Mar 242012

Thanks to BBCWatcher on the Italian Citizenship Message Board ( Copied here:

Congratulations on your acquisition of Italian citizenship or recognition as an Italian citizen! This brief guide provides basic information on your most important rights, responsibilities, and privileges as an Italian citizen. However, this guide is not exhaustive, so please search the forums for additional advice, and please post to the appropriate forum if you have questions not previously answered. Also, please consult a professional expert (a competent attorney, for example) if you need legal assistance.

Your Birth Certificate

It's a good idea to keep an official copy of your Italian birth certificate together with your other important papers. To obtain your birth certificate, send a request via ordinary or registered airmail to your home commune in Italy. You can use one of the sample letters provided in the Templates forum. Your local consulate may require you to provide an official copy of your birth certificate if you are applying for a passport, for example.

As with all Italian public documents it is possible to order your birth certificate with a standard marca da bollo (tax stamp), currently priced at 14.62 euro. However, for most purposes, including passport issuance and renewal, it is not necessary to order a tax stamp with your birth certificate.

You may also wish to obtain official copies of your marriage, divorce, and/or childrens' birth records from Italy for your personal files, as applicable.

Your Name

Other countries may be more lax and forgiving, allowing common variations in how you provide your legal name in different settings. Italy is different!

To avoid complications and potential legal difficulties, always use your full and exact legal name in any interactions with the Italian or other European governments, in business affairs (such as opening a bank account or buying property), in religious affairs (baptisms, weddings, etc.), in educational affairs (such as enrolling in a university), and in all other settings where your name could be recorded officially or semi-officially. If you have a middle name, if it is part of your legal name you must always use it.

It's very simple: your legal name is the one that appears on your birth (or naturalization) record, as recorded in your home comune in Italy. Be consistent with all spaces, punctuation, and capitalization.

For married or divorced women your name is your maiden name, unless you legally changed your name in Italy. (Yes, you may be known legally in one country by your married name and in Italy by your maiden name. If that's true, be extra careful when somebody asks your name.) Unless you are also asked specifically and additionally for your cognome da coniugata (married surname, alternatively cognome da sposata or cognome del marito), you should provide only your full legal name, which is your maiden name.

So, at least for your European affairs, stick to the name on the Italian version of your birth certificate! Check for any errors in any document you receive (such as a passport), and if necessary promptly notify the issuer to get your name corrected to match your birth certificate exactly.

Your Passport and Foreign Travel

Please read "Your Italian Passport: An Operator's Guide" for comprehensive information about Italian passports.

Australia, Canada, and New Zealand offer young Italian citizens special "working holiday" visas which permit extended stays and temporary employment.

Carta d'Identità

Italy offers a national identity card (carta d'identità). Outside Italy, only Italian embassies and consulates in Europe can issue this card. Some citizens find this card more convenient to carry than a passport, and it is valid for travel between nearly all European countries and even a few countries outside Europe. If you live in the European Union and never leave the region, it works well. While you may obtain a carta d'identità if you wish, you do not require one if you have an Italian passport.

Carrying Identification

In Italy you must carry government-issued photo identification on your person (or have readily available beachside or bedside ) at all times. Otherwise the police can hold you pending verification of your identity. Your Italian passport or carta d'identità suffices.

Other countries also generally require you to carry photo identification, particularly if you are not a citizen of that country. If you're visiting a foreign country, be sure to carry the passport that you used to enter that country.

Tessera Sanitaria

The Italian health insurance card (tessera sanitaria) proves that you have Italian national health insurance coverage, plus it includes your codice fiscale (see below). You may obtain the tessera sanitaria if you establish residence in Italy and enroll in national health insurance. (See below.)

Codice Fiscale

The codice fiscale is similar in purpose to a U.S. Social Security number or tax identification number. It is available to both citizens and non-citizens. It is required to accomplish many routine tasks in Italy, such as opening a bank account and enrolling in the national health service.

If you live abroad, you may obtain a codice fiscale free of charge at any Italian embassy or consulate. While there are Internet sites that can provide you with your likely codice fiscale, please note that your number is not official and must not be used unless it is issued by the Italian government. Otherwise, the number is not listed in government records and will not work. In fact, it is illegal to try to use an unauthorized number.

