For members


How foreigners can get ‘fast track’ citizenship in Italy

It can take three years or more for Italy to approve applications for citizenship via ancestry, but there is another way. Here’s how you may be able to cut the waiting time.

Alley in Italy and Italian flag
Foreign nationals looking to acquire Italian citizenship don’t have to necessarily go through their Italian consulate to do so. ​​Photo by Alexey TURENKOV via Unsplash

Italy is far more lenient than many other countries when it comes to allowing people to claim citizenship via ancestry.

In fact, anyone who can prove that they had an Italian ancestor who was alive after March 17th, 1861 (when the Kingdom of Italy was born) and that no one in their line of descent renounced Italian citizenship before the birth of their descendant has the right to become an Italian citizen. 

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

But that doesn’t mean getting Italian citizenship by descent is easy, and the application process is known for involving lots of paperwork and being excruciatingly lengthy.

From the moment applicants file their claim with their country’s Italian consulate, it usually takes between two to three years to get a ruling from the Italian authorities, with waiting times often being even longer in countries where the number of applications is high (Brazil, Argentina, USA). 

There is an alternative route: Italy has a ‘fast track’ citizenship application option which can reduce adjudication times to around a year on average.

But this quicker avenue requires moving to Italy, becoming a legal resident, and filing the citizenship request directly with the local town hall. 

This means applicants must be physically and legally resident in Italy for the entire duration of the citizenship application process, and their presence in Italy must be continuous during that time.

This is subject to checks by Italian law enforcement and breaking the rules can void your application.

If moving to Italy (and staying here) would be an option for you, here’s a closer look at the requirements:

Step 1 – Sorting out the documents 

Foreign nationals opting for the quicker citizenship route can only submit their application after they’ve relocated to Italy. But, most, if not all of the documents required by Italian authorities should be prepared well before moving to Italy. 

“Prospective applicants are strongly advised to come to Italy with all of the relevant documentation already arranged in the best possible way,” says Giuditta De Ricco, attorney-at-law at immigration law firm Mazzeschi Srl. 

That’s because “any inconsistencies in the documentation can further complicate and lengthen the process”, she says.

But what documents do foreign nationals need to claim Italian citizenship? Here’s an overview: 

  • Birth and (where applicable) death certificates for all the Italian ancestors in their direct line of descent plus their own birth certificate.
  • Marriage certificates for all the Italian ancestors in their direct line of descent, including that of their parents.
  • A certificate issued by their home country’s relevant authorities proving that the first ancestor in their line of descent did not acquire foreign citizenship before the birth of their descendant.
  • A certificate issued by their country’s Italian consulate proving that no ancestor in their direct line of descent nor they ever renounced Italian citizenship.

Two people signing documents in an office

Prospective applicants should get all of the necessary documents in order prior to leaving for Italy. Photo by Gabrielle HENDERSON via Unsplash

It bears noting that all of the documents issued by foreign authorities will have to be legally validated by the issuing country’s Italian consulate.

Also, all documents available in a language other than Italian will have to be translated and their translation will too have to be legally validated (this is known as ‘asseverazione’).

Once again, De Ricco recommends that all translation and validation procedures be carried out before leaving for Italy.

Step 2 – Relocating to Italy  

Being permanently resident in Italy is a binding requirement of the quicker citizenship avenue. 

“Applicants are allowed to go on short holidays abroad if they wish to” but, outside of those, their presence in Italy “must be continuous”, says De Ricco.  

Taking up residency in Italy is relatively straightforward for EU-passport holders as they don’t need a visa to enter the country nor do they need a permesso di soggiorno (residency permit).

Essentially, all EU nationals are required to do at this stage is to physically relocate to Italy and become legally resident by registering with the Ufficio Anagrafe (Registry Office). 

Things aren’t quite as easy for non-EU nationals as they need a valid entry visa and a residency permit.


There are different types of visas and permits available to non-EU nationals, but the easiest route if you’re moving for citizenship purposes is the permesso di soggiorno in attesa di cittadinanza (residency permit pending the acquisition of citizenship), which allows foreign nationals to legally live in the country for the entire length of their claim. 

Prospective applicants can enter the country on a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence) – this is filed with border police for non-Schengen arrivals and at the local Questura (police station) within eight days of entry for others – use the above dichiarazione to register with the Anagrafe and then submit their citizenship application at the town hall. 

Starting the citizenship application process will ultimately give foreign nationals the right to apply for the residency permit, which they’ll have to request by filling out and posting the relevant form along with all the necessary documents to the local Questura.   

Remember: a dichiarazione di presenza allows non-EU nationals to legally remain in Italy for a maximum of 90 days, so you’ll have to send in your permesso di soggiorno application before your 90-day window expires.

READ ALSO: How to register with the anagrafe in Italy

It’s also worth noting that holders of residency permits for citizenship purposes are not allowed to carry out any type of work in the country. However, such permits can be converted into residency permits for work purposes if needed. 

Step 3 – Booking an appointment with the town hall

Once you’ve registered with the Anagrafe and prepared all of the relevant documents, you’ll need to book an appointment at the Ufficio di Stato Civile (Civil Registry) at your local town hall and submit the application to become an Italian citizen. 

Colourful houses in Venice

Foreign nationals must be legally and physically resident in Italy in order to apply for citizenship at their local town hall. ​​Photo by Alex VASEY via Unsplash

You’ll find your registry’s contact details on the town hall’s website. 

Step 4 – Outcome

Barring any inconsistencies regarding the submitted documentation, Italian authorities have 180 days to rule on the issue of Italian citizenship.

However, town halls are required to exchange information with foreign consulates during the application process and the latter’s response times don’t count towards the 180-day window.

