Country Report: Naturalisation Last updated: 03/06/21


Italian citizenship can be granted to refugees legally resident in Italy for at least 5 years.[1] 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.[2]

In both cases, the beneficiary’s registration at the registry office must be uninterrupted. This is particularly challenging for beneficiaries of international protection, as the law does not ensure to them an accommodation after getting a protection status and, due to the precarious situation they come to face, they will be hardly able to maintain a residence. 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, at the moment of writing, many municipalities refuse to recognize the right to register them retroactively. Some cases have already been brought before the Civil Courts to obtain such retroactive registration.

The 2018 reform also introduced the requirement of good knowledge of the Italian language of at least B1 level, attested through specific certifications or through the qualification in an educational institution recognised by the Ministry of Education.[3] Applications presented after 5 December 2018 without meeting this requirement have been rejected.[4]

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.[5] The law does not provide any guarantee to prevent statelessness.

According to the ISTAT report published on 26 October 2020,[6] 127,001 foreigners acquired Italian citizenship in 2019. ; of these 113,979 (89.7%) were non-EU citizens, with a slight increase compared to 2018, when non-EU citizens who became Italian were just over 103,000.

In 2019, among the communities with the highest number of acquisitions, there were Macedonians (+ 42.4%), Pakistanis (+ 37.9%) and Ecuadorians (+ 31.9%). Compared to 2018, acquisitions by residence increased in 2019 ((+ 28.3%), which represented over 40% of the total acquisitions of citizenship. Also, they were increased citizenships by election, that is those of eighteen-year-olds born and resident in Italy, (+ 15.1%); and citizenships by descent (ius sanguinis), (+ 27.1%), while acquisitions by marriage decreased (-29.8%).

With respect to nationalities, more than half of the new Italians came from Moldova, Ecuador, Peru and Albania, i.e. countries from which asylum seekers tend not to come.

Minors were close to 30% of the population who acquired citizenship,

From a territorial point of view, almost two out of three new Italians reside in a northern region, while in the south there were greater citizenships by descent, also due to the fact that these territories were in the past “emigration lands” and that, currently, less affected by the permanent settlement of migrants from non-EU countries.

Naturalisation procedure

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 in the country of origin and duly translated and legalised. The originals are submitted to the Prefecture of the place of residence.

Refugees can replace the documentation requested to prove their exact personal data and their legal position in the country of origin with a declaration (affidavit), signed before the Court and certified by two witnesses. This possibility is not provided by law 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 from the country of origin, to request the Italian citizenship, assessing the risk she would have incurred by turning to the authorities of her country of origin. [7]

The application is subject to the payment of a €250  (up from €200) contribution.

The evaluation of the citizenship application is largely discretionary. As consistently confirmed by the case law of the Administrative Courts,[8] the denial may be motivated by the lack of knowledge of Italian language and insufficient social inclusion in the national context. Even if not provided by law, as evidence of social inclusion, it is usually requested that the income of the last 3 years be equal or higher than the minimum income guaranteed by the State.

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.[9] The Administrative Court of Lazio decided that it also applies 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.[10]

The Decree Law 130/2020 has repealed the law of the Decree Law 113/2018, which extended the 48 months term applicable to citizenship applications pending at the time of the entry into force of that decree law.[11] Thus, the previous term of 730 days will be applied to the applications submitted before the entry into force of Decree Law 113/2018.[12]

The Decree Law 130/2020 and the L. 173/2002 have introduced a new time limit for the completion of the citizenship procedure, set in 24 months extendable up to a maximum 36 months, applying to applications submitted from 20 December 2020. [13]

Therefore, currently, there are several terms for the conclusion of the procedure, which depend on the circumstance that the application was presented before, during or after the end of validity of Decree Law 113/2018.

As before, these are a 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.



[1]  Articles 9 and 16 L 91/1992 (Citizenship Act).

[2]    Article 9(1)(f) Citizenship Act.

[3]  Article 9.1 Citizenship Act, inserted by Article 14 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.

[4]   Ministry of Interior Circular No 666 of 28 January 2019.

[5]  Article 10-bis Citizenship Act, inserted by Article 14 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.

[6]  ISTAT Report, 26 October 2020, available at :

[7]  Civil Court of Rome, decision 21785 of 13 November 2019

[8] See e.g. Administrative Court of Lazio, Decision 8967/2016, 2 August 2016.

[9]  Article 19-ter Citizenship Act, inserted by Article 14 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.

[10] Administrative Court of Lazio, Decision 1323/2019. 

[11] 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.

[12]  According to Article 3 DPR 18.4.1964 n. 362.

[13] 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.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation