Mar 242012

A useful post on Italian passports by BBCWatcher on the Italian Citizenship Message Board (copied here):

This guide explains the legal and practical requirements for using your Italian passport, especially with respect to dual nationals. If you have comments or corrections, please send me a private message. Include any legal citation(s), if possible.

As with all information posted to this forum, this information should not be treated as formal legal advice. Contact a professional attorney specializing in immigration-related matters if you need legal assistance.

1. What is the purpose of an Italian passport? When do I need one?

The primary purpose of a passport is to facilitate international travel. If you are an Italian citizen, you must present an Italian passport to Italian passport control when entering or exiting Italy (per Law no. 1185 of November 21, 1967). However, for travel to/from many countries within and near Europe, a carta d'identità (Italian national ID card) suffices if you have one.

Moreover, if you are physically in Italy, and your Italian passport is your only form of Italian government-issued identification, you should carry your Italian passport with you or at least have it readily available. The reason is that if the police cannot identify you they are permitted to detain you pending identification.

2. I just received my citizenship recognition letter from my local Italian consulate. Must I apply for an Italian passport?

It is "advisable" to obtain an Italian passport, and many newly recognized and naturalized citizens wish to hold a tangible document that only citizens may obtain. Also, an Italian passport serves as a convenient, recognized form of identification when visiting Italian embassies and consulates. But no, you are not required to obtain an Italian passport unless you need it for the purposes described above.

3. Is there any way an Italian citizen may travel to Italy without an Italian passport?

As mentioned above, a carta d'identità is sufficient to travel between Italy and many countries within the region.

If you hold another passport valid for entry into the Schengen Area, you may travel to another Schengen Area country (e.g. France), clear immigration in that country, then continue on to Italy via the open Schengen border. Likewise, you may exit Italy via another Schengen Area country. There is no passport control for intra-Schengen travel except in extraordinary circumstances.

Please note that while in Italy you must still represent yourself to Italian government authorities (including the police) as an Italian citizen. For example, "Io sono un cittadino italiano" or "Io sono una cittadina italiana."

4. Where can I obtain a carta d'identità?

You must be resident in Europe to obtain a carta d'identità. You can obtain one from your local Italian embassy, consulate, or Italian commune where you reside.

5. If I travel to Italy via another Schengen country, and I stay for more than 90 days (or otherwise appear as if I overstayed), will I have trouble exiting?

Legally, no. Practically speaking, maybe. There are several possible solutions:

If possible, obtain an Italian passport in Italy before you leave. Show the same passport you used to enter the Schengen Area when exiting the Schengen Area, and then, if requested, show your Italian passport. (Exception: Italian citizens must always show an Italian passport to Italian passport control.)

If possible, obtain a carta d'identità in Italy before you leave. Show the carta if requested.

Bring an official copy of your Italian birth certificate or certificate of citizenship. You can obtain a copy quickly from the anagrafe in your home commune. Show that certificate if requested.

Bring an official copy of your letter of citizenship recognition. Show that letter if requested.

6. How do I apply for an Italian passport?

If you are applying at a consulate, check that consulate's Web site for details on the procedure, including application forms. If you are applying at a questura in Italy, check the Polizia di Stato's Web site (in Italian).

The procedure is practically identical everywhere. Every applicant now needs a nulla osta (police check) from Italy, so you should request a nulla osta as the first step. The consulate or questura should then advise you when the police check is complete, usually after about a week (or perhaps two), and thus when you can appear in person to complete your application.

7. What does it cost to apply for an Italian passport?

The current price as of this writing (February, 2012) is 82.79 euro. If you are applying at a consulate you can pay in local foreign (non-euro) currency. The amount varies every three months, depending on the euro exchange rate at the beginning of each quarter. Some consulates post the exact local currency amount on their Web sites, and a few consulates (such as New York) accept major credit and debit cards. However, if you bring enough local currency such that you can pay any exact amount equivalent to 70 to 95 euro at that day's exchange rate, you should have no problem making exact payment.

