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How to become Italian, or at least stay in Italy forever

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How to become Italian, or at least stay in Italy forever
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
17:09 CEST+02:00
Looking to stay in Italy long term? Here's how.

No matter where you're from, if you're looking to stay in Italy forever, you might want to consider either getting a permanent residency permit or even getting Italian citizenship.

But be warned, the process is a bureaucratic nightmare!

Staying forever: The EC residence permit

If you're a non-EU citizen and you've been living and working in Italy for more than five years, you can apply for a permanent residency permit (carta di soggiorno).

You'll have to download and fill out the forms and take them to your local post office – along with copies of your passport, tax records for the last five years, payslips from the last year, a copy of your criminal record, a residency certificate and a certificate attesting to your family status.

When you send off your application, including a €72 fee to cover the cost of the card, processing and postage, you're free to stay in Italy for as long as you please.

For more information on residence permits, click here.

Getting citizenship

There are three main ways to go about obtaining Italian citizenship, which are outlined below in ascending order of difficulty.

It's not cheap, with each each application subject to a €300 fee. 

Method one: you have Italian parents or grandparents (easy)

Congratulations! You've won the citizenship lottery!

Provided you have an Italian parent or grandparent, you can apply for citizenship simply by sending a copy of your birth certificate and a certificate attesting your parent's nationality to Italy's Interior Ministry and dual citizenship will – eventually – be yours.

Method two: marry an Italian (medium)

While the infinite mysteries of love and human relationships make this a highly complicted way to go about gaining citizenship, from a bureaucratic point of view it's fairly straight forward.

If you're applying from outside Italy, you will need to have been married for three years before you can apply.

Alternatively, if you're applying from within Italy, you will need to have endured just two years of marital bliss. However, having children cuts the respective waiting times in half.

Once you've been married long enough, you can send a copy of your passport, criminal record (or lack thereof), residence history in Italy, marriage certificate as well as a legal certificate of Italian citizenship for your spouse.

Once you've got your papers in order, you will need to send them off to Italy's Interior Ministry.

Method three: Go native (hard)

Provided you've lived in Italy long enough, you have the right to claim Italian citizenship.

Foreigners who were born on Italian soil but later left need to have three years' residency in Italy. EU nationals need to have lived here for four years, while non-EU nationals (e.g. Americans) will need a whopping ten years' residency in Italy.

Babies born to foreign parents in Italy do not automatically become citizens. Currently, they have to wait until the age of 18 to apply, but a proposed law could mean children born to foreign parents can become citizens earlier and more easily if at least one parent has a long-term residency permit.

Once you've lived here long enough, you can set about accumulating the mountain of paperwork needed to secure your Italian citizenship.

You will need a certificate showing your history of legal residence in Italy, two certificates proving your lack of a criminal record (one for Italy and one for your home country), a copy of your passport and a certificate of your family status.

The bad news: most countries will not allow simply allow you  to 'claim' a new nationality without giving up your old one.

This means you will probably need to sign a form waiving your native citizenship too, before you send your application off to Italy's president, currently Sergio Mattarella, who has the power to make you Italian.

For more info on the process of gaining citizenship click here.

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