Registering All Life Events with Your Comune

Your home comune in Italy records all your significant life events, and you are required to keep your comune informed about these events. To assist Italians living abroad, there is a special registry called AIRE (Anagrafe degli Italiani Residenti all'Estero). Your local embassy or consulate manages your information in this special registry on behalf of your home comune and forwards authenticated official documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, etc.) to your comune for recording in their files. Thus, if you are living abroad, you only have to notify your local embassy or consulate of these significant changes. You do not need to contact your comune directly unless you want to obtain official copies of your family's records.

"Significant changes" means changes in your permanent residential address (even if you're just switching apartments or moving across the street; moves within Italy must be reported directly to your comune), changes in your marital status, and changes in your family's composition (i.e. birth or adoption of a child, death of a child, death of a spouse, or your death). If you are aware of significant changes in the past that have not yet been recorded, you should forward them as soon as possible to bring your records up-to-date.

Italy does not currently recognize same-sex marriages, although some other European countries do. (See below regarding European Union citizenship.) However, Italy permits transsexual persons to change their legal gender, so such changes should be reported.

Passing Citizenship to Others

Italy is primarily a jure sanguinis citizenship country. As an Italian citizen you pass on Italian citizenship to your children when they are born (and to any minors when you legally adopt them). As mentioned previously, you are obliged to register all changes in family composition. Birth (and adoption) registration with Italy gives legal effect to your progeny's Italian citizenship.

Technically Italy has certain rules for naming babies. According to Presidential Decree nº 396 (3 novembre 2000), and affirmed by Italy's highest court in 2008, Italian parents may not name their children the same as a living father or sibling, with a surname as their first name, or with a "ridiculous" or "shameful" name. Suffixes, such as "Junior" or "III," are not used in Italy. Prospective parents may wish to consult lists of Italian baby names, such as However, per Circolare 18 febbraio 2010 (nº 4/2010), these naming rules are at least somewhat relaxed for children born abroad with dual citizenship (the birth country's citizenship and Italian citizenship).

When you legally marry an opposite-sex partner who is not an Italian citizen, your spouse can optionally apply for jure matrimoni naturalization after a waiting period. You must remain married and living together through the entire jure matrimoni process.

Voting and Democratic Representation

If your permanent address abroad is properly registered in AIRE, and if you are old enough to vote (age 18; age 25 for Senate elections), you should automatically receive voting materials for Italian elections. You may vote by mail for your deputy (representative to the lower house, called the Camera, also known as the Chamber of Deputies), for your senator (representative to the upper house, called the Senate), in referenda, and possibly for certain other offices depending on where you live. (Italy is a parliamentary democratic republic, and Italians do not vote directly for the Prime Minister or President.) Or you may vote in person in your comune when the polls are open, as Italians residing in Italy do, as long as you notify your local embassy or consulate a sufficient amount of time before the election. Whether or not you are also eligible to vote in another country's elections is immaterial, at least to Italy. You can still vote in Italian elections.

Deputies and senators each have districts they represent. Italy has a small number of deputies and senators representing Italians living abroad. Districts outside Italy are very large geographically.

Italian citizens may stand for public office in Italy and are also eligible to work in the civil service.

Taxes and Laws

Italy is similar to most other countries in not taxing the income earned abroad of Italians permanently residing abroad. In other words, there is no inherent tax liability derived solely as a result of Italian citizenship.

Many visitors from outside Europe buy goods and then obtain Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds at the airport just before returning home from Europe. Italian citizens living abroad can still obtain VAT refunds on their European shopping trips, but they must also prove residence outside Europe. You may be presenting a passport from a non-European country to help prove residence abroad. However, if you are an Italian citizen you must always represent yourself as an Italian citizen to Italian government officials, including officials processing VAT refund requests at the airport. In that case, present your Italian passport (or at least clearly state that you are an Italian citizen) first, then present whatever evidence you are using to prove residency outside Europe.

AIRE-registered Italian citizens who move to Italy (to establish permanent residence) are eligible for a customs exemption.

