Italian citizenship with hand holding up passport

How To Get Italian Citizenship: The Ultimate 2022 Guide

Have you ever considered getting Italian citizenship?

Perhaps you’re fascinated by Italy’s culture, history and beautiful scenery. Or perhaps you have Italian heritage in your family tree. Whatever the case, Italian citizenship might be the right pathway for you.

At Digital Émigré, we’ve done extensive research into citizenship pathways across the whole of the European Union.

In this article we’ll discuss the details of how to get Italian citizenship, the process and requirements, and different ways to obtain residency on your path to eventual citizenship.

Why Italy?

Stunning sea views over Italy’s scenic Amalfi Coast region.

With its famous art, architecture, literature, and cuisine, Italy offers an abundance of cultural experiences to enjoy. The climate is pleasant and the scenery is beautiful. From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the dramatic coastline of the Amalfi Coast, there’s much to explore in Italy.

Italians are known for their hospitality and you’ll quickly feel at home in this welcoming country. Italians know how to enjoy life and make the most of every moment. This is something you can definitely look forward to when moving to Italy.

And the best part is – you can enjoy all this while working towards EU citizenship!

Italian citizenship overview 

  • Timeline to citizenship through naturalization: 10 years 
  • Dual citizenship allowed? Yes
  • Minimum income requirements for citizenship? Yes, €8,264 per year 
  • Minimum physical stay requirements: 183 days per year, with no more than 10 months spent outside of Italy during the 5 year period prior to applying
  • Must pay tax in Italy? Yes
  • Language requirements: B1 Italian
  • Passive income pathway available? Yes
  • Investor residency pathway available? Yes

Benefits of Italian citizenship

As an Italian citizen, you’ll have EU citizenship. You’ll become a full member of the European Union (EU), with the rights to live, work, do business, study or retire in any of the EU and EEA member states. That’s 30 stable, peaceful and economically strong countries!

Another benefit of Italian citizenship is Italy’s powerful passport, which allows its holders to travel to 189 countries without a visa.

In fact, the Italian passport is ranked third among all the world’s passports in terms of visa-free travel – several levels higher than the passports of the UK, US, Canada or Australia. 

Italy allows dual citizenship, so you’ll be able to keep your original passport alongside your new Italian one.

What’s more, Italian citizenship by ancestry recognises Italian heritage all the way back to your great grandparents. This is unusual in the EU and opens up Italian citizenship to a wider range of people. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and find an Italian in your family tree!

Italian citizenship after Brexit 

If you’re a Brit seeking to regain your EU citizenship after Brexit, Italy could be a good option for you, especially if you have the right heritage.

However, if you’re not lucky enough to have an Italian ancestor, there are several other routes to acquiring citizenship of this beautiful EU country.

How to get Italian citizenship

One of Italy’s most famous landmarks – the ancient Colosseum in the capital, Rome. It’s the largest amphitheatre ever built.

Italy offers several different pathways to citizenship, most of them similar to other EU countries. Italian citizenship is granted according to the principle of jus sanguinis – right of blood.

In Italy, citizenship is passed down through the generations in two main ways: 

  1. Through the paternal line 
  2. OR through the maternal line, but only for those born after January 1, 1948

Italian citizenship by descent / ancestry

Italy allows people to apply for citizenship if their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents were Italian citizens. 

You may still need to spend some time in Italy before applying for citizenship by descent, but the timeline is only three years of residence. During that time, you would need to register at an address in Italy and make sure your physical stay is at least 183 days in each year.

It’s also important to prove that you’ve been receiving regular income in Italy and paying taxes there during your entire three years of residency. You can use annual tax returns as evidence of this for your application.

You’ll also need to obtain official documents to prove your Italian ancestry. Typically, this means getting hold of official documents, usually from the town where your ancestor was last resident. Those copies would then need to be certified by an Italian embassy.

You must also prove that none of your ancestors has renounced Italian citizenship in the past. Your nearest Italian embassy can provide a certificate to confirm this.

Source: Italian Dual Citizenship

Different ways to be eligible for Italian citizenship by descent

At the time of your birth:

  1. Your father was an Italian citizen, OR
  2. Your mother was an Italian citizen (if you were born after January 1, 1948)

OR

Your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen, your father was born in a country other than Italy, and your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your father’s birth.

