Becoming an Italian Citizen
The legal requirements for living and working in Italy depend on whether you are an EU Citizen or from outside the EU. There is minimal bureaucracy involved with residency for EU citizens, who are free to live and work in any EU member state. However, for those coming from outside the EU, applying for residency and state benefits can be hard work. Gaining full Italian citizenship is two-fold for both EU and non-EU citizens; you must first live as a resident in Italy before you can become an Italian citizen.
Formal residency or citizenship in Italy means than you will have access to public healthcare, education and other state benefits.
Entry into Italy
EU Citizens from the Schengen Area may enter Italy without a visa but must produce a valid passport or identity card. However if the EU citizen is planning on staying for longer than three months they must apply for a visa.
Non-EU Citizens from countries not listed in the Schengen Area or from countries without visa-waiver agreements must apply for a visa at least six weeks before entering Italy.
Residence in Italy
Under Italian law, all foreigners are considered either ‘tourists’ or ‘residents’. A tourist is anyone staying in Italy for less than three months. Visitors coming to Italy to study on short courses or business trips are also considered tourists as long as their stay does not exceed three months.
Anyone intending to stay in Italy for longer than three months for any reason (work, study, long-stay tourism) must apply for residential status. This application process depends again on whether you are an EU or non-EU Citizen.
Residency for EU Citizens:
EU Citizens have a right to residency in Italy and a permit is not required. However, those intending to stay longer than three months must apply for a Certificato di Residenza (Certificate of Residence) at the Comune-Ufficio Anagrafe (local authority) which is valid for five years.
When registering for the Certificado di Residenza, EU Citizens must be able to prove that they work, study or are staying with a family member who is an EU citizen in Italy, or that they have independent financial means to support themselves. The registration document costs €27.50 plus €16 tax. Supporting documentary evidence required is:
- A valid Passport
- Evidence of Employment or self-employment
- Evidence of independent financial means (such as a bank statement)
- Evidence of enrolment at an educational establishment (students)
Residency for non-EU Citizens:
Non-EU Citizens who are intending to stay for longer than three months must apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno (Permission to Stay). Once this residence permit is acquired, a non-EU expat can have full access to public healthcare, social assistance and education.
There are various different types of Permesso di Soggiorno that depend on individual circumstances such as; permission to work, set up a business, to live with an Italian spouse, study or to live from independent financial means.
You must apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno, which costs between €80 and €200 at the Sportello Amico at the post office or at the Questura (police headquarters). There you will be given a number of documents to complete and return. You must also provide photographs and fingerprints (also carried out at the Questura).
The application process can take three months or more (depending on the region and level of bureaucracy) to complete so it is important to have the right documents:
- A completed application form (in Italian)
- Valid Passport
- Four passport photos
- A Tax stamp (marca da bolla) – you can buy this at the post office
- Proof of private health insurance
- You must also provide documentary evidence with the application, according to type of permit:
- Job Seeker/Employment: Proof of registration with an employment agency or declaration from an employer.
- Study: Proof of acceptance from an educational institution.
- Long-term tourist: Evidence of independent financial means and security (bank statements).
- Self-Employed: Proof of VAT registration number. Licence from the Chamber of Commerce.
- Family ties to Italy: Marriage and/or birth certificates
After five years of residence in Italy a non-EU expat can then apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno per Soggiornanti di Lungo Periodo (permission to stay for a long period) which is renewed every five years.
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Becoming an Italian citizen
Becoming a fully-fledged Italian citizen can afford enormous benefits to the life of an expat, especially those from outside the EU. Citizenship gives you the same rights as an Italian National, including free healthcare, free higher education, property rights, employment rights and freedom of movement and work between 27 European Union countries (especially useful for non-EU citizens).
There are three routes to gaining Italian citizenship:
1. Descent: a child born of an Italian father or mother who is also an Italian citizen. Citizenship is passed on from parent to child without limitation of generation, on the condition that none of the ancestors have ever renounced their citizenship.
2. Marriage: Citizenship is a right to all those who marry an Italian citizen. However, the foreign spouse must have residency in Italy for a period of two years before making an application. Citizenship can be denied to spouses who have committed serious crime or are a threat to national security either in or outside Italy. There is no requirement to pass any tests or speak Italian to gain citizenship through marriage.
3. Naturalization: A non-EU citizen can apply for full citizenship after legally residing in Italy for 10 years. An EU citizen can apply after 4 yearslegal residence.
How to apply for citizenship
Citizenship applications depend on the route (see above) and residency status of the application. The application, along with numerous documents, are sent to the Prefettura (state police headquarters) who then submit the application to the office of the President of the Republic.
The process of gaining citizenship is very complex and can take up to a year to formalise. Most expats consult an Italian lawyer who specialises in immigration in order to accelerate the process and ensure they have all the right documents.