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How many foreigners 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.

The Italian flag.
Acquiring Italian citizenship is the ultimate way to guarantee your future in Italy. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

All data referred to in this article comes from Istat, Italy’s national statistics office. It refers to people acquiring Italian citizenship who are resident in Italy.

How many people get Italian citizenship each year?

A total of 127,001 people were granted Italian citizenship in 2019, the last year for which official data is available. 

That’s a slight increase from 2018, when 112,523 people became Italian, but still considerably below 2017 (146,605) or 2016 (201,591), when the number of successful citizenship requests registered a spike.

Where do most ‘new Italians’ come from?

In 2019, like most years before it, the vast majority of people acquiring citizenship came from outside the European Union: 113,979 or roughly 90 percent. That’s what you’d expect, 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 (26,033), followed by Moroccans (15,812), Brazilians (10,762), Romanians (10,201), North Macedonians (4,966), Indians (4,683), Moldovans (3,788), Ecuadoreans (3,041), Senegalese (2,869), Pakistanis (2,722) and Peruvians (2,685).

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Citizens of Albania and Morocco have consistently 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.

How do most people qualify for Italian citizenship?

In 2019, 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 birthplace (ius soli, which entitles people born and raised in Italy by non-Italian parents to claim Italian citizenship at age 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 57,098 people qualified for Italian citizenship via one of these three routes in 2019, around 45 percent of the total.

Another 52,877 people (42 percent) qualified via residency in Italy, while 17,026 (13 percent) qualified by marriage to an Italian national.

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While claims based on residency or birthplace/descent increased by around 13,000 and 8,000 respectively from the year before, claims from spouses of Italian nationals were down sharply by more than 7,000. In fact citizenship requests via this route were at their lowest last year since 2015; in every other year since 2012, they have been either around or above 20,000.

That may reflect a change in the law in late 2018 that allowed the Italian state to take up to four years to process requests for citizenship via marriage, where previously they had to be answered within two years or automatically granted after this point.

The new rules also abolish automatic consent after the deadline, as well as introducing a language test for people applying via marriage or residency.


Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP

Another notable trend 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, in 2018 it reached 9,000, and in 2019 it was over 10,000.

The majority of ius sanguinis claims come from two countries: Brazil and Argentina, which between then accounted for nearly 96 percent of all citizenship by descent claims in 2019.

Where in Italy do most people get citizenship?

The region of Italy with the most successful citizenship claims in 2019 was Lombardy, which granted 31,437 requests. The region has topped the list for several years, reflecting the large numbers of foreigners who move there for work or study. 

Other regions where high numbers of people gained citizenship were Veneto (16,960), Emilia-Romagna (12,014), Piedmont (11,702) and Tuscany (11,139). While Lazio, the region of Rome, has a high foreign-born population, just 9,258 people took Italian citizenship there.

The regions handing out the fewest new citizenships, meanwhile, were Sardinia (677), Molise (504), Basilicata (418) and Valle d’Aosta (361).

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

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

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

They’re mainly women (66,890 in 2019 compared to 60,111 men), and they’re mainly young: the largest age group is under-20s, who accounted for 45,741 citizenships granted in 2019.

People aged 20-39 made up another 39,929, while 40- to 59-year-olds numbered 36,316. The number of people over 60 who acquired Italian citizenship was just 5,015.

A version of this article was first published in 2020.

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EXPLAINED: How to write a formal email in Italian

Knowing how to write a polite email will make your life in Italy much easier. Here’s a quick guide to the style rules.

EXPLAINED: How to write a formal email in Italian

If you live in Italy there are countless situations in which you’re likely to find yourself having to write a formal email in Italian, such as when applying for a job or arranging a viewing for a flat.

But while you may be a master at crafting formal emails in your own language, you’re likely to struggle to do so in Italian. Even people with an excellent command of Italian, including native speakers, need to learn the style rules associated with formal writing.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s PEC email and how do you get one?

So here’s an essential step-by-step guide to writing a formal email and getting it right every time.

Greetings 

While greetings are fairly uncomplicated in English (‘Dear’ followed by the title and surname of the recipient will usually suffice), there are multiple options in Italian. 

