Q: Is this really something that I can do on my own, especially if I don’t speak Italian?
YES! Many other non-Italian-speaking people do accomplish this without being able to speak the language.
There are a lot of linguists that reside in Italy and you can easily hire one of them at a reasonable rate to accompany you to your appointments. You can find English-speaking Italians by contacting the English department at a nearby high school, college, or language school, and ask them for a suggestion as to how you can hire an interpreter. YouTube and the Internet in general are excellent ways to find information on how to fill out the Italian forms that are required as a part of this process. Since there are so many people looking to avoid applying at the consulate and flying to Italy to present their application, you can find a company or an individual service provider to either guide you through the process or connect you to their network in Italy and help you expedite the entire process.
The more you do on your own, the less money you will need to spend, but there are excellent service providers out there that can offer you a turn-key service, but beware of those that guarantee processing times of less than 90 days. No provider can determine how long processing will take, even with a preexisting relationship with a comune be ause there are factors outside of the comunes’ control that can greatly impact processing times. Of course, the Italian-US Dual Citizenship Facebook group is an excellent resource for any Italian citizenship DIYer.
Q: What are some of the benefits of applying directly in Italy versus a consulate?
The wait time to get a citizenship appointment at the consulate plus the wait time for recognition post-appointment can take years. It can take 2-3 years to get into the consulate and then another year or more for recognition. On average, applications in Italy are finalized in 90-180 days, though there are some who have reported having waited a year or more.
Some service providers who assist with the process will claim that the time spent in Italy can be two weeks. This, however, would not meet the test for residency and, if audited, the comune can cancel citizenship for those who sidestep residency requirements. This has, in fact, happened to thousands of people, sometimes years after citizenship recognition.
The greatest benefit of all to applying in Italy is the fact that you get to establish a relationship with your home country and meet the people who will be processing your document registration. If you are applying in your ancestral comune, then you will have an opportunity to meet relatives and further research your family tree.
Italian consulates in the USA do not offer you the opportunity to request a carta d’identità as that can only be acquired at consulates in the EU or at the comune in which you are registered. Most people who apply for citizenship in Italy come home with a carta d’identità that can be renewed later on through the consulate of Italy located in the USA.
Are there any cons to applying in Italy?
This somewhat depends on your point of view. It is probably the most expensive way to apply for citizenship recognition, as it involves travel and living expenses not typically associated with consulate applications. Even with a PdS, in-Italy JS applicants are not permitted to work while they are there. So, you will have to factor any loss of income by being away from your job.
People who apply in Italy will also have a few extra steps that consulate applicants will not have in terms of paperwork. All naturalization documentation or proof of no naturalization will require an apostille and translation into Italian, which is not needed when one applies at the consulate. Almost none of the clerks in Italy will accept a simple translation as they are instructed by the Ministry of the Interior that all translations done outside of Italy need to be either legalized by the Consulate of Italy in the United States or be an apostilled translation which happens when the translator certifies the translation by means of an oath that is received by a notary public. Translations done in Italy will have to be sworn translations where an official translator swears to the translations before the Italian court and this process involves a special fee per four pages.
All applicants are at the mercy of the clerk and their interpretation of the law’s requirements. If one encounters a difficult clerk who decides that extra documentation is needed or that amendments to specific documents must be made before approval, then one has to try and orchestrate those changes from outside the USA.
Am I able to travel during my stay?
While it is advisable to remain available both for your physical residency validation by the Questera and then also for questions and appointments with the stato civile office during the processing of your citizenship application, you may travel. Keep in mind that you have no special privileges to travel around the Schengen zone beyond what your US passport allows until you are recognized as an Italian citizen. Countries in the Schengen pact, which is most of the EU, allow a cumulative of up to 90 days’ stay every 180 across all countries. The only exception is if you obtain a permesso di soggiorno to extend your stay in Italy for the purposes of your citizenship application. With a PdS, you are allowed to enter and leave Italy as often as you need, though it does not allow you any additional time in other Schengen countries.
Is there a minimal amount of time you must reside in Italy to be a legitimate resident?
No – There is no minimal time established. However, you will find that most leases are for no less than 6 months in duration. While it is possible for you to leave the country during your residency and still maintain residency status, it is important that you remain available at least until the Questura physically validates you are residing there. Keep in mind, though, that they may check more than once, particularly if the comune is concerned that you are not truly residing in Italy, rather just declaring residency solely for the purpose of applying there when not truly living there.
Can you use a B&B or hotel as your residency address?
No. Since you cannot apply for recognition until after you have residency, you have to first get through the residency process. For most clerks, these would not be sufficient proof that you are taking up permanent residency in Italy. They will that you enroll as a resident either with a letter of hospitality from a friend or family member or on a rental contract of a certain duration. You can sometimes convince the clerk to move forward with processing your residency application on a short-term rental with the idea that you are still searching for your long term home; however, not all clerks will work with you on this.