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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


Reader question: Where can I take an English-speaking degree in Italy?

Many Italian universities offer degree programmes in English across a wide array of disciplines, allowing more students to take advantage of the perks of studying here.

Reader question: Where can I take an English-speaking degree in Italy?

Studying, and particularly studying in a new country, is no small feat. Throw studying in another language to the mix and things become even harder.

If you dream of studying in Italy, the good news is that there are a whole host of options when it comes to English-taught degrees at public universities.

This may come as a surprise considering Italy is known for not being a particularly anglophone country (it regularly ranks among the countries in Europe with the lowest levels of proficiency in English).

Italy’s universities also offer a relatively low cost of tuition, which has an upper limit of €3,000, while living expenses are also generally cheaper than in other western countries such as the US, Canada and the UK.

READ ALSO: What studying in Italy is really like and what you should expect

What’s more, the price of the course does not increase drastically for overseas students, unlike in Britain for example where fees can almost double.

That’s not to say there aren’t issues. According to the latest Times Higher Education ranking, only 26 of the country’s universities were in the top 500 for 2024. The country attracted 80,000 foreign students in 2020, which is lower than its western European counterparts.

Nevertheless, Italy does provide a more affordable option for those who don’t want to be lumbered with copious amounts of student debt.

Below we’ve listed just some of your best 2024 options.

  • University of Bologna

It should come as no surprise that this academic landmark tops the list. Founded in 1088, it’s known as the oldest university in the world.

Famous alumni include poet Petrarch and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. It’s highly regarded across the globe and is Italy’s highest-ranking university, currently placed at 155 on The Times’ list.

At present Bologna has a whopping 89 courses taught in English, with the majority of those being in the Engineering and Architecture, Economics and Management and Sciences departments. 

For more information, see here.

  • La Sapienza of Rome

The Eternal City isn’t just about The Colosseum and The Vatican you know. Its principal university is pretty big news amongst academics and it’s currently number 181 on the Times’ list, third only to Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa.

 A lot of masters courses ranging from data science to economics are taught in English here as are bachelor’s degrees such as classics and global humanities. 

Find more details here.

  • Politecnico di Milano

Strictly speaking, as the name suggests, this was founded as a polytechnic and not a university back in 1863. However, it’s since become known as one of the country’s leading science-technology universities, which is perfect for aspiring engineers and industrial designers.

There are not any English-only courses at Bachelor level, but at Masters level too, with only three of the 46 courses available held only in Italian.

For more information, click on the link here.

  • University of Padua

As the second-oldest university in the country (founded in 1222), it would be odd to not include the University of Padua on this list.

With teaching alumni including Galileo Galilei, it’s well-known throughout the globe. Padua city itself is full of international students, despite its much smaller size compared to the other three cities mentioned above.

READ ALSO: Five things to know before you apply for an Italian student visa

There are only seven Bachelor’s degrees on offer here, but it makes up for that shortfall in its Master’s programmes of which there are 48. Its human rights and multi-level governance course is often said to be one of the best.

For more information, click on the link here

  • Tor Vergata University of Rome

Another Rome entry, Tor Vergata, is well-regarded for its computer science subjects. The university lies just outside of central Rome meaning the cost of living is that bit cheaper for those on a budget. The university has 21 English-taught courses ranging from mechatronics engineering to business administration. 

For more information, see here

Special mentions

There are also a host of private universities in Italy that shouldn’t be ignored. They tend to be a lot more expensive than their public counterparts, but the majority of them have English courses available.

Università Bocconi in Milan is perhaps the most esteemed of the bunch, with LUISS University in Rome coming in at a close second. Both these institutions excel in law, economics, politics and finance.

Humanitas University in Milan offers the only medicine and surgery course in Italy taught in English. The university currently ranks at number 251 on the Times’ list.