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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.

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What are the benefits of having Italian citizenship vs residency?

Applying for Italian citizenship can be a lengthy and costly process - so why bother? There are plenty of advantages to being an Italian citizen over simply a foreign resident.

What are the benefits of having Italian citizenship vs residency?

Italian citizenship applications can be drawn-out and often expensive affairs, requiring months of appointments and vast quantities of documentation, and sometimes taking years to be finalised.

The procedure varies depending on whether you’re applying for citizenship via ancestry, residency or marriage, but those who’ve done it tend to agree that it’s an uphill slog – and it’s not cheap.

READ ALSO: The three ways to apply for Italian citizenship

So if you already have residency, why bother with applying for Italian citizenship?

Here’s are the key benefits of citizenship to bear in mind when weighing up whether the application process is worth it for you:

It doesn’t expire

Italian residency permits must be renewed every six, 12, or 24 months, depending on the kind you have – an arduous process that’s liable to vary depending on where you’re living and which local official is handling your case.

If you obtain permanent residency after five continuous years of living in Italy, this doesn’t expire – but you still have to renew your card every 10 years in order for it to remain valid as an ID document.

READ ALSO: Permesso di soggiorno: A complete guide to getting Italy’s residency permit

You can’t lose it

Permanent residency only gives you the right to remain in Italy if you are, well, permanently resident.

It’s hard to lose permanent residency, but not impossible: leaving the EU for more than 12 consecutive months, or leaving the country for six continuous years, will do it.

Being considered a national security threat, being placed under police special prevention measures, or being found to have obtained your permit fraudulently will also get your residency status revoked.

Italian citizenship, by contrast, is something that can’t be taken away from you, regardless of where you go or what you do.

It confers rights non-citizens don’t have

Healthcare: As an Italian citizen, you have the automatic right to free healthcare in Italy, regardless of your employment status.

Voting: Citizens can vote in all elections, including, local, national, and EU elections, and stand for election if you’re above the age of 18 – even if you live in another EU country outside Italy.

Foreign EU nationals who are resident in Italy can register to vote in municipal and European parliamentary elections, but not national and regional elections.

You can also pass your Italian citizenship on to any children under the age of 18.

Once you have Italian citizenship, you’re not at risk of losing it. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

It gives you access to the rest of the EU

Having an Italian passport allows you to freely move around and work in the EU more or less without limitations.

Of course, if you already have an EU passport, this isn’t going to be a plus point for you.

READ ALSO: Mythbuster: Can you really ‘cheat’ the Schengen 90-day rule?

But for non-EU Italian residents who can only spend three months out of every six in another EU country under the 90-day rule, it presents a massive potential benefit.

Disadvantages of Italian citizenship

Considering the advantages laid out above, why wouldn’t anyone want to apply for citizenship?

For one, some countries – like India – don’t allow dual citizenship. For many, the benefits of gaining an Italian passport won’t outweigh the disadvantages of having to forfeit citizenship of your country of origin.

Foreigners with their sights set on a career with their home country’s diplomatic or consular services might also not want to apply for Italian citizenship.

While it’s not necessarily a barrier to entry, having more than one citizenship can make things more complicated for those who want to work in a high-level government position with access to classified information.

READ ALSO: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

Finally, there’s an emotional as well as practical component to naturalising. In Italy, for example, you’re required to take an oath of allegiance to the Republic.

If you won’t receive much in the way of material benefits, and don’t feel particularly aligned with Italian culture, you may prefer to stick with the citizenship you have.

In all other situations though, there are no major drawbacks to acquiring Italian citizenship – and plenty of advantages.

What about taxes?

Many people, particularly US nationals, looking at Italian citizenship are concerned about dual taxation, i.e. having the same income taxed both in Italy and their home country. 

While US citizens must file annual tax returns and declare their global income regardless of where they live, Italy does not have citizenship-based taxation rules, meaning it does not tax its citizens if they are not residents.

READ ALSO: Eight of the most common mistakes when applying for Italian citizenship

You have to pay Italian tax on your worldwide income if you’re an Italian tax resident, meaning you live in Italy for at least 183 days out of the year, or if you have income sources (such as rental income) originating in Italy.

Double taxation agreements mean you won’t be taxed twice in both Italy and the US – up to a certain threshold and on some types of income. US public pensions may be taxed in Italy, but again this is dependent on residency, not nationality. You can read more about the rules on double taxation for US nationals here.

Can you have dual citizenship?

Yes, as long as your country of birth allows it. Italian law does not put any limit on the number of citizenships an Italian citizen may hold.

There’s a lot of confusion about this and a widespread belief that Italy does not allow citizens to hold more than one nationality, as this was not allowed until a law change in 1992.

READ ALSO: How many people get Italian citizenship every year?

If you should later want to renounce your Italian citizenship for any reason, you are legally allowed to do so, and the process involves roughly the same documentation and fees as that of filing your citizenship application.

Will this mean more bureaucracy?

Living in Italy means you enter a complex world of bureaucracy, even more so for foreign nationals resident in Italy than for Italian citizens.

For those living in Italy, citizenship makes many bureaucratic processes simpler, plus it removes the need to apply for and renew residency permits.

If you’re an Italian citizen living outside of Italy, you will probably need to register with the Anagrafe degli Italiani Residenti all’Estero (AIRE, the registry of Italian citizens resident abroad). This is a relatively simple procedure. Find out more about that on the foreign ministry’s website.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For more details on what obtaining Italian citizenship would mean for you, seek advice from the Italian consulate in your country or consult a qualified legal professional.

See more information in our Italian citizenship section.