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What's the deal with passport stamping in Italy?

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected]
What's the deal with passport stamping in Italy?
What are the rules on passport stamping at the Italian border? Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

There are clear guidelines in place about who should have their passport stamped when they enter or leave Italy - but the letter of the law doesn't always seem to be applied on the ground. Here's what you need to know.

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When you pass through an Italian border control post, officers will check your passport and - in some cases - stamp the date of your entry or exit of the country onto one of the blank pages in the booklet.

Although the system should be clear and simple, it becomes complicated when conflicting information is given on the ground.

Here's what the rules say, and whether it's really a problem if your passport is incorrectly stamped.

Who should be stamped?

The purpose of the date stamps for entry and exit is to calculate how long you have been in Italy, and therefore whether you have overstayed your allowed time - whether that is the time allowed by a short-stay Schengen visa or the visa-free 90-day allowance that certain non-EU nationals benefit from. 

Those people who are exempt from 90-day restrictions should therefore not have their passports stamped.

EU passport - people who have an EU passport should not have it stamped, because they have the right to unlimited stays due to EU freedom of movement.

Dual nationals - people who have passports of both EU and non-EU countries should not be stamped when they are travelling on their EU passport. However, because the passports of dual nationals are not 'linked', those travelling on their non-EU passports will be stamped, unless they have other proof of residency.

READ ALSO: Can I use my Italian carta d'identità for travel?

Italian residents - the passports of non-EU citizens who have a residency permit in Italy (carta di soggiorno) should not be stamped, because they have the right to stay in Italy for as long as their permit is valid. The passports of UK citizens covered under the Brexit withdrawal agreement should also not be stamped provided they can show some kind of official proof of pre-Brexit Italian residency; in practice, this is often ignored by border agents (see below).

Visa holders - people who have a long-stay visa or a short-stay visitor visa should not be stamped, because they have the right to stay in Italy for as long as their visa is valid. 

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Tourists/visitors - people making short visits to Italy who do not have a visa should be stamped, with the stamps keeping track of their 90-day allowance. Visitors from nationalities who do not benefit from the 90-day rule (e.g. Indians) are also stamped.

Most tourists and visitors travelling to Italy will have their passports stamped. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Travel practicalities

When crossing an Italian border, you should present your passport along with other documents - visa or carta di soggiorno - if relevant. Don't wait for border guards to ask whether you are a resident.

It should be noted that as a non-EU national, neither your carta d'identità Italian ID card nor your carta di soggiorno are travel documents and they cannot be used to cross borders, not even internal Schengen zone borders. The only valid travel document for a non-EU/EEA citizen entering Italy is a passport. Any other forms of ID - driving licence, residency card etc - cannot be used for travel purposes.

Border problems

While the rules on stamping are simple in theory, many readers of The Local have reported having their passports incorrectly stamped at the border, particularly UK citizens who have been legally resident in Italy since before Brexit and have the right to permanent residency under the withdrawal agreement.

READ ALSO: What to do if you lose your passport while travelling in Italy

Travellers are also often given incorrect information by border guards - for example being told that only holders of the post-Brexit carta di soggiorno elettronica, or post-Brexit residency card, are exempt from stamping, that all non-EU nationals must have their passports stamped, or that only being married to a Italian national exempts you from stamping.

None of these are correct, and Italy is one of a handful of “declaratory” countries in the EU where getting a post-Brexit residency card was optional, rather than compulsory.

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In practice, the British government has long recommended that British nationals who were resident in Italy before Brexit should obtain the card as it's the easiest way to prove residency rights and avoid delays at the border.

It's also sometimes the case that people whose passports should be stamped - tourists, visitors and second-home owners who don't have a visa - do not receive the stamp. For frequent visitors this can be a problem because it looks as though they have had a long stay in Italy, due to their exit not being recorded.

The system of stamping itself is also a bit haphazard with stamps scattered throughout the passport book in random order, so border guards sometimes make mistakes and miss an entry or exit stamp and therefore think that people have overstayed when they haven't.

So how much of a problem actually is it if your passport is wrongly stamped?

It's one thing to know the rules yourself, it's quite another to have an argument with a border guard, in Italian, when a long queue is building behind you. Numerous Local readers have reported feeling that they had no choice but to accept a stamp when an implacable guard insisted upon it.

But is this really a problem?

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One thing is clear - if you are a resident of Italy then you have the right to re-enter, and your proof of residency (visa or carta di soggiorno) takes precedence over any passport stamps. So it's not a question of being barred from the country - it can, however, be inconvenient as it might lead to delays at the border while your passport record is queried.

Meanwhile people who did not receive correct exit stamps can be incorrectly told that they have over-stayed and even be liable for a fine. 

Will the new EES passport control system improve this?

Theoretically, the EU's new Entry & Exit System - which does away with the manual stamping of passports - should get rid of these problems.

However, as we have seen, theory and what actually happens on the ground are two different things.

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

The EES system, due to come into effect later this year, brings in two main changes: it makes passport checks more secure by adding biometric data such as fingerprints and facial scans, and it does away with manual stamping of passports and replaces it with scans which automatically calculate how long people have been in Italy.

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You can read full details of how it works HERE

So that should eliminate the problems of unclear stamps, stamps being read wrongly or passports not getting the stamps they need.

Residents of Italy - carta di soggiorno and visa holders - are not required to complete EES checks and should have a separate system at ports, airports and railway terminals.

However, at present it's pretty common for border guards to give incorrect information to non-EU residents who are resident in the EU - let's hope that they are properly briefed before EES is deployed.

Have you had problems with passports being incorrectly stamped? Please share your experiences in the comments section below

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Comments (2)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Patricia Richards 2024/05/21 18:37
My passport was stamped although I was holding my plastic carta d’identità. The border guards were having a conversation and my passport was stamped during the conversation. I am a long term Italian resident.
David Prince 2024/05/21 13:45
Holding an Italian resident permit but a uk passport, what is the situation, re passport not/being stamped, if I re-enter Schengen from England, by road, at Calais enroute home to Italy whilst driving my Italian registered car. Am I correct in thinking that my passport shouldn't be stamped provided I also show my Italian residents permit. I've previously had it stamped and when I asked why he simply said "Artical 50" which I knew was rubbish but I couldn't be bothered to argue with him!!

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