Get to know all the legalization regulations for the document you need to use in Italy or abroad.
Foreign public acts or documents to be enforced in Italy, as a rule, must first be legalized (or apostilled) and then translated into Italian.
Please read this guide and find out what this means and how to put this procedure into practice.
1. Why legalize a foreign document in Italy
For a public act or document from a foreign country to be enforceable in Italy, it must be legalized (or apostilled).
Through legalization (or apostille), it is verified that the foreign act was formed respecting the legislation of the foreign country of origin and that the competent foreign Office issued it.
Legalization in no way certifies the correctness of the content of the legalized document but only its authenticity.
A foreign public act or document is defined as:
– the one formed and issued by the competent Authorities in the country of origin;
– that issued by the diplomatic or consular representations of a foreign country present in Italy;
– that issued by the diplomatic or consular representations of a foreign country present in another foreign country.
2. What does the legalization of a foreign document consist of?
Legalization and apostille consist of affixing a stamp on the original document to be legalized (apostilled), which certifies the legal qualification of the public official who signed the document and the authenticity of his signature.
This stamp must indicate the first and last name of the person whose signature is to be legalized (or apostilled). The public official must also show the date and place of legalization (or apostillation), their first and last name, and title held, and affix their signature in full and the stamp of the Office.
3. Where to legalize a foreign document in Italy
Depending on who issues the public act or document and depending on where it is issued, it may or may not be subject to legalization in Italy.
Subject to the exemptions we will see in the next section, let us look together at the different possibilities:
a) Signatures on public acts and documents issued by a foreign diplomatic or consular representation based in Italy, for example, Nulla Osta to marriage, and to be valid in our country, are legalized at the competent Prefettura of the Government territorially competent (again, subject to exemptions provided for by laws or international agreements). In these cases, the apostille is never applied.
b) Signatures on public acts and documents issued by the competent Authorities in the country of origin and to be enforced in Italy must be legalized or apostilled beforehand in the country of origin, subject to any exemptions.
In the case of legalization for countries not a party to the Hague Convention of 1961, this must be done by the Italian diplomatic or consular representations present on foreign territory, without the need for further legalization, subject to any exemptions.
Whereas, in the case of the apostille (for countries party to the 1961 Hague Convention), it must be affixed by the competent Authority in the foreign state, designated by the act of accession to the Convention mentioned above, which sanctioned the abolition of legalization and replaced it with the apostille on foreign public acts and documents.
Thus, the states parties to the Convention, as mentioned earlier, replace the legalization of public acts and documents with the affixing of an apostille.
The apostille consists of an annotation to be affixed to the foreign public document by the foreign Authority designated as competent by the law ratifying the Convention.
Therefore, a foreign national of a country party to the Hague Convention, who needs to enforce a public act or document in Italy, must go to the competent Authority in their state, designated by the act of accession to the Convention, to obtain an apostille.
The document thus formed is recognized in Italy since Italy has also ratified the Hague Convention, and therefore, under Italian law, that document must be considered valid.
Through the apostille, as with legalization, the integrity of the signature and legal qualification of the foreign public official who issued the document is attested, as also the authenticity of the seal or stamp affixed to the document.
It follows that: in case the applicant for legalization or apostille on the public deed or document was already in Italy, and the act or document did not fall under any case of exemption and had not already been previously legalized or apostilled in the country of origin, there is no way to apply for it in Italy.
Acts and documents formed in a foreign state that has diplomatic or consular legalization, even when apostille alone would have been sufficient, must be considered valid for all purposes (the reverse, however, is not possible).
c) Whereas, signatures on public acts and documents issued by a foreign diplomatic or consular representation of one of the Contracting Parties to the London Convention of June 7, 1968, wherever that representation is located, are exempt from legalization (apostille never applies to consular acts and documents), if they are to be presented
– On the territory of another Contracting Party to the Convention;
– or to diplomatic or consular representatives of another Contracting Party exercising their functions on the territory of a State not a party to the said Convention.
