How the rules for Italian citizenship change for Brits on Brexit day

There's some bad news today for British nationals living in Italy and hoping to soon apply for Italian citizenship through residency after being in the country for four years.

How the rules for Italian citizenship change for Brits on Brexit day
Photo: AFP

While many people may have thought the terms for Italian citizenship applications based on residency would remain the same after Brexit day, at least during the transition period, British Embassy officials have confirmed that this is not the case.

British Embassy officials told Brits living in Italy this week that unless they've been a resident for four years or more by today – January 31st 2020 – they will not be eligible, as these terms will no longer apply after Brexit.

Instead, they may now have to wait ten years under Italy's third-country national rules.

At a town hall meeting in Rome on Wednesday, a British embassy representative said that, according to the Italian government, any British citizen who had been here for at least four years by Brexiit day (January 31st 2020) would be able to put in an application for citizenship until the end of the transition period, (Dec 31 2020.)

Anyone else will have to meet the ten years required of third-country nationals resident in Italy – unless applying through the marriage route.

This will come as a huge blow to anyone nearing the four-year residency mark who had been expecting to be able to apply under the current rules.

But in Italy, only EU citizens are allowed to apply after four years of residence.

READ ALSO: How to become Italian: A guide to getting citizenship

A spokesperson from campaign group British in Italy confirmed that to the best of their knowledge, the 10-year residency requirement “would indeed apply for Brits applying for citizenship through the residency route who had not accrued four years of legal residency by 31st of January.”

“This is because citizenship is a national competence and therefore not subject to special transition period provisions.”

They pointed out that the Italian government's Decreto Brexit, which was published ahead of the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, “contained an article (Article 15(1)) indicating that British citizens who had accrued four years of residency by Brexit day would be able to apply based on those years of residency until 31/12/2020.”

Ai fini della concessione della cittadinanza italiana i cittadini del Regno Uniti sono equiparati, fino alla prestazione del giuramento, ai cittadini dell Unione Europea se hanno maturato il requisito di cui all' art.9, comma 1 lettera d), della legge 5 febbraio 1992, n.91 alla data di recesso del Regno Unito dall'Unione europea e presentano la domanda entro il 31 dicembre 2020″  

British in Italy has requested clarification as to whether this Article also applies now that the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified.

What if I've been in Italy for three years and 11 months by Brexit day?

Unfortunately, it seems that even if you reach the four-year mark during the transition period, you won't be eligible.

Is this the case for Brits in other European countries too?

It depends entirely on the rules in each country, as citizenship is not covered by EU law. Rules vary, but in some countries, such as France, the citizenship laws are already quite similar to the current EU rules.


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Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.