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23 March 2022

Italy: New attempts to reform citizenship law

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In March 2022, the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies in Italy adopted the first draft of a text on citizenship reform. It was voted in by many political parties, including the 5 Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle), the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico), Italia Viva, Liberi e Uguali, and Forza Italia.

30 years after the adoption of the current citizenship law in 1992, debate around its reformation feels never-ending. During the last 20 years several attempts to reform it have failed. Now, this new draft outlines a model for the granting of Italian citizenship for those that have attended school in the country. In particular it states that a child born in Italy to foreign parents that has legal residence, and has also regularly attended school for at least one academic cycle for a minimum of five years, can acquire Italian citizenship at the request of the parents. This route is also open to children not born in Italy as long as they are under the age of 12.

According to Italian law, those born to non-citizen parents can acquire citizenship if they were born in Italy, have had uninterrupted residence until turning 18, and have submitted a statement of intent within one year of their eighteenth birthday. In practice, though, the process is complex and difficult to navigate, and claims are often denied the first time round. According to data collected by a survey for Action Aid, between 1.8 and 2.5 million people are excluded from citizenship despite being born or raised in Italy. More than half of these people are aged 18 or above.

Despite the sporting achievements of many young athletes who were born in Italy to migrant parents or who arrived in the country at a very early age (which could in theory be used to prove their contribution to society and to encourage support for their citizenship on the part of the general public), and despite recent activism by second generation migrant citizensthe issue resurfaces only periodically in the public debate and is always contentious. Generally speaking, reform is not yet perceived as a political priority and the most recent attempt to secure it was stopped at the Senate. The most contested aspect of the draft was the reference to a soft ius soli principle (birthright citizenship).

The adoption of this most recent proposal by the Constitutional Affairs Committee represents a new step forward in the legislative process of facilitating access to citizenship, but there is still some way to go.


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Posted by
Gaia Testore
Country Coordinator

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