You must obey the laws of Italy. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. If you are also the citizen of another country (i.e. a dual national), you must also obey the laws of your other country of citizenship. For example, if you are a citizen of both Italy and the United States, you are still subject to U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba. You must also file an annual "1040" tax return with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and report all your non-U.S. financial accounts to the U.S. Treasury every year using form TD F 90-22.1.

If you are arrested in Italy you have no immediate right to see an attorney, but you may provide the name of your attorney to the judge in writing. You may remain silent except that you must provide your full name, date and place of birth, and indicate whether you have been previously arrested in Italy.

Military Service and National Security

Italy abolished all compulsory military service as of January 1, 2005. However, as with most countries, if there is a future national emergency the Italian government may order eligible Italian citizens, particularly young adult males, to report for military duty. That said, at least since World War II Italians residing abroad have never been recalled to Italy for compulsory military service.

Only Italian citizens are eligible to volunteer for Italian military service. There is no Italian equivalent to the French Foreign Legion, for example. The Italian military permits gays and lesbians to serve openly.

Italian citizens who are also citizens of other countries may have certain restrictions in obtaining the highest security clearances. This issue could affect employment in certain sensitive government, military, and defense industry professions in either or both countries. Complications in obtaining or retaining security clearances are particularly prevalent when the second citizenship is sought or acquired as an adult.

If you are also a male U.S. citizen age 18 to 25 (inclusive) you are still required to register with Selective Service no matter where you live in the world. And all young males resident in the U.S., legally or illegally, must register.

Right of Abode (and Other Fundamental Rights)

Perhaps it should be obvious, but as an Italian citizen you have the right to live in Italy permanently, and you are eligible for the same tax benefits as any other Italian when buying property. You may take any legal employment in Italy. Italian citizens are also citizens of the European Union. You have very similar rights of abode and employment in the European Union, in the European Economic Area, and in Switzerland. As of January, 2012, this combined area comprises 31 countries, including Italy.

If your spouse and/or dependents are not EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, they may accompany you if you establish residence within the EU/EEA/Switzerland and if they apply for legal residence as family members of an Italian (EU) national. Your non-citizen spouse may seek employment. If you die while you are all legally resident together within the EU/EEA/Switzerland, they may stay (with some caveats), and your spouse may still seek employment.

Italy does not recognize same-sex spouses or partners, so the rights described above are not presently available within Italy to households headed by same-sex couples. Court cases are pending. However, many other European countries (including Switzerland, with its majority Italian speaking canton Ticino) fully recognize households headed by same-sex couples as long as the relationship is legally established and documented in some jurisdiction, such as a U.S. state.

The European Union Web site provides a great deal of information on your EU citizenship rights and responsibilities.

You also have a special treaty right of abode and employment in Panama.

Social Security, Education, Medical, and Other Social Benefits

Italy has a Social Security system, but its pension benefits are largely reserved for those living and working in Italy for at least five years. Italy has Social Security treaties with certain other countries, including the U.S., that establish various reciprocal rights to benefits based on combined contributions.

Italian citizens may enroll in Italian universities and may qualify for government scholarships, although general tuition rates are already substantially lower than in many other countries. Italian citizens are eligible for the ERASMUS exchange program. Italian citizens who have resided in the EU for a sufficient number of years (typically five years) are eligible for EU tuition rates at all European universities. Some EU countries have no residency requirements to qualify for tuition benefits. For example, Italian citizens may attend public universities in Sweden without owing any tuition. Of course, Italians living in Italy have full access to primary and secondary education.

Italians resident in Italy may enroll in the national health system. Italians with national health insurance temporarily visiting other European countries enjoy reciprocal coverage. Italians permanently residing in another European country may enroll in their national health system. AIRE-registered Italians residing outside Europe are eligible to obtain a maximum of three months per year of free emergency medical assistance when visiting Italy. The Italian national health system is funded through payroll and other taxes, but Italian citizens only need to prove residence in Italy to enroll.

There are many other benefits available to Italian citizens residing in Italy, including the social allowance (which offers some financial security to low income Italians), disability insurance, maternity benefits, and paid parental leave among others. The Italian government also funds long-term care, such as nursing home care, for Italian citizens residing in Italy who have exhausted their savings.

