Changes to Italian law in December 2018 mean that anyone applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence (but not ancestry) must now prove they speak the Italian language to B1 level or higher.
A B1 level certification is ‘intermediate’ level and means you are proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).
If you're already living and working in Italy it's likely that you'll speak the language at this level or higher already and the test will be nothing to worry about. However, for the citizenship application the government wants official proof of your skills.
How and where do I get the certificate?
For the citizenship application, your B1 level certificate must come from an educational institution approved by the Italian Ministry of Education (“MIUR”) or Ministry of Foreign affairs (“MAECI”).
That means you'll need to be certified by one of the following institutions::
- CILS – the University of Siena for foreigners
- CELI – the University of Perugia for foreigners
- PLIDA – Dante Alighieri Association
- CERT – The University of Rome 3
You can get one of these certifications at various language schools within Italy and abroad which have been accredited by one of the institutions above.
These certifications can be used for other purposes too, including when applying for jobs or studies (though many unversity courses may demand a higher level certificate.)
If you need to study for the test, many language schools offer preparation courses for the B1 certification. Online courses are also available. These schools will generally then help arrange for you to sit the exam.
Typically, the test takes several hours, depending on the institution and your familiarity with the materials.
The exam may need to be booked months ahead of time, and there are fees involved. For example, the CILS exam costs €100, payable to the University of Siena, plus any additional admin fees required by your own language school.
It is also possible to take a shorter “B1 Cittadinanza” exam – the difference being that this certifcate can only be used for your citizenship application and not for other purposes. And, though it is shorter, it may not actually be easier to pass; if you fail on one section you will have to retake the entire test (as opposed to just retaking that section under the standard B1 level tests listed above.) However if you're fairly confident of passing and don't need it for anything else, it may be a more convenient option.
Anyone planning to take the test soon should note that language schools are adjusting the testing process due to the coronavirus crisis.
One reader who took the test recently notes that “now with the covid situation the schools are only offering the oral exam” part of the test.
“The rest of the exam can be done afterwards,” said Erika Mendes Correia, who took the CELI B1 Cittadinanza on July 21st.
“I'm still waiting for the result,” she said. “It takes one to three months to be released. I hope that the certificate with the oral part only will be accepted.”
Once I've passed the exam, then what?
Passing the exam will feel good, but you've still got some admin to do.
The language certificate is one of the documents which you'll need to scan and upload to the Italian Interior Ministry's web portal, known as ALI.
To do so you'll need to register an account at: https://cittadinanza.dlci.interno.it and then submit your application form as well as all the required supporting documents, including your B1 certificate. Unlike other documents however the language cetification won't have a six-month expiry date, so many who have been through the process before recommend taking the language test as your first step.
Speak to your local prefettura or consulate, or see the Interior Ministry's website (in Italian), for the latest information on the process and requirements when applying for citizenship.