Brexit For Members

How long do Brits in Italy have to wait to apply for citizenship via residency?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
How long do Brits in Italy have to wait to apply for citizenship via residency?
Italian and EU flags at the Villa Doria Pamphili in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

British nationals who were resident in Italy before the end of 2021 have kept some pre-Brexit rights. But does this extend to applications for citizenship through residency?


Question: “I have been able to remain resident in Italy under the post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. But does that make any difference to our status when it comes to Italian citizenship applications via residency? How long do we have to wait before applying if we moved here before Brexit - does the EU or non-EU timeframe apply?”

UK nationals living abroad have faced years of uncertainty and confusion about how Britain's exit from the European Union would affect their rights and status in their adopted countries and how these changes would affect their long-held plans for life abroad.

At this point, the major questions have been resolved: British nationals who moved to Italy before December 31st 2020 have their residency rights protected under article 50 of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), and, for the many situations in which Italian bureaucracy demands all third-country nationals must produce a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno), we have the post-Brexit carta di soggiorno to fill the gap.

But there are some situations in which the rules may remain unclear, and the timeframe for eligibility for Italian citizenship via residency is one of them.

READ ALSO: The three ways to apply for Italian citizenship

EU nationals can apply for citizenship via the naturalisation route after just four years of legal residency in Italy, while non-EU nationals must wait a decade before they become eligible to apply. 

Sadly for anyone who moved to Italy as an EU national before later losing that status, the terms of the WA don’t make a difference in this scenario.

“Unfortunately, any British citizens applying for Italian citizenship post Brexit need to demonstrate 10 years of legal residence and not 4 years as before (as EU nationals),” confirms citizenship lawyer Aleksandra Broom at the Rome-based firm Oliver & Partners.


As The Local reported back in 2020, British nationals became subject to the non-EU requirements for citizenship applications as of the Brexit deadline.

This was due to the fact that citizenship rules are set by each national government and were therefore not subject to the provisions under the EU-wide WA.

Is there a quicker way to apply for Italian citizenship?

While the minimum waiting period for most non-EU nationals hoping to apply for citizenship by naturalisation is ten years, there are some limited exceptions to this rule, including that:

  • Residents who have an Italian parent or grandparent can cut the waiting time to three years.
  • People born in Italy to foreign parents can apply after three years' legal residency as an adult.

Italy's laws around naturalisation are complex and eligibility depends on your personal circumstances, so if you think one of these exceptions may apply to you it's advisable to consult a legal professional.

READ ALSO: What are the benefits of having Italian citizenship vs residency?

Some people may find they are instead eligible for Italian citizenship via marriage, which you can currently apply for after two years of legal residency in Italy; or citizenship via ancestry, without necessarily having lived in Italy at all. Find out more about these options in this separate article.


If other routes aren’t open to you, and your only option is to wait ten years before applying for citizenship via residency, prepare in advance and ensure you’ve got your paperwork ready to go when the time comes: many who apply for Italian citizenship find that gathering the required documentation - including passing a language test - can take several months, or longer, depending on how much time you're able to devote to the process.

Once you've applied, the Italian government has up to three years to approve or deny your request. However, citizenship experts report that there have been cases in which it took as little as one year.

See more information in The Local's Italian citizenship section.

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