How the rules for Italian citizenship change for Brits on Brexit day

There's some bad news today for British nationals living in Italy and hoping to soon apply for Italian citizenship through residency after being in the country for four years.

How the rules for Italian citizenship change for Brits on Brexit day
Photo: AFP

While many people may have thought the terms for Italian citizenship applications based on residency would remain the same after Brexit day, at least during the transition period, British Embassy officials have confirmed that this is not the case.

British Embassy officials told Brits living in Italy this week that unless they've been a resident for four years or more by today – January 31st 2020 – they will not be eligible, as these terms will no longer apply after Brexit.

Instead, they may now have to wait ten years under Italy's third-country national rules.

At a town hall meeting in Rome on Wednesday, a British embassy representative said that, according to the Italian government, any British citizen who had been here for at least four years by Brexiit day (January 31st 2020) would be able to put in an application for citizenship until the end of the transition period, (Dec 31 2020.)

Anyone else will have to meet the ten years required of third-country nationals resident in Italy – unless applying through the marriage route.

This will come as a huge blow to anyone nearing the four-year residency mark who had been expecting to be able to apply under the current rules.

But in Italy, only EU citizens are allowed to apply after four years of residence.

READ ALSO: How to become Italian: A guide to getting citizenship

A spokesperson from campaign group British in Italy confirmed that to the best of their knowledge, the 10-year residency requirement “would indeed apply for Brits applying for citizenship through the residency route who had not accrued four years of legal residency by 31st of January.”

“This is because citizenship is a national competence and therefore not subject to special transition period provisions.”

They pointed out that the Italian government's Decreto Brexit, which was published ahead of the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, “contained an article (Article 15(1)) indicating that British citizens who had accrued four years of residency by Brexit day would be able to apply based on those years of residency until 31/12/2020.”

Ai fini della concessione della cittadinanza italiana i cittadini del Regno Uniti sono equiparati, fino alla prestazione del giuramento, ai cittadini dell Unione Europea se hanno maturato il requisito di cui all' art.9, comma 1 lettera d), della legge 5 febbraio 1992, n.91 alla data di recesso del Regno Unito dall'Unione europea e presentano la domanda entro il 31 dicembre 2020″  

British in Italy has requested clarification as to whether this Article also applies now that the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified.

What if I've been in Italy for three years and 11 months by Brexit day?

Unfortunately, it seems that even if you reach the four-year mark during the transition period, you won't be eligible.

Is this the case for Brits in other European countries too?

It depends entirely on the rules in each country, as citizenship is not covered by EU law. Rules vary, but in some countries, such as France, the citizenship laws are already quite similar to the current EU rules.


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Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

People who have more than one citizenship often hold multiple passports, so what does this mean for crossing borders? Here's what you should know.

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But this week the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

The rules on dual-nationality have not changed, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there are strict rules on non-Brits who enter the country (and vice-versa) which has made it trickier for travel.

For instance, UK nationals receive a stamp in their passport when entering Schengen member states because they are only allowed to stay up to 90 days within an 180 period (unless they have a visa or residency card).

READ ALSO: Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents 

People coming from the EU to the UK can generally visit as a tourist for up to six months without a visa – but are not allowed to carry out any work while there.

So which passport should you show?

The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. 

Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country. 

But one thing to note is that it’s worth using the passport that is best suited to your destination when travelling there. Each country has its own set of immigration and visa rules that you’ll need to research closely.

It could be that one passport is better suited for your trip – and you may be able to avoid visa requirements.  

READ ALSO: How powerful is the German passport?

In the case of the UK, many people are still getting to grips with the different rules that apply because it’s not in the EU anymore.

A question submitted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in September 2021 provided some insight into this issue. 

The question from Labour’s Paul Blomfield asked what steps the UK government “is taking to enable dual UK and EU citizens to travel to the UK on an EU member state passport without having to further prove their UK citizenship?”

The Conservatives Kevin Foster said: “Border Force Officers examine all arriving passengers to establish whether they are British citizens, whether they require leave to enter or if they are exempt from immigration control.

“Where the passenger claims to be British, but does not hold any evidence of British citizenship, the officer will conduct all relevant checks to satisfy themselves the passenger is British.

Border control at Hamburg airport.

Border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

“When dual nationals who are eligible to use e-gates travel to the UK, they will enter via the e-gates without being examined by an immigration officer.

“We recommend all dual nationals, including EU citizens, travel on their British passport or with evidence or their British citizenship to minimise any potential delay at the border or when commencing their journey.”

The Local contacted the UK Home Office to ask if there was any official advice. 

A spokesman said: “An individual can present whichever passport they desire to enter the UK, however they will be subject to the entry requirements associated with the nationality of the passport they present.”

They said anyone who is looking for more information should check out guidance on entering the UK and on dual nationality.

In short, if you present a German passport on entry to the UK you will be treated the same as any other German citizen – which can include being quizzed about your reasons for visiting the UK – as border guards have no way of knowing that you are a dual-national. 

Do I have to carry both passports?

There’s no rule requiring you to have both passports, but you won’t get the benefits of a British passport (entry into the UK without questions) if you don’t show it.

Likewise if you are a French-British dual national and you enter France on your UK passport, you will need to use the non-EU queue and may have your passport stamped.

Should I think about anything else?

An important thing to remember is that if you apply for a visa and register your passport details, the same passport has to be used to enter the country. 

It could also make sense to travel with both passports, just in case. 

However, note that some countries – like the US – require that US nationals use a US passport to enter and leave the States even if they are dual nationals. 

In general, it’s best to use the same passport you entered a country with to depart.

The rules and systems are different depending on the country. But many countries require people to show their passport when leaving – and they will either stamp or scan the passport – this is how authorities know that a foreign visitor hasn’t overstayed their time in the country. 

So if your passport is checked as you leave the UK, you should show the one you arrived with, just to ensure there is a record of you arriving and leaving.

However as you enter France/Germany/other EU destination, you can show your EU passport in order to maximise the travel benefits of freedom of movement.