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.
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.
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.
You can also pass your Italian citizenship on to any children under the age of 18.
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.
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.
Reader question: Will Italian citizenship mean I have to pay tax in Italy?
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.
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.