British women who have changed their surnames following their wedding may have issues when dealing with Italian administrative bodies, such as banks, the “Comune” or the “Anagrafe”.
An individual in England may change their name at will, without having to undergo any onerous documentary formalities. It is especially the case and tradition in England that a woman take her husband’s surname; a marriage certificate which shows both the woman’s maiden name and the husband’s surname will suffice as evidence to enable her to change her surname on her passport and driving licence.
On the other hand, in Italy, women tend to keep their maiden names. Their tax code is issued in this name and will normally be expected to remain the same for life. In general, the process of changing a name in Italy is complicated and involves several administrative and bureaucratic hurdles, or even making an application in Court.
A British national who has changed her surname to her husband’s in line with her country’s usage, may therefore encounter difficulties in Italy when dealing with Italian authorities, who may not accept the change of surname without a letter from a British Government authority to prove that they are the same person as the one bearing their maiden name.
Italian authorities are reluctant to accept a statutory declaration made under English law as they do not recognise this as a valid legal instrument. In the past where this has not been accepted we have had to personally attend in order to argue the woman’s rights (see article of 17 January 2014, “The right to choose a surname”).
Authorities will therefore often ask for a letter from the British Embassy confirming legal practice in the UK. Unfortunately, the British Embassy is not able to provide this and in recent years have asked “Alternative Providers”, which includes the handful of Solicitors of England and Wales practising in Italy, to assist British nationals in this regard.
Until 2017, the British Embassy provided a certificate confirming that the UK qualified Solicitors of this firm were entitled to issue declarations as to British law, for use in Italy. This was used successfully by one of our recently married clients whose application for residence at the Comune of Rome had been blocked on presentation of her British passport showing her married name, but was accepted on depositing a declaration which we prepared confirming that British law allows a British woman to change her surname upon marriage and that the individual bearing the married surname is the same as the individual bearing the maiden name.
UPDATE March 2018 – the British Embassy have been told by the Ministro degli Affari Esteri that our declarations will no longer be accepted by Italian authorities, that will only accept a declaration from the Consulate. However, the Consulate is not allowed to emit these declarations. We are currently in talks with the British Embassy about how to move forward from here in order to assist British citizens who find themselves in this situation, and will be updating this article with any news as soon as we hear further. In the meantime, please do contact us anyway, and we will be happy to assist the best we can.