June 5, 2024
Reading Time: 7 min

How to get Italian citizenship

Italian citizens can travel without visas to 190 countries in the world, as well as live and work in any EU state. Getting an Italian passport is possible through naturalization, birthright, marriage, or ancestry.

Golden Visa investors who reside in Italy for 10 years can also apply for citizenship.

Igor Buglo
Igor Buglo

Explains how to become an Italian citizen

How to Get Italian Citizenship by Investment

How to get Italian citizenship

How strong is Italian passport?

Italy has one of the strongest passports in the world, allowing visa-free access to 190 destinations. Among them are the Schengen Area, the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Japan. Since Italy is an EU member, its citizens can spend any amount of time in any other EU country, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. They do not need to obtain a residence permit in advance and are allowed to live, get employed, start a business, and study there.

Italy is a pleasant place to live, work and raise children. The country has a warm climate, beautiful architecture, friendly people and delicious food. You can comfortably settle near the mountains or on the seashore. These are just a few of the Italian citizenship benefits.

Dual citizenship is permitted by Italian law. If you get naturalized in Italy, you can retain the citizenship of your home country, if the local law allows it. Italian citizenship will also be inherited by future generations of your family.

Is the Italy Golden Visa worth it? Watch the video and find out

Main ways to get an Italian passport: an overview

By naturalization via residency. A foreigner who receives a residence permit card will be able to apply for Italian citizenship in 10 years. They need to permanently reside in the country before applying, receive income and pay taxes. Italy Golden Visa for investors is one of the ways to obtain a residence permit, and then citizenship.

By descent. Italian citizenship can be obtained if a person’s parents or grandparents were citizens of the country. The process of obtaining a passport through ancestry is similar to naturalization, except it is faster as you can apply for citizenship after three years of residence in the country. The applicant confirms his Italian origin with official documents.

By marriage. Those who marry Italian citizens do not automatically receive an Italian passport. However, this does speed up the procedure for obtaining citizenship. You can apply in two or three years depending on the place of residence.

By birthright. A child of Italian citizens automatically acquires citizenship, even if he was born in another country. Children who were born in Italy also receive citizenship if their parents are unknown.

Upon adoption. A child adopted by Italian citizens acquires citizenship from the moment of adoption.

By working for the Italian government for five years, even outside Italy. In this case, you do not need to live in the country for ten years to obtain citizenship.

More details about each way to get Italian citizenship are below.

Who can get Italian citizenship by naturalization through residency

Those who are not born in Italy or married to an Italian citizen can still become naturalized. The main rule is uninterrupted legal residency in the country.

Citizenship will not be approved if the applicant has spent more than 10 months abroad in the last five years before applying.

Non-EU citizens must reside in Italy for at least 10 years before applying for citizenship. This is also relevant for Golden Visa investors who want to become Italian citizens in the future, instead of lifelong permanent residents.

EU citizens must reside in Italy for at least 4 years before applying for citizenship.

Legal adults adopted by an Italian, as well as stateless persons, can apply for citizenship after 5 years of residency in Italy.

Applicants need to provide a declaration of income for the past three years. Minimum annual income must be:

  • at least €8,264 for the applicant;

  • at least €11,362 for a married applicant;

  • €516 extra for each dependent.

The applicant pays taxes and confirms income with annual tax returns.

Language proficiency is also required. Applicants pass an Italian language test at the B1 level and receive a certification recognized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Such tests are carried out at four institutions: the Dante Alighieri Society, the University for Foreigners in Siena, the University of Roma Tre and the University for Foreigners in Perugia.

Exempt from the test are: Italian school, college or university graduates. The same goes for applicants who obtained a diploma after 2015 from either a provincial centre for adult education and training (CPIA) or a local centre (CTP).

Compliance with the law is confirmed by certificates of no criminal record issued in Italy, as well as other countries where the applicant has previously resided for at least a year. Each certificate is valid for 180 days from the date of receipt.

How to get Italian citizenship by naturalization

The Cinque Terre consists of five ancient settlements on a rocky strip above the sea. The area is included in the UNESCO cultural heritage list. It is known for its flamboyant homes and terraces with vineyards

Who can get Italian citizenship by ancestry

Italian passport eligibility can be determined “jus sanguinis”, or "the right of blood." If a parent, grandparent, or great-grandfather of a person was born in Italy, that person can apply for Italian citizenship. An applicant must be older than 18.

The applicant needs to prove that their ancestor was an Italian citizen or was entitled to Italian citizenship at birth. This can be done with certified copies of official documents in the hometown of the said Italian ancestor.

Applicants also need to confirm that neither they nor their relatives have renounced Italian citizenship before. This is verified by a certificate from the Italian consulate.

To obtain citizenship through ancestry, applicants need to live in Italy for three years, register at the place of living and stay in the country for at least six months and one day a year.

During the residency, certain legal income requirements must be met:

  • at least €8,264 for the applicant;

  • at least €11,362 for a married applicant;

  • €516 extra for each dependent.

Income certificates are provided for the last three years before the date of citizenship application. The applicant pays taxes and confirms income with annual tax returns.

