In 2020, a total of 131,803 citizenships were granted. Disaggregated data on citizenship grants to beneficiaries of international protection are not available, nor are general data for the year 2021.
Italian citizenship can be granted to refugees legally resident in Italy for at least 5 years. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are instead subject to the general rule applied to third-country nationals: they can apply for naturalisation after 10 years of legal residence.
In both cases, the beneficiary’s registration at the registry office must be uninterrupted. This can be particularly challenging for beneficiaries of international protection, as the law does not ensure any support or long-term accommodation for them and some might be forced to live in precarious situations. Moreover, following the entry into force of the Decree Law 113/2018, implemented by L 132/2018, registration at the registry could only be obtained after the grant of a protection status (Civil Registration).
The situation has changed after the decision of the Constitutional Court n. 186/2020, which declared the legal provision introduced to create a different legal regime for asylum seekers contrary to the principle of equality stated by the Italian Constitution. The Decree Law 130/2020 was amended and expressly recognises to asylum seekers the right to civil registration. However, under Decree Law 113/2018, many asylum seekers received a denial of civil registration and, even after the ruling by the Constitutional Court, several municipalities were initially reluctant to recognize the right to register them retroactively.
The 2018 reform also introduced the requirement of the sufficient knowledge of the Italian language (at least B1 level), attested through specific certifications or through the qualification in an educational institution recognised by the Ministry of Education. Applications presented after 5 December 2018 without meeting this requirement have been rejected.
The amended Citizenship Act also provides that citizenship obtained by way of naturalisation can be revoked in the event of a final conviction for crimes committed for terrorist purposes. The law does not provide any guarantee to prevent statelessness.
Despite the pandemic, the number of citizenship acquisitions increased between 2019 and 2020. The lengthy process required to assess applications (often pre-dating the acquisition by at least three years) and the digitization of procedures have clearly counteracted the effects of the pandemic and economic downturn. According to the ISTAT report published on 22 October 2021, 131,803 foreigners acquired Italian citizenship in 2020: out of these, 119,000 (90%) were non-EU citizens, with a 4% increase i compared to 2019. In 2020, there was a significant decrease in acquisitions by marriage (-16.5%), acquisitions by election by those born in Italy at the age of 18 (-40.2%) and by ius sanguinis (-30.9%). In the first case, these are files processed by the municipalities, which were affected by a suspension of deadlines due to the slowdown in the activities of the offices as a result of the pandemic. In the latter, mobility from one country to another, which has become more difficult, has prevented the descendants of Italian emigrants from reaching Italy and requesting citizenship. On the contrary, acquisitions by residence and – consequently – those by transmission of the right from parents to minors have increased respectively by 25.7% and 5.9% compared to 2019: in 2020, almost 80% of acquisitions took place by residence (48.5%) or by transmission (30.3%). Almost 25% of the non-EU citizens who have acquired citizenship in 2020 were born in Italy.
In 2020, the greatest number of acquisitions were recorded by Albanians, followed by Moroccans, Brazilians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshi. Among the top ten communities for acquisitions of citizenship, the highest increases were recorded by Bangladeshi, for whom acquisitions have almost quadrupled in 2020, and by Egyptians and Pakistanis, who recorded more than twice as many successful acquisitions compared to 2019. In contrast, acquisitions by North Macedonians and Brazilians declined (both more than 30%).
From a territorial point of view, new citizens are heavily concentrated in six regions of the Centre-North:
Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Lazio and Tuscany, which host 73.5% of those who have acquired citizenship in 2020 (with 25.5% of them living in Lombardy alone).
The application is submitted online through the website of the Ministry of Interior, by attaching the extract of the original birth certificate and the criminal records certificate, issued by the authorities of the country of origin and duly translated and legalised. Since the 2018 reform, applicants must also submit a certification of knowledge of the Italian language. The originals are submitted to the Prefecture of the place of residence.