If you’re writing to someone that you’ve never met before, you’ll want to address them with either Egregio (eminent) or Spettabile (esteemed), like so:

    • Egregio / Spettabile Dottor Rossi
    • Egregia Dottoressa Rossi

Conversely, if you’re writing to someone that you’ve seen before but have no relationship with – as in you might have said hello to them but you’ve never had a conversation with them – your best option would be Gentile (courteous) or its superlative Gentilissimo (often abbreviated to Gent.mo).

Finally, the least formal option is Caro (Dear), which you should only use when writing to someone you’re already well-acquainted with (for instance, a colleague or a university tutor). 

READ ALSO: How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

Remember: these adjectives must match the recipient’s gender (e.g., you should use Gentilissima for a woman and Gentilissimo for a man).

Titles

Italians love their titles, so you should always try your best to get them right in your emails. Failure to do so might result in your recipient pointing out your mistake – which, from personal experience, is not very nice. 

Here’s a list of the most common Italian titles and their abbreviations: 

    • Any man with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, and male doctors: Dottore (Dott.)
    • Any woman with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, and female doctors: Dottoressa (Dott.ssa)
    • Male professor/lecturer: Professore (Prof.)
    • Female professor/lecturer: Professoressa (Prof.ssa)
    • Lawyer: Avvocato (Avv.)
    • Architect: Architetto (Arch.)
    • Man with no degrees: Signore (Sig.) – equivalent of Mr
    • Woman with no degrees: Signora (Sig.ra) – equivalent of Ms

Opening sentence 

In the opening sentence, you should always state your name (Mi chiamo plus name and surname) and explain why you’re writing. 

If you’re the one initiating the exchange, you can use: 

    • Le scrivo in merito a [qualcosa] (I am writing about [something])
    • La contatto in riferimento a [qualcosa] (I am contacting you in regards to [something])
    • La disturbo per […] (I am troubling you to […])

Gmail inbox

Italians love their titles, so you should always try your best to get them right in your emails. Photo by Stephen PHILLIPS via Unsplash

If you’re replying to an email instead, you could start with: 

    • In risposta alla sua precedente mail, […] (literally, ‘in response to your email’)

As you might have noted, all of these expressions refer to the recipient via third-person pronouns (le, la). This is known as ‘forma di cortesia’ (polite form) and must be used in all formal exchanges.  

READ ALSO: How to register with the anagrafe in Italy

All pronouns and adjectives referring to the recipient, and all verbs the recipient is the subject of, must be used in the third person, as in the following case:

    • Le sarei molto grato, se mi mandasse il suo numero di cellulare.
    • I’d be really grateful if you could send me your mobile number.

The above rule applies to all parts of the email, from the opening statement to the sign-off.

Man typing on laptop

The third-person ‘polite form’ is an essential part of Italian formal emails. Photo by Burst via Unsplash

It’s also worth mentioning that the original forma di cortesia requires the writer to capitalise the first letter of all pronouns and adjectives referred to the recipient.

    • La ringrazio per il Suo interesse e Le auguro una buona giornata.
    • Thanks for your interest. I wish you a good day.

That said, modern Italian is gradually moving away from this practice, with capitalisation surviving in very few isolated contexts. Notably, it is advisable that you capitalise the above-mentioned forms when exchanging messages with lawyers, government officials, law enforcement authorities or high-profile public figures.

Body

Write your message in Italian much as you would a formal email in your own language. Be pithy but clear and exhaustive. Just don’t forget about the forma di cortesia.

Signing off

Once again, there are multiple ways to sign off but these are generally the safest options as they fit nicely into any type of message, regardless of its content or recipient:

    • La ringrazio per la sua gentile attenzione / il tempo dedicatomi (Thanks for your kind attention / your time)
    • Resto in attesa di un suo cortese riscontro (Kindly looking forward to your reply)

You can follow either one of the above expressions with Cordiali saluti (Kind regards) or Cordialmente (Sincerely). 

Finally, as you would in other languages, end with your full name and any contact details that you might want to share with the recipient.

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