Okay, this post is basically the main reason I created this blog.
I cannot tell you how many hours (days, weeks...) I lost trying to figure out what I needed to do in order to get a marriage license to marry my Italian husband in Italy. There is a long list of documents you need to marry an Italian citizen as an American citizen that is very different from what we would need to get in the U.S.
I quickly discovered that you have to start with the atto notorio, but I could not for the life of me figure out how exactly to get this.
There are dozens of websites out there with pages dedicated to this subject, but somehow all of them seem to say something different. So I tried to call at least three different consulates and no one answered (one was apparently not even a consulate at all: I checked and on Google Maps it was just an empty plot of land, I'm not kidding!) Then I tried to email a different office to ask about it, and they told me to email someone else. Then that person gave me an automated response that didn't answer my question, and another gave me a list of documents that didn't match what I had already read, so I had to contact someone else, then someone else... it was a mess.
So, I am going to save you a lot of time and effort (and energy, and eye strain, and tears of frustration...) and tell you everything you need to know right here and now without any more ado. The process of getting a marriage license for a non-EU citizen and an Italian citizen is long and confusing, so I am breaking it up into two separate posts. This one covers the first and maybe toughest step, the atto notorio. You will find the link to the second step at the end of this article once I get it posted.
Note: The list of documents I am going to give you comes from my experience with the Consulate of Detroit, so if you are using a different consulate, you should try to email or call them to check that they have the same requirements (they should, but you want to make absolutely sure, especially if you have to travel a long distance for your appointment like I did).
What Is an Atto Notorio?
An atto notorio is a sworn statement signed by authorities at either the Italian consulate in America or the U.S. Embassy in Italy that basically says that you are legally free to marry. It is a requirement to get married to an Italian in Italy (or to an American in Italy), so it is pretty important. You must bring it with you to Italy to get the other documents that you need, which I will detail in my next post.
What Do I Need to Get an Atto Notorio?
I will get right to the point:
Documents for you, the American citizen:
- An original, long-form birth certificate + an Apostille + an Italian translation of said birth certificate
This one took a bit of time to get. A long-form birth certificate is one that includes your name, birth date and place of birth, along with your parents' full names and addresses. If you don't already have this, you can request a certified copy and have it mailed to you. It has to be either the original or an official copy from a verified agency, not a scanned copy.
The Apostille is a stamp from the Secretary of State that makes a document legal and valid in every country that is a member of the Hague Apostille Convention, which includes Italy. To get this, I had to mail the original birth certificate along with a check (in Kentucky it is only $5-6) to the Secretary of State. Around a week later, I got the document back, with a paper stapled to the front that included the Apostille stamp.
The Italian translation has to be an official one, although you can choose your own translator (they all charge different prices for their services, so this is a good thing). The consulate sent me a list of translators to start with, and in the end, I emailed a scanned copy of the birth certificate to a translator and she translated it and had it back to me within three days, all for around $20.
- Divorce certificate + certificate of No Appeal (if you were married before)
I had never been married before so I don't have firsthand experience with this one, but the requirements say that you must get these things from the office of the County Clerk in the county where the divorce was recorded. Both certificates need an Apostille and both have to be translated.
- Signed Single Statement + Apostille
This is another thing you have to get by mail. You must make a request to your County Clerk's Vital Records Division to get a signed statement saying that there is no marriage currently on file for you, meaning that you are free to marry. Again, you need an Apostille, but no translation this time.
- Copy of U.S. passport
This one is self-explanatory: just copy the pages of your passport with your photo and signature. I also copied the cover just in case, but they didn't need that.
- Consent for marriage from commanding office if you are a member of the United States Armed Forces
I don't have firsthand experience with this one either, but I'm putting it here in case you need it.
Documents for your Italian fiance:
- Estratto per riassunto dell’atto di nascita, in formato internazionale
This is an official excerpt from an Italian birth certificate that includes your fiance's parents' names.
- Certificato cumulativo di residenza, cittadinanza, e stato libero
This is one certificate that acts as a certificate of residence, certificate of Italian citizenship, and the Italian equivalent of a signed single statement declaring that your fiance is free to marry.
- Dichiarazione firmata attestante la data ed il luogo del matrimonio e naturalmente il nome della persona che si intende sposare
This is an official declaration that states the place and date where you two plan to get married, and that your fiance intends to marry you (after all this, he or she had better marry you!). You can get a template from the consulate or find one online, your fiance then fills it out him- or herself.
- A copy of the Italian Passport
But wait, that's not all!
In order to turn this big stack of documents into the atto notorio, you have to make an appointment to go get it. I was led to believe that the only place you could get the atto notorio was at the Italian consulate that is responsible for your state. As (bad) luck would have it, there is not a consulate for every state, and the consulate for Kentucky, where I lived, was all the way in Detroit. And the way things worked out, I only had one day to get there before I was supposed to go to Italy and get all the rest of the documents I needed.
So I gathered up my things, took a plane to Detroit (as the world was shutting down for COVID-19 in March 2020, by the way, so everything was even more rushed and inconvenient), had to stay in a hotel to make my appointment the next day (which I don't have to tell you was not cheap), only to find out AT THE END OF THE APPOINTMENT that "if it's too inconvenient to get it at the consulate in the States," you can also get the atto notorio in Italy at a Notary Services Office. -.-
So, long story (not) short, you can get the atto notorio at either the consulate closest to you or in Italy. But in both cases, you also need two witnesses that are not related to you. You will have to provide their information (along with scanned copies of all the other stuff I described for you and your fiance) to the consulate or notary beforehand so they can prepare the paperwork.
Then you go to the appointment with your witnesses (your fiance doesn't have to be present), the official at the consulate or the notary reads the atto notorio out loud in Italian (if you don't speak Italian, you'll need to get a translator since it's important you understand everything), and then you sign it.
And then, voila! You just completed the first step in the process. Yay...
All sarcasm aside, this atto notorio opens the door for getting the rest of the documents you need to marry an Italian citizen as an American. You can read about those in my upcoming post: Documents Required for an American to Marry an Italian in Italy - Part 2: The Nulla Osta, etc.
If you have any questions about the atto notorio, you can ask me in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer them! If you have already gotten your atto notorio, do you have any advice or anecdotes to share?