Citizenship is the status that binds an individual to a specific state with specific rights and duties. These rights include civil, political, and social rights (including personal liberty, equality before the law, the right to vote, the possibility of working as a public officer, the right to health and work). The constitution of a state usually guarantees the most important rights that come with citizenship.

Loyalty to the state is among the duties of citizenship; it can be defined in many forms. In some cases, loyalty translates into compulsory military service or tax obligations toward the state for universal income.

Those who do not have the citizenship of the country in which they reside are considered foreigners (if that person is a citizen of another country) or stateless/displaced (if that person has no citizenship).

There are three principles on which citizenship is based; however each state applies these principles differently according to its own internal law. Let’s take a closer look at those principles:

Ius Soli

Ius soli” or literally “right of the soil” means citizenship is granted on the grounds that a person was born in the state’s territory, usually regardless of parental citizenship. Almost all the countries on the American continent adopt an unconditional ius soli, meaning the right is without restriction. If you are born in the territory, you have citizenship in that territory. Other countries, including France, Germany, Ireland, and Great Britain apply a restricted ius soli, meaning that this principle is applied under some limitations.

In Italy, ius soli applies only under very exceptional conditions. For instance, it applies to birth on Italian territory if the parents are unknown or when parents are stateless/displaced. It also applies when a baby is born in the territory to foreign parents who are unable to transmit their country’s citizenship to the child. Pursuant to article 4, paragraph 2, of the Law of 5 February 1992 n. 91, a particular version of jus soli applies to a child born in Italy who resides legally without interruption until reaching the age of majority. In fact, in this case the child becomes an Italian citizen by right if he or she declares the desire to acquire Italian citizenship within a year of reaching 18 years. This benefit is lost in the absence of expressed will within a year of reaching the age of majority, after which citizenship is obtainable only through ordinary rules. Please note that the Italian Parliament is considering extending the number of circumstances to apply ius soli.


Ius Sanguinis

Ius sanguinis” or literally “bloodright” is the principle under which a child acquires the citizenship of one or both parents, regardless of the place in which the child is born. This principle, in some cases, grants the right to acquire citizenship even to a more-distant descendant. Current Italian law grants Italian citizenship mainly based on this principle. Check with this chart if you qualify to claim your Italian jure sanguinis Citizenship.


Naturalization” is the right of a foreigner to acquire citizenship subject to certain requirements that vary from state to state. New citizenship is usually acquired via an act of public authority; due to the seriousness of the consequences, usually, the head of state formally issues recognition of new citizenship. For most countries, the naturalization procedure is strictly linked to “ius domicilii,” literally “domicile right,” for which citizenship is granted to those who reside permanently and legally in a state’s territory for a specific amount of time established by the internal law.  Italian law grants naturalization mainly to those who resides legally in Italy for at least 10 years. Exception is made to reduce residency requirements to five years for stateless/displaced individuals and to four years for European Union citizens. With the law n. 91/1992, an Italian citizen who acquired or reacquired foreign citizenship after August 15, 1992 does not lose his/her right to Italian citizenship. More exceptions are made and different rules apply in case of naturalization based on principles of “iure matrimonii and/or iure communicatio where citizenship is conferred by marriage or adoption. Some additional requirements apply to those specific cases.


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