Becoming an Expat in Italy? The Devil is in the Details.

When you take the steps to becoming an expat in Italy you’ll soon learn that there is a good bit of bureaucracy, which requires standing in line, quite often, and developing advanced skills in patience. Italians take their paperwork and processes seriously, and if you’re American, like me, you may be scratching your head in wonderment at all involved in the simplest of tasks. You may find yourself just wanting to “get it done”, but I encourage you to slow down and make sure, when you are getting things like your permesso di soggiorno, your carta d’identità, your driver’s license, etc., all your personal information lines up. If not, your journey to becoming an expat in Italy may be a bit painful.

I’m writing this post to spare you, hopefully, some of the difficulty I’m now encountering with my driver’s license, and my car registration. And, it’s all because of a missing suffix. So, if your passport includes Sr., Jr., II, III, be certain it doesn’t get missed in the process of having your documents issued. Suffixes truly are a odd thing here in Italy (as are middle names, as general rule). In my case, when my first residency card was issued the suffix of my name was dropped. Since the suffix isn’t actually part of my last name, but a way to distinguish me from my father, I didn’t think it would be such a big deal. It turned out to be a big deal, and I’m kicking myself for not checking closer and insisting on its inclusion.

The domino effect of missing details…

The good news is that I was able to get my residency details updated to reflect my name exactly as it reads on my passport. We called the comune office and explained the mistake, and they looked up the documentation I had provided at their office, including my passport and my permesso di soggiorno which DID have my full  name, including the suffix. Realizing their mistake, they changed my name in the system, and I was able to move my residency without issue (we moved our home base to Veneto last year).

But, the other necessities of being an expat in Italy involve buying and registering a car, and getting an Italian driver’s license (an adventure all its own – read my posts to learn more). And, guess what? My car registration and my driver’s license were modeled after my first residency card, without the suffix.

The problem came when I moved my residency north. I marveled that I had been able to get the suffix added successfully to my residency files, but when the comune here sought to move my car registration and license, everything came to screeching halt.

As an expat in Italy, your name has to align EXACTLY across all of your documents.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a suffix doesn’t matter. It does, as I am now learning. It IS currently being corrected on my car registration and driver’s license, but it’s costing me 190 euro, and several trips and calls to the local comune and the local auto agency. I couldn’t do anything until I received an official letter (with an official stamp) from my previous comune attesting that they had corrected my name.

Now, the other biggie for becoming an expat in Italy…

Your place of birth must appear consistently.

And, be prepared with documentation to back this up if things go awry. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have a single problem in this regard. But, I have friends who did run into a snag when they wanted to transfer their driver’s licenses from another EU country to Italy (they had resided there previously).

It’s a little confusing since some applications ask for “place” of birth, and other ask for “city” of birth. In the cases of not having three places to fill in city, state, and country, I’ve entered my state and country of birth. But, on my identity card, it lists my city.

So, my advice is to ask, each time, to be sure you’re providing the level of information they’re requesting. Otherwise, your application can hit a snag, as did for my friends.

Getting it fixed can be a headache, depending on with whom you are working. My friends went to one auto agency who told them it couldn’t be fixed, yet they persevered and found an agency willing to do the work on their behalf to make it happen successfully.

Be vigilant in paying attention to the details and all will be fine.

It’s easy, in my experience, to be a little afraid to ask questions when something doesn’t seem to have been done correctly. Processes can be confusing. Politely ask, if your details don’t appear correctly, and insist they be corrected, with equal politeness. After all, mistakes do happen everywhere in the world. But, in securing your status an expat in Italy, don’t let the accuracy of your personal data slide in the slightest, otherwise you could find yourself trying to untangle a mess!





About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Robert Crivellone July 12, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed,
    Thanks for the useful information!
    I’m planning to permanently move to Bordeghera in about 4 years for my retirement. I have dual citizenship with Ireland and USA currently,but I’m trying to get Italian citizenship through my grandfather. From your experience do you think that is a worthwhile effort?
    So great to get info from you, I already learned about the novice driver being required to have a less powerful car. I never would have known.
    Robert Crivellone
    PS: I love your paintings

