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DRIVING

Why Italy’s new security decree could be a headache for foreign drivers

If you brought your car with you when you moved to Italy, new rules mean you'll have to swap your foreign plates or face a hefty fine.

Why Italy's new security decree could be a headache for foreign drivers
Don't fall foul of the traffic police: make sure your car meets Italy's new requirements. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

When the Italian government passed a package of law-and-order reforms last month, most of the spotlight was on changes that make it harder for asylum seekers and refugees to find protection in Italy.

But the so-called security decree, the brainchild of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, also has consequences for less vulnerable foreigners in Italy. 

FOR MEMBERS: What Italy's new laws mean for your citizenship application

The Local has already looked at how the new laws affect people applying for Italian citizenship via ancestry or marriage

Here we'll look into another aspect of the decree that's a potential headache for international residents: changes to the rules about driving a foreign vehicle in Italy.

What's changed?

The new law cracks down on vehicles registered abroad being driven in Italy. 

Until now cars with foreign licence plates were allowed to be on the road for up to one year, provided they weren't in the country for more than six months out of 12. But a new clause in the Highway Code now states:

“It is forbidden for anyone who has resided in Italy for more than 60 days to drive a vehicle registered abroad.”

In other words, if you bring your car to Italy with you when you move, you now have just two months (starting from the time you declare residency) to get it registered here.

Who do the rules apply to?

Everyone, whether you're a foreign national or an Italian citizen. As well as targeting foreigners who haven't got their paperwork in order, another aim is to crack down on Italians who drive cars registered abroad in order to avoid paying tax, save on insurance bills or escape fines for bad driving.

The same rules apply whether the vehicle is registered in another EU country or further afield: unless the plates are Italian, they need to be swapped.


Photo: DepositPhotos

What if I drive a company car?

The new rules make an exception for vehicles loaned or leased from companies outside Italy but within the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

In that case, you'll need to carry documents with you to certify who the car belongs to and how long you're authorized to use it for. If you're found driving without paperwork, you're liable to be fined between €250 to €1,000 and asked to produce the documents required within 30 days.

What happens if I don't do anything?

Any resident found driving a foreign-registered car illegally faces a fine of anywhere between €712 and €2,848. You'll be ordered to keep your vehicle off the road, and if you don't begin the process of registering it in Italy within 180 days, the authorities can seize it from you.

Don't believe they'll really do anything? Since the laws came into effect in December, the first stops have already been made: police in Milan last week flagged down and fined the driver of a Romanian-registered vehicle, the Corriere della Sera reports.

So what should I do?

If you'll be driving in Italy long term, you'll need to register your vehicle with both the Motorizzazione Civile (Motor Vehicles Office) and the Pubblico Registro Automobilistico (Public Vehicle Registry).

Only legal residents can do so, so first get your permesso di soggiorno (residence permit) or, if you're an EU citizen, your certificato di residenza (proof of residence). You'll also need your codice fiscale (personal tax code). 

FOR MEMBERS: How to beat (or just survive) bureaucracy in Italy: the essential pieces of Italian paperwork


Photo: DepositPhotos

The next step is to inform the licensing authority in your home country that you'll no longer be using your car there. You'll have to show the Italian authorities official proof of (de)registration, as well as proof that you own the car.

Then you'll need to prove that your vehicle is suitable to be driven in Italy. Ask the manufacturer or a licensed dealer for an official description of its technical specifications, then take it to a mechanic for a roadworthiness test. If it meets Italian road standards, you'll be issued a certificate of conformity.

Take all those documents – translated into Italian – to your local Motorizzazione Civile office. If everything's in order they'll issue you Italian licence plates and a carta di circolazione (registration certificate), which you should carry with you at all times. Then within 60 days you need to enter your vehicle into the public registry, maintained by the Automobile Club d'Italia (ACI).

Or, if you're importing your car from an EU country, you can use the ACI's handy Sportelli Telematici dell'Automobilista (STA) service, a one-stop shop for registering your vehicle and obtaining Italian licence plates.

For more information about how to register an imported vehicle and what fees you can expect to pay, see the ACI's guidelines (in Italian).

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy's new petrol pump labels


Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Sound like a lot of work to hold on to your beat-up Fiesta? The new rules might make you decide it's simpler to buy a car in Italy instead, where a dealer can help walk you through the paperwork.

