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The Legalization of Foreign Documents in Italy

Italy Law Firms

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.


20 thoughts on “The Legalization of Foreign Documents in Italy”

  1. Thomas J. Ciechanowski says:

    I have our mirage licenses from (USA Florida Dade county) translated, and registered by the court. (I can send a copy if needed)

    What do I need to do to have the document accepted by the Italian government?

    Other issues, I have been in country for 30 days now and need to start the process.

    I am trying to apply for permanent residence in Italy (Montecarlo, Lucca).
    My wife has her residence card (she has dual passports EU and USA).
    I am not sure what other documents I require, however I can collect everything if O know the list.

    Please let me know and a list of charges.

    1. Michele Ambrogio says:

      Ciao Thomas,
      it depends on what type of VISA suits better to you. Please send an email to info@italylawfirms.com giving us more details

  2. Alicia says:

    I am an American citizen who married a resident of Italy but is from Gambia. We married in Gambia and our marriage certificate was signed by the Foreign Affairs Office Minister of Justice.
    Do we need to have translated into Italian to be legal in Italy to allow me permission to reside in Italy with him?

    1. Michele Ambrogio says:

      Ciao Alicia,
      you have to translate and APOSTILLE it; please write us to info@italylawfirms.com and give us more details so that we will be able to help you

  3. Milagros Napoli says:

    I am an American citizen married to an Italian citizen for 15 years, married and lived in the US for 15 years. We were registered in AIRE. Now we are both legal residents in Italy. How long must I be a legal resident in Italy before I can apply for Italian citizenship (JM)? I believe I have all of the required American documents (except for translation and legalisation) and I have all of the required Italian documents.

  4. I wnat to ask about how to verified my marriage certificate here in Italy for send to my American wife.

    1. Michele Ambrogio says:

      Dear Khuram,
      in order to legalize your Italian marriage certificate (to be used in US), we will need to certify it by APOSTILLE and translate it in English. Please write info@italylawfirms.com for more details

  5. Prince Franklin Doda says:

    My name is Franklin, am a Nigerian living in milano italy. I went to the Immigration office in milano and i was asked to interprete my Birth certificate in italian, but i was told i have to do this in my country now i am confused were will i surpose to do the document. please is it in Nigeria or in Italy? thanks


    Good evening
    I am a British citizen applying for Italian dual citizenship.
    I have my original birth certificate and police record card.
    Who should i contact for translation and legalizzation?

  7. Salim says:

    I want information about the temporary permit or permanent resident or how to convert the visit visa into temporary resident.

  8. Olaoye omotoso says:

    My name is omotoso and I am currently on Italian soil few weeks ago and am so confuse about how going to be able to work on my own documents to stay in Italy with my wife and kids , I’m a Nigeria citizen but my wife and kids came here 2016 April which i have my third born in Italy and my family already resident permit ,I want to work on my own but i have started my legalization process already in Nigeria , so please I want know how am going to go about the legalization when the been send to me after legalize. Thank you

  9. dr anna bramwell says:

    I need a police clearance certificate from Kazakhstan, as I am applying for Italian citizenship, and I worked there for four years, while owning a house in Italy and registered with the permesso di sogiorno. I was a diplomat in Alm Aty, Kazakhstan.
    I contacted a lawyer in Kazakhstan who needs a power of attorney to get the document for me. I can preoare this in Italian, but I do not know where to get it legalised to forward to the Kazakh lawyer. The Kazakh embassy requires it in Russian. How do I find a public notary to legalise the power of attorney?

  10. PRINCE says:

    Can I legalise my document in any Prefettura across Italy or I have to do it only in my area? I took the document from my embassy in Rome and will submit it to Bergamo.

    Thank you

  11. Laura cabrera says:

    Hello. I am an American citizen married to an Italian citizen and we have been living in Italy for 5 years. I am trying to better understand the application process for receiving my Italian citizenship after having consulted the website of the immigration portal, spoken with the prefettura here in Perugia, and received different responses. I have a series of questions that I am having trouble finding answers to..

    I understand that I need my birth certificate and criminal record certificate from the FBI legalized and translated. I have my official birth certificate that I requested when I got my permesso di soggiorno 5 years ago. Is this one still valid? Is it considered “legalized?” How do I go about “legalizing” and getting an apostille for these documents? As for the criminal record report; is there just one type needed provided by the FBI or is there also another state one? If there is a state one to provide, who would I contact for it?

    I know that for the fbi criminal history report I need to provide fingerprints and mail them to the United States. Where can I get this done? I have tried calling the questura to explain why I need them but they tell me to contact the prefettura. The prefettura does not handle fingerprints. They can only process my application once I have all of the documents, including the criminal history report, which I cannot obtain without fingerprints.

    Can you please help me with this process?
    Thank you very kindly.

    Cordiali saluti,

    Laura Cabrera
    +39 3935267891

    1. Michele Ambrogio says:

      Ciao Laura,
      our VISA expert will contact you soon.

  12. Magdelene N. Fumagalli says:

    My husband who passed away last October in Luxembourg was an Italian national with his AIRE registered in Luxembourg, and our marriage certificate and the birth of our son in Hawaii were registered in the commune of Sesto S. Giovanni. I would like to live in Italy where his ashes are buried now, and would like to know if I can reside in Italy legally. I have an USA passport, but am in possession of the permanent residency card as a family member of EU national in Luxembourg.
    I would appreciate your opinion on this matter.

    Kind regards,

    Magdelene Fumagalli

    1. Michele Ambrogio says:

      Dear Magdalene,
      if you have a family card which allows you to reside in EU Countries, it should be sufficient to reside legally in Italy. By the way you should please write us in private to info@italylawfirms.com so that we could ask you more detailed information in order to be able to provide you with an accurate response to your questions.

  13. Natia Odisharia (MS) says:

    Dear Madam/Sir,
    My question refers to the following: if the person lives undocumented in Italy, how can he/she get legalization, what documents are required in order to get work permit.

    thank you in advance for your reply


    Natia Odisharia (MS)

  14. Haley says:

    I am a us citizen a have been married 1 year to my husband that is Italian citizen. We are planning a move to Milan. Do i need a visa and if so what visa so I apply for? We have had our marriage translated and sent to the Italian consulate in San Francisco. We are in the process of waiting to have our marriage in italy. I have read i may be eligible for a free spouse visa or may not even require a visa. Any help is apreciated

    1. Michele Ambrogio says:

      Yes you could apply for Family Reunification. Please write us an email to info@italylawfirms.com to have more details.

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