February 7, 2022

I have already dealt with citizenship in other articles. I continue to this day because it is a constant source of new study for me.

While the reader may not be interested in the jurisprudential developments on the division between ordinary and administrative jurisdictions, that is, who is responsible between one judge and the other, a summary of the recent publishings made on the subject can still offer perspective on the subject for anyone.

The first question I ask the client who requests my professional work is aimed at understanding the reasons that lead him to apply for citizenship. The answer can be easily deduced for foreigners residing in Italy who have a residence card and are well established in the national territory and who therefore want to obtain citizenship by “naturalization”.

With this type of citizenship, a recent ruling by the State Council highlights the balance of interests that must exist between the aspiring citizen and the interests of the national community in welcoming new citizens who are capable of respecting the rules.

The sentence states that the foreigner must be the holder of a “status illesae dignitatis”, a Latin term that in a courtly sense denotes the social impeccability of the foreigner, both moral and civil.

But the request for granting citizenship by naturalization does not correspond to a “right”.

There is a whole series of requirements (work, economic, family conditions, irreproachable conduct, effective verification of residence, knowledge of the Italian language, etc.), which ensures that the foreigner does not gain citizenship automatically at the end of ten years of residence in Italy, and are granted the mere “expectation” of citizenship.

The foreigner – it says – must be socially integrated and his conduct must not be in contrast with the founding values of civil coexistence.

The aspiring Italian citizen must then deal with the “discretionality” of public administration. This concept of very broad discretion, which in essence – in practice – legitimizes the p.a. to do as he wants: he may either grant you citizenship, or he may not (based on an assessment that is in theory based on a “serious feeling of Italianness”).

While this is, in general, valid for citizenship “by naturalization” (gained after having resided for ten years in the country), the situation changes for the acquisition of citizenship “iure sanguinis”, or for that by “marriage”.

In these cases the applicant has a real “right” (obviously while still requiring justification), and it will not be the administrative judge who decides, but that of the ordinary court.

I came across all three types of citizenship. Of the three, I prefer the one for “right of blood”. I am fascinated by the stories of the many men and women forced to emigrate to make a future for themselves and their families; and, under more careful observation, the procedural process in the Court is quite swift.

This is different when submitting an application for citizenship by marriage. The filing takes place online, at pre-established times on the Ministry portal and an appeal is not required in order to file. There are ten pages to fill out, apparently all simple. The data to be entered must be precise, as well as the exact required attachments, under penalty of almost immediate rejection of the application.

Difficulties are always around the corner. Let’s take the case of a Pakistani foreigner who wants to obtain Italian citizenship by marriage. Before filing online, he must “legalize” (not “apostille”) all the required documents in his country (i.e. birth certificate and pending criminal charges). But if the foreigner had moved to another state in the meanwhile, he will have to legalize or apostille – according to the nations adhering to the Hague Convention – all the documents in each of the states where he resided. If in the UK, the police character certificate must be apostilled by the Pakistani Consulate General in the UK.

All this can be relatively easy in one country or another, but certainly the timing of the release of these documents is not so brief. In any case, if you get past that impasse – legalization / apostille – and enter all the data correctly, the desired citizenship will eventually be issued.

And in fact, once the investigation of the application for citizenship has been completed, the responsable Italian authority (Decree from the local Prefect of the Province, which carries the weight of the national executive) will issue the decree granting Italian citizenship.

The applicant must present himself to the Municipality of residence to take the oath of allegiance to the Italian Republic. The process is formally concluded with the transcription of the concession of citizenship.

One day, I accompanied an American friend to his oath. I would have expected a minimum of ceremony for that coveted “Italianness”. But maybe it was the restrictions of the pandemic. The mere signing after the oath in that cold corridor will be just a bad memory.