Who Wants to Become Italian? A Study of Interest in Naturalisation among Foreign Migrants in Italy

Since the early 1990s, Italy, along with other countries situated at Europe’s periphery, has become an attractive destination for migrants due to its lax regulation of migration and its job market. Despite its restrictive naturalisation laws, an increasing number of migrants are becoming eligible for Italian citizenship, which has led to a growing number of naturalisations in recent years. Existing research exploring naturalisation and its determinants has found migrants’ ability to attain citizenship strongly depends on their interest in becoming a member of the host state, requirements (as defined by the host country), and their capacity to overcome various constraints such as the costs involved in the naturalisation process. However, few empirical studies have focused on immigrants’ interest in naturalisation. To fill this gap, we analyse migrants’ interest in naturalisation and how it correlates to their eligibility. This paper relies on the most recent data on interest in naturalisation from the 2018 and 2019 waves of the Regional Observatory for Integration and Multiethnicity of Lombardy (Italy). The results show that not all migrants are interested in naturalisation after assessing its perceived costs and benefits, thus confirming an instrumental approach to citizenship. Interest is mostly related to the legislation and conditions in the country of origin. Moreover, the relationship between eligibility and interest is highly dependent on civil stratification, and eligibility is not directly associated with interest.

Elisa Barbiano di Belgiojoso & Livia Elisa Ortensi, “Who Wants to Become Italian? A Study of Interest in Naturalisation among Foreign Migrants in Italy”, European Journal of Population, 2022.