Language requirements to apply for Italian citizenship

If you are pursuing Italian citizenship, what language requirements do you need to fulfill?

Italian language learning school in Rome
Rome, Italy. Photo: Daniel Sharp on Unsplash.

When applying for citizenship by descent, this is one of the most common questions. Different citizenship pathways involve various obligations, such as passing a fluency test in Italian. Whether you are applying for citizenship through descent, marriage, or residency, this article will provide you with all the information you need to know.

Citizenship by descent

Also known as Jure Sanguinis, citizenship by descent indicates that you are Italian by birthright through a family member who did not naturalize prior to the birth of the next-in-line child. From the Italian government’s perspective, the application is simply to recognize your citizenship formally. You do not need to pass a language test, nor have knowledge of Italian history. Certified copies of vital records, such as birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, along with proof of your ancestor’s naturalization status, are essential for the application process. Your family records must be Apostilled and translated into Italian when submitting them to the Italian consulate or municipality in Italy. While an Italian language test isn’t required, however, it is still strongly advised to work with a legal representative who speaks Italian and is specialized in this field due to the complexities of individual cases.

Citizenship by marriage or residency

Speaking Italian is a new requirement for both citizenship by marriage and residency. The new legislation introduced in 2018 mandates passing a B1 language test. There are a couple of exceptions to this new legislation. If you have attended school in Italy or hold a degree from an Italian-speaking institution, you are exempt from passing a language test. If you married an Italian citizen before 1983, you automatically become an Italian citizen by marriage, and speaking Italian is not a requirement in this case.

If these circumstances do not apply to you, you must pass a B1 language test, which corresponds to an intermediate level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In Italy, there are four certification bodies that evaluate the language test:

  • The University for Foreigners of Siena
  • The University for Foreigners of Perugia
  • Roma Tre University
  • The Dante Alighieri Society

If you live abroad, you can also take the test through a school approved by the Italian government. You can learn more about this here.

It is recommended you take this test well in advance of beginning the application process to allow for studying and language lessons (if necessary), along with the time to schedule the exam, have it evaluated, and receive your certificate, which could all take several months. The certificate (specifically that for passing citizenship) doesn’t expire either. The B1 test includes reading, speaking, writing, and listening components. Passing such a test demonstrates you have enough language skills to navigate everyday life in Italy and fully integrate. You may learn more about what the test entails here.

Understanding the language requirements for Italian citizenship is important before starting the application process. Whether you are applying by descent, marriage, or residency, being well-informed about the language expectations can help you navigate the citizenship application process with confidence. For further information or assistance, feel free to contact us at