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How many foreigners does Italy grant citizenship to?

Thinking of applying to become Italian? Here's how many other people do it each year, where they come from and how they qualify.

The Italian flag.
Acquiring Italian citizenship is the ultimate way to guarantee your future in Italy. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

All data referred to in this article comes from Istat, Italy’s national statistics office. It refers to people acquiring Italian citizenship who are resident in Italy.

How many people get Italian citizenship each year?

A total of 127,001 people were granted Italian citizenship in 2019, the last year for which official data is available. 

That’s a slight increase from 2018, when 112,523 people became Italian, but still considerably below 2017 (146,605) or 2016 (201,591), when the number of successful citizenship requests registered a spike.

Where do most ‘new Italians’ come from?

In 2019, like most years before it, the vast majority of people acquiring citizenship came from outside the European Union: 113,979 or roughly 90 percent. That’s what you’d expect, since people with EU passports already enjoy most of the same rights in Italy as Italians and therefore have less incentive to apply for citizenship.

The highest number of successful applications came from Albanians (26,033), followed by Moroccans (15,812), Brazilians (10,762), Romanians (10,201), North Macedonians (4,966), Indians (4,683), Moldovans (3,788), Ecuadoreans (3,041), Senegalese (2,869), Pakistanis (2,722) and Peruvians (2,685).


Citizens of Albania and Morocco have consistently made up the top two since at least 2012, with as many as 36,920 Albanians and 35,212 Moroccans gaining Italian citizenship when claims were at their height in 2016.

Meanwhile Brazil has seen successful citizenship requests increase more than sevenfold since 2012.

Other nationalities are far less likely to apply for Italian citizenship despite having a relatively large immigrant population in Italy: notably, less than 5 percent of Italy’s Chinese residents have acquired Italian citizenship, presumably because China does not permit dual nationality.

How do most people qualify for Italian citizenship?

In 2019, the most common way to acquire citizenship was either by descent (ius sanguinis, which allows those who can prove descent from at least one Italian ancestor to claim Italian citizenship), by birthplace (ius soli, which entitles people born and raised in Italy by non-Italian parents to claim Italian citizenship at age 18), or by parental transmission (the law that automatically transfers citizenship to the children of adults who acquire citizenship, provided they’re under 18 and living with them at the time).

Altogether 57,098 people qualified for Italian citizenship via one of these three routes in 2019, around 45 percent of the total.

Another 52,877 people (42 percent) qualified via residency in Italy, while 17,026 (13 percent) qualified by marriage to an Italian national.


While claims based on residency or birthplace/descent increased by around 13,000 and 8,000 respectively from the year before, claims from spouses of Italian nationals were down sharply by more than 7,000. In fact citizenship requests via this route were at their lowest last year since 2015; in every other year since 2012, they have been either around or above 20,000.

That may reflect a change in the law in late 2018 that allowed the Italian state to take up to four years to process requests for citizenship via marriage, where previously they had to be answered within two years or automatically granted after this point.

The new rules also abolish automatic consent after the deadline, as well as introducing a language test for people applying via marriage or residency.

Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP

Another notable trend is the rise in the number of people successfully claiming Italian citizenship by descent. In 2016, the year that Italy’s statistics office began tracking such claims, some 7,000 people gained citizenship this way; in 2017 it was over 8,200, in 2018 it reached 9,000, and in 2019 it was over 10,000.

The majority of ius sanguinis claims come from two countries: Brazil and Argentina, which between then accounted for nearly 96 percent of all citizenship by descent claims in 2019.

Where in Italy do most people get citizenship?

The region of Italy with the most successful citizenship claims in 2019 was Lombardy, which granted 31,437 requests. The region has topped the list for several years, reflecting the large numbers of foreigners who move there for work or study. 

Other regions where high numbers of people gained citizenship were Veneto (16,960), Emilia-Romagna (12,014), Piedmont (11,702) and Tuscany (11,139). While Lazio, the region of Rome, has a high foreign-born population, just 9,258 people took Italian citizenship there.

The regions handing out the fewest new citizenships, meanwhile, were Sardinia (677), Molise (504), Basilicata (418) and Valle d’Aosta (361).


The further north you go, the more people base their claim on residency – reflecting the fact that the wealthy, industrial north has long attracted migrants looking for work.

In the south, meanwhile, and especially the regions of Calabria, Basilicata and Molise, the majority of citizenship claims were based on ancestry, the legacy of decades of emigration overseas from impoverished parts of southern Italy.

What else do we know about people who apply for citizenship in Italy?

They’re mainly women (66,890 in 2019 compared to 60,111 men), and they’re mainly young: the largest age group is under-20s, who accounted for 45,741 citizenships granted in 2019.

People aged 20-39 made up another 39,929, while 40- to 59-year-olds numbered 36,316. The number of people over 60 who acquired Italian citizenship was just 5,015.

A version of this article was first published in 2020.

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For members


What are the pros and cons of having Italian dual citizenship?

For most international residents looking to stay in Italy for the long term, having dual citizenship is a bonus. But are there any drawbacks? Here's what the experts say.

What are the pros and cons of having Italian dual citizenship?

