italian citizenship is currently regulated by Law No. 91/1992 (and related implementing regulations: in particular, Presidential Decree No. 572 of October 12, 1993 and Presidential Decree No. 362 of April 18, 1994) which, unlike the previous Law, revalues the importance of individual intention in the acquisition or loss of citizenship and recognises the right to hold more than one citizenship at the same time.

The principles on which Italian citizenship is based are the following:

  • citizenship acquired for having Italian parents/ancestors (“ius sanguinis”);

  • citizenship acquired for being born on Italian soil (“ius soli”) in some cases;

  • the possibility of dual citizenship;

  • the declaration of willingness to acquire or renounce citizenship.


ACQUISITION OF ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP

Italian citizenship can be acquired in one of the following ways:


1. CITIZENSHIP AS A RESULT OF ITALIAN PARENTS/ANCESTORS (“ius sanguinis”)

Article 1 of Law No. 91/92 lays down that a person acquires Italian citizenship when born of a father or a mother who are Italian citizens. Hence the principle of ius sanguinis - already enshrined in the previous legislation - is reaffirmed as a key principle for the acquisition of citizenship, while the ius soli remains an exceptional and residual case.

While explicitly stating that also the mother can transmit citizenship, the Article fully acknowledges the principle of equality between men and women as regards the transmission of the status civitatis.

Recognition of the possession of citizenship to foreigners descending from Italian ancestors who emigrated to countries where the ius soli is in force.

While Article 1 of the Law of 1912 reaffirmed the principle of recognition of Italian citizenship through paternal lineage to the citizens' children regardless of their place of birth, as already provided for in the Civil Code of 1865, Article 7 was meant to ensure that the children of Italian emigrants could maintain the link with their ascendants’ country of origin, thus introducing an important exception to the principle of single citizenship.

In fact, Article 7 of Law No. 555/1912 enabled the children of Italian citizens, born in a foreign State which had granted them citizenship according to the principle of ius soli, to retain the Italian citizenship acquired at birth, even if the parents lost it when minors, thus recognizing to the persons concerned the significant right to renounce it when becoming of legal age, if living abroad.

This special rule derogated not only to the principle of single citizenship, but also to the principle whereby the fate of the children’ s citizenship depends on the father, as provided for by Article 12 of Law No. 555\1912.

Hence the conditions required for such recognition are based, on the one hand, on the demonstration of descent from the subject originally having the status of citizen (the ancestor who emigrated) and, on the other, on the proof that there were no interruption in the transmission of citizenship (failed foreign naturalization of the ancestor before the birth of the children; absence of declarations of renunciation of Italian citizenship by further descendants before the birth of the next generation, thus proving that the transmission of citizenship did not stop).

The procedures for recognizing the possession of Italian citizenship iure sanguinis were specifically formalized in circular letter No. K.28.1 of April 8, 1991 of the Ministry for Internal Affairs, the legal validity of which was not affected by the subsequent entry into force of Law No. 91/1992.

The authority competent for carrying out the ascertainment shall be determined according to the place of residence: for those living abroad it is the competent Consular Office having territorial jurisdiction.

The recognition procedure develops with the following steps:

To ascertain that lineage started with an Italian ancestor (there are no limits of generations); to ascertain that the Italian ancestor retained Italian citizenship until the birth of the descendants. The lack of naturalization or the date of any naturalization of the ancestor shall be proven by a certificate issued by the competent foreign Authority. Descent from the Italian ancestor shall be proven by means of civil status documents of birth and marriage; said documents shall be duly legalized, if requested, and accompanied by an official translation. In this regard, it should be noted that the transmission of Italian citizenship through maternal lineage is possible only for children born after January 1, 1948, e.g. the date of entry into force of the Constitution. It should be certified that neither the applicant nor the ascendants have ever renounced Italian citizenship, thus interrupting the transmission of citizenship, through appropriate certificates issued by the competent Italian diplomatic and consular authorities.

In the case of children born before the 1st of January 1948, the transmission of Italian citizenship through maternal lineage, it will be possible to file a lawsuit in Italy, before the Civil Court in Rome, in order to have Italian citizenship recognized.

The applicant shall submit the application accompanied by the required complete documentation designed to prove the requirements and conditions listed above.

The application shall be submitted to the Consular Office of the district in which the foreigner of Italian origin lives.


2. CITIZENSHIP GRANTED TO PERSONS BORN ON ITALIAN SOIL (“ius soli”)

Italian citizenship is granted to:

- the subjects born on Italian soil whose parents are unknown, stateless or cannot pass on their citizenship to their children according to the laws of the State of which they are citizens (Article 1, paragraph 1, subparagraph b, of Law No. 91/92);

- the children of unknown parentage found abandoned on Italian soil, whose citizenship is impossible to ascertain (Article 1, paragraph 2, Law No. 91/92).


3. ACQUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP WHEN MINORS

Law No. 91/92 attaches particular importance to the acquisition of citizenship when minors as a result of:

a) CITIZENSHIP THROUGH RECOGNITION OR JUDICIAL RULING ON PATERNITY / MATERNITY.

A minor who is recognized by an Italian citizen to be of Italian parentage or is declared to be of Italian parentage through a judiciary ruling on paternity / maternity (Article 2, paragraph 1, of Law No. 91/92).

If the recognition or judicial ruling regards persons of legal age, they acquire Italian citizenship only if, within a year since the recognition or the judicial ruling, they express their will to this end, through a declaration "of election of citizenship" (Article 2, paragraph 2, of Law No. 91/92).

b) CITIZENSHIP BY ADOPTION.

Italian citizenship is granted to any minor child adopted by an Italian citizen by means of a ruling of the Italian Judicial Authorities or, in case of adoption abroad, by means of a ruling issued abroad and made effective and binding in Italy, through an order (issued by the Juvenile Court for minors) for enrolling in the Civil Status Register.

Adoptees of legal age can acquire citizenship by naturalization after 5 years of legal residence in Italy since the adoption.

c) CITIZENSHIP BY PARENTS’ NATURALIZATION

In accordance with Article 14 of Law No. 91/92 "The minor children of those who acquire or reacquire Italian citizenship, when living together with them, shall acquire Italian citizenship, but, after coming of legal age, they can renounce it, if in possession of other citizenship".

Hence the acquisition of citizenship takes place automatically only when they live together and the subject is not of legal age according to the Italian legal system.

Hence the parents who have become Italian can pass their status civitatis on their children if they meet the three following conditions: there is a parent-child relation; the children are not of legal age; they live together with their children.

Article 12 of Presidential Decree No. 572/93 clearly lays down that the condition of living together shall be stable and effective, as well as certified with appropriate documentation, and shall also exist at the time of the parent’s acquisition or reacquisition of citizenship.


4. ACQUISITION BY CLAIM

This type of acquisition, regulated by Article 4 of Law No. 91/92, refers to cases that apply only to the Italian territory. Hence reference is made to the Interior Ministry for the relevant regulations.


5. CITIZENSHIP BY MARRIAGE TO AN ITALIAN CITIZEN OR BY CIVIL PARTNERSHIP

The acquisition of citizenship by the foreign or stateless spouse of an Italian citizen is regulated by Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Law No. 91/92.

The foreign spouse can acquire Italian citizenship upon request, if the following requirements are met:

- in Italy: two years of legal residence after marriage; abroad: three years after marriage; abroad: three years after marriage or since the date of acquisition of Italian citizenship by naturalization. These terms are halved in the following cases: children born or adopted by the spouses;

- validity of marriage and registration of the marriage certificate with the competent Italian Municipality, as well as persistence of the marriage bond until the adoption of the decree;

- absence of convictions for offences leading to a maximum penalty of three years of prison or convictions by a foreign judicial authority of over one year for non-political offences, when the conviction has been registered in Italy;

- absence of convictions for one of the offences listed in Book 2, Title I, Chapters I, II and III of the Criminal Code (offences against the State);

- absence of obstacles related to the security of the Italian Republic;

- certified knowledge of the Italian language at a level no lower than B1 of the "Common reference framework for knowledge of languages" (rule in force for the applications submitted starting from December 4, 2018).

As from August 1, 2015, the subjects living abroad shall submit an application to acquire the Italian citizenship electronically according to the new procedure established by the competent Ministry for Internal Affairs.


6. ACQUISITION BY RESIDENCE

Article 9 of the Law envisages the granting of Italian citizenship by Decree of the President of the Republic, providing for different ways and methods based on specific requirements of the applicants and graduating the period of legal residence necessary to legitimize the submission of the related application.

As a general rule, for non-EU foreigners, legal residence on the territory of the Italian State for at least 10 years is required (Article 9, subparagraph f), but there are many cases for which the period of residence required is lower:

- 3 years of legal residence: for the foreigners whose father, mother or any of the ascendants in a direct line of second degree were Italians by birth or for the foreigners born in Italy and residing there;

- 4 years for the citizen of an EU Member State;

- 5 years of legal residence following adoption for the foreigners of legal age, or following the recognition of status for stateless people or political refugees.

The requirement of residence is not envisaged for the foreigners who also worked abroad for the Italian State for at least five years (Article 9, subparagraph c).

As to the cases which apply only to the Italian territory, reference is made to the Interior Ministry for the related regulations.


7. GRANTING OF ITALIAN CITIZENSHIPS PURSUANT TO SPECIAL MERITS

Article 9, paragraph 2, lays down that Italian citizenship may be granted by Decree of the President of the Republic - after hearing the Council of State’s opinion and upon resolution of the Council of Ministers, upon proposal of the Interior Minister, jointly with the Foreign Minister - to foreigners who rendered eminent services to Italy, or when there is an exceptional interest of the State.

