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NATURALIZATION

How many people does Italy grant citizenship to?

Thinking of applying to become Italian? Here's how many other people do it each year, where they come from and how they qualify.

How many people does Italy grant citizenship to?
How many people get their hands on an Italian passport? Photo: DepositPhotos

How many people get Italian citizenship each year?

A total of 112,523 people were granted Italian citizenship in 2018, the last year for which official data is available. 

That's a decrease of around 24 percent from 2017, when 146,605 people became Italian. In fact the number has been declining since 2016, when successful citizenship requests spiked at 201,591.

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The rate has now roughly returned to the same level as 2013, when Italy granted 100,712 people citizenship.

In total, Italy was home to more than 1.34 million 'new Italians' in January 2018.

Where do most 'new Italians' come from?

In 2018 the vast majority of people acquiring citizenship came from outside the European Union: 103,478 or roughly 92 percent. (The trend is logical, since people with EU passports already enjoy most of the same rights in Italy as Italians and therefore have less incentive to apply for citizenship.)

The highest number of successful applications came from Albanians (21,841), followed by Moroccans (15,496), Brazilians (10,660), Romanians (6,542), Indians (5,425), Macedonians (3,487), Senegalese (2,918), Tunisians (2,484) and Ukrainians (2,423).

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Citizens of Albania and Morocco have made up the top two since at least 2012, with as many as 36,920 Albanians and 35,212 Moroccans gaining Italian citizenship when claims were at their height in 2016.

Meanwhile Brazil has seen successful citizenship requests increase more than sevenfold since 2012.

Other nationalities are far less likely to apply for Italian citizenship despite having a relatively large immigrant population in Italy: notably, less than 5 percent of Italy's Chinese residents have acquired Italian citizenship, presumably because China does not permit dual nationality.


Celebrating Chinese New Year in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

How do most people qualify for Italian citizenship?

In 2018, the most common way to acquire citizenship was either by descent (ius sanguinis, which allows those who can prove descent from at least one Italian ancestor to claim Italian citizenship), by birthright (ius soli, which entitles people born and raised in Italy by non-Italian parents to claim Italian citizenship from 18), or by parental transmission (the law that automatically transfers citizenship to the children of adults who acquire citizenship, provided they're under 18 and living with them at the time).

Altogether 48,910 people qualified for Italian citizenship via one of these three routes in 2018, around 43 percent of the total. Another 39,453 people (35 percent) qualified via residency in Italy, while 24,160 (21 percent) qualified by marriage to an Italian national.

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While residency used to form the basis of most citizenship claims, the number of successful requests on these grounds has been falling since 2016. Between 2017 and 2018 such claims fell by around 23,000 or 37 percent.

Claims via marriage, meanwhile, increased by around 9 percent in 2018 (+2,000), with the vast majority – 85 of every 100 – made by women.

But one of the most notable trends is the rise in the number of people successfully claiming Italian citizenship by descent. In 2016, the year that Italy's statistics office began tracking such claims, some 7,000 people gained citizenship this way; in 2017 it was over 8,200, and in 2018 it reached 9,000.

The majority of ius sanguinis claims come from just one country: Brazil, which saw roughly 7,000 people gain Italian citizenship by descent in 2018.


Photo: DepositPhotos

Where in Italy do most people get citizenship?

The part of Italy with the most successful citizenship claims in 2018 was the north-west (43,962) and especially the region of Lombardy, which alone accounted for 30,474. 

Other regions where high numbers of people gained citizenship were Veneto (15,536), Emilia-Romagna (13,446), Piedmont (9,801) and Tuscany (9,349). While Lazio, the region of Rome, has a high foreign-born population, just 6,943 people took Italian citizenship there.

The regions handing out the fewest new citizenships, meanwhile, were Basilicata (252), Valle d'Aosta (316), Molise (426) and Sardinia (644).

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The further north you go, the more people base their claim on residency – reflecting the fact that the wealthy north has long attracted migrants looking for work.

In the south, meanwhile, and especially the regions of Campania, Calabria, Basilicata and Molise, the majority of citizenship claims were based on ancestry, the legacy of decades of emigration overseas from deprived parts of southern Italy.

What else do we know about people who apply for citizenship in Italy?

They're mainly women (61,321 in 2018 compared to 51,202 men), and they're mainly young: the largest age group is under-20s, who accounted for 39,945 citizenships granted in 2018.

People aged 20-39 made up another 37,364, while 40-59-year-olds numbered 31,519. The number of people over 60 who acquired Italian citizenship was just 3,695.

READ ALSO: 'How I got an elective residency visa to retire in Italy'


Photo: DepositPhotos

All data referred to in this article comes from Istat, Italy's national statistics office.

Member comments

  1. This article would be a lot more helpful if it told us how many unsuccessful applications there were. How many people who applied were denied? Also, for those of us descended from the immigrant generation that was forced to renounce Italian citizenship in order to become US citizens, the rules are different. We need to be residents for three years, right? Are there any statistics available, or are those applications so rare that they don’t count them?

