Italian nationality law is the law of Italy governing the acquisition, transmission and loss of Italian citizenship. Like many continental European countries it is largely based on jus sanguinis. It also incorporates many elements that are seen as favourable to the Italian diaspora.


Italian citizenship can be automatically acquired
• By birth to an Italian parent in line with the principle of jus sanguinis.
• By birth in Italy to stateless parents, to unknown parents, or to parents who cannot transmit their nationality to their children;   this is partially consistent with the principle of jus soli.
• With the acknowledgement or legitimation of an Italian mother or father.


• For an individual whose parents were Italian citizens born outside Italy but at least one of their grandparents was an Italian citizen born in Italy.
• For individuals who were born in Italy to foreign parents but who have resided in Italy continuously from birth to adulthood.​


Foreign women who married an Italian citizen before 27 April 1983 were automatically granted Italian citizenship.
After 2 years legal residence in Italy, or 3 years living abroad. This time will be reduced by half if the couple have children (natural or adopted). The spouse of an Italian citizen can apply for Italian citizenship through naturalisation.


A person who has been legally resident in Italy for at least ten years may apply for and be granted naturalisation as an Italian citizen if he or she does not have a criminal record and has sufficient financial resources. The residence requirement is reduced to three years for descendants of Italian citizen grandparents and for foreigners born in Italy, four years for nationals of EU member states, five years for refugees or stateless persons, and seven years for someone who was adopted as a child by an Italian citizen.


Citizens of other countries descended from an ancestor (parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc.) born in Italy may have a claim to Italian citizenship by descent.
One must apply through the Italian consulate that has jurisdiction over their place of residence. Each consulate has slightly different procedures, requirements, and waiting times. However, the legal criteria for jus sanguinis citizenship are the same.​


  • Ascendant: an applicant’s ancestor
  • Apostille: in the United States, an Apostille is a legalization issued by the Secretaries of the fifty states. An Apostille is a separate page bearing the seal of the state and the signature of the Secretary of State, stapled to the document it legalizes.
  • Certified copy: A copy issued by a government agency. “Certified copy” is also synonymous with “original copy”.
  • Italian-born ascendant: an applicant’s closest ascendant who was born in Italy.
  • Intermediate ascendant: an ascendant in direct line from an applicant’s Italian-born ascendant (note: spouses do not generally count as intermediate ascendants).
  • Jure Sanguinis: “law of the blood”; the principle of citizenship by descent
  • Jure Solis: “law of the soil”, the principle of citizenship based on place of birth (note: Italy does not have jure solis)
  • Naturalization: the process whereby an emigrant becomes a citizen (not merely a resident but a full-fledged citizen) of his or her new nation.
Examples of Definition

• Paolo’s grandfather Francesco emigrated to the States in 1900. Paolo’s father Pietro was born in 1925 in the USA.
Francesco is Paolo’s Italian-born ascendant. Francesco is Paolo’s intermediate ascendant.

• Roberto emigrates to the States in 1900 through Ellis Island. He is a resident of the USA, but a citizen of Italy. In 1930, he begins   the process of naturalization by signing a Declaration of Intention to become a U.S. citizen. This does not affect his status as an  Italian citizen. In 1935, spurred by looming hostilities between the two nations, he files a Petition for Naturalization. When he  signs the oath of allegiance in late 1935, he has completed the process of naturalization, renouncing his Italian citizenship and  acquiring U.S. citizenship. Henceforth, he is only a U.S. citizen, not an Italian citizen, for all legal purposes.

• Paolo’s son Antonio is born in 1925, while Paolo is still an Italian citizen. Because Antonio is born in King County, Washington, which is part of the territory of the United States, Antonio involuntarily acquires U.S. citizenship jure solis. Because he is the child of an Italian citizen, he acquires Italian citizenship jure sanguinis.