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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

What you need to know about Italy’s language test for citizenship

Planning to apply for Italian citizenship? A new language test was introduced for some applicants in 2018. Here's what you need to know about taking it - and adding your certification to the pile of required documents.

What you need to know about Italy's language test for citizenship
Photo: Unsplash/CraftedbyGC

Changes to Italian law in December 2018 mean that anyone applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence (but not ancestry) must now prove they speak the Italian language to B1 level or higher.

A B1 level certification is ‘intermediate’ level and means you are proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).

If you’re already living and working in Italy it’s likely that you’ll speak the language at this level or higher already and the test will be nothing to worry about. However, for the citizenship application the government wants official proof of your skills.

 
How and where do I get the certificate?

For the citizenship application, your B1 level certificate must come from an educational institution approved by the Italian Education Ministry (“MIUR”) or Foreign Ministry (“MAECI”).

That means you’ll need to be certified by one of the following four institutions::

  • CILS – The University of Siena for foreigners
  • CELI – The University of Perugia for foreigners 
  • PLIDA – The Dante Alighieri Association 
  • CERT – The University of Rome 3
These certificates can be used for other purposes too, including when applying for jobs or studies (though many unversity courses may demand a higher level certificate.)
 

If you need to study for the test, many language schools offer preparation courses for the B1 certification. Online courses are also available. These schools will generally then help arrange for you to sit the exam.

 

Typically, the test takes several hours, depending on the institution and your familiarity with the materials.

The exam may need to be booked months ahead of time, and there are fees involved. For example, the CILS exam currently costs €100, payable to the University of Siena, plus any additional fees required by your own language school.

It is also possible to take a shorter ‘B1 Cittadinanza’ exam – the difference being that this certifcate can only be used for your citizenship application and not for other purposes.

And, though it is shorter, it may not actually be easier to pass; if you fail on one section you will have to retake the entire test (as opposed to just retaking that section under the standard B1 level tests listed above.)

However if you’re fairly confident of passing and don’t need it for anything else, it may be a more convenient option. Anyone planning to take the test soon should note that language schools may adjust testing procedures due to pandemic-related rules and restrictions.

Once I’ve passed the exam, then what?

Passing the exam will feel good, but you’ve still got some admin to do. Plus, the certificate will usually take around three months to arrive. This does at least give you time to gather the other documents which you’ll need as part of your application, which will vary depending on your route to citizenship.

Many who have been through the process recommend taking the language test as your first step because other documents, such as copies of your marriage certificate, will only be valid for six months from the date of issue while your language certificate will not have an expiry date.

All the documents will need to be scanned and uploaded to the Italian Interior Ministry’s web portal, known as ALI.

To do so you’ll need to register an account at: https://cittadinanza.dlci.interno.it and then submit your application form as well as all the required supporting documents, including your B1 certificate.

Speak to your consulate or see the Interior Ministry’s website (in Italian) for the latest information on the process and requirements when applying for citizenship.

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For members

BUREAUCRACY

EXPLAINED: What’s an ISEE and when will you need one in Italy?

There are plenty of Italian acronyms new residents need to be familiar with, and this may be one of the most important. Here’s what it means and why you’ll need it.

EXPLAINED: What’s an ISEE and when will you need one in Italy?

Long-term Italian residents might be already familiar with the ISEE, but to others it’s no more than a mysterious-sounding acronym seen in reports about Italy’s many government ‘bonuses’ and subsidies.

ISEE stands for ‘Indicatore della Situazione Economica Equivalente’, which roughly translates into English as Equivalent Financial Position Indicator.

In typically Italian fashion though, the full name is likely to leave you just as puzzled as the acronym.

Basically the ISEE is a parameter used by Italy’s government and public administration to gauge the overall economic situation of a household. 

It takes a variety of factors into account, though it is for the most part based on the ages, annual income, assets and any physical disabilities of the members of a household. 

You could think of the ISEE as a sort of ‘financial ID card’, which states your household’s level of wealth and financial security.  

READ ALSO: How foreign nationals can apply for an Italian ID card

Sooner or later, all Italian residents end up crossing paths with the ISEE, usually when accessing means-tested government financial subsidies.

For instance, recently-extended discounts on gas and electricity bills can only be claimed by households with an ISEE of up to 12,000 euros. 

ISEE thresholds are also set for Italy’s universal single allowance, nursery bonus and most exemptions in the public healthcare system.

However, a household’s ISEE status is not automatically calculated by the Italian public administration. So those looking to access a state subsidy must go about claiming their own ISEE certificate independently. 

How do get your ISEE certificate?

It may not come as a surprise to hear that getting an ISEE certificate isn’t nearly as straightforward as it should be.

For this reason, even Italian nationals tend to need the help of private professionals. 

Claiming the certificate revolves around completing the ‘Dichiarazione Unica Sostitutiva’ (Single replacement declaration, or DSU); a form asking claimants about their income, assets and size of their household.

Customer speaking with employee in a tax office in Italy

The ISEE system takes into account a variety of factors, including the age, annual income and assets of any given household member. Photo by Andreas SOLARO

You can complete this form yourself, or have your commercialista (accountant) or another professional do this for you.

INPS recently launched a new online service allowing residents can ask to receive a pre-filled DSU form – some questions are automatically answered based on records held by INPS and the Agenzia delle Entrate – and then proceed to complete the document by themselves. 

Once completed, the form must be submitted either to your local Centro di Assistenza Fiscale (Fiscal Support Centre, CAF) or via the National Social Insurance Agency’s (INPS) website.

A DSU form can be submitted either to your local Fiscal Support Centre (CAF) or via the National Social Insurance Agency’s (INPS) website.
 
More Italian bureaucracy:

It can be submitted at any time of year, with the resulting ISEE certificate valid until the end of that same year.

The ISEE certificate is usually available within 10 days of submitting the form, though there might be delays if the info given through the DSU doesn’t match the records kept by the Agenzia delle Entrate (Revenue Agency) and INPS. 

Once the certificate is ready, residents can choose to either have it delivered online in downloadable format or pick it up in person. 

The following INPS web page allows users to work out whether or not they might be eligible to claim certain state subsidies by ‘unofficially’ calculating their ISEE status.

Further info about how to get an ISEE certificate is available on the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Politics’ website (in Italian only).

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