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ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP

How many people get Italian citizenship every year?

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

There are multiple paths to acquiring Italian citizenship.
There are multiple paths to acquiring Italian citizenship. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

If you want to secure your future in Italy, acquiring citizenship can be the best way to go about it – but the route you go down will vary significantly depending on your personal circumstances.

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

Here’s what the most up-to-date information from Istat, Italy’s national statistics agency, says about who gains Italian citizenship, and how.

How many people get Italian citizenship each year?

A total of 121,457 people were granted Italian citizenship in 2021, the last year for which official data is available. 

That’s eight percent less than in 2020, and lower also than 2019 (127,001) and 2018 (112,523).

This may be partially down to delayed effects of the pandemic, given the lengthy application process and the amount of paperwork involved in Italian citizenship applications.

Where do most ‘new Italians’ come from?

In 2021, like most years before it, the vast majority of people acquiring citizenship came from outside the European Union: 109,600 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 (22,493), followed by Moroccans (16,588), Romanians (9,435), Brazilians (5,460), Bangladeshis (5,116), Indians (4,489), Pakistanis (4,410), Argentinians (3,669), Moldovans (3,633), and Egyptians (3,531).

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

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.

People from the top three countries – Albania, Morocco, and Romania – accounted for 40 percent of all new Italian citizens in 2021.

Italian flag coloured smoke is pictured in the sky after Italian Air Force aerobatic unit Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows) flown over Rome to mark Repubblic Day on June 2, 2021.

Three countries of origin account for 40 percent of new Italian citizens. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

How do most people qualify for Italian citizenship?

In 2021, 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 55,897 people qualified for Italian citizenship via one of these three routes in 2021, around 46 percent of the total.

Another 50,973 people (42 percent) qualified via residency in Italy, while 14,587 (12 percent) qualified by marriage to an Italian national.

Claims based on residency decreased by around 15,000 from the year before, while those based on birthplace/descent increased by a little over 4,000, and claims from spouses of Italian nationals remained broadly stable, increasingly by just over 500.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get ‘fast track’ citizenship in Italy

In 2020 and 2021, citizenship requests via marriage were at their lowest in the past decade, down from 24,160 in 2018 and 17,026 in 2019.

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 abolished automatic consent after the deadline, as well as introducing a language test for people applying via marriage or residency.

The number of new Italians acquiring their citizenship via marriage was at a ten-year low in 2020 and 2021. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

Where in Italy do most people get citizenship?

The region of Italy with the most successful citizenship claims in 2021 was Lombardy, which granted 29,438 requests – just over 24 percent of the total. The region has topped the list for several years, reflecting the large numbers of foreigners who move there for work or study. 

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

Other regions where high numbers of people gained citizenship were Emilia-Romagna (16,432; 13.5 percent), Veneto (13,229; 11 percent), Piedmont (11,653; 9.6 percent), and Tuscany (9,682; 8 percent). While Lazio, the region of Rome, has a high foreign-born population, just 8,895 people took Italian citizenship there.

The regions handing out the fewest new citizenships, meanwhile, were Sardinia (704), Molise (466), Valle d’Aosta (455), and Basilicata (351).

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

There’s a fairly even gender balance – 49.6 percent of the total number of new citizens in 2021 were women, compared to 51.4 percent men – though women made up over 81 percent of those who acquired citizenship via marriage.

They’re also mainly young: the largest age group is under-20s, who accounted for 48,324 citizenships granted in 2021.

People aged 20-39 made up another 30,952, while 40 to 59-year-olds numbered 36,326. The number of people over 60 who acquired Italian citizenship was just 5,855.

Member comments

  1. Goof info thanks. Just a query. The article says ‘A total of 121,457 people were granted Italian citizenship in 2021, the last year for which official data is available. That’s eight percent less than in 2020, and lower also than 2019 (127,001) and 2018 (112,523).’ So if the 2018 figure is right, the 2021 figure is not ‘lower’ (but higher). It would also be good to have the number for 2020 as for 2019 and 2018.

