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Carta d'identità: Can I use my Italian ID card for travel?

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected]
Carta d'identità: Can I use my Italian ID card for travel?
Travel within the Schengen zone may still require a passport. Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP.

The carta d'identità is an official identification document attesting to your status as an Italy resident - but can it be used as a travel document?

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Travel within the EU's Schengen zone is usually a fairly slick business with reduced or no checks as you cross borders - but that doesn't mean that you can leave your passport at home.

So integrated is the Schengen Area that if you're travelling by car or train you may not even notice that you've crossed a border and entered another country until you start to see signs in a different language - and that's the intention of the zone of free movement, created in 1995.

But while EU/EEA citizens can move freely within the zone, it's a different story for non-EU/EEA citizens.

The rules

Borders between countries in the EU/Schengen area still exist and in order to cross an international border you will need a valid travel document - for EU citizens this can be a national ID card (issued by their own country), but for non-EU citizens that means a passport.

Although both Italian citizens and foreign residents of Italy are issued with a carta d'identità, if you look at the small print on your card as a non-Italian citizen, you'll notice that it says 'non valida per l’espatrio', meaning 'not valid for travel outside Italy'.

READ ALSO: How will the new app for Europe's EES border system work?

If you try to cross a border without a valid passport you can be turned back.

While the carta d'identità is your Italian ID document, it doesn't act as proof of your right to live in Italy and to re-enter the country in the way that a carta di soggiorno, or residency permit card, does.

Passengers wait to board a Ryanair flight at Treviso's Antonio Canova airport on March 17, 2024. Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP.

It's a good idea, then, to always have the latter with you when travelling abroad. If you travel without it, you may have your passport stamped as a visitor when you re-enter Italy.

READ ALSO: Can you travel abroad while waiting for an Italian residency permit renewal?

In theory, UK citizens who were legally resident in Italy before Brexit are not required to apply for the carta di soggiorno elettronica provided they can provide alternative proof of their status; in practice, many Brits report having their passports stamped when trying to re-enter Italy without one.

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If your passport is stamped in error this may cause delays and questions when you next cross a border, but you cannot be penalised or denied entry provided you can show a valid carta di soggiorno.

On the ground 

As is often the case, there's a difference between what the rule book says and what happens on the ground, and this is particularly apparent for travel within the Schengen area.

In practice, it's common to cross a border with no checks at all - although things tend to be stricter if you are travelling by plane.

Cars and trains often pass through with no checks, or with checks when guards will happily accept a carta d'identità or even a carta di soggiorno.

However checks do happen - sometimes this is in response to a security alert, for example after a terror attack, but sometimes it's random or when the border police are training their new recruits. We regret to say that there is often an element of racial profiling, so travellers of colour are more likely to be asked to produce their travel documents.

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Cars can be pulled over at border checkpoints while if you're travelling by train, police will often board the train close to the border and check passengers.

If you are asked, you will need to show your passport - so don't forget to take it with you when travelling within the EU and Schengen zone.

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Comments (3)

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Rossana Dowsett 2024/05/22 09:14
i have dual nationality but am non-resident. I have an ID card but was told at Bologna airport that as I was not born in Italy, it cannot be used for entering Italy (in lieui of a passport).
Michelle 2024/05/21 07:56
I just wanted to point out that even when we were EU citizens, I.e. before the Brexit debacle, our carta d’identità stated ‘non valido per l’espatria’ because we were foreign residents in Italy, not Italian citizens. This has therefore not changed. As I understand it, what has changed is that Italian citizens can no longer use their carta d’identità to travel to the UK as a passport is now required with the UK being ‘extra-comunitaria’.
  • Elaine Allaby 2024/05/22 12:17
    Thanks Michelle - the article has been updated to reflect this.
Mike Weber 2024/05/20 10:38
Can a non-EU citizen use an expired elective permesso di soggiorno if I can show the receipt documenting the submission of a renewal application and the letter setting the interview appointment at the Questura?
  • Clare Speak 2024/05/20 11:31
    Hi, in general you should be able to use the receipt alongside your passport as a supporting document to prove your residency in Italy. However, some readers have been told that they shouldn't do this with the elective residency permit, so we'd recommend checking with your Questura before you travel. Here's a recent article on that topic: https://www.thelocal.it/20231205/can-you-travel-abroad-while-waiting-for-an-italian-residency-permit-renewa

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