ICA: Moving to Italy in 2022. Italian citizenship and residency

Sep 24, 2022 478

In 2021 we published an article about the surge of applications for Italian citizenship by descent among U.S. citizens with Italian ancestry, and we observed that the increase was correlated to the outbreak of the health emergency in 2020. Together with a number of other factors, the health emergency produced a drastic change in people’s livelihoods (working from home became the new norm, for instance) and it acted as a catalyst for applications for Italian citizenship, which increased exponentially compared to 2019. 

To this day, applications continue to rise steadily; more and more foreigners are relocating to Italy and pursuing Italian citizenship due to the number of benefits that it entails. This article will provide you with a brief overview of the process to apply for Italian citizenship by descent and it will also analyze the other potential paths towards acquiring Italian citizenship and residency. Finally, it will provide you with an insight into the Italian digital nomad visa, Italy’s real estate market and the benefits that the so-called Bel Paese has to offer. 

Applying for Italian citizenship by descent: an overview

There are several paths to acquiring Italian citizenship jure sanguinis: via Italian consulates in the U.S., via applications filed in Italy, or via judicial proceedings for cases involving a female ancestor, which need to be filed in an Italian court. As a general rule, you can apply for Italian citizenship by descent if your ancestor who was born in Italy never naturalized or if he/she naturalized after the child’s birth, and if none of your ascendants in your direct line of descent ever formally renounced their right to Italian citizenship. Nevertheless, there are also a number of exceptions to these rules; for instance, if your male ancestor naturalized prior to the birth of his child who was born abroad, you might not be able to apply for citizenship via the consulate, but it might be possible to claim citizenship through the court system by applying via a female ancestor. In particular, a woman can transfer citizenship to her child only if the child was born on or after January 1, 1948. Therefore, if there is a woman in your Italian lineage whose child was born before January 1, 1948, you cannot apply for citizenship via an Italian consulate or municipality, but you might be able to pursue Italian citizenship via the court system instead. This is due to the fact that prior to that date Italian women did not have the same rights as men and thus could not pass their citizenship onto their children, which is now considered to be unlawful, and consequently, you can claim Italian citizenship via the court system.

In order to apply for Italian citizenship you will need to retrieve certified copies of your family’s vital records. These include copies of birth, marriage, death and divorce certificates (if applicable), and the ancestor’s naturalization records or proof that he/she never naturalized. In order to file an application, these documents need to be apostilled and translated into Italian. Finally, they need to be submitted to the Court in Italy, to the municipality, or to the Italian consulate abroad depending on the path to citizenship that is being pursued. If your claim to citizenship is successful you will be registered with the AIRE (Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad) and will then be issued an Italian passport. If you decide to live in Italy you will need to register as a resident in the municipality where you intend to reside.

Other potential paths towards acquiring Italian citizenship or moving to Italy

If you do not have Italian ancestry or you do not qualify for Italian citizenship by descent, you may consider applying for citizenship by marriage or by residency. Please note that with regard to applying for citizenship by residency, the main eligibility requirement rests on the basis of the number of years of legal residency in Italy. Non-EU citizens are required to have resided in Italy for at least 10 years; on the other hand, for citizens of another EU country, the period of residency required is 4 years. However, there are instances for which the period of residency required is lower, such as for foreigners whose parents or grandparents were Italian by birth and were born in Italy; in this specific case the time required is 3 years.  Aside from the number of years of legal residency in Italy, there are also a number of conditions that need to be met in order to apply for citizenship by residency, such as having a B1 level in Italian and proof of income.

If you are not looking to acquire Italian citizenship but would like to spend more than 90 days in Italy, which is the maximum period of time non-EU citizens are allowed to stay in Italy, you can apply for the Elective Residence Visa or the Investor Visa. The former is issued solely to applicants who are planning to move to Italy permanently and have high self-sustaining incomes and financial assets. In other words, this type of visa is not for extended tourism. The Elective Residency Visa is valid for 365 days but it can be renewed each year, provided that the applicant meets the requirements. This type of visa can also be issued to the applicant’s dependent spouse, minor children and dependent children over 18 living with their parents provided that the applicant can demonstrate adequate financial assets to support them. On the other hand, the Investor Visa, which was introduced in 2016, allows non-EU investors to stay in Italy for a 2-year period provided that they invest in strategic and specific areas of the Italian economy with the aim of contributing to the country’s economic and societal growth. It is worth mentioning that there are other types of visas, such as the study visa or the work visa, however, these allow you to stay in Italy only for a limited period of time.

