In this article we will explore the process of applying for citizenship in Italy, providing you with some essential information. In particular, we will discuss eligibility, what happens when you are in Italy, establishing residency and the permit of stay, the documents (vital records) required, and what happens once you make the application. The aim is to give you the knowledge to commence your application in confidence.
Making your Italian citizenship by descent application in Italy has multiple benefits. As well as being able to fully immerse and reconnect with your cultural heritage, there are also many practical advantages you can enjoy, such as the fact that making the application in Italy tends to be much faster than applying via an Italian consulate abroad.
To qualify for Italian citizenship by descent, you must meet the following requirements:
- Your Italian ancestor must have been alive when Italy was unified as a nation on March 17, 1861, or he/she must have been born after that date;
- Your ancestor who was born in Italy was never naturalized or he/she was naturalized after his/her child’s birth in the U.S.;
- The ancestors in your Italian lineage must not have voluntarily renounced their Italian citizenship;
- If there is a woman in your Italian lineage her child must have been born after January 1st, 1948.
If you decide to apply for citizenship in Italy, then the first point to make is that you must be present in Italy, as you will need to establish residency in the municipality where you intend to file an application. It is also important to note that making your application for Italian citizenship by descent at a municipality in Italy will require applying for a specific permit of stay known as permesso di soggiorno in attesa di cittadinanza. This is important because it allows you to stay in Italy while your citizenship application is being processed.
Arriving in Italy and establishing residency
Upon arrival in Italy, you will need to submit a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence). This must be done at the local immigration office located at the police headquarters (Questura) within 8 days from when you arrived in Italy.
You will then need to apply for a permit in the municipality where you intend to make your application before you establish residency, or after you have established residency and the municipality has started processing your application.
Establishing residency is a prerequisite to the citizenship application and involves giving the municipality your address. It is also important to note that residency cannot be established in a hotel or Airbnb, as most municipalities need to have sight of a lease agreement as it confirms your stay at the property where you are residing, either that or a letter of hospitality will suffice.
Where to apply
An appointment can be made at the citizenship office in the municipality’s (comune) town hall. Comune refers both to the municipality itself and the town hall, the building where the local government is located.
A necessary point is that it is not a requirement to speak Italian when applying for Italian citizenship by descent. This is because you are Italian by birthright and you are formally applying for the recognition of your right to acquire Italian citizenship.
With this said, you may need an interpreter or a lawyer to help you during the process as it cannot be assumed that English will be spoken by the clerks dealing with your application. At ICA we provide translation services, and therefore can support you in every stage of the process.
In order to make an application for citizenship you will need to provide your family’s documents, known as vital records, as well as your ancestor’s naturalization records, or (if applicable), proof that your ancestor was never naturalized.
Certified copies of all records are needed. As a general rule, municipalities in Italy only ask for the vital records relating to the individuals in the Italian lineage; however, it is always advised to check the specific requirements of each municipality.
All the vital records need to be authenticated with an Apostille seal, except for the ones pertaining to the Italian ancestor that have been issued by the Italian authorities. The translations into Italian must also be certified.
You will need to present your documents in person and then allow for the necessary time for your application to be processed.
Permit of stay
Once your application for residency has been submitted, the local police have up to 45 days to confirm your residency in the property stated. Once this has been verified, you can make your application for Italian citizenship. If the processing time exceeds 90 days, you will be issued a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno in attesa di cittadinanza), which will allow you to stay in Italy until your application is approved.
It is also useful to note that a document stating the submission of your application will be given to you by the citizenship office and a photocopy of this document will be required in your application in order to obtain your permit of residency.
Applying for a permit of stay
While your application is being processed by the local Questura, you will need to submit your request for a permit at the post office. A letter will need to be provided to you by the municipality stating that you have filed your application for Italian citizenship by descent, and you will also need to submit a photocopy of that letter to the post office, as it needs to be included with the documents as part of the application.
That said, if the municipality to which you are applying for citizenship requires you to apply for a permit of stay first, in order to begin the residency process of registration, you will need to provide the post office an official letter stating this.
Applying for a permit of stay comprises of the following:
- Detailed instructions about the application process.
- Two main documents – if you do not have children, you will only need to fill out the first three pages of Form 1 (Modulo 1).
- A postal money order (bollettino postale).
Once the post office has checked that all of your documents are as required, they will be mailed to the office of the Ministry of the Interior in Rome, as they are responsible for issuing permits of stay.
The cost of a permit (made payable via money order) costs 70.46 euro, plus an additional 30 euro to send via post. It is useful to note that your children, if under the age of 14, must be included in your application. The cost to add a child is 30.46 euro. If your child/ren is/are older than 14, they will need to make a separate application.
It is important to note that a foreign spouse (who is not an EU citizen), without a permit, can only be in Italy for up to a maximum of 90 days. With this considered, your spouse should wait until their Italian spouse has obtained the permit, as this then enables them to apply for a permit of stay.
What happens after you apply for a permit?
Once you submit your application you will receive a letter from the local Questura asking you to attend an appointment so that your fingerprints can be taken. Once the Ministry of the Interior’s office sends your permit to the Questura, you will receive a message to return to the Questura in person to collect it.
The permit is valid for one year and comes in the form of a laminated card. If the application process to be recognized as an Italian citizen takes longer than 12 months, you must renew your permit. The procedure to do this is the same as the permit process.
Timescales to obtain a permit depends on the police headquarters (Questura) you apply to. It can take, on average, between 2 to 6 months; however, timescales can change depending on the workload of the immigration office.
Once you have your permit/next steps
Once your permit has been issued, you must present it to the registry office (Anagrafe) in the municipality where you applied for citizenship. This is necessary so that they can update your details.
Lastly, once Italian citizenship has been granted to you, you must hand your permit of stay to the municipality that granted your citizenship or to the Questura that issued your permit.
How long before I am granted Italian citizenship?
Applying to a municipality in Italy is generally faster than applying through an Italian consulate in the U.S. By law, Italian consulates in the U.S. have two years to process an application; whereas the process in Italy can take a few months, although timescales can vary and depend on the municipality.
*While your application is being processed you can travel to other EU countries, but you can only stay there for a maximum of 90 days.
What happens after I am granted citizenship?
Once you are granted Italian citizenship and if you decide to live permanently in Italy, you can apply for a passport at the local police headquarters (Questura). Alternatively, if you decide to return to your home country you will need to register with the AIRE and make an application for a passport at the Italian consulate that covers the jurisdiction where you reside.
If you have any further questions about this process or are considering applying for Italian citizenship by descent and would like a more detailed discussion, then please contact us for a free consultation. We are always happy to help.