That’s part of the reason why “waiting times vary greatly from case to case”, says De Ricco. “Some consulates get back after three weeks, while others might take seven months to do it.”

So, ultimately, the luckier applicants might become Italian citizens within as little as six months, whereas others might have to wait a year or a year and a half. 

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

If the request is successful, the applicant will receive Italian citizenship and so will any children of theirs under the age of 18. Children aged over 18 will have to file their own application. 

From the moment they’re awarded Italian citizenship, new citizens have six months to take an oath of allegiance to the Italian Republic. If they don’t, their citizenship will be automatically revoked.

Member comments

  1. I’m curious about the oath of allegiance. Is this still a necessary part of the process? And it doesn’t mean that I have to renounce my other citizenship right?

  2. Excellent article. Italian citizenship is highly sought after in Latin America and North America as Italian immigrants left for better working conditions. With the development of places and the creation of families, the right to citizenship was transmitted to descendants.
    Italian Lawyer – Montone, Andrew

  3. Hi – If a UK national established permanent residency in Italy before Dec 2020 is it still a requirement to wait 10 years for citizenship or is it possible to follow the path of other EU nationals into Italian Citizenship in under 5 years?

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For members


‘I feel trapped’: How long waits for residency permits are affecting people in Italy

Getting Italy's permesso di soggiorno is never easy, but waiting times of up to ten months are making the process much harder. The Local’s readers tell us how the wait has ruined Christmas travel plans and left them feeling "infuriated".

'I feel trapped': How long waits for residency permits are affecting people in Italy

For many people living away from home in Italy, Christmas means returning to spend time with loved ones, with airports around the festive period full to the brim with people and their gifts.

But for Erika Worley, 25, Christmas this year will look different from the one she had hoped for in her US home. She won’t be travelling as she has only just received her appointment to renew her Italian residency permit (permesso di soggiorno), despite applying for it eight months ago.

“It’s awful, I feel trapped. I haven’t left Italy in over a year and my trust in the system has gone completely downhill,” says Erika, a literature and philosophy Master’s student at La Sapienza University in Rome. 

“I asked during my appointment two weeks ago if I could go home for Christmas this year and the lady at the desk just looked at me and said no, because I needed to wait two months to get my residence permit.”

This isn’t the first Christmas at home Erika is missing due to not receiving her permesso di soggiorno in time: last year she missed out on a family Christmas too due to complications with her first permesso di soggiorno. She had gone to her appointment in March 2022 but did not receive her permit until February 2023. 

“It was the most frustrating experience ever, and had it not been for my Italian roommate, I highly doubt I would have received my first permesso di soggiorno,” Erika says.

READ ALSO: How the rules on renewing Italian residency permits have changed

“What makes it more infuriating is that because I had applied for it in March 2022, it expired in March 2023. I had less than a month with a valid permit before having to apply again.”

Do you have advice for people waiting for residency permits in Italy? Share in the comments section below.

“It’s now my second Christmas away from home. I feel like a prisoner. I was devastated when they said no to going home for Christmas because my dad was recently in a bad car accident and was in hospital. It’s been really a tough time.”

Anyone applying for or renewing a residency permit in Italy will need to become familiar with their local post office. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)

Erika said a few people she knows suggested that she go home with her permesso di soggiorno receipt, which is technically legal. However, she doesn’t feel comfortable doing so, mainly because the official at the immigration desk told her otherwise.

To make matters worse, Erika’s expired permit was stolen along with her bag around the time of her renewal application in March 2023. She said her only saving grace was the fact she filed a denuncia (report) with the police after it happened so when it came to her renewal appointment in November, they had a record of it.

She was also charged €130.46, the cost for a five-year permanent EC long-term residence permit, at the post office instead of €70.46 for a permit that lasts a year.

Erika continues: “The system is so disorganised and slow. It is frustrating that so many people have different experiences and there is no uniform with the rules. They tell me one thing, but they might tell someone else you can go home with the receipt. 

“The information is not defined or passed down regularly. Not to mention that I applied for my appointment in March and I have just received the appointment. There is no reason for it. No apology was given.

READ ALSO: ‘Arduous process’: What to expect when applying for Italian permanent residency

“I’m now just waiting for my second card. I have to get it and I’m sceptical it will take two months. I’ve accepted my fate: I cannot go home for Christmas again this year.”

Erika’s Rome-based friend, Karla Chávez from Mexico, has also had issues with her residency permit.

“It was terrible and I couldn’t go home or anywhere for a year. It affected my mental health so much and I got depressed because I didn’t get to see my family or even move inside of Europe,” Karla says.

“I sent my kit off in February of this year and got an appointment seven months later in September. The only highlight was that it took 41 days for me to get the document. I consider myself fortunate.”

Under present law, authorities should issue the new permit within 60 days of the appointment at the Questura. This is similar to the rules in other EU countries such as France and Spain. However, the main issue with the renewal of permits currently is getting the appointment in the first place, not what happens after it.

In 2023 The Local has heard from a growing number of international residents who say they face waits of eight, nine, or even ten months for the appointment.

One reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, says renewals are getting harder by the year and that for some foreigners the experience can be quite alienating.


“I presented my kit a month ago but I wasn’t given an appointment at the police station. The postal worker asked me strange questions like: are you Muslim? I asked him if it was necessary for him to know that when filling out a renewal form and his reaction was quite mean. 

“I called the police station to check the status of the appointment with the questura, but they told me that I have to wait for a letter, which has not yet arrived.

“I’ve been here for five years, I renew every year and every year it gets harder and harder and the wait gets longer and longer.”

The Local has contacted Italy’s ministry of foreign affairs for comment.

Have you been affected by long waiting times when renewing your Italian residency permit? Do you have advice for people waiting for residency permits in Italy? Share in the comments section below or email us [email protected].