Consular Services for Citizens

Italian embassies and consulates provide a range of services to Italians residing abroad. In addition to the AIRE-related services mentioned above, embassies and consulates also provide emergency services. For example, the embassy or consulate often can help facilitate emergency evacuations from areas of conflict or natural disaster (such as Libya in early 2011). Consular officials are available to visit Italians arrested abroad and help arrange legal representation, although Italians are still responsible for obeying local laws and for legal costs. The embassy or consulate also typically maintains a directory of competent medical professionals in the area, and they may be able to facilitate emergency medical treatment locally or medical repatriation to Italy, although you are still responsible for costs if you are able to pay. It is advised to have the telephone number of the nearest Italian embassy or consulate readily available (stored in your mobile phone, for example) in case you require emergency consular service while abroad, particularly outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland. You are also advised to register details of any upcoming foreign travel through the MFA's Web site (in Italian). Please note that if you enter a particular country using your other passport (whether or not you are required to use that other passport), the Italian government may not be able to provide much emergency consular assistance to you in that country.

The Italian embassy or consulate can also help authenticate foreign official documents (issued within their jurisdiction), legalize documents, and/or translate documents into Italian (or recommend competent translators). In some cases the embassy or consulate can help Italians promote their businesses abroad, particularly the export of more Italian-made products and services.

If there is no Italian embassy or consulate in the country you visit, or if the embassy or consulate is unreachable due to an emergency such as civil unrest, you may contact any other EU country's embassy or consulate for emergency services only.

Italians also enjoy full access to the several Italian Cultural Institutes in major cities outside Italy. The Institutes promote Italian culture, commerce, and language. Many embassies, consulates, and ICIs invite area Italians to special events, such as social gatherings, Italian national holiday celebrations, and artistic performances. There are also Italian Chambers of Commerce and other membership organizations in many cities around the world.

Italian Language, History, and Current Events

Most Italian citizens are fluent in the Italian language. There are numerous opportunities to learn the Italian language. U.S. residents may wish to subscribe to the Italian language newspaper America Oggi, published daily. (Sunday-only subscriptions are also available.) ICN Radio broadcasts a 24 hour schedule in Italian in the New York City area on an FM radio subcarrier, and the broadcast is also available on the Internet. Visit the Learning Italian forum to find other recommendations.

Italy has a rich history, but did you know that Italy did not exist as a nation until 1861? Start learning more about your country's history.

Every day more history is being made. You can follow major news events in Italy by visiting ANSA's English site. (Italy's ANSA is analogous to the U.S. Associated Press.) Of course there are many more sources of news about Italy, especially in Italian. If you'd like to discuss Italian politics (in English), try the Expats in Italy forum "Understanding Italian Politics."

There are many Italian associations and clubs outside Italy, including the National Italian American Foundation. Many Italian embassies and consulates maintain lists of local associations and clubs.

Losing (or Giving Up) Your Citizenship

There are only a very few ways you can lose your Italian citizenship. Naturalizing as a citizen of another country does not affect your status as an Italian citizen, for example. Italian law changed effective August 15, 1992, to permit that.

As you might expect, the Italian government can strip citizenship (with retroactive effect) from anyone who represented themselves fraudulently or inaccurately in any citizenship application.

Italy no longer requires you to renounce another country's citizenship if you become an Italian citizen through naturalization. (And there has never been such a requirement if you are recognized as an Italian citizen jure sanguinis or if you acquired citizenship automatically when you legally married an Italian male before April 27, 1983.) However, some other countries may interpret Italian naturalization (i.e. "voluntary" acquisition of citizenship), in particular, as an act of renunciation. That depends on the citizenship laws of the other country. Presumably you already understand these ramifications.

There is generally no problem when Italian citizens choose to serve in foreign militaries or as foreign government officials. However, the Italian government still technically has the legal power to strip citizenship in such cases by following due process (i.e. a best-effort notice, then a waiting period to allow the citizen to reverse course and end foreign military/government service). The Italian government has rarely exercised this power and then only when the foreign power is expressly hostile to Italy. (The Italian government exercised this power during World War II only to retroactively restore citizenship after Italy's fascist government fell.)

As a separate matter, if you are thinking of voluntarily renouncing your citizenship of another country now that you are recognized as an Italian citizen, please review discussion #1 and #2 to understand the potential advantages and disadvantages.

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