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ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP

Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?

Obtaining Italian citizenship is not a simple matter even if you are born here, as there are many obstacles to overcome. This is what you should know about the complex process of naturalisation.

Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?

It is natural that people who are settled in Italy would want their children to have Italian citizenship.

Unlike many other countries, however, merely being born in Italy doesn’t mean the person is Italian.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, children will not obtain Italian citizenship at birth. 

This may sound unfair to someone coming from, say, the United States, but Italy doesn’t (in the vast majority of cases) recognise so-called “birthright citizenship” (jus soli) which would automatically grant an Italian passport to anyone born here.

Even kids who have lived here their entire lives and consider themselves to be Italian will have the same nationality as their parents and will continue to be considered foreigners by the Italian state – until and unless they become naturalised.

Some Italian politicians and political parties, particularly from the Democratic Party, are pushing for a relaxation of the rules, however at present they remain in place. 

Who is entitled to an Italian passport at birth?

Children born to Italian-citizen parents, or at least one parent who is Italian, will be automatically considered citizens of Italy by a process known as “acquisition by descent”, or jus sanguinis.

READ ALSO: How British nationals can claim Italian citizenship by descent

This applies as much to children born abroad as it does to those born in Italy.

A foreign child adopted by Italian parent(s) is subject to the same rules.

What happens if both parents are foreign nationals?

There are several scenarios to consider if you would like your child (or future child) to be Italian.

If you don’t have children yet but have a permit that allows you to permanently reside in Italy, you could apply for naturalisation after living in the country for a set number of years.

For most foreigners, ten years is the minimum length of time they will need to have lived in Italy before they become eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalisation. That period is reduced to four years for EU nationals, and five years for refugees.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

If you become naturalised before the child is born (even if you still retain the citizenship of your former country), then he or she will be automatically Italian at birth.

If the child was born before the parent naturalised, they still automatically become an Italian citizen at the same time as the parent does – provided they are under the age of 18 and living with the naturalised parent.

“It is irrelevant that the birth occurred before or after the submission of the application for citizenship,” Giuditta De Ricco, head citizenship lawyer at the immigration firm Mazzeschi, told The Local.

Those children whose parents become Italian citizens after they turn 18, however, will need to file their own citizenship application.

For children born in Italy to foreign parents, the requirements are strict: they must reside in Italy ‘without interruption’ until the age of 18 and submit a statement of their intent to apply for citizenship within one year of their eighteenth birthday.

However, children who were born in Italy, moved away, and moved back as adults can apply for citizenship after just three continuous years of legal residency in the country – so being born on Italian soil does have some advantages when it comes to acquiring citizenship.

The Italian Air Force aerobatic unit performs on April 25, 2020, Italy's 75th Liberation Day, over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome.

The Italian Air Force aerobatic unit performs on April 25, 2020, Italy’s 75th Liberation Day, over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

What happens if the parents are of different nationalities?

If the child’s parents are of different nationalities that are treated differently by the Italian state (if, for example, one parent is French and the other American), the child will be subject to the least stringent applicable naturalisation requirements. 

This means that if a child has one French and one American parent, they will be subject to French (EU) rules and eligibility periods when applying for naturalisation as an Italian citizen.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I have residency in Italy and another country?

A French parent can apply for Italian citizenship on their own behalf after four years of residency in Italy, and “minor children will be automatically Italian, once the parent takes the oath,” confirms De Ricco.

Usually all that’s required is that the parent produces the children’s birth certificates, although in some cases children will also be asked to attend the oath-taking ceremony with their parent.

Bear in mind that it’s important to consider whether the child’s country/ies of origin allow for dual or triple citizenship, and if not, whether you would be willing to renounce your child’s citizenship of another country in order for them to obtain Italian citizenship.

What if I moved to Italy when my children were already born?

If two non-citizens move to Italy when their children were already born, naturalisation is the means through which they may be able to gain citizenship. 

In recent years some Italian parliamentarians have proposed a ius culturae basis for citizenship – that is, acquiring citizenship via cultural assimilation, on the understanding that children quickly adapt to the culture of their country of residence.

A bill put forward by Democratic Party MP Laura Boldrini would allow children under the age of ten who have lived in Italy for at least five years and completed one school year to apply for citizenship, as well as those who arrived in Italy under the age of ten and have lived continuously in Italy up to the age of 18 (and submit their statement of intent before they turn 19). 

This bill has yet to pass in Italy, however, so there are currently no such fast-tracks in place for foreign minors born outside of the country.

What about citizenship for the third generation?

Italy is particularly lenient when it comes to awarding citizenship to foreign citizens with Italian ancestry.

Anyone who can prove they had an Italian ancestor who was alive in 1861, when Italy became a nation, or since then, can become an Italian citizen via jus sanguinis (provided the ancestor in question did not renounce their citizenship).

And this leniency also extends to those who prefer to become citizens through naturalisation – if you had an Italian parent or grandparent, you just need three years of legal residency in the country to acquire citizenship in this way.

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