The following content is originally sourced from the Dual Italian Citizenship Tapatalk forum. Full authorial credit for this content is given to Mr. Malcomb Schreiber and Amanda Palladino for updating it.
🇮🇹 Which documents need to be translated into Italian? 🇮🇹
Documents to be submitted for the application process can be divided into two main categories, ancestor documents and applicant documents. Ancestor documents are those documents used to prove one’s claim of Italian descent while the applicant documents are those vital records and other court issued documentation that directly relates to the applicant and will eventually be sent to Italy for transcription. All consulates universally require that applicant documents not already in Italian be translated. In particular, this includes applicants’ birth, marriage certificates, and, when applicable, divorce records, as well as any birth certificates for applicants’ children. Adoption, legal name changes and any acquired declaratory judgment paperwork that relates to the applicant or the applicant’s minor children falls within the category of documents that must be transcribed in Italy and therefore have to be translated into Italian. The ancestor documents are not sent to Italy to be recorded so the obligation to have them translated depends on the requirements imposed by the consulate or comune where the application is to be presented.
Generally, vital records for direct line ancestors, even if they are not applying for citizenship recognition, must also be translated. Sometimes documents (i.e., birth and death certificates) for the spouses of these direct line ancestors are required to be translated as well. Naturalization-related documents, including no-records letters and census records, from the US do not have to be translated if they are being used at a consulate in the US, but are required to be translated if they are being used at a consulate outside the US. As a general rule, all non-Italian documents used when applying at a comune in Italy or through the court of Rome must be translated. Furthermore, non-Italian documents from one country must always be translated when used at another country outside of Italy.
Some countries in Europe, such as France and Germany, issue documents in international format, which have the information in multiple languages, including Italian; such certificates do not need to be translated.
Naturalization Documents do NOT need to be translated unless you are applying directly in Italy at a comune, through the court of Rome, at an Italian consulate located outside the USA
Special note for Washington D.C. applicants (as of Sept. 2019): The Embassy Consular services division is reported to now be asking for naturalization documents to be translated.
Translated by whom?
Some countries, such as Germany and Argentina have officially certified translators, which are required to be used for translations of documents from that country (the consulates in these countries should have a list of such translators, since they are obligated to verify their signatures). In the US and Canada there are no such certified translators, but some consulates maintain a list of reliable translators as they do for certain other types of professions such as doctors and lawyers, although using a person from their list is not mandatory it can be a useful place to begin your search when you are not sure where to start.
There are five different types of translation; simple, certified, apostilled (AKA legalized by an apostille), consulate legalized and court sworn.
1) A simple translation is just a way to express that a translation is unofficial or lacks legal value. It is just a translation without anything attached to it and missing extras, such as the translator’s signatures or stamp. When it comes to presenting a simple translation to the Italian Government they will only be accepted by an Italian consulate where the language of the source document that was translated is the same language spoken officially in the country where the consulate is located. A simple translation of an original document redacted in French cannot be submitted to any of the Italian consulates locates in English speaking countries even if that particular officer knows French. Consulates can accept simple translations as they will later examine the content of the translation and compare it to the original to determine its accuracy. If approved the translation will be stamped by the consulate as being an accurate translation. Most applicants applying in the USA will for the most part only need simple translations with a few exceptions.
Because consulates in the US can accept simple translations of English language source material many consulates will even accept translations done by the applicant (“self-translations”), so long as they are of good quality. They don’t actually verify that you are the one that did the translations, so you could, for example, have a friend do them. Using Google Translate or similar applications/websites is not prohibited, but not recommended either, because consulates will often reject translations that are obviously written by someone that is not fluent in Italian, even when the important information is clear.
2) Certified translations. These are basically the same as simple (or unofficial translations, that is, translations having no legal value in Italy) but with the addition of a separate page stating that the translation was done by a professional. One can think of certified translations as a translation where the translator or translating Agency has claimed it by placing their signature or stamp somewhere on the translation or accompanying certification page. Often translators will provide this type of certification, free of charge, as it is rarely requested by the consulates. All such translations will still need to be examined by the consulate and stamped as being in conformity to the original before any transcription in Italy can be made. One typically encounters this type of translation when a translator well-known to one consulate provides the translations for an applicant presenting their work to a consulate where they are unknown. The translator will write up a one page statement declaring to have translated all the documents correctly.
