Uruguayan national Luis Suarez has fallen out of favour at Barcelona and in order to improve his chance to be signed by a new club for this new season he submitted an Italian citizenship application by marriage. Indeed, the forward is hoping he will acquire the citizenship through his wife Mrs. Sofia Balbi, who has Italian heritage.
As we reported here, Italian citizenship can be acquired by people with Italian ancestors, through marriage to an Italian citizen, or by people who reside permanently in Italy. Eligibility criteria vary depending on the selected route.
This would have increased the footballer chances to be signed by any football club within the EU, even in case they have exhausted the number of non-EU citizens that can be registered as players.
Initially, news reported that Suarez had agreed terms to move to Juventus F.C., subject to the player obtaining the Italian citizenship, so he could have been classified as an EU player.
However, through an official statement made by its Chief Football Officer, Mr Fabio Paratici, Juventus clarified that Luis Suarez would have not been the bianconeri’s new striker (“Suarez is a great player and we considered the opportunity, but the timing to obtain his EU citizenship would be too long and would take beyond the transfer window”).
Finally, on 24th September Luis Suarez has been officially signed by Atletico Madrid.
The Italian Language Exam
In the last few days the Suarez’s citizenship issue and his attendance at The University for Foreigners of Perugia for his Italian language exam rose to a clamor. Above all, due to the possible acceleration that his procedure could have had compared to a standard one.
There was widespread anger on social media following the news, with other applicants infuriated by the alleged special treatment for the footballer.
In fact, most people applying for Italian citizenship through marriage have normally to wait for two to four years for their application to be processed. This is a timeframe lengthened by a law change by former interior minister Matteo Salvini in 2018, as part of a raft of measures making the process more difficult.
The decree n. 53/2019 (so called “security decree”, in Italian “decreto sicurezza“) is – in fact – a package of 54 new laws covering various fields, from police and fire service funding to laws aimed at preventing squatting.
But the strict immigration laws included within the decree have been the most controversial part, and led to it being dubbed the ‘anti-migrant‘ bill.
The spouse of an Italian citizen can apply for citizenship 2 years after the marriage if the couple lives in Italy, or 3 years if they live abroad, and the terms are reduced by half if they have children.
The residency time requirement is 4 years for citizens from EU countries and 10 years for non-EU citizens.
The above provisions have not changed under the security decree.
However, the new legislation means that Italian authorities can now take up to 4 years to process citizenship applications, instead of two years provided by the previous one. For what reason, no one seems to know.
The new bill also abolishes automatic consent in cases of ‘non-response’ by authorities – in the case that bureaucrats forget all about your application until after the four-year mark has passed (and if that sounds unlikely, you probably have never expeirenced much Italian bureaucracy).
The fact that Suarez could obtain citizenship within 15 days shows that this is the time needed to make the required checks to complete the process. This means that the decision to take 4 years is just a political choice and this should be the real issue to dispute.
The problem, in fact, is not that Suarez could obtain citizenship within few days, but the existence of a law that provides that Italian authorities can take up to 4 years to process citizenship applications!
Please consider that being assisted by an experienced Italian immigration lawyer can allow a significant reduction of the time needed to complete your application.
The Italian Lawyer is here to help you! Please do not hesitate to schedule a first assessment free call with one of our experts in the Immigration department to receive more information.