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ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP

How foreigners can get ‘fast track’ citizenship in Italy

It can take three years or more for Italy to approve applications for citizenship via ancestry, but there is another way. Here’s how you may be able to cut the waiting time.

Alley in Italy and Italian flag
Foreign nationals looking to acquire Italian citizenship don’t have to necessarily go through their Italian consulate to do so. ​​Photo by Alexey TURENKOV via Unsplash

Italy is far more lenient than many other countries when it comes to allowing people to claim citizenship via ancestry.

In fact, anyone who can prove that they had an Italian ancestor who was alive after March 17th 1861 (when the Kingdom of Italy was born) and that no one in their line of descent renounced Italian citizenship before the birth of their descendant has the right to become an Italian citizen. 

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

But that doesn’t mean getting Italian citizenship by descent is easy, and the application process is known for involving lots of paperwork and being excruciatingly lengthy.

From the moment applicants file their claim with their country’s Italian consulate, it usually takes between two to three years to get a ruling from the Italian authorities, with waiting times often being even longer in countries where the number of applications is high (Brazil, Argentina, USA). 

There is an alternative route: Italy has a ‘fast track’ citizenship application option which can reduce adjudication times to around a year on average.

But this quicker avenue requires moving to Italy, becoming a legal resident, and filing the citizenship request directly with the local town hall. 

This means applicants must be physically and legally resident in Italy for the entire duration of the citizenship application process, and their presence in Italy must be continuous during that time.

This is subject to checks by Italian law enforcement and breaking the rules can void your application.

If moving to Italy (and staying here) would be an option for you, here’s a closer look at the requirements:

Step 1 – Sorting out the documents 

Foreign nationals opting for the quicker citizenship route can only submit their application after they’ve relocated to Italy. But, most, if not all of the documents required by Italian authorities should be prepared well before moving to Italy. 

“Prospective applicants are strongly advised to come to Italy with all of the relevant documentation already arranged in the best possible way,” says Giuditta De Ricco, attorney-at-law at immigration law firm Mazzeschi Srl. 

That’s because “any inconsistencies in the documentation can further complicate and lengthen the process”, she says.

But what documents do foreign nationals need to claim Italian citizenship? Here’s an overview: 

  • Birth and (where applicable) death certificates for all the Italian ancestors in their direct line of descent plus their own birth certificate.
  • Marriage certificates for all the Italian ancestors in their direct line of descent, including that of their parents.
  • A certificate issued by their home country’s relevant authorities proving that the first ancestor in their line of descent did not acquire foreign citizenship before the birth of their descendant.
  • A certificate issued by their country’s Italian consulate proving that no ancestor in their direct line of descent nor they ever renounced Italian citizenship.

Two people signing documents in an office

Prospective applicants should get all of the necessary documents in order prior to leaving for Italy. Photo by Gabrielle HENDERSON via Unsplash

It bears noting that all of the documents issued by foreign authorities will have to be legally validated by the issuing country’s Italian consulate.

Also, all documents available in a language other than Italian will have to be translated and their translation will too have to be legally validated (this is known as ‘asseverazione’).

Once again, De Ricco recommends that all translation and validation procedures be carried out before leaving for Italy.

Step 2 – Relocating to Italy  

Being permanently resident in Italy is a binding requirement of the quicker citizenship avenue. 

“Applicants are allowed to go on short holidays abroad if they wish to” but, outside of those, their presence in Italy “must be continuous”, says De Ricco.  

Taking up residency in Italy is relatively straightforward for EU-passport holders as they don’t need a visa to enter the country nor do they need a permesso di soggiorno (residency permit).

Essentially, all EU nationals are required to do at this stage is to physically relocate to Italy and become legally resident by registering with the Ufficio Anagrafe (Registry Office). 

Things aren’t quite as easy for non-EU nationals as they need a valid entry visa and a residency permit.

READ ALSO:

There are different types of visas and permits available to non-EU nationals, but the easiest route if you’re moving for citizenship purposes is the permesso di soggiorno in attesa di cittadinanza (residency permit pending the acquisition of citizenship), which allows foreign nationals to legally live in the country for the entire length of their claim. 

Prospective applicants can enter the country on a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence) – this is filed with border police for non-Schengen arrivals and at the local Questura (police station) within eight days of entry for others – use the above dichiarazione to register with the Anagrafe and then submit their citizenship application at the town hall. 

Starting the citizenship application process will ultimately give foreign nationals the right to apply for the residency permit, which they’ll have to request by filling out and posting the relevant form along with all the necessary documents to the local Questura.   

Remember: a dichiarazione di presenza allows non-EU nationals to legally remain in Italy for a maximum of 90 days, so you’ll have to send in your permesso di soggiorno application before your 90-day window expires.

READ ALSO: How to register with the anagrafe in Italy

It’s also worth noting that holders of residency permits for citizenship purposes are not allowed to carry out any type of work in the country. However, such permits can be converted into residency permits for work purposes if needed. 

Step 3 – Booking an appointment with the town hall

Once you’ve registered with the Anagrafe and prepared all of the relevant documents, you’ll need to book an appointment at the Ufficio di Stato Civile (Civil Registry) at your local town hall and submit the application to become an Italian citizen. 

Colourful houses in Venice

Foreign nationals must be legally and physically resident in Italy in order to apply for citizenship at their local town hall. ​​Photo by Alex VASEY via Unsplash

You’ll find your registry’s contact details on the town hall’s website. 

Step 4 – Outcome

Barring any inconsistencies regarding the submitted documentation, Italian authorities have 180 days to rule on the issue of Italian citizenship.

However, town halls are required to exchange information with foreign consulates during the application process and the latter’s response times don’t count towards the 180-day window.

