What does citizenship mean?
The Oxford dictionary defines “citizenship” as follows:
The position or status of being a citizen of a country.
And the citizen as:
a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.
The term citizenship indicates the relationship between an individual and the State: it is the so-called status civitatis, i.e. the complex of rights and duties due to an individual depending on his status as a citizen. The rights include civil rights, such as personal freedom or equality before the law, political rights, such as the right to vote or the possibility to hold public offices, and social rights, such as the right to health and work. The duties include loyalty to the state, which in some countries may result in compulsory military service.
If anybody does not have the citizenship of the country in which they are located is a foreigner (if citizen of another country) or a stateless person (if without citizenship).
How to acquire citizenship
In general, citizenship can be acquired in two ways:
- by descent, i.e. by right of blood (the so-called ius sanguinis): that is, when one is born or adopted by citizens of a chosen country;
- by “soil rights” (the so-called ius soli): based on this second criterion, you become a citizen of a country if you were born on the territory of that country, regardless the type of citizenship of your parents.
What does the Italian law provide for?
In Italy, the modern concept of citizenship was born at the time of the constitution of the unitary state and is currently governed by the law of February 5, 1992, no. 91.
In particular, our system adopted the criterion of descent to recognize citizenship. However, the presence of so many children born in Italy by regularly resident foreign couples and the massive phenomenon of immigration fueled (so far without conclusion) the political debate about the possibility of adopting the ius soli system, as indeed happens in other European countries.
How can you become an Italian citizen?
Italian citizenship is acquired:
- by ius sanguinis: an individual is recognized as Italian if he/she has one or both Italian parents even if the birth took place abroad;
- by birth in the territory: an individual is recognized as Italian if he/she was born in Italy even if both parents are stateless or unknown;
- by adoption (iure communicatio): the foreign citizen adopted by an Italian citizen becomes Italian;
- by maternity or paternity acknowledgment by an Italian;
- following a judicial declaration of parentage or naturalization of the cohabiting parent, which occurred when the person concerned was under age;
- by descent from an individual, originally an Italian citizen, who emigrated to a country in which the ius soli applies.
- by marriage (iure communicatio): the spouse, foreign or stateless, of an Italian citizen can acquire Italian citizenship when, after marriage, he/she has resided legally for at least two years in the territory of the Republic, or three years after the date of marriage if he/she is resident abroad, provided that in the meantime the dissolution, cancellation or cessation of the marriage civil effects has not occurred and there has been no separation of the spouses. In any case, in the presence of children the terms are halved.
- by prolonged residence (ius domicilii): foreign citizens who have resided legally in the Italian Republic for at least 10 years may apply for Italian citizenship. However, there are many exceptions, so it is advisable to submit your case to the authorities in charge.
- according to a benefit granted law: when certain conditions are met, such as:
- the person is a direct descendant up to the second degree of an Italian citizen by birth and is in possession of certain requisites;
- the person was born in Italy and resided there legally and uninterruptedly until he/she turned 18;
- adults who have been judicially declared or acknowledged as children of Italian parents, who declared the election of Italian citizenship within one year from the declaration or acknowledgment.
- for special merits: when foreigners rendered outstanding services to Italy or when the State expresses an exceptional interest. The concession is granted by decree of the President of the Republic.
NB: the adoption of the recent security decree introduced some important changes regarding the granting of citizenship by marriage and by benefit of the law: in fact, the text sets out that it is subordinate to the possession, by the interested party, of an adequate knowledge of the Italian language, not lower than B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR) and that this knowledge is certified by submitting an appropriate qualification that must have been issued by a public or equal educational institution recognized by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Alternatively, the applicant must produce a specific certification issued by a certifying body recognized by the MIUR and MAECI.
Can Italian citizenship be revoked?
Yes, Italian citizenship can be revoked when:
- a person, having accepted public job in a foreign State or by providing military service for a foreign State, does not obey the Italian Government notice to abandon the job or military service;
- a person obtains a public job or provides military service to a foreign State at war with Italy;
- in the event of a final conviction for crimes committed for the purpose of terrorism or subversion of the constitutional system.
How to apply
From May 2015 you can submit the application through an IT procedure, which includes a specific registration, following the instructions that the Ministry of the Interior made available on this page. It is available only in English, therefore I suggest to be assisted by native Italian speakers or competent bodies when applying.