Italy made easy: how to avoid bureaucratic pitfalls

Battling notorious Italian bureaucracy may be easier than you think...if you have the right resources.

Italy made easy: how to avoid bureaucratic pitfalls
Photo: Shutterstock (licensed by Bureasy)

Ah, Italy: history, sunshine, incredible food and even better wine. Passion and pasta, romance and Roma.

And…Italian bureaucracy. It’s notorious. It’s a nightmare. It’s the closest thing to purgatory on earth.

“It’s very difficult to navigate the system here,” confirms Italian Marilisa Spagnoletti who has spent enough years abroad to understand the comparative complexity of her home country’s bureaucracy.

“The biggest problem is that there’s no single source of information – everything is spread out and it’s easy to get lost in translation.”

As an Italian who has spent almost as many years living outside of Italy as in it, Marilisa has first-hand experience with all the challenges foreigners can face when dealing with her homeland.

“I have a good view of what bureaucracy is on an international level, and what the international community faces when they have to deal with another country’s rules and regulations,” she explains. “I noticed a cultural gap – knowledge is power, and there are many professionals who only know one side of the story. That’s like reading only half of a book.”

And that’s exactly why Marilisa joined forces with Bureasy, a company which makes Italian bureaucracy – well, easy.

“Sometimes with Italian bureaucracy, all you need is someone with experience, someone who knows how to figure out more efficient ways of dealing with things,” she explains.

“Especially because rules sometimes vary from place to place and can change very quickly. It helps to have someone with experience navigating all the little differences, making phone calls, figuring out the rules, and letting you know exactly what you need to do.”

But many expats and other foreigners with interests or assets in Italy frequently make one mistake: they entrust everything to an attorney.

“When you don’t know how the system works, you might think you need an Italian attorney to solve it. But that’s not necessarily true,” Marilisa explains. “An attorney doesn’t usually say, ‘Oh, you only need me for about 30 percent of what you want to do’. They’ll charge the full rate.”

Save money and avoid hassle – try Bureasy

For instance, imagine you are dealing with an Italian inheritance. A relative passes away and leaves you something in Italy.

“Your first reaction might be, ‘I don’t know how to deal with this, I want to get rid of it’. But don’t jump to conclusions,” Marilisa cautions.

“You don’t even have to go to Italy, if you’re abroad. You can just give someone power of attorney (POA). A lot of the steps involved in an Italian inheritance are not of a legal nature, it’s just filling out simple forms and sending them to the right place. There’s a lot of bureaucracy, sure, but an attorney will charge you like it’s a legal matter, even when it’s not.”

Bureasy saves clients money by figuring all of that out for them – whether you’re dealing with immigration, inheritance, property management, taxes, translations, or any other number of issues.

“We work with attorneys, but we’re not attorneys ourselves, so our rates are very competitive. We can contact the attorney, coordinate activities, and if they need to write a contract we provide all the information they need.”

And there are plenty of other matters Bureasy can make easy. For example, let’s say you want to buy a summer home in Italy.

“We can deal with your real estate agent or your tenant for you, pay your bills, keep up relationships with the municipalities, receive your mail,” says Marilisa.

Need to file complicated expat taxes back to the US?

“There are a lot of disclosure requirements, and you need to get information from many forms in a different language. An accountant who isn’t used to it might get a little lost. With us you know you’re covered.”

Getting married in Italy?

“You need your birth certificate, and in order for it to be valid it needs to be translated and then validated. We can do that,” Marilisa adds.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to get strangled by the red, white and green bureaucratical tape. And mistakes can carry long-lasting consequences.

“You could get a visa denied, which makes it harder to get a visa the next time. Or if you didn’t know you had to pay real estate tax you can end up with a massive pile of penalties and interest on the penalties,” Marilisa explains.

“Or the records might not match the exact conditions on the property you’re buying and you can’t close the deal. There could be all sorts of problems.”

No matter what your bureaucratic battle, it’s worth getting reliable help from someone who knows the ropes.

“A lot of foreigners don’t want to go to public offices themselves and stand in line, especially if their Italian isn’t perfect and the employees are overworked and a bit less friendly. We help with language barriers and everything else,” Marilisa says.

“With the right expertise, these things can be really easy.”

Need help with Italian bureaucracy? Find out more

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Bureasy

For members


Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?

Obtaining Italian citizenship is not a simple matter even if you are born here, as there are many obstacles to overcome. This is what you should know about the complex process of naturalisation.

Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?

It is natural that people who are settled in Italy would want their children to have Italian citizenship.

Unlike many other countries, however, merely being born in Italy doesn’t mean the person is Italian.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, children will not obtain Italian citizenship at birth. 

