Under Italian law, you can apply in Italy only if you reside in Italy. You may be able to get citizenship in less time, however, the residency is not immediate. After you file your application for residency, Italy has up to 45 days to confirm it.
Given that you’ll be paying for your own accommodations (which requires a few months’ rent in advance for both deposit and real estate agency fees), we recommend a stay of at least 6 months to make it financially feasible and to establish that you are a bona fide resident of Italy. We partner with a specialized agency in Italy to help you through the whole process.
** Requirement and requested documents may change, please always refer to the page of the Italian General Consulate in New York
If all other options fail, Italy allows citizenship through residency, also known as naturalization. This is covered in general on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (section 6):
“As a general rule, for non-EU foreigners, legal residence on the territory of the Italian State for at least 10 years is required (1992 law, Article 9, subparagraph f), but there are many cases for which the period of residence required is lower:• 3 years of legal residence: for the foreigners whose father, mother or any of the ascendants in a direct line of second degree were Italians by birth or for the foreigners born in Italy and residing there;
• 4 years for the citizen of an EU Member State;
• 5 years of legal residence following adoption for the foreigners of legal age, or following the recognition of status for stateless people or political refugees.”
You must first meet the residency terms above before you can apply for naturalization. Formal residency means owning a property or having a lease in your name that qualifies for residency (not a vacation rental). Once you apply, it typically takes 2-4 years more before citizenship is granted. In addition to proof of continuous residency, you will have to provide a B1 fluency certification and proof of Italian tax filing as part of your application. Naturalization is governed by the Interior Ministry for each territory, so there may be additional specific requirements, depending on where in Italy you reside.
In order to legally stay in Italy beyond the 90 days that a US passport allows, a visa is required BEFORE you move. If you have no other way of acquiring a long-term visa (like employer-sponsored), you would need to get an elective residency visa. It requires that you have significant financial resources (over $100,000K/year). Understand that you cannot work there with this visa type, so your financial resources must be from savings or other available accounts, like a retirement or pension fund. You will also need proof of private health insurance. Elective residency visas are granted for up to 5 years at a time, at the consulate’s discretion.