Previously, Italian citizenship was passed only through the parental line. The transfer of citizenship through the maternal line is only possible for people born after January 1st, 1948. Moreover, the applicant’s relative could not have been a naturalized citizen of any other country prior to the applicant’s birth.

Who can get Italian citizenship by marriage

Anyone has the right to apply for Italian citizenship after marrying a national. However, It can not be done immediately: a minimum marriage period is required.

When to apply for citizenship after marrying an Italian national

  • in 2 years — if spouses live in Italy;

  • in 3 years — if spouses live in another country;

  • in 1 year — if spouses live in Italy and have a newborn child, or adopt a child;

  • in 1,5 years — if spouses live in Italy and have a newborn child, or adopt a child.

Applicants also pass an Italian language test at the B1 level and receive a certification recognized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

How to get Italian citizenship by marriage

Verona is the city of Romeo and Juliet which inspires weddings to often take place here. Newlyweds take pictures at Juliet’s house and view the city from the 84-meter Lamberti tower

How to obtain Italian citizenship by investment

Italian citizenship cannot be obtained by investment directly, but the country has a path in the form of the Golden Visa by investment program.

Applicants choose from four investment options:

  • €250,000 or more for investing in an innovative start-up;

  • €500,000 or more for equity financing to an Italian limited company;

  • €1,000,000 or more as a philanthropic donation;

  • €2,000,000 or more for a purchase of government bonds.

The investor confirms the legality of receiving funds for the investment contribution and undergoes Due Diligence.

A residence permit under the Italy Golden Visa program is issued for two years. It can then be extended for three years provided that the investment is maintained. Investors are not required to live in Italy if they do not want to obtain citizenship.

Investors receive citizenship by naturalization under general conditions. After five years of holding a residence permit, the investor receives permanent residence and after ten years, citizenship.

Individual cost calculation of the Italy Golden Visa

Individual cost calculation of the Italy Golden Visa

What documents are needed for getting an Italian passport

Regardless of the method of obtaining Italian citizenship, you will need:

  1. Birth certificates, valid passports, and Italian residence permits of all applying family members. Should be submitted in both original form and in form of notarized and translated copies.

  2. Photographs in passport format of all applicants.

  3. No criminal record certificate issued by the country of origin and any third countries where the applicants have ever resided after turning 14.

  4. Italian language proficiency certificate proving the B1 CERF level or higher.

  5. Ministry of the Interior fee receipt in the amount of €250.

Additionally, applicants for Italian citizenship by marriage provide the full marriage certificate or extract of the marriage certificate issued by the Italian town hall where it was registered. The certificate must be issued no more than six months prior to the application date.

Applicants for Italian citizenship by ancestry additionally submit documents confirming that their ancestors have already been recognised as Italian by descent. Each document must be duly legalised and translated into Italian.

Documents for obtaining Italian citizenship

Lake Garda is the largest in Italy. There are resorts with healing springs here. Nearby, is a huge entertainment centre called "Gardaland" with an oceanarium and safari

Where to apply for Italian citizenship and how to wait for a decision

A citizenship application form is filled out through the official government bodies in Italy, and submitted along with the documents.

Where to submit citizenship applications:

  • for citizenship by residency — via the city hall of the Italian province where the applicant officially resides;

  • for citizenship by ancestry — via the applicant’s local Italian consular office, or by contacting the Municipality in Italy;

  • for citizenship by marriage — via the Italian Ministry of the Interior portal.

If submitting the form online, applicants upload document scans.

Processing times for Italian citizenship applications take between three months to three years, depending on the queue and each individual case. If all the application conditions are met, the government employees set a date for the original document transfer.

Will you obtain a Italy Golden Visa?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain a Italy Golden Visa?

Alternatives to Italian citizenship

To obtain Italian citizenship, you need to live in the country for ten years. This path is not suitable for everyone.

Some countries give investors the opportunity to obtain a residence permit, permanent residence and citizenship much faster. With these statuses, you can live, study and work in the chosen country, enjoying the right of visa-free travel worldwide. Moreover, their conditions are often milder than in Italy: for example, in Portugal, investors receive citizenship after five years of resident status.

Malta citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment allows becoming naturalised after 1 or 3 years as a resident. Investors can include their spouses or registered partners, as well as principally dependent family members: unmarried children under 29, as well as parents and grandparents over 55. All applicants undergo a strict four-tier Eligibility Test.

Mandatory requirements:

  1. Contribution to the National Development and Social Fund of Malta. Investors who contribute at least €600,000 can apply for citizenship after three years of residency. Those who contribute at least €750,000 can apply after one year.

  2. Donation to a non-governmental charitable organisation, of €10,000 or more.

  3. Investment in residential real estate in Malta. Investors can rent a property for at least €16,000 a year or buy a property for at least €700,000. The property must be rented or held for five years.

Investors can rent out their Malta property: the average annual yield is 3,5—6%, and capital growth can be up to 25%. The real estate value in Malta grows by 4—6% per year.

Greece residence permit can be obtained by investment of €250,000 or more. Applicants invest in real estate, buy shares or deposit funds, and obtain a five-year residence permit.

