Dual citizenship arises when a person holds two or more citizenships simultaneously.
Is Italy Dual Citizenship Allowed?
Originally, Italy was one of the signatories to the 1963 Strasbourg Convention on the Reduction of Multiple Nationalities. However, Italian law was amended in the early 1990s to allow dual nationalities, both for Italians who wish to obtain a different citizenship in addition to their Italian citizenship, and foreigners who wish to obtain Italian Citizenship. Currently, the law regulating Italian Citizenship is found under Act 91 of 5 February 1992, highlighting the manners in which a foreigner may obtain Italian citizenship and the restrictions imposed on Italian citizens when acquiring a foreign citizenship.
Acquiring Italy Dual Citizenship for Italian Citizens
According to Article 11 of Act 91 of 1992, an Italian citizen who has acquired foreign citizenship will still retain Italian citizenship. Such an individual may lose his/her Italian Citizenship upon renunciation or if there is an international agreement preventing the individual from retaining the Italian Citizenship in particular situations. Article 12 of the same Act stipulates specific circumstances where an Italian Citizen will lose his/her citizenship, including:
- Accepting public employment or public office from another State or foreign public body;
- Accepting employment within an International organisation which Italy is not a member of;
- Performing military service to a foreign state
Italy dual citizenship may be attained for persons who are originally Italian citizens through several methods:
- Birth – This is referred to as the principle of ‘jus soli’, law of the soil. If the individual was born within a country’s territory, this principle will entitle him to dual citizenship within the territory in which he was born. The requisites for acquiring such citizenship will depend on the law of the territory in question.
- Descent – This is referred to as the principle of ‘jus sanguinis’, citizenship by blood. Through this method, an individual will inherit his citizenship from his parents or Dual citizenship may be acquired in such case depending on the laws of the ancestor/s’ country of origin.
- Adoption – A minor holding Italian Citizenship may acquire Italy dual citizenship if adopted by foreign citizens.
- Marriage – Most countries allow for foreigners who marry citizens within their territory to acquire the citizenship of their spouse, subject to the conditions stipulated by the country. Therefore, if an Italian citizen marries a foreign citizen, in most cases, the Italian citizen would be able to acquire Italy dual citizenship in due time.
- Naturalisation - An Italian citizen is also able to acquire dual citizenship within a foreign country through the process of naturalisation. The period of time which must be spent within the foreign country for the acquisition of citizenship is dependent on the laws which regulate the process of naturalisation.
- Citizenship by Investment Programmes – Recently, various countries have started offering naturalisation through Citizenship by Investment Programmes. If the criteria stipulated are satisfied, an individual would be granted citizenship within that country. The benefits of investing in one of these programmes will be dealt with in more detail further below.
It is important to note that certain countries do not recognise dual citizenship, and therefore, the individual may not be able to acquire it in the first place. Countries which do not recognise dual citizenship include, amongst others, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
Acquiring Italy Dual Citizenship – For Foreign Citizens
Act 91 of 1992 stipulates three main ways in which an individual may acquire Italian Citizenship:
- Automatic Acquisition
- Acquisition by Claim
- Descent – This is referred to as ‘Jure Sanguinis’, where the individual will be able to acquire citizenship if he has Italian parents or ancestors. None of the ancestors involved must have renounced their Italian citizenship.
- Birth – Also known as ‘Jure Soli’, citizenship will be granted to persons who are born in Italy, and whose parents are unknown, stateless or cannot pass down their citizenship to their children due to the law of the state to which they belong to.
- Judicial Ruling – Once a minor is recognised as being of Italian parentage, within one year, he must elect to become an Italian citizen.
- Adoption – a minor child adopted by an Italian citizen may become an Italian citizen.