8. What are the photo requirements for an Italian passport?

The recommended passport photo size is 35 x 40 mm, although there is some tolerance for variation. The Polizia di Stato publishes this helpful illustrated guide with much more information on passport photo requirements.

9. May I apply for an Italian passport by mail?

If you have never previously been fingerprinted to obtain a biometric Italian passport, no, you must appear in person at an Italian embassy, consulate, or questura to apply for an Italian passport.

If travel to your embassy or consulate is a particular hardship, ask if there is any upcoming special passport fingerprinting session available at an honorary vice consulate. Some embassies and consulates with particularly large geographic jurisdictions offer this special service.

If for some reason your passport is not finished during your fingerprinting visit, you can typically make arrangements with the embassy or consulate to mail the new passport to you. A trackable postal service is recommended, such as U.S. Priority Mail with Signature Confirmation.

10. Should my children get their own passports? Are there any special considerations when I apply for passports for my children?

All Italian passports are now issued separately, one per individual. All Italian citizens, including minors, have the same requirements for when they must use Italian passports.

Both parents (or guardians) must give permission to issue passports to minors. Minors' passports expire within either three or five years, depending on their ages.

11. What is the "marca da bollo" inside my Italian passport?

That's a tax stamp. When you receive your Italian passport, it includes a one year stamp. There's only one occasion when you must have an unexpired marca da bollo sul passaporto in your passport: when you are exiting Italy, you have the intention to leave the European Union, and you are presenting your Italian passport to Italian passport control.

You can obtain a new marca da bollo sul passaporto at most tobacco shops in Italy before you depart. The current cost is 40.29 euro per marca. To make sure you get the correct type of marca show your passport (and tax stamp page) to the shopkeeper.

Note that each marca da bollo sul passaporto always expires on the anniversary of your passport's date of issue, even if that's the very next day after your first use of that particular marca. For example, if your passport was issued on June 24, 2009, then your first marca (included with the passport) is valid through June 23, 2010 (inclusive). The second marca (if you purchase it) would be valid through June 23, 2011, and so on. You can skip buying a marca for any passport year when you don't need one.

Note also that if you are exiting Italy, presenting your passport to Italian passport control, and you have a roundtrip ticket to a destination outside the European Union, the passport control officer may look at your return date. If the return date is sometime in the next marca year, then you should also purchase that next marca ahead of time. That means you might even have to purchase two tax stamps if you don't yet have a current marca, your departure date is within the current passport year, and your return date is within the next passport year (after your passport's next anniversary). In the example above, if your departure date is June 21, 2011, and your roundtrip ticket has a return date of June 28, 2011, then you would need to have a marca in your passport for the June 24, 2010, to June 23, 2011, period plus another marca for the next period (June 24, 2011, to June 23, 2012).

You do not need a valid marca da bollo in any of the following situations:
You are arriving in Italy rather than departing.
You are presenting your carta d'identità, which is permitted for regional international travel, instead of your Italian passport.
You do not face an Italian (Polizia di Stato) border control officer. In particular, there is no border control for intra-Schengen Area travel (except in extraordinary circumstances).
You have no intention to leave the European Union, and your planned itinerary does not take you outside the EU.

12. I'm flying from New York to Mumbai, connecting in Milan. Do I need a valid marca da bollo sul passaporto in my Italian passport when I connect to my second flight in Milan?

Possibly. It both your flights use the same international (non-Schengen) terminal in Italy, and thus you never "enter" Italy (pass through Italian passport control), you wouldn't need a valid marca da bollo. Otherwise you would. In you do need a tax stamp, be prepared to find an airport shop where you can buy one before entering the passport control queue for your second flight.

13. I am a dual national. Can I use my Italian passport to enter or exit my other country of citizenship?

No. As with Italy, nearly all countries legally require their citizens to use only that country's passport to enter/exit. It may be inconvenient, but you must obtain a passport in advance of travel involving any of your countries of citizenship, with the Schengen and carta d'identità exceptions noted above for Italy.

