Foreigners can obtain Italian citizenship through several legal pathways. One of the most common ways is to apply for an Italian residence permit issued on a permanent basis and then expect to pass up to 10 years. After you have become a permanent resident, you can apply for Italian citizenship which will grant the right to an Italian passport. You can also obtain it through various investment programs.
A very simple and straightforward manner to obtain Italian citizenship is by getting married to an Italian citizen. There are few requirements that the foreign spouse has to respect for the purpose of obtaining the citizenship, but such rules are much simpler compared to other options for receiving the citizenship.
Below, our immigration lawyers in Italy explain in detail how to acquire citizenship by marriage in Italy. Foreign citizens can also apply for a residence permit with our help if they are interested in immigrating to Italy in other ways. You can also rely on us for assistance in obtaining Italian citizenship.
Table of Contents
The main ways for acquiring Italian citizenship
Foreign citizens who want to immigrate to Italy can apply for residence permits based on which they can later obtain citizenship. The following means can be employed for obtaining an Italian passport; if you need more details you can address to our team of immigration lawyers in Italy, who can also provide legal representation:
- through a student or employment visa by converting them into residence permits;
- through retirement in Italy – foreign citizens with certain incomes can retire and live in Italy permanently, then becoming citizens of this country;
- through a residence by investment program under which non-EU citizens can acquire Italian citizenship;
- through marriage to an Italian citizen which is one of the simplest ways of acquiring Italian citizenship.
One can obtain Italian citizenship by marriage regardless if he or she is a EU or non-EU citizen who wants to relocate in this country. Our team of immigration lawyers in Italy can help foreigners in this procedure. We can also help you apply for a residence permit in Italy.
Foreigners marrying Italian citizens
There are several requirements that need to be complied with when seeking to obtain Italian citizenship by marriage. Law No. 91 which was amended several times until now, provides for the following conditions for foreigners applying for an Italian passport after marrying an Italian citizen. These are:
- the marriage took place in an Italian city in which at least one of the spouses resides;
- marriages registered abroad can also be recognized, if the Italian citizen or resident is registered with the Italian Embassy or Consulate in that country;
- the foreign spouse can obtain Italian citizenship within 2 years if the marriage was registered in Italy;
- the foreign spouse can apply for Italian citizenship by marriage if the marriage was registered in another country.
In the case of those adopting children of those who have children, the period for the issuance of the citizenship for the foreign spouse will be reduced. The same principle applies if both spouses are foreign citizens, but they are Italian residents. You can receive more details on how to obtain Italian citizenship from our immigration lawyers in Italy.
Requirements for foreigners obtaining Italian citizenship by marriage
In December 2018, the Italian government has brought two major changes to the legislation under which foreign citizens can acquire Italian citizenship by marriage. The most important one refers to the waiting time in which the processing of the application occurs, and which has been raised from 24 months to 48 months. The second one refers to the Italian language test to be sustained by the foreign spouse applying for citizenship by marriage in Italy. Under the new regulations, the foreign spouse must have a B1 level of the Italian language when undertaking the citizenship interview.
Our immigration attorneys in Italy can offer more information on the new requirements applicable to foreign citizens seeking to apply for Italian citizenship by marriage. You can read about the advantages of obtaining Italian citizenship by marriage in the scheme below:
Documents needed when applying for Italian citizenship by marriage
The set of documents needed when applying for Italian citizenship that is obtained by getting married with an Italian citizen are presented in the list below. For more details on this subject, we invite you to address to our Italian immigration lawyers, who can help you prepare the following:
- the application form which must be printed and filled out and signed before the authorities;
- the valid passport and the driver’s license (if any), in original and copies;
- the marriage certificate which must not be more than 6 months older, in original;
- the proof of residency in Italy for the foreign spouse (a recent utility bill will suffice);
- the birth certificate of the applicant, in original, but also a certified translated copy;
- the copy of the applicant’s criminal record (a clean criminal record is mandatory);
- the divorce decree (where applicable) or a no divorce declaration is also required.
An application fee must also be paid, and the receipt must be appended to the dossier. Our lawyers who specialize in helping those who want to immigrate to Italy can guide in the preparation of the documents which need to be filed when applying for Italian citizenship by marriage.
Steps before registering a marriage in Italy
Those who want to obtain Italian citizenship by marriage are subject to various requirements that differ for those who got married in Italy or outside the country. The Italian authorities will first complete a few steps in order to establish if the foreign spouse qualifies for Italian citizenship.
The first procedure implies verifying if the Italian city hall has any records of the marriage, in the case of those getting married in Italy. If not, the records of the consulate must have proof of the foreign citizen residing in Italy for the required period of time in order to start processing the citizenship application. Also, the Italian spouse must be registered with the Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad (AIRE).
These are the conditions both spouses must respect in order for the foreign one to be allowed to apply for Italian citizenship by marriage. Our lawyers can also help those interested in immigrating to Italy by other means, including obtaining Italian citizenship by descent.
Registration with the AIRE of the Italian spouse
As mentioned above, when the marriage between an Italian citizen and a foreign one has concluded abroad, the Italian citizen must be registered with the Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad (AIRE) in order for the marriage to be validated in Italy and the foreign spouse to apply for Italian citizenship.
