The government has approved a measure that will halve the time from ten to five years needed for foreigners to obtain citizenship.

It is predicted that this will affect 3 million legal immigrants, 30 per cent of whom have been residing in the country uninterruptedly for a period of 5 years.

Children who are born in Italy to non-Italian parents, who have been residents in Italy intermittently for at least 5 years will automatically become citizens. Minors will no longer have to wait adult status to proceed with the application.

Similarly, children who have been residing in the country for a period of five years whether they are born in the country or not will also be granted automatic citizenship provided that they have been attending school, further educational studies or that they have been working for at least one year.

Italian passports will also be granted to third generation residents who have an Italian-born parent.

Adult applicants will have to meet with certain requisites, however: proof of a minimum income and intergration into society, as well as knowledge of the local language. Citizenship will be conferred during a ceremony that foresees an oath of loyalty to the republic.

While the new law has facilitated the citizenship-granting process for a large number of foreigners, the law sets stricter control measures on citizenship granted through marriage. Foreign-born spouses will now also have to comply with certain requisites and will only be granted an Italian passport after two years of residence previously, six months was the stipulated period. The minister of home affairs Giuliano Amato says that this provision was made to counteract the phenomenon of marriages of convenience.

According to government sources 90 per cent of citizenship granted is on the basis of marriage to an Italian.