Advertisement

Italian citizenship For Members

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

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected]
Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?
Getting Italian citizenship for your children can be a complicated process. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Obtaining Italian citizenship is not a simple matter, even if you are born in Italy. So which children are eligible, and which aren't?

Advertisement

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

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

If both parents were born abroad and neither has Italian citizenship, children do 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 'birthright citizenship' (jus soli) which would automatically grant Italian nationality to anyone born here.

READ ALSO: The three ways to apply for Italian citizenship

Even kids who have lived their entire lives in Italy and who 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 at the age of 18.

Some Italian politicians and political parties have long pushed for a change to these rules. But, as Italy's current government is opposed to all proposals to grant jus soli to children born in Italy, or to those who complete their education in Italy, this situation does not look likely to change in the near future.

Who is entitled to an Italian passport at birth?

If at least one parent is an Italian citizen, children will be automatically considered citizens of Italy by a process known as “acquisition by descent”, or jus sanguinis.

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.

Advertisement

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 are the benefits of having Italian citizenship vs residency?

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.

Advertisement

"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

Advertisement

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: How many people get Italian citizenship every year?

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.

Advertisement

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.

Read more about the different routes to obtaining Italian citizenship in The Local's Italian citizenship section.

More

Comments

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also