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Italian Citizenship by Residency or Naturalization

9 Feb 2024 - Immigration Law - Min Read 5 min
Italian Citizenship by Residency or Naturalization

Naturalization is a process through which a foreigner living in Italy can obtain Italian citizenship after having resided regularly in Italy.

Integration is demonstrated through stable income and housing, adequate knowledge of the language, and a clean criminal record.

Obtaining Italian citizenship is not simple but knowing the ways to become Italian citizens can help understand if one meets the requirements to apply.

Furthermore, becoming Italian citizens does not prejudice the retention of one’s original citizenship, because the Italian State also allows for dual citizenship.

It may happen that one has been residing in Italy for a long period and, at the same time, has entered into a marriage or civil union with an Italian citizen. In this case, there would be two paths to follow, and a choice should be made towards the most convenient: apply for citizenship by marriage (or civil union) or by residence?

The choice is not always obvious, nor is it always possible to follow the administrative route, but it may become mandatory to follow the judicial path.

Requirements for Requesting Italian Citizenship

The requirements for requesting Italian citizenship by residence or naturalization are:

  1. Residence
  2. Income
  3. Knowledge of the Italian language
  4. Clean criminal record


For the purpose of applying for Italian citizenship, one must have legal and uninterrupted residence in the territory, with registration in the registry of the resident population, following entry and stay in Italy with a regular residence permit.

During the necessary residency period for the application for citizenship, there must not be any interruptions, perhaps due to periods of residence abroad or unavailability on Italian territory.

In the case of cancellation of the registry enrollment, the actual residence will be counted from the moment of new registration, and it will not be possible to sum up periods of residence in Italy if there is no continuity between them.

Legal residence should not be confused with regular stay.

The following can apply for citizenship by residency:

  • A non-EU citizen residing in Italy for at least 10 years;
  • An EU citizen residing in Italy for at least 4 years;
  • A stateless person or refugee residing in Italy for at least 5 years from the recognition of their status;
  • A foreign citizen of legal age born in Italy and residing there for at least 3 years (a foreigner born in Italy and residing there until the age of 18, who has not applied for citizenship by the 19th year of age, may still apply for Italian citizenship by residence but as a concession of the State and not by right of acquisition. Unlike the application submitted within the 19th year of age, all the requirements for the application for citizenship by residence must be met);
  • A foreign citizen with parents or direct ancestors in the second degree who were Italian citizens by birth, residing in Italy for at least 3 years;
  • A foreign citizen of legal age adopted by an Italian citizen, residing in Italy, following the adoption, for at least 5 years;
  • A foreign citizen of legal age recognized as a child by an Italian citizen (in this case it is referred to as “affiliation”) before the adoption law n. 184 of May 4, 1983 came into force, residing in Italy for at least 7 years.

The residency requirement does not apply to the foreigner who has served for at least five years, even abroad, under the Italian State. This is a special case, namely a request for “Italian Citizenship for service under the Italian State.”


Foreign citizens applying for citizenship by residence must demonstrate possession of an income, personal or family, that allows them to lead a dignified life in Italy.

The income considered is that relating to the three years preceding the application for citizenship.

To know if one’s income is adequate, it should be evaluated based on the following annual limits:

  • EUR 8,263.31 for applicants without dependents;
  • EUR 11,362.05 for applicants with a dependent spouse, increasing by EUR 516.00 for each additional dependent.

If there are multiple income earners in the family, each income will be summed up and contribute to reaching the required threshold.

Knowledge of the Italian Language

The granting of Italian citizenship by residence/naturalization, according to law n. 91 of 1992, “…is subject to the applicant’s possession of adequate knowledge of the Italian language, not lower than level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).”

Italian language knowledge can be demonstrated with:

  • A diploma issued by a public or officially recognized private education institution recognized by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation such as a Secondary School Diploma, Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree;
  • A certification of language proficiency L2/B1 of the CEFR issued by a certifying body recognized by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
  • The certifying bodies are:
    • University for Foreigners of Perugia;
    • University for Foreigners of Siena;
    • Roma Tre University;
    • Dante Alighieri Society;
  • Possession of an “integration agreement” as per art. 4 bis of Legislative Decree 286/98 (details must be indicated);
  • A long-term resident – EU or EC residence permit, as per art. 9 of the aforementioned Legislative Decree, valid at the time.

Attendance is not required to take the Italian language exams; registration and participation are enough.

Certificates issued by a Public Authority can be declared through self-certification, those issued by a private or officially recognized private institution must be attached to the application through an authenticated copy.

However, not all applicants for citizenship through residence must demonstrate their knowledge of the Italian language.

Clean Criminal Record

The successful outcome of the citizenship application also depends on the judicial standing of the applicant.

A clean criminal record, both in Italy and abroad (where the applicant has previously lived), is an important requirement.

Checks start from the age of 14 of the applicants for citizenship.

Regardless of the documents exhibited, a background check of the candidate will still be performed, and any serious criminal convictions will lead to the rejection of the request.

It is advisable to seek the assistance of legal professionals specialized in immigration law to navigate the complex process that leads to the acquisition of Italian citizenship by residence/naturalization.

The lawyers of Boccadutri Law Firm can assist you in all stages of the citizenship application, including the collection of necessary documents, the submission of the application, and the preparation for any interviews.

For personalized assistance and eligibility verification for Italian citizenship application, contact our Immigration Department.

For further information:

The Italian Passport: Second Global Power

Appeal for Citizenship Recognition by Descent

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Calogero Boccadutri

Calogero Boccadutri is the Managing Partner of Boccadutri International Law Firm. He has trial experience in Forex, Personal Injury and Administrative litigation.

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