14. I am having difficulty obtaining a passport in time. Can I travel to that country, one of my countries of citizenship?

Legally, no. You must postpone or cancel your travel if you cannot obtain the necessary passport(s).

15. But I have an emergency. What can I do?

Italian consulates and embassies abroad can issue an "Emergency Travel Document" to Italian citizens which is good for entry (only) into Italy.

An embassy, consulate, or questura may be able to issue a limited term (12 month) passport in an urgent situation.

The best option is to plan ahead. If there's the possibility of an emergency — for example, if you have family or friends living in your country of citizenship — then you would be advised to obtain that country's passport and keep it current.

16. What happens if my passport is lost or stolen?

Keep color copies of your passports' identity pages in a separate, secure location. Also, you can scan your passports and keep the scans in a secure Internet-based account, accessible from anywhere there's an Internet connection.

If your passport is stolen, report that theft to your country's embassy or consulate and to the police. Obtain a police report. Bring the police report, a copy of your travel itinerary, and (if available) a copy of your passport to the embassy or consulate. You should then be able to obtain an "Emergency Travel Document" or temporary passport.

17. Do I have to carry both my passports when I travel internationally?

You do not have to carry both passports unless your travel involves both your countries of citizenship, or unless different passports contain different visas required for your particular travel itinerary. However, as a matter of convenience you may prefer to carry both passports on all trips.

18. Should I show my second passport to immigration officials when entering/exiting a particular country?

No, that's not advisable and could cause confusion or worse. That's particularly true when you are entering/exiting one of your countries of citizenship. In fact, some countries do not tolerate dual citizenship and could react quite negatively to your presenting two passports.

Keep in mind that each country enforces its own immigration laws, not the immigration laws of other countries. If the country you are entering is curious how you managed to stay in another country for a "long" period of time, you may either refuse to answer (if legally permitted, as for U.S. citizens entering the U.S.) or state the truth, that you were legally permitted to stay, and/or that the other country did not stamp your passport.

19. Should I lie?

No. Lying is a serious offense in most countries. Don't do it, either verbally or in writing.

20. What about airline check-in? Which passport(s) should I present?

When checking in with the airline, present the passport most relevant to enter your destination country. For example, if you are flying to Beijing, and you require a visa to travel to China, present the passport containing your Chinese visa.

If you can use an airline check-in kiosk, that's recommended. If the kiosk is uncooperative, you can always get a second (human) opinion from the regular check-in desk.

Sometimes the airline will be concerned about your ability to exit the particular country from which you are departing. For example, they may be looking for a tax stamp, entry stamp, or some other evidence. If that evidence is in your other passport, you may then show your other passport upon request.

Sometimes the airline will be concerned about transit in a particular country if you are making a flight connection. If so, and if requested, you may show the other passport if it is more relevant to transit within that other country. Please note that some countries, including the U.S., require clearing immigration before connecting to any flight, including another international flight. Therefore, if you are connecting in the U.S., and if you are a U.S. citizen, you should present your U.S. passport at airline check-in. You may still need to present your other passport as well, depending on your itinerary and visa requirements.

21. I booked my ticket using my married name, which is the name in one of my passports. But I need to use my Italian passport, and my Italian passport has my maiden name. What should I do at check-in?

The airline has an obvious financial interest in making sure that you are the individual corresponding to the ticket. You may need to show both passports in that case, one for verifying your identity as the correct passenger, and the other for immigration purposes for your particular itinerary. Alternatively, the airline may accept another form of identification with a matching name, such as a driver's license.

Note that women can add their married name to their Italian passports on a separate page from the laminated data page. When you apply for your Italian passport, ask to add your married name if you are at least sometimes known by that name in other countries.

22. I received my Italian passport, but there's an error on the data page. What should I do?

Immediately contact the embassy, consulate, or questura that issued your passport if there's any incorrect information. Ask them to correct the information and to reissue your passport. Do not use the passport containing the error.

23. I am an American-Italian dual citizen. I need a visa to travel to China, but the visa is less expensive for Italian citizens than it is for U.S. citizens. May I apply for a Chinese visa for my Italian passport?

