If you’re an expat living in Italy, or if you have some Italian heritage but live elsewhere, you might be considering taking up Italian citizenship. There are lots of reasons why this might make sense. For one, becoming an Italian citizen means you’re also a member of the EU, and you can live, work and travel freely in any EU member state. It's certainly a perk - but what if you don’t want to give up your original nationality to access the benefits of becoming an Italian citizen?
Taking up dual citizenship might be the answer. Here’s the lowdown on who can apply and how you go about getting dual citizenship with Italy.
Italy recognizes dual citizenship.¹ This means that Italian citizens can take citizenship of another country without having to revoke their original nationality. And foreigners can - in theory at least - take up Italian nationality without having to give up their original citizenship.
However, not all countries let you have dual citizenship. So whether or not this works for you will depend on where you're originally from. If your home country doesn't accept dual nationalities, you might be forced to give up your original citizenship if you become an Italian national.
The laws regarding dual nationality are complex. There are several different routes to obtaining Italian citizenship depending on your situation. But whatever your circumstances it's worth getting legal advice from an immigration lawyer.
The major barrier for many people who want Italian dual citizenship, is the law in your home country. Italy lets you have dual citizenship. But, if you’re from a country which doesn't, you can’t hold dual citizenship, with Italy or anywhere else. You’d have to give up your original nationality before taking up your new citizenship. The countries which don't allow dual citizenship at the time of writing this article include:
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The good news is that some countries do let you have dual citizenship without restriction. But you when applying, you need to meet certain criteria. Ireland and the UK fall into this category, for example. However, it's worth looking at the details for your personal situation as some other countries accept dual citizenship only under certain circumstances.
Some of the main countries which accept dual citizenship with Italy include:
- United Kingdom
- United States
Triple, or multiple citizenship, is theoretically allowed in Italy. Because you don’t need to give up previous nationalities to be an Italian citizen, holding other citizenships won’t affect your chances of becoming an Italian citizen.
Italian law doesn’t limit the number of nationalities you can have. However, in practical terms, there’s an effective cap on the number of citizenships most individuals can hold. That’s because many other countries ban dual citizenship and every country has its own set of fairly stringent residency requirements for citizens.
So for example, let’s say you’re a UK citizen by birth, but have naturalised Irish citizenship. If you move to Italy for long enough to fulfil the residency requirements to get citizenship, you might be penalised by the law in Ireland. That means you could be stripped of your Irish citizenship because you don’t live there for a long period of time.² So ultimately, it’s not necessarily possible to ‘collect’ citizenships without hitting a practical ceiling.
You can choose to renounce your Italian citizenship if, for example, you want to take citizenship of a country which doesn’t allow dual nationality. You have to hand over some paperwork, and make a declaration that you want to revoke citizenship in front of an authorised official.
You can also automatically lose your citizenship if you’re a naturalised Italian citizen if you join the armed services of another country, or take up an official post with a country that’s at war with Italy.
There are several steps to becoming an Italian citizen - they’re all set out on the Italian government website.¹
Here’s an outline of the steps you’ll have to take:
- Ensure you meet the requirements for Italian citizenship
- Submit relevant documents and proof of eligibility - this is a pretty hefty stack of documents, so be prepared to take some time to pull it all together
- Pay your fee - currently this is €300 if you’re becoming a citizen by naturalisation
- Assuming your application is approved, you can apply for an Italian passport
Before you can apply for Italian citizenship you have to fulfil some fairly strict residency requirements. Exactly how long you have to live in Italy before your application can be considered depends on your circumstances. It could be as little as 3 years if you have Italian ancestry, or up to 10 if you’re from outside of the EU with no family ties to Italy.¹
Once you’ve sent in your application, you can usually expect a citizenship decision to take up to 6 months - and longer if the authorities need to ask you any questions, or if you don’t include all the right paperwork with your application.
If I’m obtaining dual citizenship, do I need to inform both countries of my new citizenship, or do the countries themselves do that?
Because immigration law is complex, and the answer depends somewhat on your circumstances, you should check with a professional about your duty to inform your home country of your decision.
If you’re taking Italian citizenship as a second citizenship, and your country of origin doesn’t allow dual nationality, or has its own restrictions in place, you might run into some problems. It’s best to check with an immigration lawyer, or your local embassy or consulate, if you have a duty to inform your home country of your intentions.
Juggling lives between two nations? Want to save money? TransferWise borderless multi-currency accounts could help.
If you’re considering applying for dual nationality, then you’re likely going to have to live in Italy for a while to fulfil the residency requirement. Relocating - and especially if it means splitting your life between different countries - can cause some practical headaches. It can also be costly if it means you have to move your money between bank accounts held in different countries and currencies.
A neat solution for the problems faced by people living and working abroad, is the TransferWise multi-currency borderless account. With this new type of account, you can hold your cash in any one of dozens of different currencies, and see your balance at a glance. Whenever you need to, you can convert money between currencies at a fair rate.
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Getting dual citizenship is very useful for some expats. If that’s where you’re headed then there are some practical considerations to bear in mind. Taking up a second citizenship often means that you have to split your time between two - or more - countries. That can be pricey if you don’t think about practical solutions to make your money work for you.
The TransferWise multi-currency borderless account is built for international people. Traditional banks aren’t set up to serve people who juggle life between different countries, or who need to travel a lot. That means that they often charge you excessive fees to move your money around. A borderless account is different. It lets your money move with you, with fair exchange rates and transparent fees - so you can just get on with enjoying life.
Sources: 1. https://www.esteri.it/mae/en/servizi/italiani-all-estero/cittadinanza.html ( October 11, 2018 ) 2. http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1956/act/26/section/19/enacted/en/html#sec19 ( October 10, 2018 )
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