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Eight of the most common mistakes when applying for Italian citizenship

Applying for Italian citizenship is not always the fastest process, but mistakes can further lengthen waiting times or even result in a denied claim. Here are some of the most common pitfalls.

Italian flag in the wind
Applying for Italian citizenship is a lengthy and convoluted process, but mistakes can further lengthen waiting times. Photo by Daniel Sharp on Unsplash

Getting Italian citizenship is no walk in the park and, though some routes can be slightly quicker or less complex than others, the process is generally very lengthy. 

Under Italian law, all citizenship claims should be either approved or denied within a maximum of three years, but waiting times are frequently longer than that, especially in foreign countries with high numbers of citizenship applications (Brazil, Argentina, USA). 

So, if you’re considering applying, you’ll want to make sure that your application is absolutely watertight to avoid further prolonging the process or having your claim denied altogether.

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make on their citizenship application and how you can avoid them. 

Having an expired passport

It may seem obvious, but you won’t be able to successfully complete your Italian citizenship application without a valid passport. This may mean having at least six months’ validity left on your passport at the time of application – always check with the Questura or consulate before submitting your application, as the specifics often vary from one office to another.

Also, since claims are generally fairly lengthy, you might want to make a note of your passport’s expiration date. 

American passport

You won’t be able to successfully complete your Italian citizenship application without a valid passport. Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

Should your passport expire during the application process, you might be asked to provide evidence that a renewal is underway.  

Having incomplete or inaccurate information in your documents

Even the smallest of errors can stall an application for weeks or even months, so you’ll want to make sure that yours is totally mistake-free. 

You should pay particular attention to names, surnames, dates of birth, addresses, ID numbers and tax codes – both on the application forms you fill out and on official documents issued to you. 

Remember that mistakes can sometimes be made by officials or office clerks, so it’s always best to double check any document that’s been filled out for you by someone else. Always check, for example, your Italian ID card or carta di soggiorno carefully for mistakes – if any of the details are incorrect, you’ll need to get it reissued before using it in your citizenship application.

Errors can be particularly frequent in iure sanguinis (ancestry) citizenship claims due to discrepancies between Italian records and foreign-issued documents. 

READ ALSO: Is Italy tightening the requirements for citizenship via ancestry?

In such cases, it is essential that applicants address any issues with their foreign consulate. 

Applying with a criminal record

Having a criminal record does not automatically void a citizenship application.

However, the criminal records of all applicants are vetted by Italian authorities in the early application stages and even minor offences can sometimes result in a denied claim. 

People with a criminal record are generally advised to seek the counsel of a legal expert before submitting a citizenship application.

Failing to prepare for the Italian language test

When applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence, you must submit a certificate proving proficiency in the Italian language at B1 level or above

Woman filling out a form

People applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence have to submit proof of B1 proficiency in the Italian language. Photo by Unseen studio on Unsplash

B1 is defined as a lower intermediate level and requires people to be proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, follow most conversations on TV shows and get the gist of what’s in Italian newspapers.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The three ways to apply for Italian citizenship

If you’ve lived in Italy for a while, there’s a good chance you’re already at this level or close to it. If not, you might have to sign up for Italian language classes.

The language certificate must be issued by one of four schools in Italy accredited by the Italian Education Ministry or Foreign Ministry. You can find more details here.

To get this certificate, you’ll need to sit and pass an exam which can be taken at language schools around Italy and abroad. If your language school advertises B1 testing for citizenship, make sure they are accredited by one of the recognised institutions.

Further info about obtaining this certificate can be found here.

Not getting your foreign-issued documents translated and validated

All foreign-issued documents, including birth certificates and criminal records, must be translated into Italian and legally validated (this is known as legalizzazione) by the Italian consulate of the country that issued them. 

Documents written in any language other than Italian will not be accepted as valid. 

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

Once again, this point is especially relevant for citizenship via ancestry claims, as applicants are required to produce birth, death and marriage certificates for all of their direct Italian ancestors.

Submitting your application before the residence requirement has been fulfilled

If you’ve been living legally and continuously in Italy for 10 years (or four years for EU nationals), you have the right to apply for Italian citizenship. 