3) Apostilled translations are your most common form of “official translation” having legal value in Italy. This is what most people mean when they say that they need certified translations. The certification used here is different than above as it is a public oath taken before a Notary by which the translator is made legally responsible for the accuracy of the translation. The certification sheet that gets attached to each translation is document specific and will state both in English and Italian that this (insert name) document was translated accurately and in its entirety. The certification sheet bears the translator’s signature and the signature and seal of the notary. The fact that it is notarized allows for the translation to be apostilled. For some special documents, such as court orders or divorce-related documents, which will be presented to the Italian consulate in NY a simple translation will not suffice and the officers there will insist that these documents be accompanied by apostilled translations. Boston only accepts apostilled translations even when it comes to translations of vital records. Applicants presenting translations to an Italian consulate outside of the USA, at the Comune in Italy or to the Court of Rome can make use of Apostilled translations as one of three ways to submit a translation of legal value.
4) Consulate legalized translations. This is what the consulates do behind the scenes to turn a simple translation into a legal one. The exact process of legalizing a translation varies from consulate to consulate but consulate specific instructions can be found on your consulate’s webpage. Typically you will go in by appointment or mail in the translation that needs to be legalized along with apostilles original document. The consulate’s charge for this service and the rate changes every three months based on the exchange rate being used for that trimester. If you are doing this through the mail then it is standard practice to provide the consulate with a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return. Once the officer finishes evaluating your translation for completeness and accuracy they will staple the translation on top and stamp it as in conformity to the original. They fold back the right hand corner and place their stamp over it making the translation and original document one entity. Keep in mind though that some consulates will write on top of your legalized translation that you omitted a translation of the apostille. To avoid that writing you will need to also provide a translation of the apostille when requesting legalization. Consulate legalized translations are the only form of legal translations accepted by the comune of Rome. When you will be submitting documents from a foreign country, you will have to submit Consulate legalized translations unless that country is also a signatory of The Hague convention and issues apostilles. It is advisable to check with the consulate in that country as to their preferences on the translator you employ for these documents. Some consulates will only legalize a translation if you used a translator from their list or one located in the same country as where the document originated.
5) Court Sworn Translations. This form of official translation can only be done in Italy. The translator has to take the translations to the Italian Court and swear to their completeness and accuracy. There is the need to buy a marca da bollo for every three pages of translation as the oath cover sheet counts as one of the allotted four pages. If you are a 1948 case applicant and you leave the translations up to your lawyer then he will usually subcontract with a translator who will provide this service. For most people this method has turned out to be the most expensive as getting the documents sworn is time consuming and that time needs to be compensated. As a side note there are some towns who will accept a translation done by a translator in Italy who does not use the court sworn method but rather goes to the comune and makes an oath before the comune clerk instead. The Courts however will only accept the traditional swearing method with the attached oath sheets.
When it comes to ways of turning a simple translation into an official translation of legal value there are options. One caveat to keep in mind though is that the officer at the consulate or the clerk at the comune may have a preference for one of the three and reject the other two. For instance at the embassy in DC the officer there only accepts consulate legalized translations and not apostilled and there are clerks at certain Comuni who want consulate legalized translations only and will refuse court sworn. It’s highly advisable to try and figure what will be acceptable before you invest money in one method to have to redo it all over again to please the person accepting your application.
Which parts of the documents need to be translated?
Apostilles, letters of exemplification, and other certifications affixed to a document don’t have to translated for any consulate in the USA and rarely for applications directly in Italy and elsewhere.
When translating, everything on the face of the documents must be translated. This includes all legalese and boilerplate. This is often very difficult to properly translate and the reason why people who do self-translations get tripped up – if it becomes obvious that the translator is not fully competent and then all translations from that source get rejected out of hand. Do not accept a translation where the seals and signatures have been photoshopped. Mirroring the original formatting is good but photoshopping signatures and seals can be seen as an attempt at forgery. The Italian Government wants it to be obvious to all that it is a translation and not an Italian version of state-issued document.
What if a translator makes an error?
Since translators usually will provide you with translations in Word document form, if you spot an error you can just correct it yourself. If they send you the translation in PDF then ask them to correct the error and resend. Almost all translations have some typos on them and need to be proofed by the applicant. You don’t have to know any Italian to double check all the filled-in information. If the filled-in information on the translation is all correct then most consulates will ignore an Italian language typo that is part of the instructions or questions on the vital record but incorrect filled-in information is most likely a do over.
Must apostilles and translations be done in a certain order?
No, they can be done in either order. In fact, to save time, you can send copies of the documents to a translator while getting apostilles for the originals. It is often less expensive to have all of your documents translated in one fell swoop rather than one at a time. It is always best to scan copies of all your documents as you receive them. In most cases, you will only be providing a scan of your documents to the translator. Beware that apostilles are sometimes attached in a way that they obscure the underlying document, making it difficult or impossible to scan and completely translate it afterwards.