Italian citizenship is one of the most valuable in the world. It allows visa-free travel to the US and Australia and enables you to live anywhere in Europe.
Italian citizenship by Descent or Ancestry (Jure Sanguinis) is open to individuals with Italian ancestry if the citizenship by blood was passed down all the way to him or her. The citizenship is passed down as long as the Italian parent has not lost his citizenship before the birth of his/her child. Italian citizenship was lost in the past if another citizenship was taken. Those that lost their Italian connection this way can still be fast-tracked to Italian citizenship. Foreigners normally need to have 10 years of residence in Italy before they can apply for naturalization.
Italy accepts dual citizenship, so you don’t have to forfeit your current citizenship to apply.
There are commonly 3 categories under which an applicant can qualify for Italian citizenship by Descent:
The first 2 options require that the “legal” connection is not lost. In the past, an Italian who became a naturalized American would lose his Italian citizenship. Therefore, he/she couldn’t pass it to one of his/her future children. Those born before his or her parents’ American naturalization were Italian by blood; if they were born in the USA, they were also American at birth. After that, it was unlikely that the connection could be broken. The process to obtain Italian citizenship can be started at an Italian consulate near you if your Italian connection comes from a male ancestor. It can take 2 or 3 years. Now you can also petition an Italian court and get a decision in 1 year. The process to obtain Italian citizenship can be petitioned in an Italian court if the connection comes from a female ancestor. It can take 1 year.
Option 3 is for those with an Italian father or grandfather that do not qualify under the first 2 categories. This option requires the applicant to have held a residence permit for at least 3 years before their application for fast-track naturalization. Simply holding the permit for 3 years is enough to qualify for citizenship, and physical presence in Italy is not a requirement. Nevertheless, a 6-month physical presence in Italy requirement is often imposed in most resident permit categories.
Therefore, most applicants choose the Italy Investor Visa (a.k.a. Golden Visa). This permit requires an investment ranging from €250,000 to €1m in exchange for a fragmented 5-year resident permit and no physical presence requirement. You only need to visit Italy once a year to maintain the resident permit. The naturalization process can take 1 or 2 years, making the 5-year Italian investor visa an important tool as compared to other temporary resident permits that must be renewed annually and require 6 months of physical presence in Italy.
The process to obtain Italian citizenship by ancestry varies from one category to another. But today, both category 1 and 2 can be filed in court and be faster than the consulate route. The first step is to determine whether your Italian connection has been broken. If it hasn’t been broken, you can book an appointment at your nearest Italian consulate. It might take 2 or 3 years before you’re given an appointment, leaving you ample time to gather the relevant ancestry documents. The consulate will only accept your application if your ancestry comes from a male line. If your ancestry comes from a female line or if you want the process to go faster, you can use the 1948 ruling to petition directly to an Italian court. You can save 1 or 2 years in the process. If you need a resident permit, you can apply for one in Italy. It usually takes 1 month to receive it.
If you petition the court under category 1 or 2, you’re likely to have your case approved by the court after 1 year and become an Italian citizen. If you filed your application at the consulate, you’re likely still in line to be processed, and if you needed a resident permit, you’re now waiting for another 2 years of residency to be eligible for fast-track naturalization.
If you chose the consulate route, your appointment should be coming up. If you have all the required documents, the consulate should approve your request and transmit it to the Ministry of Interior for approval. You will receive your certificate of citizenship and passport shortly. If you needed 3 years of residence, you can now apply for naturalization into Italian citizenship. It takes 1 or 2 years for the Italian authorities to process the application.
When your Italian ancestor was naturalized as a US citizen, he automatically lost his Italian citizenship. If that was your grandfather, the only way he could have passed down his Italian citizenship is if his children were born before the naturalization date. If your parent was born in the US before his father became a US citizen, your parent is a US and Italian citizen. If your parent was born in the US after his father was naturalized as a US citizen, your parent is only a US citizen.
You most likely won’t be able to choose the Golden Visa if you’re not a HNWI. If you are, the Investor Visa (a.k.a. Golden Visa) is the preferred option if you don’t want to be constrained by having to be physically present in Italy most of the year. Most wealthy people have business activities that do not allow them to commit to living in Italy for 6 months of the year for 3 years. The Golden Visa offers much more flexibility in that regard than other available resident permits such as the Elective Residence or Self-employed.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the process at the consulate used to take 1-2 years. During the pandemic, the consulates were closed, so many applications went into backlog. In the aftermath, it’s expected that the processing time will increase for a few years at least.
The court filing is the best and fastest route, and each case can expect to have a decision in under a year.
The fast-track naturalization process requires 3 years of residence before you can apply. Once you apply, the naturalization application is processed in 1 to 2 years.
Not for category 1 or 2. But the category 3 rules require you to travel to Italy to obtain your resident permit. Once that’s obtained, you need to hold legal residence for 3 years. It doesn’t specify any physical presence requirements, but to maintain your temporary resident permit in Italy you are usually required to be present 6 months out of the year to be able to renew it. This is unless you opt for the Golden Visa, which does not impose a physical presence requirement. If you chose the Golden Visa, you will need to travel to Italy pretty much only once a year, but not adhere to any minimum day requirements.
Taxes in Italy are generally high, but Italy recently introduced lump-sum taxation for foreign residents in Italy. They can limit their annual tax contribution to €100,000.
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