Acquisition by claim
- Foreign descendants – A foreign or stateless descendant, up to second degree, may claim Italian citizenship if:
- He has served in the Italian armed forces;
- He is employed within the Italian government (even abroad); or
- Is a resident in Italy for at least 2 years before reaching the legal age of 18
- Marriage – a foreign citizen who marries an Italian citizen may acquire Italy dual citizenship if the following are satisfied:
- 2 years legal residence in Italy after the wedding, or 3 years legal residence abroad after the wedding;
- A valid marriage certificate;
- Absence of convictions for crime of maximum penalty 3 years, or convictions of more than 1 year for a non-political crime;
- Absence of convictions of crimes against government personnel as upheld in the Italian Criminal Code;
- Absence of obstacles relating to the security of the republic
After spending a specific amount of time within Italy, a person may qualify for Italian citizenship, however, these depend on the situation of the individual. The Act stipulates the following:
- 3 years for descendants of former Italian citizens up to second degree, and foreigners born on Italian soil;
- 4 years for citizens of another EU Member State;
- 5 years for Stateless persons, refugees or adult foreigners over the age of 18 adopted by Italian citizens
- 7 years for children adopted by Italian citizens; and
- 10 years for non-EU nationals
Alternatives to Italy Dual Citizenship
- Italy Residency by Investment Scheme
In 2017, a new scheme was introduced by the Italian Government which has presented itself as one of the most interesting investment residence schemes in the EU. The scheme is similar to others of its kinds offered around Europe, including the Spain Golden Visa, the Portugal Golden Visa, and the Greece Golden Visa. The Italy Golden Visa Scheme specifically, allows investors to choose from the following investments:
- €2,000,000 in government bonds, which must be maintained for a minimum of 2 years;
- €1,000,000 in equity investments within a company constituted and operating in Italy, which must be maintained for a minimum of 2 years;
- €500,000 invested within an Italian innovative start-up;
- €1,000,000 as a charitable gift, public interest projects or invested in a philanthropic institute.
The aforementioned funds must be available and transferrable to Italy, where, within 3 months from entry into Italy, the funds must be duly invested.
Once the application for the Golden Visa has been approved, the residence permit will be valid for 2 years, however, the Italian government has the power to revoke the permit before its expiration if the applicant fails to make the investment.
Upon obtaining a Visa, the holder may be accompanied by family members, however these must fall under one of the following criteria:
- A spouse who is not legally separated and no younger than 18 years old;
- A child under the age of 18;
- A dependant child over the age of 18, but is unable to support himself for health reasons;
- Dependant parents, if they have no other children;
- Dependant parents aged over 65
The residency permit may subsequently be renewed for an additional period of 3 years once the 2-year limitation has passed.
- Citizenship by Investment Programmes
A resident in Italy may subsequently acquire Italy dual Citizenship if he has satisfied the relevant criteria for naturalisation as previously stipulated. Whilst Italy dual citizenship has several benefits, it is mainly based on family connections or lengthy periods of time within the country. With the recent introduction of various citizenship by investment programmes (CBI) around the world, various Italian and foreign investors have made use of the programmes due to the far-reaching advantages they offer.
On a European level, the Citizenship by Investment Programmes offered are those in Malta and Cyprus. Having experienced high success rates within the limited time during which they have been put in place, various HNWI have now obtained Maltese or Cypriot Citizenship under these schemes. Once all the criteria necessary are satisfied, applicants will have access to Schengen area and will also be able to benefit from the freedoms enjoyed by European citizens, including freedom of goods, capital, services and labour. Individuals who prefer more flexibility in their investment options might also be interested in the Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes, offered by St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Dominica.
Individuals who have successfully acquired dual citizenship through one of the aforementioned Citizenship by Investment Programmes are exposed to several benefits, mainly the following:
- Facilitated Travel: Attaining citizenship through one of these programmes will provide individuals with the opportunity to benefit from visa-free travel across numerous countries. This will instantly widen the mobility outlook for high-net-worth-individuals, preventing them from having to face visa restrictions based on their country of origin. With enhanced mobility, applicants will be able to benefit on a business level, allowing operations to run smoothly, and on a personal level for travel. The choice of citizenship by investment programme might entitle the applicant to benefit from more visa-free travel, however, this depends on the programme chosen by the applicant.
- Tax Benefits: All jurisdictions offering these programmes have different tax incentives to further attract foreign investors, allowing them to safeguard and maximise their wealth as much as possible. These may include complete exemption of taxation on foreign income, wealth, gifts or capital gains, as is the case in Antigua, or remittance-based taxation which is nonetheless highly-attractive, as can be seen in Malta.
- Personal Security: These programmes have proven to be of high value to HNWI who originate from a politically or economically unstable country, providing them with the opportunity to obtain citizenship within a haven from insecurity, and ultimately have peace of mind. The relatively quick process will prevent the individual or his business from being affected by any political or economic turmoil, as well as economic recessions or environmental catastrophes.
- Better quality of life: Applicants and their families will be able to enjoy the life they dreamed of within the country in which they acquire citizenship. Specifically, in the case of the Malta and Cyprus Citizenship by Investment, the applicant would be able to further benefit from the advantages offered to EU citizens, both in relation to personal life, as well as business. Being considered a citizen, the applicant and his family would also be able to benefit from excellent levels of healthcare and education within the state, and also all around the EU.