Born in Italy to foreign parents, then moved abroad? You may be entitled to apply for Italian citizenship after only 3 years of residency

Oct 30, 2023

Applying for Italian citizenship

Italian law does recognize the ius soli principle: foreign nationals born in Italy do not automatically acquire Italian citizenship at birth because their parents were not Italian citizens. They can obtain citizenship only if (i) they maintained residency in Italy until they turn 18; and (ii) they apply for citizenship before they turn 19.

For those who were entitled to citizenship but left Italy without applying for it, there is still an opportunity. Art. 9(a) Law 91/1992, provides for that they obtain apply for citizenship under favorable conditions with respect to the standard requirements for citizenship by naturalization.

In fact citizenship can be applied for only after three consecutive years of legal residency in Italy (as opposed to the standard ten-year residence requirement for non-EU citizens).

The 3 year residency must be uninterrupted and should be maintained until adjudication. If the applicant has been registered as a resident with an Italian Town Hall in the past, and then moved abroad, the previous years could not be counted because the residency is interrupted.

Other requirements are: (i) pass an Italian language exam at the B1 level; (ii) provide a certificate of no criminal record; (iii) have an income generated in Italy (and for which Italian tax returns are filed). For the main applicant it must be a net taxable income of not less than approximately € 10,000/year, but this parameter increases if the applicant is married or has children or economically dependent family members.

What does it mean to take up residence in Italy according to Italian law?

Residency is based on:

  1. physical presence in Italy, which must be regular and continuous, as opposed to sporadic and occasional; and
  2. an individual’s intention to stay and live in Italy for the foreseeable future.

By registering as a resident in Italy with an Italian Town Hall, an individual may become subject to Italian tax obligations (check with your tax advisor for conditions and requirements).

Application Process: The applicant must submit his/her application to the appropriate authority to be identified on the basis of residence.The whole process after submission of the application could take 24 – 36 months.

Case study: A 28-year-old non-EU citizen, who was born in Italy in the 90s, had lived here for 8 years, then moved abroad and never returned. The foreigner was never an official resident until the age of 18 and never expressed an interest in obtaining Italian citizenship until the age of 19. In this case, if the foreigner decides to return to Italy and reside here regularly by registering at a Town Hall. At the age of 31, after just three continuous years of regular residence, the foreigner could apply for Italian citizenship.

In addition, individual circumstances can vary, so it’s recommended that you consult with legal professionals who specialize in Italian immigration and citizenship matters for personalized guidance.

This article was written by Giuditta De Ricco and Maha Irshad

With our Multilingual Service Desks with native English, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic speaking associates serving as a contact point, we offer a dense network of lawyers specialized in Italian Immigration and Citizenship law.

  • Contact us

    To request an initial assessment or to arrange a consultation call with one of our consultants, please provide us with your contact details and we will get back to you within the next 24 (working) hours.

    Get in touch →
  • MAZZESCHI S.r.l. - C.F e P.IVA 01200160529 - Cap.Soc. 10.000 € I.V. - Reg. Imp. Siena 01200160529 - REA SI-128403 - Privacy Notice - Cookies Policy
    Copyright © 2019 by Mazzeschi - Web Designer Alessio Piazzini Creazione siti web Firenze