Recognition of Italian citizenship according to the criterion of ius sanguinis

Descendants of Italian ancestors who emigrated to foreign countries of ancient emigration, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Canada avail themselves of the principle of ius sanguinis to apply for the recognition of Italian citizenship. But the process is far from simple and, in this context, although it falls in a non-patrimonial area, the Italian Internal Revenue Service still requires the payment of registration tax to the petitioner. 

Article 1 of Law 91/1992 establishes that a child of a father or mother who is an Italian citizen is a citizen by birth: therefore, in application of the principle of ius sanguinis, the descendant of an Italian emigrant (i.e. second, third, fourth generation descendants and beyond), residing abroad, can as well claim Italian citizenship.

The conditions required for such recognition are based: 

  1. on proving descent from the person originally invested with the status of Italian citizen (the emigrant ancestor); 
  2. on proof of the absence of interruptions in the transmission of citizenship, i.e., the lack of foreign naturalization not only of the Italian ancestor before the birth of the child, but also of his descendants in the direct line before the birth of the next generation, up to and including the applicant (i.e., there must have been no renunciation of Italian citizenship by further descendants, prior to the birth of the person applying for citizenship iure sanguinis).

In other words, proof is needed that the chain of transmission of citizenship has never been interrupted, proof that can be provided by means of appropriate certificates issued by the competent Italian diplomatic and consular authorities.

As for the procedure for the recognition of Italian citizenship, there are two ways:

  • a) administratively: by application to be submitted to the competent consular authority, identified on the basis of the place where the applicant resides;
  • b) judicially, without waiting for the decision of the consular authority, if the consulate where the administrative application was filed has an excessive waiting line for applicants to be summoned (typical example is the São Paulo Consulate in Brazil, which takes more than 10 years to summon applicants).

The long timeframes result, in fact, in a denial of justice, so the interested parties are given the opportunity to apply directly to the Italian judge who, having ascertained descent based on the documents attached to the judicial appeal and where the conditions exist, will declare the applicant an Italian citizen.

At the same time, by the aforementioned order, the Judge orders the Ministry of the Interior, and for it the competent Registrar of Civil Status, to proceed with the legal registrations, transcriptions and annotations in the civil status registers, providing for any communications to the competent consular authorities.

In this context, the issue arose regarding the liability of registration tax in connection with the registration of the court order conferring Italian citizenship, in light of the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 131 /1986 (TUR).

Specifically, Article 59, Paragraph 1 (a) of the TUR stipulates that “judgments, measures and acts that are needed in litigation proceedings in which state administrations are involved shall be registered on a debit basis, i.e. without payment of taxes due.”

In response No. 108/2024 dated 17/05/2024, the Italian Internal Revenue Service clarified that the order recognizing the Italian citizenship of foreign persons falls under the cases referred to in subparagraph (a) of Article 59 TUR, establishing that:

  • registration tax (200 euros) is booked as debit, i.e., without simultaneous payment of the tax, if charged to the administration;
  • if, on the other hand, the order provides for the set-off of court costs, the registration tax on the order shall be reserved as a debit for half of it, with settlement of the tax for the remaining half to be paid by the applicant, who has become an Italian citizen.

From this point of view, in similar cases (where one turns to the Judge complaining about the inertia and inefficiency of the Administration, in the specific case of the Consulates for the very long waiting lines before the application for citizenship is examined), the Judges generally consider the inert conduct of the Public Administration “blameless” and, therefore, are used to order the compensation of court costs, and this while accepting the appeals proposed by the interested parties (i.e. the judicial application for the recognition of citizenship iure sanguinis).

The consequence thereof is that the most frequent hypothesis will be that the foreigner who has become an Italian citizen will have to pay half of the registration tax due in relation to the order recognizing Italian citizenship. The amount is of 100 euros, but the payment of the tax implies the request of the tax code, with an additional bureaucratic burden on the foreigner who wants to obtain Italian citizenship.