Corporate & commercial Law

The Legalization of Foreign Documents in Italy


Italian documents legalization

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The legalization of documents (certificates, acts, etc.) in Italy from the countries of origin is a problem that affects all immigrants who need to enforce them in Italy.  For example, the documents required to get married in Italy, the birth certificate and the authorization of marriage, must be legalized because it is not possible to proceed with the so-called self-certification.

It should be said, in fact, that self-certification is recognized in a general way by Italian law to simplify the administrative work (Law 4 January 1968 n. 15), as a possible alternative to the applications and issuance of the certificate precisely by field offices, allowing a person to self-certify, declaring them under their own responsibility, and in certain circumstances identified in public documents.

In other words, a foreign national can – under the same conditions as an Italian citizen – self-certify certain circumstances, provided that they are already known and officially acquired by an experienced Italian public office. For example, if a child of foreign citizens is born in Italy, it will certainly be possible to self-certify its birth, then remedy the certificate request, because of the recording of the minor civil status office in Italy. In contrast, if the child is born abroad it is not possible to self-certify the birth in Italy because it is not officially known to any Italian public office.

The procedure of legalization, in practice, is used to give validity under Italian law to a foreign certificate: it must have been previously translated by an interpreter accredited by the Italian Consulate and then controlled by the Italian Consulate in order to verify that the document was formalized in compliance with the legislation of the country of origin, or which has been issued by the competent office of that country.

The process is particularly complex because it has not only the purpose of ensuring the fidelity of translation and verification of the certificate, but also to verify if it is issued in compliance with local laws and whether the official who signs it is enabled, since in Italy no one could know, and actually test whether a given document from a foreign office is actually valid. Often, since the consulate does not know all the signatures of various officials, you must request prior validation by another authority in the foreign country (usually it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

An alternative route: the consular posts in Italy.

There are also alternative practices, more and more widespread among different countries, for which a certificate can also be issued by the consulate of the foreign country operating in Italy, which is, by definition, the administration terminal of all offices of the country of origin. Although it is not required by any law of the state, this practice is in fact recognized as a viable alternative procedure which might seem much easier and convenient, but it is actually not the case: usually, in fact, even the consular posts in Italy do not issue certificates directly upon their request, but require certificates from their country of origin (without translation or legalization) to be shown to the consular post itself, which then releases its corresponding certificates directly translated into Italian. But at that point you should still proceed with the legalization of that certificate because no Italian public office is able to directly verify if is valid, so you must first apply for the legalization of the consular official signing at the competent prefecture for the area, which aim compares it with the signature specially filed in his office.

This alternative procedure is not less cumbersome nor cheaper than the previous one, but can be assessed more or less conveniently and directly and from those interested depending on the practices of the individual countries.

The apostille.

There is another possibility, which is possible to resort to in order to avoid these legalization procedures, that is undoubtedly more economical both in terms of time and expenditure, which is to rely directly on the foreign certificate provided with a formula directly affixed by authorities of the country of origin, the so-called apostille. This possibility does not exist in general, but it is intended only for citizens from countries that have signed the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 on the Abolition of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. Over the years it has been ratified and implemented by many States, and states that it is not necessary to proceed to the legalization of certificates from the consular authorities, the same could be replaced by so-called apostille.

What is the apostille

This is a specific annotation to be made on the original certificate issued by the competent authorities of the country concerned, by a national authority identified by the law ratifying the Treaty itself (which in essence is that it replaces foreign consular authority in the document verification).

The apostille replaces the legalization at the embassy, so a person coming from a country which has acceded to this Convention does not need to go to the Italian consulate and ask for the legalization, but can go to the internal authority of that State, indicated for each country in the act of accession to the Convention (usually it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to obtain the record of the so-called apostille certificate. So perfected, that document must be recognized in Italy, because Italy has ratified the Convention, and therefore under Italian law, that document must be considered valid, although drafted in the language of a different country (to the point that, in the case the certificate is not filed in multilingual form, it should be enough to have a normal translation that you can even get Italy to enforce in front of the Italian authorities).

The Convention deals specifically with the abolition of legalization for foreign public documents among which are, by express provision of the same, the documents issuing an authority or an official employed by a contracting state (including those formulated by the prosecutor, by a the Registrar or by a bailiff), the administrative documents, notarial acts, official statements indicating a recording, a visa to certain date, authentication signature affixed to a private act, whereas they do not apply to documents drawn up by a diplomatic or consular officer, and administrative documents which refer to commercial or customs operation. Therefore, the range of documents for which you can overcome the need for legalization, by request and record of the so-called apostille directly by the domestic authority of that State, is vast and they are documents that normally relate to family relationships, family ties, or any situation that essentially affect almost all immigrants.

Following are the countries that have ratified the Convention: Japan; Yugoslavia; Switzerland; Turkey; Argentina; Armenia; Australia; Belize; Brunei; Cyprus; El Salvador; Russian Federation; Israel; Latvia; Liberia; Lithuania; sick; Malta; Mexico; Niue; Panama; Czech Republic; Romania; St. Kitts and Nevis; San Marino; Seychelles; United States of America; South Africa; Hungary; Venezuela; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belarus; Bosnia Herzegovina; Botswana; Croatia; Fiji; Lesotho; Fruit salad; Mauritius; Slovenia; Swaziland; Suriname; Tonga; Ukraine.

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