Obtaining Italian citizenship and becoming a dual national is an attractive idea for many.

Not only does dual citizenship grant access to rights in Italy that residents don’t have, it also allows you to keep your rights in your home country (as long as your country allows dual citizenship.)

There are three main routes to obtaining Italian citizenship: naturalisation, ancestry, or marriage. The ancestry route, known as jure sanguinis or ‘right of blood’, is by far the most popular way to obtain Italian, or dual, citizenship.

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

The Local spoke to Elze Obrikyte, Senior Associate at Giambrone Law, and Jason LoPresti from Italian Dual Citizenship about the advantages and disadvantages to be aware of.

The benefits:

Freedom of movement

If you have Italian citizenship, this eases travel to not only Italy but to and within the Schengen zone for third-country nationals. You also benefit from freedom of movement rules allowing citizens to live and work in any of the 27 European Union member states. 

“Being an Italian citizen allows you to enjoy all the rights of European nationals without any particular restrictions,” says Obrikyte. 

“Italian immigration is rather strict, even if the new digital nomad visa will allow for more flexibility, but on the whole it is not easy for a third country national to transfer to Italy.”

“Getting dual citizenship eliminates this.”

Voting rights

Often living solely as a resident in Italy does not grant you access to vote in local and national elections. Obrikyte says this is ‘extremely important’ for dual nationals as they should have a say in what happens in their country. 

READ ALSO: Italy grants citizenship to more people than any other EU country

LoPresti adds that dual citizens do not have to be residing in Italy to vote in national elections. They can live elsewhere and vote via mail (circoscrizione estero).

Tax benefits

While foreigners who are not resident in Italy can buy property, dual citizens who are not resident in the country can purchase a house with lower taxation rates, provided they transfer residence within 18 months. They have the same rights in this case as people residing in Italy.

“It is a definite bonus when buying,” says Obrikyte. 

READ ALSO: Five surprising things to know about applying for Italian citizenship via ancestry

Such reductions include less in VAT (IVA) and registration tax for a first home purchase.

Italian citizens or foreign citizens resident in the country pay a two-percent registration tax and four percent VAT, which is lower than the rate paid by non-residents. Italian citizens do not have to be living in Italy upon purchase to be eligible for this rate.

Many people – US nationals in particular – are worried about double taxation if they obtain dual citizenship, but tax experts are clear that obtaining Italian citizenship in itself should not affect tax obligations in Italy and that tax treaties usually apply.

Employment opportunities

Having the right to live and work in Italy (or another EU member state) visa-free is a major advantage, the experts point out.

“Imagine you work for an international company in your home country and your ideal position opens up in Italy,” LoPresti says. “Of course the employer may favour someone who already has Italian citizenship as they won’t have to apply for a work visa.”

And should you want to apply for a job in the public sector in Italy, these are only open to Italian citizens.

“I think not only would this be advantageous in terms of work for the new Italian passport holder,” says Obrikyte, “but it would also be advantageous to them in a sense of belonging as they’d be part of working directly for the state.”

Italy, passport

Having Italian passport brings numerous advantages for third-country nationals. Photo by Cristian Sorto / Getty Images

Advantages for children

“One big thing which must not be forgotten is how having Italian citizenship may benefit future generations,” says LoPresti.

“Passing this along to your offspring and their offspring would be extremely beneficial.”

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

Unlike citizenship of some countries, such as the UK, Italian citizenship can be passed onto an unlimited number of generations – regardless of which country the future generations are born in.

The drawbacks

Renewing passports

“Renewing one passport is tricky enough,” says LoPresti. “Imagine having to renew two. Now that is a fair bit of work.”

Renewing an Italian passport is not known to be particularly quick or easy: Italy in 2024 introduced a priority line after waiting times for renewals rose to as much as ten months.

Time and effort

While applying for Italian citizenship by descent is the most popular option, it’s not always straightforward and waiting times are increasingly long.

“If you are deciding to go down the route of jus sanguinis, be prepared for the amount of documentation you will have to provide,” warns LoPresti. 

READ ALSO: Who is entitled to Italian citizenship by descent and how to apply for it

He adds it usually takes the longest to clear and carries the most requirements compared to other routes to Italian citizenship, particularly as documentation has to be from two countries rather than one.

High costs

Applications for Italian citizenship are not cheap, particularly if you need the help of a legal professional, which is very often the case.

“To do it properly with a lawyer may cost thousands,” says Obrikyte. 

For LoPresti, the amount depends on several factors: “The type of case an individual has, the package they are choosing, and the number of applicants (family members) they are adding to their application all amounts to the overall cost.

READ ALSO: Revealed: How much it really costs to get Italian citizenship via ancestry.

“The average cost to complete the services professionally is about $6,000-$13,000,” he adds.

“However, many people apply as a group with other family members in the bloodline so they can split and share the total costs, which can drastically reduce their cost per person.”

Either way, the experts agree that there are very few disadvantages to getting Italian dual citizenship. Despite the cost and time involved in applying, being an Italian citizen comes with numerous advantages, particularly if you want to live in Italy long-term.

Find more information in The Local’s Italian citizenship section.