Your spouse or partner can obtain Italian citizenship if you have Italian citizenship yourself. The application is a relatively easy process and starts instantly online. However, obtaining the desired result proves extremely LONG and often frustrating.
(Information updated on September 5th, 2021)
Question: What does the law say?
For applications submitted from 21.12.2020, the deadline is 24 months, extendable to 36 months (Article 4 §5 and §6 of Law Decree of October 21st, 2020 no.130 amending Article 9 ter or the Italian Nationality Act in English).
For applications submitted between October 5th, 2018 and December 20th, 2020, the maximum handling time is 48 months, according to Law Decree of October 4th, 2018 no. 113.
For applications submitted before October 5th, 2018, the application deadline is 24 months. That is because the provision which extended the 4-year deadline to those applications was deleted and replaced in October 2020 (by Article 4, §5 of Law Decree 130/2020). However, the Ministry of the Interior insists that the maximum handling is still 48 months (see more information in our blog “Italian citizenship in 4 years?”).
Q: Why does it take such a long time?
A: We explored the reasons by personally meeting the central offices in Rome, where the Italian Ministry of the Interior processes all the applications by spouses and partners residing outside of Italy. We inquired several Italian Consulates in the world and interviewed officers at all levels in our career, since the late 1990s.
Behind the usual answer, we got from the offices (“Applications escalated over time and we are undermanned”), the reason for the delays is basically a poor response to increased demand. Many of us are advocating the cause of increased investments and more effective coordination between different administrations. The problem is not the higher number of lawful and righteous applications, rather the way the administrations goes about it. Ultimately, it is the result of a political choice aimed at restricting access to Italian citizenship as well as the consequence of poor management in the administration.
Q: Ok, I understand the problem. But how do I cut the waiting time?
A: My advice is to TAKE ACTION: don’t forget your application in the drawers of an Italian office. The processing time depends on your behavior, too! We have handled thousands of cases as officers in public offices and as lawyers in private practices: our 20+ years of experience with Italian offices taught us that active applicants get decisions faster.
Moreover, it is crucial to keep in mind that
The Ministry has been insisting for almost a year now that they will send any formal communication concerning the application exclusively through the online application platform.
As a consequence, you may not receive any notification of a decision on your application by email, or through the Italian Consulate, or by registered mail.
It is crucial to access the online platform. Any communication on your application appears on said Ministry’s online platform and can be subject to a tight deadline for you to reply.
For example, if the Ministry regards your paperwork as insufficient, they will send a message on the online platform with a term of 10 days for you to reply. In case you do not reply, they will archive your application and invite you to start a new application, in case you have any further observations or documents to add.
The online system is cumbersome. Access to the Ministry’s online application platform is currently granted via the new SPID system (Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale). If you do not have one, you will be required to make a new registration in order to link and access your existing application.
Heads up: how FAST can it go?
The law sets the limit of 4 years a MAXIMUM deadline. Let me explain this in detail to you, because it is an important point. Much of the frustration on the timing matter revolves around having a reasonable and correct expectation based on the law.
What is your RIGHT to demand and the offices’ DUTY to do?
The Italian Consulates and the central offices in Rome have a legal obligation to organize and coordinate their action in order to process your application within the deadline. They may succeed in delivering the final decision before the deadline and you certainly can ask them to do it. But, according to the recently amended law described above, they have no legal obligation to deliver BEFORE 4 years. As a consequence, you have no RIGHT to claim a final decision before four years. So you should keep your expectations in the legal terms. Can you accept that?
Q: What can you do NOW to speed up my application process?
A: First: don’t wait! It may sound obvious, but you may not expect the process to take so long. As a consequence, you (and a lot of other people) tend to wait until the 4 years have almost passed, before doing anything to cut the waiting time.
My advice is: ANTICIPATE. You can communicate with the office in charge and focus their attention on your application. You can apply my tried-and-tested STRATEGY to minimize delays and maximize your chances.
Take the following 3 steps:
- Locate your Application Manager
- Communicate effectively!
- Use the right TOOL and activate your process (FORM)
STEP #1: Find your Application manager.
First of all, find the right office and Application Manager to contact. Here’s how. If you applied for citizenship outside of Italy, the right office to contact is the Italian Consulate for your residence area. The head of the Consular Office is your Application Manager. The law calls your Application Manager the Responsabile del Procedimento and provides a specific duty to communicate with the applicant. Italian Consulates publish detailed information on how to contact them.
STEP #2: Communicate effectively!
The Italian law sets certain duties on the Application Manager and you should consider them to avoid bouncing on a rubber wall as a result of your contacting attempts. You don’t want to waste your valuable time, right?
Italian Consulates can effectively fulfill their obligation to give general information by publishing on its website, even by linking it to other official websites. So the Consulate can actually skip reply e-mails and phone calls about the information that is already published online. So how can you contact the Application Manager and get results?
The law provides an array of tools to obtain your coveted answers and decisions. Moreover, there are special tools to force the decision, in case the Application Manager does not deliver within the deadline. We will get into detail about all of the lawyers’ tools on this website. Right now it is crucial that you keep in mind the
Golden Rule: each of those tools can only be actioned if after the previous one failed. So you have to start with the first tool, the very basic and necessary, in order to use any other and step up to the next level.
Any Italian lawyer knows that. So if you want to obtain the assistance of a lawyer to speed up your citizenship process, she or he will have to start from the very first tool. However, if you have already used it, you will be able to skip this first step and start directly at the next level. This way, you will save time, money and energy because you are a SMART dual citizen, right?
The basic tool is a specific type of letter which MUST be sent to the Application Manager before activating any other tool. Lawyers call it SOLLECITO.
STEP # 3: Use the right TOOL and activate your process
The word Sollecito means “Urging Notice”. It is a special kind of warning designed to communicate with an Italian administrative office. It includes just the relevant facts and the right formula in Italian to urge a decision about your application. Moreover, it contains a warning to the office to comply with the relevant legal obligations with the correct legal references.
You do not need a lawyer to use this tool. You can use it yourself with my directions in English. Just request the free FREE form below.
I specifically crafted this form to reduce the waiting times of citizenship by marriage. I have been using it effectively for several years and you can use it now easily.
The form text is up to date and states that the new 4-year deadline should not apply to applications started before October 4th, 2018 and the proper reference to the higher principles of law which prevail. Just enter your details and your application number in the form according to the English directions in Italics. Remember to add a copy of your passport.