Refugees may submit, in lieu of the original birth certificate and criminal records certificate, a declaration (affidavit), signed before a Court and certified by two witnesses. The law does not provide this possibility for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. However, on 13 November 2019, the Civil Court of Rome recognized a woman of Sierra Leone with subsidiary protection status the right to produce self-signed certificates, instead of a criminal record and birth certificates, to request the Italian citizenship, assessing the risk she would have incurred in by turning to the authorities of her country of origin.
The application is subject to the payment of a €250 contribution.
The evaluation of the citizenship application is largely discretionary. As consistently confirmed by the case law of the Administrative Courts, the denial may be motivated by insufficient social inclusion in the national context. Even if not provided by law, a further general requirement established by the Ministry of Interior for those who apply for citizenship by residency is the necessary to have an income produced on Italian territory, which amount shall not be less than those established by the Decree-Law 382/1989, signed into law 8/1990 as confirmed by art. 2 of the Act 549/1995. The benchmarks are euro 8,263.31 for the unmarried applicant, euro 11,362.05 for the applicant with a spouse, and euro 516.00 to be added for each child. If the applicant does not possess their own income or has an income below those established by law, it is possible to consider the incomes of other household members (in the same family status of the applicant). Pending the acceptance of the citizenship request the applicant must retain, without interruptions, both the residence and the income capacity.
Decree Law 113/2018, implemented by L 132/2018 extended the time limit for the completion of the procedure from 730 days to 48 months from the date of application. The Administrative Court of Lazio decided that it also applied to cases brought to Court before the date of coming into force of the Decree Law, since the Decree Law was silent on the date of entry into force.
The Decree Law 130/2020 has repealed the provision of Decree Law 113/2018 which extended the 48 months term applicable to citizenship applications pending at the time of the entry into force of the decree law. Thus, the previous term of 730 days will be applied to the applications submitted before the entry into force of Decree Law 113/2018.
Decree Law 130/2020 converted into L. 173/2020 has introduced a new time limit for the completion of the citizenship procedure by Prefectures, set in 24 months extendable up to a maximum of 36 months, which applies to requests submitted on or after December 20, 2020.
Thus, currently, there are different deadlines for the conclusion of the procedure, depending on when the application was submitted, whether before, during or after the end of the validity of the provision of Decree-Law 113/2018.
It should be noted that these are indicative non-mandatory time limits.
The person concerned is notified about the conclusion of the procedure by the Prefecture. In case of approval, he or she is invited to give, within 6 months, the oath to be faithful to the Italian Republic and to observe the Constitution and the laws of the State. In case of denial, he or she can appeal to the Administrative Court.
 Articles 9 and 16 L 91/1992 (Citizenship Act).
 Article 9(1)(f) Citizenship Act.
 Article 9.1 Citizenship Act, inserted by Article 14 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.
 Ministry of Interior Circular No 666 of 28 January 2019.
 Article 10-bis Citizenship Act, inserted by Article 14 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.
 Civil Court of Rome, decision 21785 of 13 November 2019.
 See e.g. Administrative Court of Lazio, Decision 8967/2016, 2 August 2016.
 Ministry of Interior, Income required for the application for citizenship by residence and modalities for their indiation and updating, 30 November 2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3ihIS7o.
 Article 19-ter Citizenship Act, inserted by Article 14 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.
 Administrative Court of Lazio, Decision 1323/2019.
 Article 4 of Decree Law 130/2020 repealed Article 14 (2) of the Decree Law 113/2018 which had set the deadline for the definition of the proceedings pending at the time of entry onto force of the Decree Law 113/2018 in 48 months.
 According to Article 3 DPR 18.4.1964 n. 362.
 Article 9-ter Citizenship Act as amended by Decree Law 130/2020 and L 173/2020. According to Article 4(6) of Decree Law 130/2020 the provision applies to the applications submitted from the entry into force of the L 173/2020.