That’s part of the reason why “waiting times vary greatly from case to case”, says De Ricco. “Some consulates get back after three weeks, while others might take seven months to do it.”

So, ultimately, the luckier applicants might become Italian citizens within as little as six months, whereas others might have to wait a year or a year and a half. 

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

If the request is successful, the applicant will receive Italian citizenship and so will any children of theirs under the age of 18. Children aged over 18 will have to file their own application. 

From the moment they’re awarded Italian citizenship, new citizens have six months to take an oath of allegiance to the Italian Republic. If they don’t, their citizenship will be automatically revoked.

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POLITICS

Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Brazil’s former president may soon face legal charges after last week’s attempted coup. Here’s why he’s considering becoming an Italian citizen to escape extradition from the US.

Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has figured heavily in international news lately after hundreds of his supporters stormed government buildings in the capital Brasilia on Sunday, January 8th, in what has now been widely recognised as a failed coup. 

And though there is currently no evidence that Bolsonaro directly ordered Sunday’s insurrection, Brazilian media reports suggest the former president may, in the words of Brazilian Senator Renan Calheiros, have to “answer for his crimes and be interrogated on the terrorist acts he always incited”.

It is precisely the prospect of legal prosecution that, in a turn of events very few would have been able to anticipate, might tie Bolsonaro’s fate to Italy.

Brazilian news media Istoè and O globo both recently reported that Bolsonaro, who has Italian origins, is currently planning on formally requesting Italian citizenship – a process which two of his five sons, Flavio and Eduardo, started back in 2020.

But why would becoming an Italian citizen allow Bolsonaro to evade prosecution in Brazil?

Bolsonaro is currently in Florida, USA, which he entered on December 30th, two days before his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in as the new Brazilian head of state. 

Aftermath of failed coup in Brasilia, Brazil

Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters stormed Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, on Sunday, January 8th. Photo by Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

But his position in the US is shaky, to say the least. A single criminal charge – Bolsonaro is already under investigation in at least four pre-coup criminal probes – and sufficient evidence to show probable cause would be enough for the States to accept Brazil’s extradition request. 

Conversely, as an Italian citizen residing in Italy, Bolsonaro would be most likely shielded from extradition as the current agreements between Rome and Brasilia exclude extradition for crimes of political nature and the Italian Constitution (article 26) bans the “extradition of [an Italian] citizen unless international conventions command so”.

So, it seems Bolsonaro would effectively be able to evade prosecution by acquiring Italian citizenship. But should he ultimately choose to request citizenship, how likely is it that he would be successful?

While there’s no way to predict what the final outcome would be, he’d have good chances, at least in theory.

Italy is far more lenient than other countries when it comes to allowing people to claim citizenship via ancestry (also known as ‘right of blood’ or jure sanguinis).

In fact, there are no limits on how far back up the line of descent the applicant’s Italian ancestor is located as long as the Italian national in question was alive on or after March 17th 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was officially born. 

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

Bolsonaro’s paternal great-grandfather, Vittorio Bolzonaro, moved to Brazil from Anguillara Veneta, Veneto in the late 1880s or early 1890s at the very latest.

Other than that, the issue of Italian citizenship is dependent on one remaining condition, namely that no Italian national along the line of descent formally renounced their Italian citizenship prior to the birth of their descendant. 

Italy's foreign minister Antonio Tajani

Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani has recently confirmed that no request for Italian citizenship has been made yet by Bolsonaro. Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP

There’s no way to know whether this requirement is actually met in Bolsonaro’s case, though, if it were, his path to acquiring Italian citizenship would be pretty clear. 

As with all things Italian, the process of getting an Italian citizenship application approved is usually very lengthy (taking over three years in most cases). However, there is a ‘fast-track’ option which, while requiring the applicant to relocate to Italy and become a legal resident, cuts overall processing times to around one year. 

So, should Bolsonaro ultimately go for the fast-track route – and provided that he applied immediately and all his documents (including birth, death and marriage certificates of all his relevant ancestors) were in order – the earliest he could become an Italian citizen would be at some point in 2024. 

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

This is of course all purely hypothetical at present, especially as Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani confirmed on Wednesday that Bolsonaro hasn’t (yet) submitted a request for Italian citizenship. 

But the mere prospect of Brazil’s former president applying for citizenship has caused a stir within the Italian political landscape – several left-wing forces have already asked that the request be immediately rejected should it ever come through.

Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro in Italy

Bolsonaro already has honorary Italian citizenship, which was granted by the small town of Anguillara Veneta in 2021. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Some Italian social media users also highlighted the fact that it’s relatively difficult for children born in Italy to foreign parents to obtain Italian citizenship.

“Before (possibly) giving Italian citizenship to the Bolsonaro family you must give it to all children born and living in Italy who wish to be Italian citizens,” said one.

The former president already has honorary Italian citizenship, granted by Anguillara Veneta, the small town Bolsonaro’s great-grandfather originally emigrated from. However, the town’s mayor is now under increasing pressure to revoke it.

Making Bolsonaro an honorary citizen was a “grave error then” but failing to revoke the award after Sunday’s events would be nothing short of “incomprehensible”, stated Veneto regional councillors Vanessa Camani and Andrea Zanoni, both with the Democratic Party.

As for the Italian government, PM Giorgia Meloni took to Twitter on Sunday to condemn the insurrection in Brasilia. However, neither she nor any other member of her cabinet have so far taken a stance on Bolsonaro’s contentious citizenship issue.

Also, at the time of writing, no member of the League, which largely supported Bolsonaro during his tenure as president and praised him as the “pride of Veneto” in October 2018, has spoken out on the topic.

Whether it’s just a bad bout of forgetfulness or deliberate reticence, the silence is deafening.

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