We The Italians | ICA: Italian Citizenship by Marriage and Residency. Changes to Application Process

ICA: Italian Citizenship by Marriage and Residency. Changes to Application Process

ICA: Italian Citizenship by Marriage and Residency. Changes to Application Process

  • WTI Magazine #172 Feb 17, 2024
  • 567

This article will outline the eligibility requirements and the application process in respect of acquiring Italian citizenship by marriage and residency. It will also explain the changes in recent years in citizenship law in relation to the two pathways, as the information is relevant for those who are applying for Italian citizenship through either marriage or residency.

Citizenship by marriage: eligibility

The non-Italian spouse (applicant) of an Italian spouse can apply for citizenship if living in Italy, and after 2 years of marriage or civil union. Alternatively, if resident abroad, the applicant would need to be married or in a civil union needed for 3 years before they can apply. These time periods are halved if the applicant and Italian spouse have minor (under the age of 18) children.

Furthermore, the applicant must provide criminal records that have been issued by all the countries; and, if in the U.S., all the states, where the applicant has lived since the age of 14.

These documents, vital records as they are collectively known, must be legalized with an Apostille and translated into Italian before submission. Other vital records needed as part of your application are: original copies of birth certificate and marriage certificates. Regarding your marriage certificate, it will need to be registered at your local Italian consulate; or, if married in Italy, it will have been given by the municipality (comune) where your Italian spouse is registered with the A.I.R.E.

In addition to the above, there is an application fee of €250, and proof of payment will need to be included in the application.

Changes in Italian citizenship law

The application process for citizenship by marriage is regulated by Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of Law n.91 of 1992.

In 2016, there was a change in Italian citizenship law relating to same-sex civil unions, which now recognizes and grants same-sex couples the right to apply for citizenship by marriage.

In 2018 a law was passed that made it compulsory for those seeking citizenship by marriage to have B1 level Italian, which according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is intermediate level. This language requirement is mandatory unless the applicant attended school in Italy, or has a degree in Italian. Furthermore, the language qualification is only recognized if issued by one of the following institutions: The University for Foreigners of Siena, or the Roma Tre University and the Dante Alighieri Society, and the University for Foreigners of Perugia.

Another amendment in law related to application fees: Decree n. 113 increased the cost of a citizenship application from €200 to €250. In December, 2020, a change was made in relation to the time allowed for processing applications. The Italian government passed a decree law n.130/2020 which reduced the processing time from 48 months (4 years) to 24 months (2 years), with the caveat that this can be extended to a maximum of 36 months (3 years).

This provision also instructed that The Ministry of Interior gives a response by 36 months. In the event that the applicant does not receive a reply, they can send a formal notice (diffida), which is a legal request for the conclusion of proceedings.

Finally, in July, 2022, judgement n.195 was issued by the Italian Constitutional Court that argued the constitutional illegitimacy of art. 5, law 91/1992, which had stipulated that if the Italian spouse of a non-Italian spouse passed away during the period in which the citizenship application was being made; then the non-Italian spouse’s application would be denied. This judgement made it unlawful to deny citizenship to the non-Italian spouse in the event of the death of the Italian spouse.

Where to file an application?

Once the applicant has retrieved all of their documents/vital records, they will need to be uploaded onto the Ministry of the Interior’s (Ministero dell’Interno) online portal. Once a preliminary assessment has been conducted, the applicant will be requested to present the documentation in the original at the local prefecture (prefettura). Alternatively, if resident abroad, the applicant will need to make and attend an appointment at the consulate (where their Italian spouse is registered with the A.I.R.E.); again, for the purpose of submitting original copies of the documentation/vital records.  

What happens once citizenship is granted?

Once Italian citizenship has been granted, if the applicant resides abroad, they will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony at the consulate. The ceremony needs to happen within 6 months after the date citizenship was granted, and both the newly recognized Italian citizen and the Italian spouse must be present. This is because the Italian spouse will need to sign an affidavit to confirm that the marriage is still legal, and that no separation, annulment or divorce has occurred.
At the ceremony, the applicant will be required to take the oath of allegiance (verbale di giuramento) and makes citizenship official. The newly recognized Italian citizen is able to apply for an Italian passport.

Citizenship by residency: eligibility

In order to qualify for citizenship through residency, if the applicant is an EU citizen, and has lived legally in Italy for 4 years, they are able to apply for Italian citizenship by residency. Alternatively, if applicant is not an EU citizen; then the number of years of legal residency needed before an application can be made are 10 years.

There are some exceptions to this, which reduce the number of years of residency required. For example, if the parents or grandparents of the applicant were born in Italy, the time of legal residency necessary is 3 years. The same rule applies to those who were non-Italian citizens born in Italy.

Regarding language requirements, the applicant must have a B1 level certification (unless they hold a language degree in Italian, or went to school in Italy, or are in possession of a carta di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo period, issued after 2011).

In terms of documentation, the applicant must submit evidence to shows their details are listed in the registry office (Anagrafe) in the town where they live/have lived, without interruption. The applicant will also need to submit a certified copy of their birth certificate, that has been legalized with an Apostille and translated into Italian, proof of income, and receipt of payment of €250.

Finally, the applicant will need to provide clean criminal records issued by all the U.S. states and foreign countries, if applicable, where the applicant has resided since the age of 14.

Changes in Italian citizenship law

In terms of language requirements, a change in law in December, 2018, made it mandatory for all applicants to have a B1 level in Italian. The language certificate needed for individuals seeking Italian citizenship by residency is the same as the one required by applicants seeking Italian citizenship by marriage, which has been explained above.

Regarding application processing timescales, on December 18, 2020, law n. 173/2020 reduced the period permitted to be recognized as an Italian citizen from 48 months (4 years) to 24 months (2 years), which can be extended to a maximum of 36 months (3 years).

Lastly, in respect of application fees, the cost has increased over the years from €200 to €250.

Where to file an application?

The application for citizenship by residency needs be submitted via the official website of the Italian Ministry of the Interior. Following their initial assessment and approval of the application, the applicant will be asked to attend the local prefecture (prefettura) to present original copies of documentation.

What happens once citizenship is granted?

Once a citizenship claim has been granted, a decree of citizenship will be issued and the applicant will be asked to attend a ceremony in order to take the oath of allegiance, and this will take place no later than 6 months after the date citizenship was granted. Following this, the applicant can apply for an Italian passport.

This article has explained the eligibility requirements in respect of applications made for Italian citizenship through marriage and residency. It has also outlined some important changes in Italian citizenship law that you need to be aware of if you are making an application through one of these pathways.

If you would like further information on this subject, or would like to talk to one of our experts directly, you can contact us for a free consultation at [email protected].