Legalization of documents in Italian: when is it necessary?

19 January 2019
Legalization of foreign documents in Italian

This article can be useful if you have to:

  1. move to Italy for work and/or study reasons;
  2. contract marriage in Italy;
  3. start a company in Italy;
  4. start business relationships with Italy.

To be used in Italy, documents and deeds produced abroad must be subject to certain validation methods, as legalization. Let’s analyze them in detail:

  • Translation

Unless the foreign document or deed has been drawn up on one of the multilingual forms provided for by the Vienna Convention (as regards the issue of birth, marriage and death certificates), in order to be considered valid, it must be translated and certified in Italian, i.e. it must be accompanied by a certificate of conformity and bear the stamp “per traduzione conforme” (for consistent translation).

Who can attest the conformity of a translation?

  1. An official translator (in countries that provide for the legal status of the translator), whose signature will be legalized by the consular office;
  2. The consular office (in countries whose legal system does not provide for the legal status of the translator).

Italy belongs to the second type of countries mentioned above; in fact, the sworn translator does not exist, but it is the translation that is sworn.

  • Legalization

It is a procedure that proves the origin of the deed or document and the legal status of the public official who signed it as well as the authenticity of the signature itself. The purpose is precisely to verify that the document or deed was issued by an authority competent to do so.

Procedure

To attest the document, the appointed public officer shall place a stamp on the original, indicating the date and place of the legalization and his/her data (name, surname and qualification) as well as affix his/her signature in full together with the stamp above.

  • In the case of a document/deed formed abroad, the legalization is a responsibility of the Italian consular authorities.
  • In the case of an Italian document/deed, the legalization belongs to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (documents signed by notaries or bailiffs) and to the Prefecture (documents formed in Italy to be enforced abroad and/or documents formed in Italy by foreign consular authorities to be valid in Italy).

Generally, to proceed with the legalization, the physical presence of the document holder is required at the Consular Office with the deed (in the original) to be legalized. However, this eventuality may vary, therefore it is preferable to deepen the matter with the Authority concerned from time to time.

Types of documents involved:

  • Qualifications;
  • Marriage certificates between individuals of different nationalities;
  • Inheritances involving individuals of different nationalities;
  • Openings of companies’ foreign branches;
  • Etc.

Clarifications:

The legalization of a translation is not a translator’s responsibility: it belongs on the consular authority of the country concerned.

The translator only intervenes in the phase prior to legalization, i.e. the translation of the document and the relevant asseveration.

  • The apostille

Only for countries that have signed the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, the legalization procedure has been replaced by the application of the less complex apostille (or postilla).

The function is the same, that is attesting the legal status of the official (or public official) who has affixed his/her signature on a document/deed as well as the authenticity of the stamp or seal of the same.

Procedure

The consular authority does not intervene here: in fact, each state designates an authority, indicating it in the act of accession to the Convention by each country (in Italy, the Prefecture or the Public Prosecutor’s Office depending on the type of document), which is authorized to authenticate the document/deed by affixing the stamp above.

In all the other cases, the legalization procedure is used.

Useful links: Up-to-date list of countries that adhered the Hague Convention and the authorities responsible for affixing the apostille

Lastly, it is important to note that there are a number of agreements and conventions, stipulated among EU countries, which often provide for exemption from legalization for certain types of documents/deeds (such as the Brussels Convention, for example): therefore, it is advisable to always check that the deed available to you does not fall within the exempt types.

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Legalization of documents in Italian: when is it necessary?