    • Jed July 12, 2017 at 11:34 pm - Reply

      Hi Robert, You’re so kind to write. And, I’m so glad you like my paintings. I’m hard at work on yet another (soon to be unveiled). You situation, with dual citizenship with the Republic of Ireland, is one I haven’t come across yet. I’ll be making my citizenship application in less than two years, which will be fairly easy because of my civil union to an Italian. I’ve heard that getting citizenship through one’s lineage can be a bit tedious. One friend has been working on this for over two years. The good news is, in your case, you already are a citizen of the EU through Ireland. My understanding is that this allows you freedom of movement with the EU, and you can apply/register for Italian residency based on that. But, my understanding is, if you want to get Italian citizenship, you may have to give up your Irish citizenship. In other words, I don’t think the US or Italy allows for more than dual citizenship.
      If you plan to reside permanently in Italy, then it seems to make a lot of sense to have the Italian citizenship. But, your Irish citizenship can pave the way for your living here while you go through the process of getting your Italian citizenship – and not have to deal with the headache of getting the visa, like so many Americans have to do, in order to live in Italy.
      I don’t know how and when it works with having to relinquish your Irish citizenship, in order to have the Italian passport.
      Please keep me posted on what path you take and how it all work out. This would help educate me, so I can, in turn, help advise other people.
      One more thing, which could be a big bonus from having your Irish citizenship – getting your driver’s license. If you already have a driver’s license in Ireland, then you’re golden, because it can be transferred to Italy without having to take the test or being designated as a novice driver. If you don’t have an Irish driver’s license, I’d explore getting one there. If you have the opportunity to take a driver’s exam in English, then take it. Otherwise, if you plan to drive in Italy, you’re in for an adventure, and taking the exam in Italian can be intimidating!
      You have an exciting journey ahead. In bocca al lupo! Jed

      • Robert Crivellone July 13, 2017 at 5:36 pm - Reply

        Hi Jed- Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response.
        It’s a great idea to get the drivers license in Ireland, it must be intimidating to take the test in Italian. I’m depending on Manu to make Italy easy by teaching me to speak Italian. Even if I’m fluent by the time I arrive it would be challenging to pass the driving test.
        I will keep you informed as to the dual citizenship swap, I’d be thrilled to exchange Irish for Italian.
        Keep sharing your art!
        Thanks again,

        • Jed July 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm - Reply

          You’re most welcome, Robert. You have an exciting time ahead, and I look forward to hearing from you and staying in touch as the time grows nigh. Best, Jed

  2. Mallory Olson July 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great advise! All information helps!

    We plan to try to live in Italy for 6 months and in USA 6 months upon retirement. ( three years) Your place in Umbria sounded fantastic. I am totally envious. We visit Spello for at least a week each year. And live that area. But the slower beauracracy in Umbria is a bit daunting. Enjoy Veneto. Such a change from Umbria! We visit there too– I really like Treviso and Udine. Enjoyed the blog on Treviso.

    • Jed July 12, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Mallory, Thanks so much for writing. Sounds as though you have a nice “hybrid” plan. I was just in Spello a few weeks ago. It’s such a lovely town, and often missed in the shadow of Assisi. I’m delighted you know Treviso. It’s a beautiful town – just the right size for us, and so close to all that happens in Venice. We’ve learned the art of steering clear (mostly) the main tourists routes. And, thankfully Treviso and Veneto run much more efficiently and expeditiously than Umbria. But, the beauty of Umbria is hard to beat!

  3. Yasmin July 12, 2017 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    My son is a “Jr.” The Italian consulate in New York told him he had to be MilanoJr or just Milano which wouldn’t match his birth certificate. He changed his name legally to drop the “Jr.” To avoid any confusion.

    • Jed July 12, 2017 at 2:13 pm - Reply

      Bravo to the consulate in NY for elevating the importance of this. Had I known I’d be wrestling this issue down the road, I might have taken the legal route to drop my suffix! But, it seems to be pretty much settled now.

  4. Nancy July 12, 2017 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks Jed for reiterating this important information. I’ve got it on my blog too. Can’t say it too often,

    • Jed July 12, 2017 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      You, Nancy, had already “primed the pump” on this topic with your own mis-adventures with the patente! Then, I ran into my snag, and I decided I’d better get on the horn and warm other people! Thanks be to God we survived these hiccups!

  5. Neil July 12, 2017 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Jed, great advice. One of my friends had an issue with her middle name not on one document but on others. Even when the mistake is made by the Comune or Questura, you have to do all of the work to correct it. So yes, yes, yes, check and recheck everything! I also noticed that my middle name must be used everywhere. For example when I enter my Codice Fiscale on a website, even for a purchase, it will error if I don’t add my middle name. Consistency is king here. Thanks for the great posts.

    • Jed July 12, 2017 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      Always good to hear from you, Neil! Thanks for adding more color to this topic. Yes, middle names can be problematic at times for the process here I’ve run into the same issue for the codice fiscale, so this is important for people to know! Hope all is well in your neck of Italy! Jed

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