Houses in Burano, Venice

Non-EU nationals must live legally and continuously in Italy for 10 years before they can claim citizenship. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

However, you can only apply after meeting the above time requirement. All ‘early’ applications are rejected. 

READ ALSO: How to register with the anagrafe in Italy

If you’re considering applying for citizenship via residency, you should also keep in mind that the ten-year (or four-year) timeframe starts when you officially register with the Italian Ufficio Anagrafe (Registry Office), not when you first enter the country. 

Not living with your spouse long enough

The spouse of an Italian national can apply for Italian citizenship after two years of legal residence in Italy or three years if living abroad. 

As mentioned earlier, you’ll only be able to submit your application after meeting the time requirement, and the timeframe again starts from the date you are legally registered as a resident. 

Failing to take the oath 

Though it doesn’t apply to the application process itself, this is still a point worth making. 

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.

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For members


How long do Brits in Italy have to wait to apply for citizenship via residency?

British nationals who were resident in Italy before the end of 2021 have kept some pre-Brexit rights. But does this extend to applications for citizenship through residency?

How long do Brits in Italy have to wait to apply for citizenship via residency?

Question: “I have been able to remain resident in Italy under the post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. But does that make any difference to our status when it comes to Italian citizenship applications via residency? How long do we have to wait before applying if we moved here before Brexit – does the EU or non-EU timeframe apply?”

UK nationals living abroad have faced years of uncertainty and confusion about how Britain’s exit from the European Union would affect their rights and status in their adopted countries and how these changes would affect their long-held plans for life abroad.

At this point, the major questions have been resolved: British nationals who moved to Italy before December 31st 2020 have their residency rights protected under article 50 of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), and, for the many situations in which Italian bureaucracy demands all third-country nationals must produce a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno), we have the post-Brexit carta di soggiorno to fill the gap.

But there are some situations in which the rules may remain unclear, and the timeframe for eligibility for Italian citizenship via residency is one of them.

READ ALSO: The three ways to apply for Italian citizenship

EU nationals can apply for citizenship via the naturalisation route after just four years of legal residency in Italy, while non-EU nationals must wait a decade before they become eligible to apply. 

Sadly for anyone who moved to Italy as an EU national before later losing that status, the terms of the WA don’t make a difference in this scenario.

“Unfortunately, any British citizens applying for Italian citizenship post Brexit need to demonstrate 10 years of legal residence and not 4 years as before (as EU nationals),” confirms citizenship lawyer Aleksandra Broom at the Rome-based firm Oliver & Partners.

As The Local reported back in 2020, British nationals became subject to the non-EU requirements for citizenship applications as of the Brexit deadline.

This was due to the fact that citizenship rules are set by each national government and were therefore not subject to the provisions under the EU-wide WA.

Is there a quicker way to apply for Italian citizenship?

While the minimum waiting period for most non-EU nationals hoping to apply for citizenship by naturalisation is ten years, there are some limited exceptions to this rule, including that:

  • Residents who have an Italian parent or grandparent can cut the waiting time to three years.
  • People born in Italy to foreign parents can apply after three years’ legal residency as an adult.

Italy’s laws around naturalisation are complex and eligibility depends on your personal circumstances, so if you think one of these exceptions may apply to you it’s advisable to consult a legal professional.

READ ALSO: What are the benefits of having Italian citizenship vs residency?

Some people may find they are instead eligible for Italian citizenship via marriage, which you can currently apply for after two years of legal residency in Italy; or citizenship via ancestry, without necessarily having lived in Italy at all. Find out more about these options in this separate article.

If other routes aren’t open to you, and your only option is to wait ten years before applying for citizenship via residency, prepare in advance and ensure you’ve got your paperwork ready to go when the time comes: many who apply for Italian citizenship find that gathering the required documentation – including passing a language test – can take several months, or longer, depending on how much time you’re able to devote to the process.

Once you’ve applied, the Italian government has up to three years to approve or deny your request. However, citizenship experts report that there have been cases in which it took as little as one year.

See more information in The Local’s Italian citizenship section.

Do you have a question we may be able to answer? Get in touch and let us know.