4. Cases of exemption from legalization and apostille
There are certain exemptions from legalization or apostille provided for by international laws or agreements, the most important of which include:
– Regulation (EU) 2016/1191, which provides, for all states of the European Union, in relations between them, exemption from legalization and apostille for public documents concerning: birth; existence in life; death; name; marriage, including the capacity to enter into marriage and civil status; divorce, legal separation or annulment of marriage; registered partnership, including the capacity to enter into a registered partnership and status of a registered partnership; dissolution of a registered partnership, legal separation or annulment of a registered partnership; filiation; adoption domicile and/or residence; citizenship; no criminal record, provided that public documents concerning this fact are issued to a citizen of the Union by the authorities of their state of citizenship; public documents for exercising the right to vote and stand for election in municipal elections and elections to the European Parliament in the state of residence other than the state of citizenship.
– London Convention of June 7, 1968 (ratified by Italy), which we have already seen in the previous paragraph, which provides, for the Contracting States, exemption from legalization (the apostille never applies to consular acts and documents) for acts and documents drawn up by the diplomatic or consular representations of a Contracting Party present on the territory of any State, in the exercise of their functions, and which must be produced: (1) on the territory of another Contracting Party (think of a French public document to be valid in Italy and issued by French diplomatic or consular representations present on Belgian territory) or (2) to diplomatic or consular representatives of another Contracting Party exercising their functions on the territory of a State, not a party to the Convention mentioned above (think of a French document to be presented to the Italian diplomatic or consular representation on Moroccan territory).
5. Translation and exemptions
Foreign public acts and documents to be valid in Italy, once legalized or apostilled (where necessary), must also be translated into Italian except in cases of exemption, among which the most important are:
– Art. 6(1) of EU Regulation 2016/1191, which provides for the Member State in which the public document is presented (relating to birth, existence in life, death, marriage, including the capacity to enter into a marriage and civil status, registered partnership, including the capacity to enter into a registered partnership and registered partnership status, domicile and/or residence, and absence of criminal record), exemption from translation if the same is drafted (1) in one of its official languages or an unofficial but expressly accepted language, or if (2) the public document is accompanied by a standard multilingual form, provided that the Authority to which the public document is submitted deems the information contained in the form to be sufficient for processing the document;
– the multilingual forms provided for in the Vienna Convention of September 8, 1976, for extracts of civil status records (such as extracts of birth certificates, extract of marriage certificates, extract of death certificates) drawn up in French, German, English, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Turkish Serbo-Croatian, provided for the acceding states (Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey).
– or, again, the multilingual form provided for in the Munich Convention on September 5, 1980, for the certificate of matrimonial capacity, drafted in French, German, English, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Turkish, and adopted by the acceding states (Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey).
If there is no exemption, the translation must be done in one of the following ways:
– By the Italian diplomatic or consular representations present in the foreign state from which the public acts and documents originate, without any further formalities. In addition, for countries not a party to the Hague Convention, Italian diplomatic or consular representations usually provide both diplomatic or consular legalization and notarization of the translation;
– for Hague Convention countries, in the foreign state of origin, according to the laws of the place: in this case, the signatures of notaries or officials in charge of notarizing the translation must also be apostilled by the relevant local authorities, if not from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Hungary, or do not fall under the cases provided for in Article 6(2) of Regulation (EU) 2016/1191 (see first case of exemption mentioned above);
– in Italy (both for Hague and non-Hague countries), by the diplomatic or consular representations competent for the foreign state of origin of the public acts and documents. In this case, signatures of foreign consular personnel must have prefectural legalization unless exempted;
– in Italy (both for Hague and non-Hague countries), through the asseveration (or swearing) of the translation, carried out by someone who knows the language of origin of the act or document and the Italian language, with the production of the oath report, received from the clerk of any judicial office, including the Justice of the Peace Office or the notary, without further formalities.
Who will be your Counselors and Planners?
Due to our experience in law firms and the foreign offices of the Italian public administration, we gained significant expertise in Consular affairs, and we are trained to solve the most complicated procedure such as:
1) Nulla osta process, legalization procedure, Court hearings for the refusal of the town hall when there documents missing , legal translation, apostille procedure, emergency procedure for legalization.
2) Same-sex couples that want to celebrate a civil union in Italy as in their country the union is forbidden;
3) Couples that come from countries where divorce is not allowed;
4) Italians living abroad registered at AIRE that need to recover their document to start the marriage banns in the Italian Consulate;
5) Assistance with people that come from countries that do not release the nulla osta;
7) People with refugee status who have requested asylum in Italy.