You will see many generalities and uncertainties in the following information. This is because there are nearly 8,000 different comuni, so 8,000 potential sets of requirements. The following are guidelines, but you really need to get the expectations of the comune where you will be applying in advance or at least prepare as if you are applying at a strict US consulate.
Some comuni will lay-out their requirements for applying on their website. Even so, a highly-suggested method of improving your chance of success when applying is to arrange for the comune officer to preview your documents before you make your move. Not all will be willing to do this, but if you establish contact in person or through a local and position it as a way of helping to ensure the process is smooth when you do move, they might oblige. They may be willing to review scanned documents via email or you might consider arranging a meeting during a scouting trip.
Comuni in Italy usually require less documentation on your ancestors than US consulates. Most only require that you provide vital records (birth, marriage, death) for your direct line; those for spouses of your direct Italian ancestors are not typically required. Also, proving naturalization status for your ancestor is less arduous. A copy of your ancestor’s naturalization certificate from USCIS or NARA or a Certificate of Non-Existence from USICS if your ancestor never naturalized should be sufficient. Comuni do not usually request census records, alien files, arrival documents, etc. Of course, if you have collected this information, bring it just in case—you never know what might help your case. Just don’t volunteer documents not required if everything is going smoothly when you apply. As stated before, unless you can determine their requirements in advance, be prepared with every document possible to prove your case. Beware that some comuni impose an age limit for documents presented; some will not accept any document issued more than 6 months prior.
Apostilles: Unlike most US consulates, all official foreign documents you present in Italy must have an apostille. This includes naturalization documents and all non-Italian vital records.
Unwed Applicants: One unique requirement to applying directly in Italy is that some comuni request a nubile/celibe (single-status) certification. The Italian equivalent of such document is a certificato di stato libero. While this kind of document is normal in Italy, it is quite unusual in the US. However, there is a process to obtain one from US Embassies or the Department of State. See here for details.
Discrepancies: Generally, standard Anglicizations of first names (i.e. Giuseppe to Joseph) are acceptable, but unless you are lucky enough to arrange to have the comune preview your documents beforehand, all discrepancies should be dealt with ahead of going to Italy to apply. While there are general rules and guidelines they need to follow and they are subject to audit by a national oversight agency, they are mostly autonomous with regard to the level of scrutiny they place over documentation. In other words, what is acceptable is unpredictable, so it is best to ensure your documentation is straightforward in that they can easily confirm through birth and marriage documents, in particular, that each person in your line to the last Italian ancestor from Italy was descended from the prior.
Should you have to have discrepancies in names and/or dates addressed, there are multiple potential methods of doing so. All but the most stringent (usually the biggest) comuni will accept a Sworn Agreement of Concordance (Perizia Giurata di Concordanza). This is the easiest way to address discrepancies across multiple documents, particularly those that cannot be amended. Any discrepancies on your personal vital records (birth, marriage) will need to be corrected in advance–the comune cannot transcribe records that they believe have inaccuracies. See our page on discrepancies for an explanation and list of other methods to address discrepancies.
Translations: A nuance to applying in Italy over the consulates is that everything you present that is not already in Italian must have a legalized translation. To accomplish this, you have three options:
- Have the translations done in Italy. The Italian translator must go to the court to swear to them. These are known as sworn translations. This can be expensive as the translator often wants more money because of the need to go to court. Plus the courts have a fee of one marca da bollo per 4 pages of translation.
- Have a consulate legalize them. In this case, anyone competent can perform the translations. The documents and translations are sent to the Italian consulate with jurisdiction over the place that issued the document for legalization of the translation. The fee is 14,90 per page payable to the Consulate. (Verify the current rate in US dollars on the consulate’s website.) Most people don’t opt for this as it’s too difficult to work with the Consulate to get these done and can take months. Plus, if you have documents from multiple states, you may have to deal with multiple consulates.
- Have the translations apostilled. In this option the translations can be done by anyone competent, but the person must have a written statement attesting to the accuracy and their credentials and sign before a notary. You then send the translations with the notary stamp to the secretary of state in the state in which the notary is registered and they will apply an apostille legalizing the notarization. Most people applying in Italy choose this option. The apostille replaces the legalization from the Consulate. This, like having translations sworn in Italy, is also an expensive option, particularly in states where the fee for an apostille is high. However, many professional translators are familiar with this legalization process and will handle all the steps for you.
Keep in mind that, according to the Ministry, the Comune can only accept any one of these three options, they sometimes insist on one specific method or some will even accept a simple (non-apostilled or legalized) translation. It is recommended that you research this with the comuni when you are doing your initial scouting of places to reside and apply.
Next Section: Applying, Step 1 – Declaring Presence