  2. I have just been granted Citizenship and recognised as an Italian citizen by Birthright but no one has mentioned or informed me whether I have to go to the Consulate and Swear an oath of allegiance to the Republic. Can you tell me if I do or do not have to Swear an Oath.
    After twenty months of trying I would hate to throw it all away over this matter.

  3. @John Bryan — If you obtained citizenship by birthright, you do not need to swear an oath of allegiance. You have always been a citizen — just had to “prove” it. Only those who are “gaining” citizenship (who have not had it prior) need to swear the oath, e.g., obtaining citizenship by marriage.

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For members

ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP

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

If you have Italian ancestry, you might be wondering if you're eligible for citizenship. But how do you know for sure, and where should you start?

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

Italy is fairly lenient when it comes to jure sanguinis, or ancestry-based, citizenship applications, allowing almost anyone with an Italian ancestor going back to the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy to apply.

There are still some hurdles to overcome, however, and the application process you’ll need to follow varies depending on where you’re based and who you’re applying through.

Who can apply?

Currently, almost anyone who can prove they are directly descended from someone who was Italian in March 1861, when Italy officially became a country, is entitled to apply for Italian citizenship.

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

At the moment there’s no generational limit, and you don’t need to take an Italian language test – though a bill put forward by an Italian senator last year aims to change this.

You do need to be able to prove the line of descent with birth, marriage and death certificates for everyone in the chain.

Ancestry can be fastest route when applying for Italian citizenship, but there’s a lot to know about the process. Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

You also need to make sure that the ancestor through whom you’re applying didn’t give up their Italian citizenship before 1912 (which is when Italy passed its first dual citizenship law), or before the next generation were born.

READ ALSO: What a law from 1912 means for your claim for Italian citizenship via ancestry

Your ancestor doesn’t need to have formally renounced their citizenship in order to have lost it – Italy didn’t automatically allow dual citizenship until 1992, so most people who naturalised as a citizen of another country before then automatically lost their citizenship.

How to apply

If you live outside of Italy, in most cases you will need to apply through your nearest Italian consulate.

The majority of Italian consulates are currently experiencing significant backlogs, and it can take months or even years just to get an initial appointment, so you’ll need to be patient.

READ ALSO: ‘Next to impossible’: How backlogs are delaying applications for Italian citizenship

If you’re resident in Italy, you’ll apply at your local comune (town hall), which is usually a much faster process.

Some people relocate to Italy just to speed up their citizenship application, though this is only an option for those with the time and resources.

How can those applying for ancestry-based Italian citizenship get around the ever-increasing backlog?

If you’re applying for Italian citizenship, there’s a lot to consider. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

Anyone applying through a female ancestor who was born or had their children before 1948 is in a unique situation: you can’t go through the consulate or the town hall, but must apply through Italy’s court system instead.

READ ALSO: How the ‘1948 rule’ could affect your Italian citizenship application

While this might sound a bit daunting, most cases reviewed by the courts are successful providing you have all your paperwork in order, and it’s almost always quicker than applying through a consulate.

Some applicants frustrated with long consulate wait times have successfully applied to have the courts review their case in order to speed things up; you’ll still need to start by applying to the consulate and make a strong case to the courts as to why they should take on your case.

The paperwork you’ll need

For any application, you’ll need birth, death and marriage certificates for everyone in the line of descent.

You will also need to apply for a ‘Certificate of Non Naturalisation’ or ‘Certificate of Non-Existence’ for your Italian ancestor from the national archives of whichever country they emigrated to, to prove they didn’t naturalise as a foreign citizen.

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

If they did become a foreign citizen, you’ll be issued instead with a Certificate of Naturalisation. You will probably still be eligible to apply for Italian citizenship, provided they didn’t naturalise until after the next generation was born.

Photo by Francesca Tirico on Unsplash

You’ll then need to have all these documents apostilled and officially translated into Italian.

If you can’t locate a birth certificate for someone in the chain, you might be able to track down their baptismal certificate from church archives: these are usually accepted as a substitute.

There are multiple Italian consultants these days who specialise in unearthing hard-to-find records and who can provide you with this service – for a fee.

Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll need to see whether you’re asked to provide any more supporting information.

If not, all that remains is sit back and wait; hopefully, before too long, you’ll be applying for that Italian passport.

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