Either way, once you're registered you'll need to pay the compulsory road tax (bollo) and arrange car insurance (assicurazione auto) that includes third-party liability (responsabilità civile). And once your car's more than four years old, be prepared to visit a mechanic every two years for a mandatory road worthiness test (revisione).

Do I need a new driving licence too?

No. The new rules don't affect who can drive in Italy, only what they drive. 

The existing requirements still apply, namely: an EU driving licence allows you to drive in any member state. If you got your licence elsewhere in the world, you either need to provide an official translation or get an International Driving Permit (valid for one year, it's essentially a recognized translation of your permit into multiple languages). And if you're a non-EU national living in Italy, you'll need to convert your licence to an Italian one within one year of moving there.

FOR MEMBERS: 'Expect the unexpected': What you need to know about driving in Italy


Photo: DepositPhotos

BREXIT

Q&A: What to know about the Italy-UK driving licence agreement

After the UK and Italy announced a deal meaning British residents can swap their driving licences in 2023, The Local answers your questions about how the process will work.

Q&A: What to know about the Italy-UK driving licence agreement

Following the British Embassy in Rome’s announcement on December 23rd that that the UK and Italian governments had signed a long-term agreement on the issue of driving licences post-Brexit, the British government has now published some further details about the deal in guidance published in an update to its ‘Living in Italy’ web page.

Once it comes into force, the agreement means residents in Italy will be able to exchange their UK-issued licence for an Italian one “without the need to take a test”, the British government confirmed.

READ ALSO: UK and Italy sign long-term agreement on driving licences

British ambassador to Rome Ed Llewellyn said the long-term agreement would come into force in “early 2023”, though no specific date has yet been confirmed.

The UK government also confirmed that the grace period had also been extended again to allow holders of UK licences to continue driving in Italy – which means you won’t need to take any action just yet.

In the meantime, we’ve received a number of questions at The Local from readers wondering how the rules might apply once in force.

Here are some of those questions answered based on the British government’s latest guidance.

Who will be able to exchange their licence?

The guidance states that the agreement “will apply to all holders of a valid UK licence provided that they have been resident in Italy for less than six years at the time of application for exchange,” but added: “UK licence holders who acquired residence in Italy on or before 31 December 2020 may exchange their licence even if they have been resident in Italy for more than six years.”

When should I start the exchange process?

It’s not clear when this will be possible yet – but UK licences will remain valid in Italy until the end of 2023.

As the government’s guidance says: “You can’t exchange your licence yet, as the agreement will need to enter into force.”

“We will provide an update on these proceedings in due course. In the meantime, we are pleased to announce that current arrangements on driving in Italy for those holding a UK licence remain in place. Valid UK driving licences held by those who are resident in Italy by 31 December 2022 will be recognised until 31 December 2023.”

What will the process involve?

Full details should come once the UK-Italy bilateral agreement come into force, but for now the requirements for conversion of licences from other countries which have similar agreements with Italy may give an idea of what you’ll need to do.

The Italian Ministry of Transport’s website states that applications must be made at your local Ufficio di Motorizazzione Civile (find yours here), and requirements currently include completing a form, paying a €32 fee, handing over your original licence, and providing copies of your Italian tax code and ID.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

Italian police officers setting up a roadblock

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Can all categories of driving licence be exchanged?

It looks like the deal covers most types of licence, but we’ll need to wait for confirmation for each category.

“Tables of equivalence have been included in the agreement and the majority of categories will be able to be carried over to an Italian licence,” the guidance reads.

Will I have to give up my UK licence?

If you were hoping to keep hold of your UK driving licence as well as getting a new Italian one, it seems you’re out of luck.

“It is not possible to hold licences issued by the UK and Italy at the same time,” the UK government’s guidance states.

“If you live in Italy, you can drive on your UK licence for the first twelve months of living here, during which time you must obtain an Italian licence,” it adds.

“If you return to live in the UK at any point, you will be able to exchange your Italian licence for a UK one without taking a test.”

If I previously swapped my Italian licence for a British one, can I now switch back?

It looks as if this will be possible once the deal comes into force, as the guidance says:

“You will be able to exchange your licence to an Italian one provided that the country where your licence was first issued has an agreement or understanding with Italy on licence exchange.”

See the UK government’s latest guidance on the deal in full here and find more information on their official Living in Italy page.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. For further information, we recommend speaking to your local Ufficio di Motorizazzione Civile in Italy. 

We will update this page with further information once it becomes available. Find our latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

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