Many countries with visa requirements, including China, will only fulfill visa applications if you have proof of residence where you are applying or if you have citizenship with the country where you are applying. For example, if you live in the U.S., and you are a U.S. citizen, you won't be able to show a "green card" or other proof of legal residence that would apply to your Italian citizenship, and therefore you must apply for a Chinese visa as a U.S. citizen, at the higher price. (Conceivably you could apply in Italy, but that would be inconvenient at best if you live in the U.S.)

Keep this in mind when you establish residence outside your countries of citizenship. If you have the choice, and absent a compelling reason otherwise, establish residence under the citizenship most favorable to the type of international travel you do.

Please see the unofficial "Foreign Visa Requirements for Italian Passport Holders" guide for some more information.

24. I am opening a bank account, and the form asks whether I am a "U.S. person." I am an American-Italian dual citizen. May I answer "no" and use my Italian passport as identification?

No. All U.S. citizens (and some others, including U.S. permanent residents) are "U.S. persons." You must provide your U.S.-related information for proper tax treatment.

25. I am an American-Italian dual citizen. May I travel to Cuba with my Italian passport?

All U.S. citizens must obey U.S. laws, including laws relating to travel to Cuba, whether or not they possess other citizenships. If you are a U.S. citizen you may enter Cuba using whichever passport you wish, but you must still have a U.S. Department of Treasury license (or other appropriate U.S. legal approval) to travel to Cuba.

26. I entered a country using my Italian passport. May I use my other passport to exit?

Generally you should use the same passport to exit a country that you used to enter that country. Even if you manage to get through passport control when you exit, you could trigger an overstay investigation the next time you try to enter that country.

Here are most of the exceptions:

If you have established residency in a foreign country using a different country's passport than the one you used to enter that country, or you transferred your residence permit from one passport to another, you should use the passport associated with your residency to exit that foreign country.
If you enter a foreign country with a particular passport and then you are recognized as that country's citizen or naturalize as that country's citizen, you should obtain that country's passport and exit using that new passport.
If you enter a foreign country with a particular passport and then join that country's military service, you may exit that country as part of a military deployment. You would typically use that country's military identification for such travel.
Individuals applying or approved for asylum in a particular country may be required to use that country's travel document.

27. Should I use the same country's passport each time I enter a particular country?

That's advisable, yes. Often landing forms ask "Have you ever entered (country name) using a different name?" Sometimes they even ask whether you have ever entered under a different nationality. Answer truthfully. To avoid possible complications it's best to keep using the same passport you used previously, unless there's a compelling reason otherwise, such as more favorable visa treatment.

28. I am flying to a foreign country. The landing form asks whether I have ever previously been denied entry. When I was a student, that country's immigration service wouldn't let me in, and my parents had to pay for my flight back home. But that was with my U.S. passport. May I use my Italian passport to enter that country and answer "no" to that question?

No. You are still the same individual, and you must answer questions truthfully. You could be subject to severe legal penalties if you don't answer truthfully, penalties much worse than the possibility of being denied entry.

29. If I enter a country using my Italian passport, and I run into trouble, may I contact the embassy of my other country of citizenship for help?

Yes, you may. However, according to international treaty the country you entered is only required to allow you to contact the embassy representing the country that issued the passport you used to enter. Consequently only one country's diplomats may have access to you if you get in trouble. Keep that in mind when deciding which passport to use when entering a country, if you have a choice.

Of course, if you're in trouble, you should probably try to get as much help as possible unless your attempt to contact that other country's diplomats may put you in jeopardy. For example, the country holding you in jail may have better diplomatic relations with certain countries than with others.

Italian citizens may contact any embassy or consulate representing any European Union or European Economic Area country (or the Swiss embassy) to obtain limited emergency services if the Italian embassy or consulate is not present or is unreachable.

If you get into trouble in one of your countries of citizenship you do not have any treaty right to contact the embassy of your other country of citizenship.

