Do you want to move to Italy? 

In 2020 Italian Citizenship Assistance (ICA), a leading company in the field of applications for Italian citizenship jure sanguinis (by descent), observed that the sudden increase in the number of applications among U.S. citizens with Italian ancestry was correlated to the outbreak of the health emergency, which produced a drastic change in  people’s livelihoods.  To this day, ICA is witnessing a steady increase in the number of U.S. citizens who wish to pursue Italian citizenship due to the high number of benefits that it entails. This article will outline the various paths one can pursue in order to acquire Italian citizenship or move to Italy, and it will also touch upon a few perks related to Italy’s digital nomad visa, Italy’s real estate market and the benefits that the Bel Paese has to offer.

Visas

According to recent studies, hybrid models of remote work are likely to persist in the coming years. This explains the need for many countries to regulate remote working. With regards to this, on March 28, 2022 Italy’s government approved decree n. 4/2022 (Decreto Sostegni Ter), which was then converted into law. Among many provisions, the law introduced Italy’s digital nomad visa. The objective is to attract non-EU citizens who are employed by non-EU companies. Although there are a number of requirements that will be clarified in the next few months, the new digital nomad visa appears to be more flexible compared to other types of long-stay visas; for instance, individuals who wish to apply for the visa will no longer need to obtain the so-called “Nulla Osta” (i.e., an authorization from the Local Immigration Office which is needed to be able to work in Italy), and they will only need to follow the provisions that regulate taxation. Finally, there will be no limit on the number of permits issued annually.

Italy’s digital nomad visa is definitely an attractive option if you plan to relocate to Italy and work remotely, but what are the alternatives if you do not qualify for this visa? If you are a non-EU citizen you can only spend a maximum of 90 days in Italy. Alternatively, you can apply for a work or study visa, or for other types of visas such as the Elective Residence Visa or the Investor Visa. The former is issued solely to applicants who are planning to move to Italy permanently and have high self-sustaining incomes and financial assets. It is valid for 365 days but it can be renewed each year, provided that the applicant meets the requirements. It can also be extended to the applicant’s dependent spouse, minor children and dependent children over 18 living with their parents provided that the applicant can demonstrate adequate financial assets to support them.

On the other hand, the Investor Visa allows non-EU investors to stay in Italy for a 2-year period provided that they invest in strategic and specific areas of the Italian economy with the aim of contributing to the country’s economic and societal growth.

Applying for Italian citizenship

Therefore, there are several visas one may apply for in order to travel to Italy and be able to spend time in the country beyond the 90-day limit. However, and most importantly, if you have Italian ancestry you can apply for the recognition of Italian citizenship and ultimately obtain an Italian passport, which will open the doors to living in Italy without any time limitation, and to travelling, studying or working anywhere in the European Union without any restrictions. If you obtain an Italian passport and establish residency in Italy you will be able to access high quality universal healthcare. Furthermore, being an Italian citizen also means being able to access Italy’s education system, which is one of Italy’s attractive assets. But how can you apply for Italian citizenship?

Firstly, you can apply for Italian citizenship by descent if your ancestor who was born in Italy never naturalized or if he/she naturalized after the child’s birth, and if none of your ascendants in your direct line of descent ever formally renounced their right to Italian citizenship. There are a few common circumstances that have an impact on eligibility and that are worth analyzing. For instance, if your male ancestor naturalized prior to the birth of his child who was born abroad, you might not be able to apply for citizenship via the consulate, but it might be possible to claim citizenship through the court system by applying via a female ancestor. The rule is that a woman can transfer citizenship to her child only if the child was born on or after January 1, 1948, which is when the Italian constitution came into effect. In fact, prior to that date Italian women did not have the same rights as men and thus could not pass their citizenship onto their children, which is now considered to be unlawful, and consequently, you can claim Italian citizenship via the court system as opposed to via an Italian consulate or municipality. Indeed, there are three ways to apply for Italian citizenship by descent: via Italian consulates in the U.S., via applications filed in Italy, or via judicial proceedings for cases involving a female ancestor, which need to be filed in an Italian court.

In order to file an application you will need to retrieve certified copies of your family’s vital records comprising birth, marriage, death and divorce certificates (if applicable), and the ancestor’s naturalization records or proof that he/she never naturalized. These documents need to be apostilled, translated into Italian and submitted to the Court in Italy, to the municipality, or to the Italian consulate abroad depending on the path to citizenship that is being pursued. If your claim to citizenship is successful you will be registered with the AIRE (Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad) and will then be issued an Italian passport. If you decide to live in Italy you will need to register as a resident in the municipality where you intend to reside.

If you do not have Italian ancestry or you do not qualify for Italian citizenship by descent but you are married to an Italian citizen, you can apply for citizenship by marriage; alternatively, you can apply for citizenship by residency. In this case, one of the main eligibility requirements rests on the basis of the number of years of legal residency in Italy. In particular, non-EU citizens are required to have resided in Italy for at least 10 years; on the other hand, for citizens of another EU country, the period of residency required is 4 years. If your parents or grandparents were Italian by birth and were born in Italy you can apply after 3 years.  Aside from the number of years of legal residency in Italy, you also need to have a B1 level in Italian and proof of income.

Purchasing a house in Italy

Notably, the rise of applications for Italian citizenship has been accompanied by a renewed interest in Italy’s real estate market due to affordable prices for residential real estate, a wide variety of properties to choose from and Italy’s delicious and healthy Mediterranean cuisine, favorable climate and lifestyle. Investors’ attention is focused on vibrant cities, small towns and suburbs. In particular, the value of the latter has increased during the pandemic; in fact, small towns and suburbs offer better quality of life compared to crowded city centers. As a matter of fact, properties outside big city centers are more likely to have gardens, bigger balconies and other outdoor spaces which can be used for remote working.

According to recent studies, in 2021 the majority of the real estate enquiries came from overseas and particularly from U.S. citizens who are attracted by Italy’s competitive prices and the possibility of turning many properties into B&Bs. In fact, real estate in Italy seems to be more affordable than in other European holiday destinations such as Spain, France and Portugal, and the Italian government has introduced new policies regarding tax deductions and state incentives, such as convenient rates on mortgages, reductions in the registration, mortgage and cadastral taxes, and other incentives such as the 7% flat tax regime. It is worth bearing in mind that it is not necessary to travel to Italy in order to purchase a property because the buyer can sign a Power of Attorney (POA) and authorize a lawyer or any other trusted individual the ability to act on the buyer’s behalf and legally represent him/her in all the formalities that need to be completed in order to finalize the purchase. Assuming no particular problems arise, after the legal due diligence is carried out by an attorney or by another professional, the whole purchase process can be completed in 6/8 weeks.

If you would like more information about the potential paths you can pursue in order to follow the Italian dream and relocate to Italy, do not hesitate to contact Italian Citizenship Assistance at info@italiancitizenshipassistance.com or at +1 (951) 742 5830.