If you’ve ever found yourself queuing outside a government office to file some basic paperwork and wished there was a way to save yourself the trip, there’s good news: some public services in Italy are available online.
Italy has long lagged behind other European countries when it comes to sending bureaucracy digital: in 2019, just 23 percent of people in Italy used the internet to interact with public authorities compared to the EU average of 53 percent, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat, while a mere 14 percent submitted a completed official form online, putting Italy roughly on a par with Serbia, Croatia or Bulgaria.
But efforts are underway to reform. Since 2016, Italy has had an electronic ID system that allows residents to access public services online – though some local authorities have proved slower than others at making them accessible.
Italy’s e-ID is called SPID, the Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale or ‘Public Digital Identity System’.
Here’s what you need to know about it.
What is a SPID?
For individuals, your SPID credentials are a single username and password that you can use to access Italian government services online, without having to go to an agency in person or show physical ID.
It substitutes other forms of electronic ID such as the chip-and-pin National Services Card (CNS), Regional Services Card (CRS) or Electronic ID Card (CIE), which also allow you to login but require you either to have a card reader that you can plug into your computer, or a smartphone plus a government app that allows you to scan your card’s microchip. Find out more about that option here.
An example of an Italian electronic ID card provided by the Interior Ministry.
Why do you need a SPID?
By April 2019 around 4 million people had requested a SPID, a small fraction of the total number who use public services in Italy.
Given the slow pace of digital reform in Italy, there’s no danger of public services going online-only anytime soon. You’ll still be able to access them the traditional way – in person.
But for those who prefer to use the internet, the government is seeking to make the SPID the standard way of doing official admin digitally from 2021, either via the web or its IO public services app.
Certain services have already phased out other forms of login, with a SPID now required to file online requests with your nearest Immigration Desk (Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione – SUI), or submit an application for Italian citizenship via the Interior Ministry’s website.
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In a so-called ‘Simplification Decree’ issued earlier this year as part of plans for post-pandemic reform, the government said all branches of public administration would have to enable access via SPID from March next year.
There’ll be a transition period until September 30th 2021 during which you can continue to use your old credentials, but after that it will only be possible to access public services online using either a SPID or a CIE plus card reader/smartphone app.
Who can get a SPID?
Any adult living in Italy can request a SPID, so long as they have a codice fiscale (tax code) and a valid Italian ID card.
All Italian citizens can request one whether they’re resident in Italy or not.
You must be 18 or older to create a SPID.
Business owners can request a SPID to use for their company (in the name of a legal representative), while there’s also a ‘SPID for professional use’ that employees or freelance professionals can hold for work purposes separately from their personal SPID. Find more information here.
How do you get a SPID?
It’s not as simple as choosing your username and setting a password. To try and prevent identity theft, getting your SPID involves a verification process that you may be able to complete online or that might require a trip to an office in person.
The first step is to choose a provider, since the SPID isn’t managed by the Italian government but provided by accredited private companies.
There are currently nine approved providers, including the Poste Italiane: find a full list here.
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
Once you’ve chosen a provider, go to their website and get started by entering your details and generating your login.
Then you’ll have to confirm your identity using government-issued ID and either a certified digital signature, a card reader or app, by completing a short interview via webcam or in person. The exact procedure varies by provider.
Requesting your SPID is free: every provider offers at least one basic way to do it without payment, but they may charge for certain options such as verification by webcam.
What documents do you need?
You’ll need a few basics:
- an email address;
- a mobile phone number;
- a valid identity document (e.g. ID card, passport, driving license)
- either a tessera sanitaria (health card) or a codice fiscale card.
The final document is required to provide proof of your codice fiscale. According to the the Agency for Digital Italy (AgID), which is responsible for managing the electronic ID system, if you live in Italy you’ll need to show a tessera sanitaria, which logs your codice fiscale, while if you’re an Italian citizen applying from overseas you can just show your codice fiscale card itself.
If you live in Italy but don’t have an in-date tessera sanitaria, for example because it has expired or you’re not registered with the national health service, you may run into complications. Ask different providers exactly what documents they’ll accept before you apply.
How do you use your SPID?
On their websites you’ll find the option ‘Entra con SPID‘ (‘login with SPID’), which will prompt you to enter your credentials.
Depending on the service and how much security is required, you may also be asked for a randomly generated code either sent to your phone or generated by an authenticator app, or prompted to put your CIE in a card reader and enter its PIN.
Find more information about the SPID on the Agency for Digital Italy’s website.