This may sound unfair to someone coming from, say, the United States, but Italy doesn’t (in the vast majority of cases) recognise so-called “birthright citizenship” (jus soli) which would automatically grant an Italian passport to anyone born here.

Even kids who have lived here their entire lives and consider themselves to be Italian will have the same nationality as their parents and will continue to be considered foreigners by the Italian state – until and unless they become naturalised.

Some Italian politicians and political parties, particularly from the Democratic Party, are pushing for a relaxation of the rules, however at present they remain in place. 

Who is entitled to an Italian passport at birth?

Children born to Italian-citizen parents, or at least one parent who is Italian, will be automatically considered citizens of Italy by a process known as “acquisition by descent”, or jus sanguinis.

READ ALSO: How British nationals can claim Italian citizenship by descent

This applies as much to children born abroad as it does to those born in Italy.

A foreign child adopted by Italian parent(s) is subject to the same rules.

What happens if both parents are foreign nationals?

There are several scenarios to consider if you would like your child (or future child) to be Italian.

If you don’t have children yet but have a permit that allows you to permanently reside in Italy, you could apply for naturalisation after living in the country for a set number of years.

For most foreigners, ten years is the minimum length of time they will need to have lived in Italy before they become eligible to apply for citizenship through naturalisation. That period is reduced to four years for EU nationals, and five years for refugees.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

If you become naturalised before the child is born (even if you still retain the citizenship of your former country), then he or she will be automatically Italian at birth.

If the child was born before the parent naturalised, they still automatically become an Italian citizen at the same time as the parent does – provided they are under the age of 18 and living with the naturalised parent.

“It is irrelevant that the birth occurred before or after the submission of the application for citizenship,” Giuditta De Ricco, head citizenship lawyer at the immigration firm Mazzeschi, told The Local.

Those children whose parents become Italian citizens after they turn 18, however, will need to file their own citizenship application.

For children born in Italy to foreign parents, the requirements are strict: they must reside in Italy ‘without interruption’ until the age of 18 and submit a statement of their intent to apply for citizenship within one year of their eighteenth birthday.

However, children who were born in Italy, moved away, and moved back as adults can apply for citizenship after just three continuous years of legal residency in the country – so being born on Italian soil does have some advantages when it comes to acquiring citizenship.

The Italian Air Force aerobatic unit performs on April 25, 2020, Italy's 75th Liberation Day, over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome.

The Italian Air Force aerobatic unit performs on April 25, 2020, Italy’s 75th Liberation Day, over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

What happens if the parents are of different nationalities?

If the child’s parents are of different nationalities that are treated differently by the Italian state (if, for example, one parent is French and the other American), the child will be subject to the least stringent applicable naturalisation requirements. 

This means that if a child has one French and one American parent, they will be subject to French (EU) rules and eligibility periods when applying for naturalisation as an Italian citizen.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I have residency in Italy and another country?

A French parent can apply for Italian citizenship on their own behalf after four years of residency in Italy, and “minor children will be automatically Italian, once the parent takes the oath,” confirms De Ricco.

Usually all that’s required is that the parent produces the children’s birth certificates, although in some cases children will also be asked to attend the oath-taking ceremony with their parent.

Bear in mind that it’s important to consider whether the child’s country/ies of origin allow for dual or triple citizenship, and if not, whether you would be willing to renounce your child’s citizenship of another country in order for them to obtain Italian citizenship.

What if I moved to Italy when my children were already born?

If two non-citizens move to Italy when their children were already born, naturalisation is the means through which they may be able to gain citizenship. 

In recent years some Italian parliamentarians have proposed a ius culturae basis for citizenship – that is, acquiring citizenship via cultural assimilation, on the understanding that children quickly adapt to the culture of their country of residence.

A bill put forward by Democratic Party MP Laura Boldrini would allow children under the age of ten who have lived in Italy for at least five years and completed one school year to apply for citizenship, as well as those who arrived in Italy under the age of ten and have lived continuously in Italy up to the age of 18 (and submit their statement of intent before they turn 19). 

This bill has yet to pass in Italy, however, so there are currently no such fast-tracks in place for foreign minors born outside of the country.

What about citizenship for the third generation?

Italy is particularly lenient when it comes to awarding citizenship to foreign citizens with Italian ancestry.

Anyone who can prove they had an Italian ancestor who was alive in 1861, when Italy became a nation, or since then, can become an Italian citizen via jus sanguinis (provided the ancestor in question did not renounce their citizenship).

And this leniency also extends to those who prefer to become citizens through naturalisation – if you had an Italian parent or grandparent, you just need three years of legal residency in the country to acquire citizenship in this way.