Brexit For Members

Why Brits applying for Italian citizenship after Brexit say it's a 'costly nightmare’

Silvia Marchetti
Silvia Marchetti - [email protected]
Why Brits applying for Italian citizenship after Brexit say it's a 'costly nightmare’
British nationals who never considered applying for an Italian passport are now doing so to reclaim their pre-Brexit rights. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

As the number of British nationals applying for dual citizenship surges after Brexit, applicants say they're facing a long wait and high expenses, reports Silvia Marchetti.


John Di Antonio, 67, a widower from the UK, runs a little olive oil farm near Cassino and already has a two-year renewable Italian work permit, but he would like to make his stay in Italy permanent.

He's one of many British nationals now claiming their Italian ancestry to bypass the 90-day limit which applies to all non-EU nationals spending time in Europe.

Their search has led them to hire lawyers and family tree researchers to unearth ancestors’ birth certificates in parishes and village archives.

Di Antonio plans to claim citizenship via his Italian ancestry, as this would be quicker than applying for citizenship via residency.

READ ALSO: An expert guide to getting Italian citizenship via ancestry 

However, consular officials told him that it could still take up to six years, because of backlogs in processing applications for Italian citizenship.

“My line of ancestry was broken when my grandpa migrated to Leeds in 1920, taking on British nationality to find a job quicker in the local firms and not be discriminated against as an Italian," he says.

"I now have to search for proof of my relation to him so to speed up the process, which might help shorten this hellish limbo by a year or two.”

He has hired two Italian ‘family tree specialists’ who trace ancestry, looking for old birth certificates of the emigrant Di Antonios in parishes, monasteries and local state archives.


“They’re costing me roughly €500 a week, which isn’t that bad, and one certificate of a distant relative has already been found.

"But the process will ultimately cost me €3,000, so I have been told by authorities, because my ancestral line has to be traced first, or else it would be much cheaper”, says John. 


Gaetano and Jane Camilleri, a retired couple in their sixties from Brighton, own a cosy dwelling near the Sicilian town of Trapani, where Gaetano’s ancestors hailed from. They moved to Manchester in the 1930s in search of work and a brighter future. 

 “After Brexit I had to re-apply for my Italian passport, which had expired in the meantime, but luckily that took just weeks and the renewal cost only £100. The price was low because I already had one and still keep my father’s passport, who never renounced his Italian citizenship when he moved to the UK”, says Gaetano.  


Gaetano adds he blames himself for not keeping his passport valid, but before Brexit it never occurred to him that he would ever need it to visit his Italian home. 

Though he had dual citizenship, his British wife and five children did not.

Jane, even though she’s married to a half-Italian, couldn’t automatically be granted Italian citizenship through marriage and had to go through a lengthy application process.

“I applied for my Italian passport in 2017 and was told by the Italian consulate that I would have to wait four years.

"I only got it this year, and had to spend roughly £4,000. I also hired a lawyer to try smooth obstacles along the way, which cost me another £2,000 and didn’t prove so efficient,” she says. 

“It’s been a frustrating, costly nightmare that took my sleep away. I feel more Italian than British and having to wait so long to be able to freely come and go to Sicily had broken my heart.”

FACT CHECK: Is Italy tightening the requirements for citizenship via ancestry?

The main challenge was patiently waiting in line for her turn for her application to be processed. 

There currently aren’t any statistics available showing exactly how much the number of British nationals taking Italian citizenship via ancestry or other routes is increasing, but there are known to be serious backlogs due to an increase in applicants for Italian citizenship outside of Italy.


Jane says the consulate told her applications in the UK for any European Union passport are mounting, which increases red tape and makes procedures much longer. It’s a consequence of Brexit and the ‘exit strategy’ it triggered among Brits with European ancestors.

“An Italian passport, like all European passports, is now as precious as gold. It is much harder to get now than before Brexit. Brits with homes in Italy who can claim one through ancestry or blood ties are rushing to do so, we have several friends who are going mad over it,” she says. 

The Camilleri kids are up next for Italian citizenship application, but their parents are so overwhelmed by the hassle - and cost - in getting their own passports that the children, who only spend a few weeks in Trapani per year, will have to wait for now. 

Have you recently applied for Italian citizenship in the UK? If you'd like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below or get in touch at [email protected]


Comments (1)

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David 2023/10/26 21:22
So it seems the wife can’t live with her husband, because only he has citizenship. Is this correct?

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