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ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP

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

Obtaining Italian citizenship is not a simple matter even if you are born here, as there are many obstacles to overcome. This is what you should know about the complex process of naturalisation.

Getting Italian citizenship for your children can be a complicated process.
Getting Italian citizenship for your children can be a complicated process. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

It is natural that people who are settled in Italy would want their children to have Italian citizenship.

Unlike many other countries, however, merely being born in Italy doesn’t mean the person is Italian.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, children will not obtain Italian citizenship at birth. 

This may sound unfair to someone coming from, say, the United States, but Italy doesn’t (in the vast majority of cases) recognise so-called “birthright citizenship” (jus soli) which would automatically grant an Italian passport to anyone born here.

Even kids who have lived here their entire lives and consider themselves to be Italian will have the same nationality as their parents and will continue to be considered foreigners by the Italian state – until and unless they become naturalised.

Some Italian politicians and political parties, particularly from the Democratic Party, are pushing for a relaxation of the rules, however at present they remain in place. 

Who is entitled to an Italian passport at birth?

Children born to Italian-citizen parents, or at least one parent who is Italian, will be automatically considered citizens of Italy by a process known as “acquisition by descent”, or jus sanguinis.

READ ALSO: How British nationals can claim Italian citizenship by descent

This applies as much to children born abroad as it does to those born in Italy.

A foreign child adopted by Italian parent(s) is subject to the same rules.

What happens if both parents are foreign nationals?

There are several scenarios to consider if you would like your child (or future child) to be Italian.

If you don’t have children yet but have a permit that allows you to permanently reside in Italy, you could apply for naturalisation after living in the country for a set number of years.

For most foreigners, ten years is the minimum length of time they will need to have lived in Italy before they become eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalisation. That period is reduced to four years for EU nationals, and five years for refugees.

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

If you become naturalised before the child is born (even if you still retain the citizenship of your former country), then he or she will be automatically Italian at birth.

If the child was born before the parent naturalised, they still automatically become an Italian citizen at the same time as the parent does – provided they are under the age of 18 and living with the naturalised parent.

“It is irrelevant that the birth occurred before or after the submission of the application for citizenship,” Giuditta De Ricco, head citizenship lawyer at the immigration firm Mazzeschi, told The Local.

Those children whose parents become Italian citizens after they turn 18, however, will need to file their own citizenship application.

For children born in Italy to foreign parents, the requirements are strict: they must reside in Italy ‘without interruption’ until the age of 18 and submit a statement of their intent to apply for citizenship within one year of their eighteenth birthday.

However, children who were born in Italy, moved away, and moved back as adults can apply for citizenship after just three continuous years of legal residency in the country – so being born on Italian soil does have some advantages when it comes to acquiring citizenship.

The Italian Air Force aerobatic unit performs on April 25, 2020, Italy's 75th Liberation Day, over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome.

The Italian Air Force aerobatic unit performs on April 25, 2020, Italy’s 75th Liberation Day, over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

What happens if the parents are of different nationalities?

If the child’s parents are of different nationalities that are treated differently by the Italian state (if, for example, one parent is French and the other American), the child will be subject to the least stringent applicable naturalisation requirements. 

This means that if a child has one French and one American parent, they will be subject to French (EU) rules and eligibility periods when applying for naturalisation as an Italian citizen.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I have residency in Italy and another country?

A French parent can apply for Italian citizenship on their own behalf after four years of residency in Italy, and “minor children will be automatically Italian, once the parent takes the oath,” confirms De Ricco.

Usually all that’s required is that the parent produces the children’s birth certificates, although in some cases children will also be asked to attend the oath-taking ceremony with their parent.

Bear in mind that it’s important to consider whether the child’s country/ies of origin allow for dual or triple citizenship, and if not, whether you would be willing to renounce your child’s citizenship of another country in order for them to obtain Italian citizenship.

What if I moved to Italy when my children were already born?

If two non-citizens move to Italy when their children were already born, naturalisation is the means through which they may be able to gain citizenship. 

In recent years some Italian parliamentarians have proposed a ius culturae basis for citizenship – that is, acquiring citizenship via cultural assimilation, on the understanding that children quickly adapt to the culture of their country of residence.

A bill put forward by Democratic Party MP Laura Boldrini would allow children under the age of ten who have lived in Italy for at least five years and completed one school year to apply for citizenship, as well as those who arrived in Italy under the age of ten and have lived continuously in Italy up to the age of 18 (and submit their statement of intent before they turn 19). 

This bill has yet to pass in Italy, however, so there are currently no such fast-tracks in place for foreign minors born outside of the country.

What about citizenship for the third generation?

Italy is particularly lenient when it comes to awarding citizenship to foreign citizens with Italian ancestry.

Anyone who can prove they had an Italian ancestor who was alive in 1861, when Italy became a nation, or since then, can become an Italian citizen via jus sanguinis (provided the ancestor in question did not renounce their citizenship).

And this leniency also extends to those who prefer to become citizens through naturalisation – if you had an Italian parent or grandparent, you just need three years of legal residency in the country to acquire citizenship in this way.

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For members

MOVING TO ITALY

Reader question: What are the rules on moving household goods to Italy?

If you plan to bring furniture and other household items with you when moving to Italy, here's a look at how import tax applies and the other rules in place.

Reader question: What are the rules on moving household goods to Italy?

Question: My husband and I are buying a second home in Italy and would like to ship household items over from the US. Will we need to pay import duty? Does one of us need to be a resident? And are there any other rules we need to be aware of?

According to EU rules, goods transported into the bloc that have a value of more than €150 are subject to customs duties and sometimes excise tax as well, depending on the item.

Since July 2021, a customs declaration form has been required for all goods imported from outside the EU, and Italian VAT must be paid on items with any monetary value – unless the package sent between private individuals and the value of its contents is below €45.

However, there is an exception for people relocating to Italy.

The Italian customs agency says that you are “generally entitled to VAT and customs duty relief” if you are moving to Italy and bringing household goods which you have owned for more than six months.

To qualify, you also need to be able to show that you have been living in a non-EU country for at least the preceding 12 months.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

The exemption only applies if you have Italian residency: you’ll need to show the customs office both your permesso di soggiorno stay permit, obtained from the questura police headquarters, and your residency certificate, issued by the comune town hall where you’re resident.

Note that buying a second home does not automatically entitle you to a stay permit or give you any residency rights; non-EU nationals require a visa in order to stay in Italy for more than 90 days in a 180-day period.

To claim the import duty relief, you’ll need to file a request with your local customs office once your household goods have arrived in Italy.

You’ll also need to be able to show the customs office your passport and your Italian tax code.

According to the A1 Auto Transport international moving company, you’ll need to prepare a significant amount of paperwork, including filling out a customs declaration form and making a detailed inventory of all items that is signed and stamped by the Italian consulate of your departure country.

While the Italian customs website does not provide any details on timelines, A1 says you should transport your items within six months of moving to Italy in order to be eligible for import duty relief.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about having a second home in Italy

If you’re using a shipping company, they should be familiar with the process and able to advise you on the documentation required and the most up-to-date procedures.

If you don’t qualify for import tax relief, you’ll be liable to pay both customs duty and VAT. The Italian customs agency website says that customs duty varies according to the type of good being transported, while VAT is 20 percent.

Online calculators like those provided by Simply Duty or Easyship can help you determine how much import tax you’ll have to pay.

Please note that the Local is unable to advise on specific cases. For more information, refer to the Italian customs agency website or contact the customs office of your town of residency.

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