Becoming an Italian Citizen through Residency

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Researched and written by: Nathan Martin, Intern at Family Law Italy from the University of Arkansas.

Italy is a beautiful country and many people from around the world decide they want to call it home. Getting Italian citizenship is possible in several ways but this article will focus on how to get Italian citizenship through residency in Italy.

The time required to live in Italy in order to be eligible to apply for citizenship through residency depends on whether or not you are a citizen in the European Union generally, though there are special circumstances that allow you to become a citizen after a shorter period of residency. One that should be mentioned here is that if you have a parent or grandparent who was born in Italy, you are eligible to apply for citizenship after only three years of residency. For most cases though, you can apply for citizenship after four years of residency for those who are a citizen in the European Union, and after ten years if you are not a citizen of the European Union [1]. It is important to note that you have to have been a legal resident of Italy for ten years. If you have lived in Italy for ten years not legally, you can’t use that as a way to gain citizenship by residency. Your legal residence in Italy is determined by how long you have been a resident according to your municipal registry office. I recommend retaining the services of an Italian lawyer for this process if you need to go through it, as they will be able to guide you through the process and its specifics. Make sure that they speak English as well as Italian, that you speak enough Italian to understand them, or that you get a translator for the process.

Outside of the time requirement, there are several other requirements to meet to be granted citizenship through residency. The first requirement is actually showing proof of your legal residency in Italy for the ten years. This proof can be obtained from your town’s registry office which will have your place of residence and how long you’ve lived there legally [1]. The second piece of documentation you will need is an acceptable copy of your birth certificate. Your birth certificate will need to be authenticated and translated, and the specific requirements to do this will depend on which country issued your birth certificate [3]. A lawyer can help you figure out what you need to do for your specific country. There is also a small fee for applying, which is two hundred fifty euros. The other three requirements will each have a small section dedicated to them, and are as follows: at least a B1 Italian language competency, a minimum income level over three years, and criminal record documentation.

The B1 proficiency comes from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and represents an intermediate understanding of Italian. People who meet this level should be able to understand typical conversations and be able to function in an Italian speaking society at a basic level [2]. This site gives a brief list of the types of proficiencies expected from someone at a B1 level. To receive the B1 level for Italian citizenship you can go through any institution that is a part of the Italian Language Quality Certification (CLIQ) group. To check which institutions you may go through check which institutions are certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, though as of now there are four and this hasn’t changed since the CLIQ’s inception in 2013 [4].

The minimum income level for Italian citizenship is currently set at €8,263.31for the past three years. You will need to have some documentation of this, and bank statements will suffice [1]. Tax documents should also work if you have those, since they show your income. Married individuals who provide for their family unit must show proof of at least €11,362.05 for the past three years, and if you have children you will need another €516,46 for each of your dependent children per year [3]. Remember, you have to have met the income requirements for each of the last three years, not average this much per year over the last three years.

Applying for Italian citizenship by residency also requires you to submit a criminal background check for the countries you have lived in. This check is only valid for six months from the issue date, so remember that when compiling your application. The background check needs to be translated and it must meet certain requirements to be valid [5]. It is best to work with a lawyer for this step since they will be able to tell you exactly what requirements apply to criminal background checks from your country or countries of former residence. It is important to note that you will need multiple background checks if you’ve lived in multiple countries. In addition, those that have lived in the United States also typically need state background checks from all states that they have lived in as well as a federal background check [3]. Best to consult a lawyer for exactly how many you need for the United States as well. If you do have a criminal record, it will be a negative but it does not disqualify you from becoming a citizen automatically [5].

After you have met these requirements and gathered the appropriate documents, you can submit your citizenship application! It may take a few years to be processed and accepted, but if it is you will have to swear an oath and pledge allegiance to Italy. After this, you are officially an Italian citizen!

References:

Team, IDC. “How to Obtain Italian Citizenship by Residency: IDC.” Italian Dual Citizenship, Italian Dual Citizenship, 18 Jan. 2021, https://www.italiandualcitizenship.net/how-to-obtain-italian-citizenship-by-residency/#:~:text=If%20you%20are%20a%20non,%E2%80%9Canagrafe%E2%80%9D%20in%20Italian.

Editors, Europass Italian Language School. “CEFR Language Levels > A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2.” Europass Italian Language School, Europass Italian Language School, 9 Mar. 2022, https://www.europassitalian.com/blog/cefr-levels/.

Editors, ICA. “Citizenship by Residency.” Italian Citizenship Assistance, Italian Citizenship Assistance , 18 Oct. 2021, https://italiancitizenshipassistance.com/citizenship-by-residency/.

Editors, Roma Tre University. “Certificazione Italiano.” Università Degli Studi Roma Tre, Roma Tre University, http://www.certificazioneitaliano.uniroma3.it/Cliq.aspx.

Broom, Aleksandra. “How Can Criminal Convictions Affect Italian Citizenship Applications?” Oliver & Partners, Oliver & Partners, 14 Sept. 2018, https://www.oliverpartners.it/how-can-criminal-convictions-affect-italian-citizenship-applications/#:~:text=Citizenship%20on%20the%20basis%20of%20residency%3A%20Whether%20applicants%20are%20applying,she%20was%2014%20years%20old.

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