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Marrying Abroad: Know the Legal Implications of Immigration

— May 17, 2021

Fortunately, it isn’t a big challenge, provided that you have good knowledge of the process and a partner who can guide you through the journey.

Marrying abroad is an exhilarating idea as it marks the beginning of a new life with someone you love. You will live in a new country with a new family, learn another language, relish a different culture, and raise your kids in a different world. While the idea sounds exciting, there is another side of the picture, too. You will have to see the same picture from a legal perspective because the process of moving abroad and settling there will require you to comply with immigration norms.

It can be a lot of work, depending on the country your partner belongs to. But having a good understanding of the immigration law can make it much simpler. You can handle the formalities better and have clear expectations about the complexity and timelines of the process. As thousands of American citizens marry Italian partners every year, we will discuss the legal implications of immigration to Italy after marrying a citizen of the country. Let us explain the implications of marrying an Italian and the process for Italian citizenship by marriage in detail. 

Researching the immigration law

Even before you set a wedding date, you must understand the immigration law that applies to people who marry an Italian citizen. You will need to know the entire process for obtaining Italian citizenship by marriage and the eligibility requirements it entails. It makes sense to carry all the crucial documents if you plan to marry in Italy, which is a better option if you plan to move there after marriage. 

Learn about other alternatives such as citizenship by descent and investment because you may consider exploring them if you have ancestral roots in the country or plan to invest there. The Internet is a reliable source of information, while you may also connect with an expert to gather relevant information. 

Obtain official documentation of your marriage

Whether your marriage takes place in the US or Italy, you have to make sure that you have all the paperwork in place. You will need valid documents at the time of application for Italian citizenship by marriage. Being careful about getting them at the time of your marriage can save you from a lot of hassle later. You must get the marriage registered with the Italian comune [municipality] to make it acceptable for citizenship purposes. 

If your Italian spouse resides abroad, ensure that he or she is registered correctly with the AIRE (Registry of Italian Citizens Residing Abroad). Since marriage documents will be on top of the application checklist, gathering and filing them on time ensures that your application process will be done smoothly and quickly. 

Fulfill the application requirements 

You will need to comply with several requirements to obtain Italian citizenship by marriage. Here are the conditions that entitle you to a second passport after you marry a citizen of the country. 

  • The marriage was solemnized in an Italian city where your spouse resides
  • A marriage registered abroad is also valid if the Italian citizen is registered with the Embassy or Consulate in that country
  • You can obtain Italian citizenship within two years of marriage if living in Italy
  • You have to wait for three years of marriage for applying if residing in another country

If you have biological or adopted children with your spouse, the waiting period is reduced to half. It means you can apply one year after marriage if residing in Italy and 18 months if residing elsewhere. The waiting period begins from the date of the marriage. But you can start the application process only after the marriage is registered in the Italian spouse’s comune.

Get ready for language requirements

Image Emily Levine, via
Image Emily Levine, via

After a change in legislation on December 4th, 2018, applicants for citizenship by marriage have to demonstrate a B1 level of fluency in the Italian language to qualify. The language proficiency certificate is valid only if issued by an officially recognized institution. Currently, the following certification bodies are recognized: 

  • The University for Foreigners of Perugia
  • The University for Foreigners of Siena 
  • Italian Institute of Culture
  • Roma Tre University
  • The Dante Alighieri Society

Collect the requisite documents 

Once you are through with the language certification, you will need to collect the required documents before you apply. It is best to get expert assistance at this stage because you will not want delays only because you don’t have the relevant documentation at hand. You can read more about getting assistance on Italian Citizenship from Bersani Law Firm & Partners before getting started. Here is the list of documents that experts will ask you to provide for the application. 

  • A copy of your marriage certificate transcript from the Italian municipality where your spouse is registered with AIRE
  • A certified copy of your birth certificate
  • Criminal background checks from your state(s) of residence since the age of 14 and checks from the FBI
  • Italian language certification
  • Italian citizenship certificate of your spouse
  • Certificate of family status

The documents issued in the US should be legalized with an Apostille. Those originating elsewhere have to be legalized according to the local regulations. Further, you must ensure that the documents in other languages are translated into Italian and translations are certified by the local Italian consulate.

Apply online for citizenship by marriage 

After the translation and legalization of the documents, you are all set for the big step. The best part is that you can submit your application and documents online and get the final appointment for your interview. Your local Consulate/Prefettura will review the application and documents and invite you for an interview where you have to submit the documents in original. You will need to carry the following documents along:

  • Passport and State ID of the non-Italian spouse’s (original and photocopy)
  • Italian passport of the other spouse (original and photocopy)
  • Proof of residency within the jurisdiction of the consulate (original and photocopy)
  • Signed declaration to declare that you are still married
  • Italian language certification
  • Marriage transcript from the Italian municipality in original
  • Long-form certified copy of the birth certificate of non-Italian spouse (with Apostille and translated into Italian) in original 
  • Criminal background checks (with Apostille and translated into Italian) in original
  • Application form
  • Receipt of the €250 wire transfer

Know the expected processing time

The maximum processing time for citizenship by marriage applications was two years before October 4, 2018. However, it was increased to 48 months after that. But a recent update on December 18, 2020, once again reduced the processing time to a maximum of 36 months. The timelines may vary, and you can get approval earlier if you are lucky.

However, the authorities are legally obliged to provide an answer once the maximum time limit has elapsed. If the marriage ends due to divorce, legal separation, or death of the Italian spouse before the citizenship is processed, the applicant loses the right to acquire a second passport for Italy. An expert can guide you about doing everything right with the documentation and application process so that you may avoid unnecessary delays.

Consider the option of citizenship by descent 

At times, an applicant may be married to an Italian and also have roots in the country. In such cases, you can also explore the option of citizenship by descent. With this route, you will need a long list of documents to validate your bloodline in the country, but the upside is that it has a two-year time limit. Applications may sometimes be processed even more quickly, which means you can take the advantage of your ancestry to unite with your spouse in the country sooner than you expect. But the option will be open only if you fulfill the eligibility requirements and qualify for this route. These include:

  • You are of Italian descent or were adopted by a parent of Italian descent as a minor (you were less than 21 before 1975 or less than 18 after 1975)
  • Your Italian-born ancestor was alive and a citizen after Italy was formed and unified in 1861
  • Your Italian-born ancestor never lost their by naturalization abroad, or they naturalized only after the birth of a child next in the direct Italian lineage
  • You can also qualify through the maternal line if you were born after January 1, 1948

Another option to get citizenship is via naturalization, which will work if you have lived here for several years. However, the alternative is valid only if you have already spent a considerable amount of time there. The investment route may work if you are willing and able to invest a hefty sum in a local company.

When you plan to marry an Italian, you must bear all these implications and requirements in mind. After all, you will want to live here and enjoy the same rights as your spouse and new family. Fortunately, it isn’t a big challenge, provided that you have good knowledge of the process and a partner who can guide you through the journey. With some patience and a lot of conviction, you will achieve your dream Italian life eventually. 

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