The AIRE system was introduced in 1988 and is meant to keep records of all Italian citizens living abroad. Italian citizens are required to register with AIRE with the Italian consulate or embassy in the country they are living. Those who registered with AIRE will have a file with the last address they were living at both in Italy and the foreign country.
The respective address will be used when the foreign spouse will apply for Italian citizenship by marriage. The documents are also available with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Italy. AIRE registration becomes mandatory once an Italian citizen lives outside his/her home country for more than 12 months. If you have any questions about AIRE registration or about the residence permit in Italy, our immigration lawyers are at your disposal with detailed information.
We invite you to watch a short presentation on how to obtain Italian citizenship by marriage:
The interview for Italian citizenship
One of the steps for obtaining Italian citizenship by marriage is for the foreign spouse to undergo an interview with the Italian authorities. The procedure is rather simple, however, the applicant must consider some documents he or she must bring along. Among these:
- his/her passport, but also the Italian spouse’s passport and the proof of residence;
- a declaration through which the spouses declare they are still married;
- the birth certificate of the applicant (the original and apostilled copy are required);
- the marriage registration certificate in original and the criminal record of the applicant in original;
- the Italian language certificate (a B1 level is necessary to pass the interview) and the proof of payment of the consular fee.
After the interview, the authorities will process the application and return with an answer in a maximum of 4 months. Through our expat services, foreign citizens can benefit from assistance in preparing for Italian citizenship interviews.
What certificates can one bring for attesting Italian language skills?
As said above, all applicants for Italian citizenship have to provide evidence on their Italian language skills. They need to prove having the ability to speak, listen and write at a B1 level, which is defined as having a specific set of abilities in accordance with the Common European Reference Framework.
The document has to be issued by a public or private education institution that is recognized by the Italian Ministry of Education; please mind that there are few exemptions from the need of presenting a language certificate, and this applies to specific categories of persons; you can find out more details on this subject from our immigration lawyers in Italy.
Please mind that the application procedure imposes the payment of a processing fee of EUR 250 for all those applying for Italian citizenship by marriage. You can address to our immigration lawyers for more details regarding other costs and fees that you can expect to pay during this legal procedure or for other immigration procedures that you can be interested in (obtaining a visaor a residence permit).
Assistance in applying for Italian citizenship by marriage
Foreign citizens interested in obtaining Italian citizenship by marriage can rely on our immigration specialists in Italy. We will guide you through the procedure and will explain how to prepare for the interview with the immigration officers. At the moment the foreign spouse applies for Italian citizenship, at least one of the following requirements must be met:
- the couple must have been married for a minimum of 2 years if they live in Italy;
- the marriage must have been registered for at least 3 years if the spouses live outside the country;
- if the spouses live abroad but have children, the foreign spouse can apply for citizenship after one and a half years;
- the couple must remain married for at least 2 years after the foreign spouse has obtained Italian citizenship.
What is the data on marriage in Italy?
Throughout the decades, the marriage rate declined in numerous European states, as the society became more liberal and as the rules on divorce became less stringent. In numerous European states, the marriage rate declined severely, while in other states it fluctuated over the years. With regards to Italy, we present the following:
- according to the National Institute of Statistics, in 2018, there were 195,778 marriages registered at a national level;
- this accounted for a small increase of 2.3% compared to the marriage of 2017, which, in absolute numbers, was translated in an additional 4,500 marriages;
- the age at which Italians are getting married is increasing, a trend that can be observed at a European level as well – Italian men get married at 33.7 years, while Italian women get married at 31.5 years old;
- the marriage rate is mostly constant in Italy, with few variations over the year – in 2012, there were 207,138 marriages registered in the country;
- it must be noted that the immigration in Italy has had an impact on the structure of marriages in this country, as, at a national level, 68% of the marriages are concluded between an Italian citizen and a person of another nationality;
- in 2012, from the total number of marriage, mixed marriages accounted for 20,764.
Other aspects to consider when applying for citizenship by marriage in Italy
One can have the right of applying for Italian citizenship by marriage in Italy through the standard wedding ceremony or through a civil union. The Law 91/1992, Articles 5-8 provide the legal framework for this. It is also important to know for those who want to immigrate to Italythat this country recognized same-sex marriages (civil unions).
This right was obtained in 2016 and it is important to know that same-sex marriages that were registered in other countries are recognized in Italy as well. In most of the cases, same-sex couples can benefit from the same rights that are granted to married couples.
Provided that a foreigner is entitled to apply for Italian citizenship by marriage and provided that the entire process is completed as necessary, then the person will be granted with the Italian citizenship. When this happens, the applicant will be contacted by the Italian institutions and will be invited to participate in the citizenship ceremony.
The citizenship ceremony is part of the entire legal process and, according to the law, it must be completed in a period of 6 months since the moment when the citizenship was granted. The person who receives Italian citizenship has to be present in the event, of course, but it is also necessary to invite the persons’ husband or wife.
This is due to the fact that the applicant’s partner, who is an Italian citizen, will have to complete specific forms and testify that the marriage is still valid and that the couple is not involved in any separation procedure, which can refer to judicial separation, annulment or divorce. During the ceremony, the applicant will have to take an oath of allegiance.
It is important to know that starting with 2015, the applications for citizenship by marriage in Italy must be filed online and women must use their maiden name when lodging the forms. Please feel free to contact us for any questions you have related to obtaining Italian citizenship by marriage. We can also help you immigrate to Italy by other means, such as investment or work contract.