After five years, the investor can apply for permanent residence and after another two years — apply for Greece citizenship.

With a residence permit in Greece, investors can travel to the Schengen Area and EU without visas. With a Greek passport, they will be able to move to any EU country using a simplified registration procedure.

Portugal residence permit by investment can be obtained for €250,000 or more. Applicants can choose to support arts and culture, support scientific research, invest in real estate or business, or transfer their capital.

An investor with a resident status can live and conduct business in Portugal, as well as travel to the Schengen Area without a visa. There is no permanent residency requirement. It is enough to spend seven days a year in Portugal.

When applying for a Portugal residence permit, investors can include their spouse, underage children, and dependents: children and siblings under 26, and parents over 65.

Portugal citizenship can be obtained after five years as a resident. A Portuguese language proficiency test is required.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Will you obtain a Italy Golden Visa?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain a Italy Golden Visa?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to get an Italian passport?

    The main ways to obtain Italian citizenship:

    • by birth, if the child was born to Italian citizens;

    • through ancestry, or Italian citizenship by blood if parents, grandfather or great-grandfather are Italians;

    • through marriage, after two years of marriage in Italy or three years in another country;

    • by naturalization after ten years of living in Italy;

    • in case of adoption: if the child is adopted by Italian citizens;

    • after serving the Italian government, after five years, even outside the country.

  • Is dual citizenship allowed in Italy?

    Yes. Italians can hold a second citizenship of another country, so you will not have to give up the first one if your country allows it.

  • How quickly can you get Italian citizenship?

    The naturalization process usually takes over 10 years. Citizenship by marriage can be obtained after two years of residence in Italy or after three years of residence outside the country. Foreigners can get an Italian passport after working for the Italian government for five years, even outside the country.

  • Why can you be denied Italian citizenship?

    The most common reason for denial is the applicant not abiding by Italian citizenship laws. This may be providing false documents, false information, expired certificates, or not translating or notarizing the documents. Financial problems can also be the reason: the applicant may receive only foreign income and not pay taxes in Italy.

    A residence permit is the first step towards Italian citizenship. Applicants who receive a residence permit by investment are subject to Due Diligence. If this check isn’t passed, the residence permit is denied.

  • Can I lose my Italian citizenship?

    Yes, in certain cases. For example, if you hold a public office in another country or enlist in a foreign military. The Italian government can revoke the citizenship of those who have misled the authorities or withheld information that could have led to the denial at the application stage.

  • Can an American become an Italian citizen?

    Yes. American citizens can get Italian citizenship in several ways.

    By naturalization via residency. If you legally reside in Italy for five years of residence, you can apply for permanent residence and for Italian citizenship after another five years. You need to permanently live in the country for ten years, receive income and pay taxes.

    By descent. If your parents, grandparents, or great-grandfather were born in Italy, you are eligible for citizenship. The process of obtaining an Italian passport through ancestry is similar to naturalization — but faster. You can apply for citizenship after three years of uninterrupted residence in Italy. You also need to provide official documents confirming your Italian ancestry.

    By marriage. While you won’t automatically get a passport upon marrying an Italian citizen, it will speed up the naturalization procedure. You can apply in two or three years depending on the place of residence.

    By adoption. A child from the US adopted by Italian citizens acquires citizenship from the moment of adoption.

    By working for the Italian government. You can conduct work in the country or outside of it: in any case, you can apply for citizenship in five years.

  • How much does it cost to get Italian citizenship?

    Regardless of the way of getting an Italian passport, you will have certain financial obligations. The estimated minimum includes:

    • Annual income of €8,264 for a single applicant, €11,362 for a married applicant, and €516 extra for each dependent.

    • Stamp duty — €250.

    • B1 Italian language test — from €120.

    Additionally, you will need to rent or purchase a house or apartment in Italy for 5—10 years.

    If you participate in the Italy Golden Visa investment program, you will be able to apply for citizenship in 10 years. The minimum investment threshold of the program is €250,000.

  • Is getting Italian citizenship worth it?

    Yes. With an Italian passport, you can visit 190 destinations visa-free and freely travel through the EU and the Schengen Area. You and your family will become European citizens, protected by EU laws.

    Life in Italy is comfortable, stable and safe, with a low crime rate, excellent education and healthcare, robust career opportunities, and rich culture.

    Italy allows dual citizenship, so you don’t have to give up your first passport if you don’t have to. The country also offers several ways to obtain citizenship. For example, you can live in Italy for 5—10 years, marry a citizen, or prove you are a child or a grandchild of Italian citizens.

  • What is “jus sanguinis”?

    It refers to acquiring citizenship “by right of blood”, meaning you can claim Italian citizenship if you can prove that you have Italian ancestry.

  • Does Italy offer a citizenship-by-investment program?

    No, Italy offers a Golden Visa program, which can lead to citizenship through naturalisation. An applicant needs to make a contribution of minimum €250,000 to get a residence permit and hold it for 5 years. Then they can receive a permanent residence and after 5 years with this status — citizenship.