30. I'm running out of pages in my Italian passport. Can I add pages?

No. You have to renew and get a new 48-page passport.

31. I am an American-Italian dual citizen, and I am flying from Italy to the U.S. via Toronto, Canada. Which passport should I show in Toronto?

When you are flying internationally and connecting via major Canadian airports, you do not clear Canadian immigration unless you exit the international terminal. If you are not a Canadian citizen or resident, and you want to exit the terminal, you may show whichever passport you wish to Canadian passport control.

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has set up U.S. passport control entry points at certain airports in Canada, Ireland, Bermuda, and several Caribbean island nations for immigration preclearance. Although these passport control checkpoints are physically outside the United States, they are part of the U.S. government's operations through agreement with foreign governments. Therefore, if you are a U.S. citizen, you must treat them just like any other U.S. passport control checkpoint, and you must show your U.S. passport.

These U.S. CBP outposts are the best examples of extra-territorial checkpoints, but there are a few other examples elsewhere in the world. Make sure you know whether a government is asking for your passport and which government so that you present the correct passport. You may be tired, jetlagged, and physically in Montreal or Toronto or Shannon, but you may also be passing through U.S. passport control.

32. Which immigration queue should I use?

Italian citizens presenting their Italian passports may use the typically shorter European Union/European Economic Area immigration queues in Europe.

If you are entering or exiting one of your countries of citizenship, you must present that country's passport (or, if applicable, a carta d'identità when entering/exiting Italy), and therefore you would use the immigration queue for that country's citizens. Likewise, if you are entering/exiting a country where you have permanent residence, you should use the immigration queue applicable to permanent residents and present the passport associated with that residence.

If you are traveling with family members who must ordinarily use different immigration queues because they possess different citizenships or for other reasons, there are no universal rules about whether you can use a particular immigration queue together. Here are some suggestions:

Adult family members traveling without children may use separate queues. However, if one adult (such as a spouse) is relying on the other for immigration purposes, you should try to use the same queue if permitted.
Due to understandable international concerns about child abductions, both parents should try to use the same immigration queue together with their children.
To determine which immigration queue to use, or in other situations, refer to signs and, if in doubt, ask immigration officials. That should help you avoid the inconvenience of having to wait again in another immigration queue.

33. What should I do if someone asks to hold my passport?

Your Italian passport is Italian government property. You should at least think carefully about whether you wish to surrender your passport. Raise an objection if you feel uncomfortable, and ask for alternative solutions.

Sometimes the request is reasonable. For example, if you are applying for a visa, you may need to surrender your passport to the authority providing your visa so that the proper documentation may be affixed to your passport. That may take a few days. However, especially if you are applying for a visa outside one of your countries of citizenship, make sure you have alternative acceptable identification, such as a residence card with your photograph, in case you need to satisfy local authorities.

Some countries, including the U.S., will provide their citizens with second passports upon application if there is sufficient justification, such as the need to obtain visas from more than one foreign government at approximately the same time. If you hold multiple passports, whether from the same or from different countries, obviously you would be well advised not to disclose that fact as you surrender one of them. (But don't lie.)

If you do surrender your passport, be sure to get an official receipt.

34. When should I renew my passport?

Most countries require that your passport have at least six months of validity remaining for entry. Thus it's a good idea to add a renewal reminder to your calendar. Set that reminder at ten months before your passport expires. Also, if you have only a couple of empty pages remaining in your passport, you should renew it so that you have room for more visas and stamps.

35. I exited a foreign country, but that country forgot to collect my departure card. The departure card is still in my passport. What should I do?

Contact that country's embassy or consulate as soon as possible. That country may not have recorded your exit correctly. To avoid a possible overstay investigation when you next visit that country, you should make sure you properly return that departure card according to the embassy's/consulate's instructions.

36. I am an American-Italian dual citizen. May I show my Italian passport to U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff who are checking IDs and boarding passes before security screening?

That's at least inadvisable. Show your U.S. passport or alternate form of U.S. identification, such as a U.S. driver's license.

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