Italy’s digital nomad visa 

On March 28, 2022 decree n. 4/2022 (Decreto Sostegni Ter) was approved and converted into law; among many provisions, the law introduced Italy’s digital nomad visa. The aim is to attract non-EU citizens, in particular freelancers and digital nomads and remote workers employed by a non-EU company. Although there are a number of conditions and requirements that still need to be clarified, compared to other types of long-stay visas, the new digital nomad visa appears to be more flexible. For instance, workers will no longer need to apply for the so-called “Nulla Osta” (i.e., an authorization from the Local Immigration Office which is needed to be able to work in Italy), and they will only need to follow the provisions that regulate taxation. It is still unclear as to when the digital nomad visa will be available (it could be next month or in a couple of months), but there will be no limit on the number of permits issued annually. 

Why choose Italy? 

As mentioned in a few of our previous articles, if you apply for Italian citizenship you can travel, study or work anywhere in the European Union without any restrictions. In fact, if you hold Italian citizenship you do not need a visa to travel to any of the EU member states, and you can reside in Italy as well as in another EU member state without any time limitation. Furthermore, foreign spouses of Italian citizens can apply for a residency permit in Italy, as well as in another EU member state in order for the couple to be together without any restrictions. Italian citizens can also benefit from high quality universal healthcare and access Italy’s education system, which is another of Italy’s attractive assets. In fact, university fees in Italy are very affordable and many universities both in Italy and in the EU rank highly on an international scale. 

Italy’s real estate market and government incentives

Arguably, the rise of applications for Italian citizenship and residency has been accompanied by a renewed interest in Italy’s real estate market. This is due to a number of reasons, such as affordable prices for residential and commercial real estate, a wide variety of properties to choose from, a stable real estate market, beautiful views, Italy’s delicious and healthy Mediterranean cuisine and favorable climate, to name a few. However, please bear in mind that purchasing a property in Italy does not automatically qualify you for residency or citizenship.

Recent studies argue that in 2021 the majority of the real estate enquiries came from overseas and particularly from U.S. citizens; nevertheless, there has also been a surge in European buyers and more specifically in German, British and Dutch citizens who are attracted by Italy’s competitive prices and the possibility of turning many properties into B&Bs thereby generating passive income. Undoubtedly, this is another reason why purchasing property is a good investment. In fact, cities like Florence, Rome, Verona, Venice and many other historic towns in regions such as Sicily, for instance, are very popular with tourists and many cities are also witnessing urban development and thus attracting new residents. Finally, not only is real estate in Italy more affordable than in other European holiday destinations such as Spain and France, but it is also characterized by lower transaction costs and tax incentives. In recent years, in fact, the Italian government has introduced a number of incentives for foreigners who wish to move to Italy, such as the 7% flat tax regime and the 1-euro housing program.

It is worth bearing in mind that it is not necessary to travel to Italy in order to purchase a property because the purchaser can sign a power of attorney, thereby authorizing a lawyer to act on his/her behalf. It is also worth pointing out that foreigners who do not reside in Italy can buy property in Italy but only if there is an international treaty that allows for a condition of reciprocity between the foreigners’ country of origin and Italy (such as in the case of Italy and the U.S.).

In conclusion, this article has sought to analyze the continued interest in Italian citizenship and residency and in Italy’s real estate market. It has also sought to provide an overview of the process to apply for Italian citizenship and the benefits that it entails. If you would like more information about the potential paths you can pursue in order to follow the Italian dream and relocate to Italy, do not hesitate to contact us at info@italiancitizenshipassistance.com or at +1- 323 – 892 – 0861.


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