This Q&A guide explains the legal and practical requirements for using your Italian passport, especially with respect to dual nationals. This guide emphasizes simple, repeatable, universal (or at least near universal) best practices, based on legal requirements and practical experiences, that should minimize hassles and inconveniences. If you have comments or corrections, please send me a private message. Include any legal citation(s), if possible. You may also wish to discuss Italian passport usage and other issues in Master Thread: Italian Passports
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 exiting Italy, and you should
when entering. (Per Article 24, Law no. 1185, November 21, 1967, Italian citizens leaving Italy without the proper documentation are subject to a fine ranging from 15 to 154 euro.) However, for travel to/from many countries within and near Europe, a carta d'identità
(Italian national ID card) suffices if you have one provided it is not stamped "non valido per l'espatrio."
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 can 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. Italian passports are not free, and they expire, so it's at least economically sensible to defer getting one until you actually need one.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?
If you are resident in Europe you can obtain a carta d'identità
from the local Italian embassy, consulate, or commune serving your place of residence. Alternatively, no matter where you reside, you can obtain a carta
if you visit your commune of registration.
Please note that there are two types of carta
: the "classic" paper type and the new electronic/plastic type. The latter is only available from select communes in Italy and only if you are registered as a resident in the commune.
Please also note that you must not laminate or otherwise deface or damage your carta
. Use a plastic folder to protect your ID card, one that allows removing the unmodified card for inspection.
You can renew your carta d'identità
at the Italian embassy, consulate, or commune serving the place you reside even if outside Europe.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:
6. How do I apply for an Italian passport?
- 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, preferably in international format ("formato internazionale"). You can obtain a copy quickly from the Ufficio dello Stato Civile in your home commune. Show that certificate if requested.
- Bring an official copy of your letter of citizenship recognition. Show that letter if requested.
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
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.
To help prevent child abandonment and other international child custody problems, if you have minor children under age 16 you may need the other parent's permission to apply for a passport.7. What does it cost to apply for an Italian passport?
The price for a regular Italian passport is 116 euro. If you are applying at a consulate you can generally pay in local foreign (non-euro) currency. The amount varies every calendar quarter 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.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?
Due to fingerprinting requirements to issue 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 or elsewhere. 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 and carte d'identità
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?
Prior to June 24, 2014, Italian passport holders often had to buy a tax stamp ("marca da bollo") for each year when they wished to use their passport to exit Italy for points outside the European Union. Every ordinary passport issued before this date included the first annual tax stamp.
The tax stamps for passports were abolished effective June 24, 2014. There is no longer any need to buy marche da bollo
for passports.12. I am a dual national. Can I use my Italian passport to enter or exit my other country of citizenship?
That's a bad idea for at least two reasons. First, as with Italy, many countries legally require their citizens to use only that country's passport to exit and/or enter. Second, presenting a foreign passport to officials of your other country of citizenship could mean involuntary loss of that citizenship. Some countries are quite hostile to dual citizenship.
It may be inconvenient, but it is highly likely 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.13. I am having difficulty obtaining a passport in time. Can I travel to that country, one of my countries of citizenship?
Legally, probably not. Postpone or cancel your travel if you cannot obtain the necessary passport(s).14. 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.15. What happens if my passport is lost or stolen?
If local authorities recover your lost or stolen Italian passport they will normally forward it to the nearest Italian embassy or consulate (or the embassy representing Italian interests in that country if applicable). The embassy or consulate will hold any recovered passport for up to 12 months.
To reduce the inconveniences associated with replacing a passport, keep color copies of your passports' identity pages in a separate, secure location. For example, you can scan your passport(s) and keep the scans in a secure Internet-based account (e.g. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox), accessible from anywhere there's an Internet connection.
Report any suspected passport theft or loss to your country's embassy or consulate and to the local police. (Italians are legally required to do so per Law no. 1165/1967.) Obtain a police report. To apply for an "Emergency Travel Document" or temporary passport, bring the police report, a copy of your travel itinerary, your carta d'identità
(if you have one), and a copy of your passport (if you have one) to the embassy or consulate.16. 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, residence permits, or visa waiver privileges required for your particular travel itinerary. However, as a matter of convenience and in case of emergency you may prefer to carry both passports on all trips.
Note that even though the United States does not have passport control checkpoints when exiting, U.S. citizens must by law (22 CFR § 53.1) enter and depart the United States with a U.S. passport. If you possess U.S. citizenship you must apply for a U.S. passport (if you don't have a current one) and carry it with you
as you leave the United States, even if you have another passport. (Note that 22 CFR § 53.1 does not
require you to show
the U.S. passport you're carrying to the airline
as you exit the United States. See Q19 below for more information on "best travel practices.")17. 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. (Many countries do not routinely stamp passports, and thus the absence of a stamp has no particular significance.)18. Should I lie?
No. Lying is a serious offense in most countries. Don't do it, either verbally or in writing.19. 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 -- the country where you will disembark and clear immigration. For example, if you are flying to Beijing (with or without connections), and you require a visa to travel to China, present the passport containing your Chinese visa since that's the passport you will be using to enter China.
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.
As an additional matter, 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.
Also as an additional matter, 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 making a flight connection within that other country.
Please note that if you are flying internationally to the U.S. you will always clear U.S. immigration and customs, even if you are connecting to another international flight in the U.S.In summary, and with the reminder that you typically must always show the correct matching passport to your own countries' government officials (e.g. your Italian passport must be the one and only one presented to any Italian government officials), remember to: (a) present the passport most relevant to the country where you will be disembarking (i.e. clearing immigration) to the airline's (or other transport company's) agent; and then (b) if requested and if merited, present another passport to the airline/transport company to resolve any remaining issues (such as ability to make a flight connection or ability to exit the country where you're checking in).20. 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.21. 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.22. 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.23. 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.24. 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 your travel to Cuba must still be consistent with U.S. law.25. 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:
26. Should I use the same country's passport each time I enter a particular country?
- 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.