Your maternal grandmother was an Italian citizen, your mother was born in a country other than Italy, and your maternal grandmother was an Italian citizen at the time of your mother’s birth. In this case, you must have been born after January 1, 1948

Your paternal and maternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen, your maternal or paternal grandparents was born in a country other than Italy, and your maternal maternal great grandfather was an Italian citizen when your grandparent was born.

Source: ICAP

Italian citizenship by birth or adoption 

Any child born to Italian citizens is automatically eligible for Italian citizenship, even if born outside Italy. 

Children adopted by Italian parents will be eligible for Italian citizenship directly after adoption.

Italian citizenship by naturalization

This route typically begins when you get temporary residency and move to Italy. 

Getting temporary residency could happen in a number of ways, including getting a job in Italy, becoming a student in Italy, or moving to Italy as an EU citizen under freedom of movement rights.

The next step is to apply for permanent residency after five years, followed by Italian citizenship after an additional five years. 

Applicants for Italian citizenship by naturalisation need to spend at least 183 days per year in Italy, keep it as a permanent home, receive income in Italy, and have an unbroken record of paying taxes to Italy.

Italian residency by investment 

View of Florence from the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
View over Florence, including the famous dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral).

Like many other countries in the EU, Italy offers investors the opportunity to get a residency permit in return for their investment. This is not the same as citizenship by investment, because it doesn’t give instant access to a passport.

But if you have the capital available to invest, getting Italian residency by investment can be an interesting way to reach citizenship.

The Italian government launched a ‘Golden Visa’-type scheme in 2017, to bring more foreign investment into the country.

Known as the Investor Visa for Italy, the scheme allows investors to gain residency in Italy in return for making an investment in the country.

The Investor Visa can be used as a pathway to eventual Italian citizenship, but it is not a citizenship by investment scheme.

Investor Visa for Italy – Investment Options :

  • Innovative start-ups route: minimum investment €250,000
  • Italian companies route: minimum investment €500,000
  • Socially significant projects route: minimum investment €1 million
  • Government bonds route: minimum investment of €2 million

Source: Italian Ministry of Economic Development

Holders of Italian residency by investment permits don’t have to live in Italy in order to maintain their legal residency status. But if your end goal is Italian citizenship, then this doesn’t apply. You’ll still have to live in Italy to be eligible for citizenship. 

To obtain citizenship using residency by investment, your first receive an Italian residence permit valid for two years. 

You can then extend this for a further three years, assuming that you maintain your original investment at the minimum threshold. If you don’t, then you risk being rejected at the point of renewal.

At the five year mark you can apply for Italian permanent residency, but you’ll need a further five years to be eligible for Italian citizenship.

In our opinion, the Investor Visa for Italy isn’t the EU’s best investor residency program. More flexible options are available with shorter citizenship timelines, such as Portugal’s Golden Visa. 

With the Portugal option, you can still maintain your timeline to citizenship without moving full-time to the country. What’s more, Portugal’s citizenship timeline is only five years.

That makes the Portugal option extremely convenient for those who want to work towards gaining EU rights, while maintaining a life and job in their own country.

Getting a residency permit in Italy – independent means route

Gondolas on the Grand Canal in Venice, with the ancient Rialto Bridge in the background.

Another option for getting residency in Italy is using the elective residency by independent means route. 

This route is similar to other countries’ “passive income visas”, and is designed for those who want to relocate permanently to Italy and can support themselves with private income.

According to online sources, Italian consulates (at least in the US) are typically looking for a monthly income from $3200-$3500 a month.

Income should come from passive sources, such as pensions, investments, or rental income. It seems that remote work, even for clients outside of Italy, is unlikely to be accepted. 

So those working remotely should explore whether they can funnel clients through an overseas limited company and then extract income as dividends (which typically qualify as passive income). 

If you’re keen on going down the elective residency route, it’s worth doing more research or speaking to an Italian immigration lawyer.

According to people who have been through the process, the elective residency route comes with a number of challenges.

First, you have to apply at the Italian consulate in your country of residence. You also need to put in place several items including a rental contract, an airline ticket, and proof of health insurance. All of this has to happen before you submit the application.

Nevertheless, if you don’t want to make a large investment in Italy, but you have sufficient passive income, we recommend exploring the elective residency route to start your journey to citizenship.

