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BUREAUCRACY

How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

Italy's public administration is gradually moving more of its services online - but how do you access them securely? Your ID card and a smartphone might be the key.

How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online
Italy's public administration is slowly getting online. Photo: Anna Monaco/AFP

With so much of Italy’s administration under regional, provincial or municipal control, in your daily life here you’ll likely have to deal with a patchwork of different agencies.

Mercifully, more and more of them are giving the option to do basic bureaucracy online instead of schlepping round offices in person, whether it’s downloading a certificate of residence, logging into your social security account or paying your vehicle tax.

READ ALSO: How Italy just made it easier to access essential paperwork online

Previously, you might have been able to access these services by simply creating a username and password for each website. But the Italian government is on a push to standardise the way you log in.

It created an electronic ID system, SPID, that serves as a kind of digital passport – a secure personal login that works across multiple official websites.

The government mandated that all branches of public administration had to enable access via SPID from March 2021.

But what if you don’t want to go to the trouble of creating a SPID, which involves registering with a private provider, verifying your identity either in person or via webcam, and depending on which service you choose, may require a fee?

The good news is that you may already have everything you need for online admin. Here’s how to use your Italian ID card and your smartphone to log in.

What you’ll need

  • Electronic ID card (carta di identità elettronica – CIE)
  • PIN for your ID card
  • Smartphone

You’ll need a plastic ID card (not one of the paper ones), which all legal residents of Italy are entitled to apply for via their local anagrafe or registry office. Italian nationals can also apply from outside Italy at their nearest consulate. Find more information about how to apply here (in Italian).

Within the card is a microchip, which contains your personal details, photo and fingerprints in digital form.

An example of an Italian electronic ID card provided by the Interior Ministry.

When you apply for your CIE, you’ll be given a receipt with the first four digits of two important codes: your card’s PIN, which you’ll need in order to use it as a login device, and the PUK, which you’ll need to unblock it if you accidentally enter the wrong PIN too many times.

The final four digits of each code will arrive when your card is delivered to you around a week later.

READ ALSO: What is a SPID and how do you get one?

Keep hold of the receipts and/or make a note of both full eight-digit codes. If you no longer have your codes, you’ll have to request them in person from your anagrafe.

Assuming you have your CIE and PIN to hand, the next thing you’ll need is a smartphone equipped with NFC or “near-field communication”, which basically means it’s capable of sharing data contactlessly. Can you swipe your phone to pay for things? Congratulations, it’s NFC-equipped! (If you’re not sure, find a list of compatible models here.)

Using the CieID app

Until recently, the only way to access the microchip within your ID card was to plug it into a card reader and connect that to your computer. That’s still an option – but if you don’t own a card reader and don’t fancy buying one, there’s now a way to use your smartphone instead.

Download CieID (available for both Android and iOS), a free government app allows you use your smartphone to scan your ID card.

To register, open the app and select ‘Registra la tua carta’. You’ll be prompted to enter your eight-digit PIN and then scan your ID card by holding it firmly up to the back of your phone, towards the top (if you’re struggling to get your card to scan, trying rubbing it clean, placing it on a flat surface, or moving it slowly behind your phone until it connects). Keep it there for several seconds until the app says ‘Registrazione carta terminata con successo’ (‘registration successful’).

If your phone has a fingerprint scanner, it will give you the option to enable your print to identify yourself next time you use the app. Alternatively, you’ll just use the last four digits of your PIN from now on. 

READ ALSO: 

Now you’re registered, open the website you want to access, either on your computer or directly on your smartphone. Important: make sure you’re using Chrome, as for the moment it’s the only browser that CieID is compatible with.

Click ‘Entra con CIE’ (‘login with ID card’) and follow the instructions. If you’re on your phone, you’ll be automatically prompted to open the CieID app, identify yourself with your fingerprint or the last half of your PIN, scan your card, and authorise the use of your data.

Watch a demonstration here:

If you’re using a computer, click ‘Prosegui con smartphone’ (‘proceed with smartphone’) and enter your ID card’s serial number, a combination of nine letters and numbers starting ‘CA’ that you’ll find in the top right corner. 

That will bring up a QR code. On your phone, open the CieID app and select ‘Scansciona codice QR’, then scan the QR code with your phone.

You’ll be prompted to identify yourself on the app using either your fingerprint or the last half of your PIN, as well as scanning your ID card again. Once that’s completed, the app will generate a temporary four-digit code (OTP or “one-time password”) that you should type into your browser. 

Finally, you’ll be asked to authorise the website to access the personal data stored on your ID card. Click ‘Autorizza l’invio dei dati’ to consent and, once it’s processed, you should be logged in.

Watch a demonstration here:

Using the IO app

You can also use your ID card and PIN to log into IO, the government’s app for accessing public services as well as consumer bonuses like its cashback scheme.

READ ALSO: How to earn cashback from the government for shopping in Italy

Once you’ve downloaded and installed IO, open the app and choose ‘Entra con CIE’. You’ll be prompted to enter your eight-digit PIN, then hold your card to your phone to scan it and authorise the app to access the data stored on it.

What services can you access using your ID card?

It depends where in Italy you live and how tech-friendly your local authorities are.

Several Italian regions, including Lazio, Tuscany, Piedmont and Puglia, allow you to log into any of their online public services using your ID card, as do a number of individual municipalities. Some national agencies, including the tax office Agenzia delle Entrate, social security service INPS and drivers’ association ACI, have also enabled CIE access. Find a full list here.

Ultimately, the government wants all public administration websites to be accessible either by SPID or ID card. All of them have to enable these options by March.

There’ll be a transition period until September 30th 2021 during which you can continue to use your old credentials, but after that, SPID or ID card will be the only way to access public services online.

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For members

LIVING IN ITALY

Why the tabaccheria is essential to life in Italy – even if you don’t smoke

A cornerstone of Italian culture, the tabaccheria is used for much more than just buying cigarettes. From paying bills to purchasing bus tickets, here are just some of the services offered at the tobacconist's.

Why the tabaccheria is essential to life in Italy – even if you don’t smoke

Italy’s tabaccherie, or as they’re more informally known, tabaccai (tobacco shops) have long been a place for more than just purchasing cigarettes.

Their iconic emblem of a large T on a small rectangle, found in any Italian city, town and village, is associated with a place for locals to buy bus and metro tickets, pay their bills, or play the lottery.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues: 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

With the number of smokers gradually falling in Italy (despite the pandemic reportedly acting as a setback for many former smokers), these non-tobacco related sides of the tabaccaio have become even more important to tabaccai owners’ incomes. 

So what exactly can you do in a tabaccheria in Italy? 

Buy bus and metro tickets

Outside of a metro station, the tabaccaio is one of the few places where you can buy tickets for local public transport in Italy.

The vast majority of tabaccai sell these tickets, and you’ll pay no more than you would at the metro station – just ask the cashier for biglietti per i mezzi (public transport tickets).

Pay bills

If you’re daunted by the prospect of navigating your way around an Italian phone or utility company’s website and don’t fancy waiting in a long queue at the post office (the other in-person alternative) during its limited hours of operation to pay your bills, then the tabaccheria is for you.

Most utility bills, including gas, electricity, water, can be paid at a tabaccaio, as can phone bills. For larger sums, you’ll typically pay a surcharge of €1 or €2 that goes to the tobacconist for handling the payment – which many find is well worth the added convenience.

READ ALSO: Rising energy prices: How to save money on your bills in Italy

Just bring your bill with you and the tobacconist will handle the rest. Most tabaccai accept either cash or card for these payments.

The display counter at a tabaccheria in Rome.

The display counter at a tabaccheria in Rome. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

Pay fines and taxes

Much like bills, fines for things such as traffic violations and parking tickets can be paid at tabaccai. Social security (INPS) contributions, and some other government charges such as waste tax (tassa sui rifiuti) can also be paid here.

You can buy a marca da bollo, or tax stamp at many (but not all) tabaccai. As a foreigner in Italy applying for things like residency permits and work visas, you’ll quickly become familiar with this term, as a marca da bollo is required for most official government applications.

READ ALSO: Living in Italy: Six essential articles to read

Top up your phone credit

If you’re on a pay-as-you-go Italian phone contract, you can easily top up your credit at a tabaccheria by purchasing a scratch card. The cards come in values of €5, €10, €15, or €20.

If you’re on a fixed rate month-to-month contract of any amount, you can also top up your credit by telling the cashier your phone number and the sum you need to pay.

Play the lottery and place bets

Playing the lottery is a popular pastime in Italy, and if you want to try your luck by buying a lottery ticket, the tabaccaio is the place to head.

Some tabaccai also have slot machines, and some let you place sports bets. Betting in the totocalcio, the Italian football pools, is a particular favourite of Italian football fans.

A man casts his lottery ticket at a shop in Naples.

A man casts his lottery ticket at a shop in Naples. Photo by ROBERTA BASILE / AFP.

Buy tickets for sports games and concerts

If you want a ticket for the next Roma-Lazio derby, look no further than your local tabaccheria.

Tobacconists in Italy are licensed to sell tickets for football matches, as well as for certain concerts and other large-scale stadium events.

READ ALSO: 15 things you’ll probably never get used to about living in Italy

…Buy cigarettes and tobacco

It’s no secret that you can buy cigarettes and other tobacco products at a tabaccheria. In fact, it’s one of the only places in Italy where you can buy them, as (along with lottery tickets, stamps and tax stamps) these are state-controlled goods that require a special license to sell.

Oddly enough, salt also used to fall under this restricted category – which is while you’ll sometimes still see old signs outside tobacco shops advertising sali e tabacchi: salt and tobacco.

Buy other odds and ends

Of course, cigarettes and lotto cards aren’t the only items on offer at your average tabaccheria.

The range of products sold at an Italian tobacconist usually includes postage stamps, postcards, and greetings cards; stationery, magazines, tissues and playing cards; and chewing gum, crisps, chocolate, and other snacks and bottled drinks.

You’ll also often find small trinkets and souvenirs, such as keychains, jewellery, and children’s toys.

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