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.27. 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?
Regardless of which passport you present, you cannot answer "no" to that question. 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.28. I want to travel to Canada, but I have a drunk driving offense on my record in California. Will my Italian passport help me get into Canada and avoid being turned back at the border for my DUI?
Probably not, and you should never lie if an immigration official asks about your record. If you have a criminal record then you probably cannot enter Canada regardless of which passport you present. However, Canada has an exception process
which may allow you to enter.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. Approximately 39 of those pages are available for immigration stamps and visas.31. When I renew my passport, do I get the old one back?
Yes, though you might have to ask for your old passport to be returned. Your old passport will be stamped "annullato."32. 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 (provided you have a Canadian visa or a visa waiver applies).
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, several Caribbean island nations, and Abu Dhabi 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.33. 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:
34. What should I do if someone asks to hold my passport?
- Adult family members traveling without children may generally 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.
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.35. 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.36. 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.37. 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 unwise, especially for international flights. This guide recommends consistent "best travel practices," showing your U.S. passport or (if you have one, and if TSA allows) an alternate form of U.S. identification, such as a U.S. driver's license or state-issued ID. Please note that U.S. citizens are legally required to enter and depart the United States holding a valid U.S. passport.38. Does Italy have a system for registering my international travel, similar to the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, to help coordinate assistance and family notification in the event of an emergency?
Yes, you can register your upcoming international travel at DoveSiamoNelMondo.it
(in Italian).39. I made a mistake: I showed the wrong passport to passport control officials in one of my countries of citizenship. Now they're asking which passport I want to keep. What should I do?
To answer this question you should understand the nature of dual citizenship. Whenever you are in one of your countries of citizenship you are that country's citizen -- and only that country's citizen. Moreover, each country gets to decide for itself who is (and who isn't) one of its citizens. In terms of international travel, at least, one way to think of dual citizenship is as "serial monogamous citizenship."
With that background, the correct answer to that question depends on your motivations and your intentions. If you wish to maintain Country X's citizenship you should immediately orient yourself to answering questions as the citizen you are. Thus the correct answer would be that you want to keep the passport matching the country you're in (or trying to enter). "I want to keep my (Country X) passport."
If you are then asked by Country X's officials, "Do you want to keep your (Country Y) passport?" then one valid, truthful answer would be "I cannot prevent your taking that other passport," followed by "I want to keep my Country X passport." Don't worry about your Country Y passport at that point. Passports can be replaced, but citizenships typically cannot.
As it happens, under international law valid passports are the property of the governments that issued them. Inspection of foreign passports is allowed, but seizure is illegal (with very few exceptions). That said, government officials frequently violate international law, perhaps unintentionally, and there's nothing you can do about such violations in such circumstances. Hence, "I cannot prevent your taking that other passport" is a truthful statement.
There are a few countries that spend some effort trying to determine whether any of its citizens possess other citizenships. Consequently there are some individuals who try hard not to reveal their additional citizenships. For example, there are reports that Japanese customs officials will sometimes ask Japanese citizens entering Japan why a particular other country's entry (or exit) stamp is missing. (Administratively the Japanese government does not tolerate dual citizenship among its adult citizens well even though legally the government has limited power to enforce its intolerance, at least among Japanese born with dual citizenship.) To avoid that question, some Japanese citizens with dual citizenship will clear immigration and customs in a third country when traveling between their two countries of citizenship in order to acquire timely foreign entry and exit stamps in their Japanese passports before reentering Japan. Many other Japanese dual citizens don't bother, and they may answer a few annoying questions with care. Here's how such a conversation might proceed with a Japanese-U.S. dual national arriving in Tokyo:
Q: You said you arrived here on the Japan Airlines flight from New York, but I don't see any U.S. entry stamp in your passport. Why is it missing?
A: The U.S. did not stamp my passport.
Q: Why didn't the U.S. stamp your passport?
A: You should ask the U.S. about their rules, but I can show you my JAL boarding pass if you like.
Q: How long did you stay in the United States?
A: About ten months.
Q: How could you stay so long in the United States?
A: The U.S. allowed me to.
Q: Are you a U.S. citizen?
A: The U.S. government considers me its citizen. I am a Japanese citizen.
Q: May I see your U.S. passport?
A: You are welcome to inspect my luggage if that inspection is consistent with your official responsibilities.
Q: Which passport do you want to keep?
A: You are welcome to finish inspecting my Japanese passport. You can now see that it is perfectly valid. I would like you to return my Japanese passport to me.
Q: Do you know that dual citizenship is a violation of the law?
A: I am fully compliant with the law.
These answers are all truthful, assuming the U.S. did not stamp either passport -- it's frequently true that U.S. CBP does not stamp U.S. passports. (And lying is not a good idea.) These questions are annoying and inconvenient -- and the last question is a misrepresentation of Japanese law -- but, at least if answered carefully, the questions are not citizenship-threatening.
This guide can neither anticipate every situation nor provide complete guidance on what is ultimately your personal decision about how you view and how you protect (or don't protect) your citizenships -- and how much risk and/or inconvenience you are willing to tolerate. Nonetheless, it's probably a good idea to think ahead of time how you would answer questions like these if asked. The advice in this guide assumes that your multiple citizenships are valuable and that you want to protect them.