The Italian citizenship application

Another famous Italian landmark – the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Basic documents for all applications

  • Passport copy notarised and translated
  • Your original passport
  • Passport photos x 4
  • Duly completed application questionnaire
  • Copy of your Italian residence permit
  • Criminal record check from each country of residence and citizenship
  • Receipt for payment of the application fee (€250)

Documents for application through ancestry 

In addition to the basic requirements, you’ll also need the following:

  • Certificate from Italian embassy to confirm the Italian citizenship of your ancestor (must be translated into Italian and notarised).

Documents for application through marriage 

In addition to the basic requirements, you’ll also need the following:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Language proficiency certificate

Documents for application through naturalization 

In addition to the basic requirements, you’ll also need the following:

  • Income certificates for last three years
  • Tax returns for the last three years
  • Language proficiency certificate

The Italian language exam

You’ll need to prove your ability in the Italian language before submitting your citizenship application. The required level is B1 on the Common European Framework for Languages. B1 level typically means you can comfortably communicate about everyday topics.

You can also meet the language requirements by attending a training course at a recognised language school and obtaining a diploma, which means you can be exempted from taking the language test.

Italian citizenship vs other EU options 

So how does Italian citizenship measure up to other options in the EU? We’ve compared some of the most popular options according to key criteria for the citizenship journey.

CountryTimelineDual citizenship ok?Physical stayTax residency required?Language level
Malta citizenship1-3 yearsYes12–36 monthsYesEnglish only
French citizenship5 yearsYes183 days per yearYesB1 French
Italian citizenship 10 years Yes183 days per yearYesB1 Italian
German citizenship6-8 yearsNo183 days per yearYesB1-B2 German
Portuguese citizenship5 yearsYes7 days per year with Portugal Golden VisaNoA2 Portuguese
Spanish citizenship10 yearsNo183 days per yearYesA2 Spanish
Irish citizenship5 years Yes183 days per yearYesEnglish only
Luxembourg citizenship5 yearsYes183 days per yearYesB1 French or Luxembourgish
Comparison of popular EU citizenship routes

FAQs

Who is eligible for Italian citizenship?

You can be eligible for Italian citizenship through descent, marriage, or naturalization (which typically involves a period of full-time residence in the country). Many Americans have Italian ancestry, so citizenship through descent is a popular route. If you don’t have any Italian ancestry, you can gain residency in Italy through the elective residency by independent means route or the investor visa, then apply for citizenship by naturalization after 10 years.

Is it easy to get citizenship in Italy?

That depends. If you’re entitled to Italian citizenship through descent or marriage, then the process may be relatively straightforward. But otherwise, Italy is not an easy destination for citizenship through naturalization. It requires at least 10 years of residency, along with B1 level in Italian language.

How long does it take to become an Italian citizen?

To become an Italian citizen by naturalization, you first need to acquire permanent residency. This takes five years. You can then apply for Italian citizenship after a further five years. Therefore, it takes 10 years in total to become an Italian citizen by naturalization. Timelines for citizenship through descent or marriage are shorter.

Can I get Italian citizenship if my great grandparents were Italian?

Yes, but only if your great grandparent was born in Italy, and either had Italian citizenship or the right to claim it, at the time of your grandparent’s birth.

Does Italy have a Golden Visa?

Yes. The Italian government launched a Golden Visa scheme in 2017, to bring more foreign investment into the country. Known as the Investor Visa for Italy, the scheme allows investors to gain residency in Italy in return for making an investment in the country. The Investor Visa can be used as a pathway to eventual Italian citizenship, but it is not a citizenship by investment scheme.

Can I buy Italian citizenship?

No. Italy has a residency by investment scheme (the Investor Visa for Italy) but it’s not possible to directly buy citizenship of the country.


Conclusion

We hope this article has given you a good understanding of the Italian citizenship process. Hopefully you’ll now know whether you’re eligible for Italian citizenship, or if you want to relocate to Italy in a quest for your EU second passport.

In our opinion, the Italian citizenship by naturalization pathway is one of the more challenging in the EU. So if getting EU citizenship quickly is important to you, we recommend trying a country with a shorter timeline, such as Portugal or Ireland.

Explore our guide to Portuguese citizenship

Explore our guide to Irish citizenship


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