The starting of the procedure does not require an initiative of the subject concerned, but requires a proposal made by bodies, organizations, public personalities, associations, etc. proving a thorough assessment of the existence of the requirements established by law.

The procedure envisages to obtain the opinions of the law enforcement agencies and, for those living in Italy, of the Prefecture of the place of residence.

It is, however, necessary to obtain the declaration of agreement by the party interested in acquiring citizenship.

Even in this case, the Presidential Decree granting Italian citizenship is not effective if the person concerned, when living abroad, does not take the oath of allegiance to the Republic, as provided for by Article 10 of the Law.

The achievement of status civitatis shall be effective as from the day following the oath.


8. GRANTING OF ITALIAN CITIZENSHIPS PURSUANT TO SPECIAL LAWS

- Law No. 379 of December 14, 2000

The declaration designed to obtain Italian citizenship for the persons born and formerly living in the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and their descendants, pursuant to Law 379/2000, could be made by December 20, 2010 to the Italian consular authorities, if the applicant was living abroad, or to the Civil Status Registrar of the Municipality, if the applicant was living in Italy.

The applications submitted by the deadline are examined by an interministerial Committee set up within the Interior Ministry, which provides its opinion on the existence of the requirements set by law. If the opinion is favourable, the Interior Ministry issues authorization to the granting of citizenship.

- Law no. 124 of March 8, 2006

It provides for recognition of Italian citizenship to:

  • the Italian nationals living in Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia from 1940 to 1947, who lost their property when those territories were assigned to the Yugoslav Republic in accordance with the Treaties of Paris of February 10, 1947, and their descendants;

  • the Italian nationals living until 1977 in the so-called “Zone B” of the former Free Territory of Trieste, who lost Italian citizenship when said territory was assigned to the Yugoslav Republic pursuant to the Treaty of Osimo of November 10, 1975, and their descendants.

The applications shall be submitted to the Italian diplomatic-consular authorities if the applicants live abroad, or to the Municipality if living in Italy.



LOSS OF CITIZENSHIP

Italian citizens can lose citizenship automatically or formally renouncing it.

A. Citizenship is lost automatically by:

  1. any Italian citizen who voluntarily enlists in the armed forces of a foreign country or accepts a government post with a foreign State, despite express prohibition by Italian law (Article 12, paragraph 1, of Law No. 91/92);

  2. any Italian citizen who served during a state of war with a foreign country, held a government post or acquired citizenship of that State (Article 12, paragraph 1, of Law No. 91/92);

  3. adoptees for which adoption is revoked by fault of their own, provided they hold or acquire citizenship of another country (Article 3, paragraph 3, of Law No. 91/92).

B. Formal renunciation of Italian citizenship:

  1. adoptees of legal age following revocation of adoption by fault of their own, provided they hold or reacquire citizenship of another country (Article 3, paragraph 4, of Law No. 91/92);

  2. any Italian citizen living abroad and holding, acquiring or reacquiring citizenship of another country (Article 11 of Law No. 91/92);

  3. any subject of legal age who acquired Italian citizenship as a minor, following the acquisition or reacquisition of citizenship from either parents, provided he/she holds citizenship of another country (Article 14 of Law No. 91/92).

Minors do NOT lose Italian citizenship if one or both parents lose it or reacquire foreign citizenship.

Women who, after January 1, 1948, automatically acquired foreign citizenship as a result of their marriage with foreign citizens or as a result of their Italian-born husbands becoming naturalized citizens of other countries did NOT lose their Italian citizenship. Nevertheless, in order to maintain the civil status records in order, those women (or their descendants) shall express their desire to maintain said citizenship to the competent consular authorities through a statement of uninterrupted possession of citizenship.


DUAL CITIZENSHIP

As from August 16, 1992 (the date of entry into force of Law No. 91/92), Italian citizenship is no longer lost when the citizenship of another country is acquired unless the Italian citizens formally renounce it, subject to international agreements.

The Italian government’s denunciation of the 1963 Strasbourg Convention means that, as from June 4, 2010, Italian citizenship is no longer automatically lost for the Italians who become naturalised citizens of the countries signatories to that Convention (following the denunciation by Sweden, Germany, Belgium, France and Luxembourg, the current signatories are Austria, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.


RIACQUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP

The reacquisition of citizenship is regulated by the provisions of Article 13 of Law No. 91/92. In particular, citizens living abroad, who lost their citizenship, can reacquire it, pursuant to paragraph 1, subparagraph c), with a specific declaration to the competent consular authorities if they establish their residence in Italy within a year since said declaration.

Women married to foreigners prior to January 1, 1948, who - by virtue of marriage - automatically acquired their husband’s citizenship, lost the Italian citizenship and can reacquire it, even though they live abroad, by means of a declaration. In case of residence abroad, the declaration for the reacquisition of citizenship shall be made to the competent consular authorities.


Contact Us for any question, doubt or advice.

Source: Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation




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