Italy: How to use your ID card to access official services online

Rome: Italy’s public administration is gradually moving more of its services online – but how do you access them securely? Your ID card and a smartphone might be the key.

With so much of Italy’s administration under regional, provincial or municipal control, in your daily life here you’ll likely have to deal with a patchwork of different agencies.

Mercifully, more and more of them are giving the option to do basic bureaucracy online instead of schlepping round offices in person, whether it’s downloading a certificate of residence, logging into your social security account or paying your vehicle tax.

Until now, you might have been able to access these services by simply creating a username and password for each website. But the Italian government is on a push to standardise the way you log in.

It created an electronic ID system, SPID, that serves as a kind of digital passport – a secure personal login that works across multiple official websites. The government has mandated that all branches of public administration have to enable access via SPID from March 2021.

But what if you don’t want to go to the trouble of creating a SPID, which involves registering with a private provider, verifying your identity either in person or via webcam, and depending on which service you choose, may require a fee?

The good news is that you may already have everything you need for online admin. Here’s how to use your Italian ID card and your smartphone to log in.

You’ll need a plastic ID card (not one of the paper ones), which all legal residents of Italy are entitled to apply for via their local anagrafe or registry office. Italian nationals can also apply from outside Italy at their nearest consulate. Find more information about how to apply here (in Italian).

Within the card is a microchip, which contains your personal details, photo and fingerprints in digital form. When you apply for your CIE, you’ll be given a receipt with the first four digits of two important codes: your card’s PIN, which you’ll need in order to use it as a login device, and the PUK, which you’ll need to unblock it if you accidentally enter the wrong PIN too many times. The final four digits of each code will arrive when your card is delivered to you around a week later.

Keep hold of the receipts and/or make a note of both full eight-digit codes. If you no longer have your codes, you’ll have to request them in person from your anagrafe.

Assuming you have your CIE and PIN to hand, the next thing you’ll need is a smartphone equipped with NFC or “near-field communication”, which basically means it’s capable of sharing data contactlessly. Can you swipe your phone to pay for things? Congratulations, it’s NFC-equipped! (If you’re not sure, find a list of compatible models here.)

Until recently, the only way to access the microchip within your ID card was to plug it into a card reader and connect that to your computer. But if you don’t own a card reader and don’t fancy buying one, there’s now a way to use your smartphone instead.

Download CieID (available for both Android and iOS), a free government app allows you use your smartphone to scan your ID card.

To register, open the app and select ‘Registra la tua carta’. You’ll be prompted to enter your eight-digit PIN and then scan your ID card by holding it firmly up to the back of your phone, towards the top (if you’re struggling to get your card to scan, trying rubbing it clean, placing it on a flat surface, or moving it slowly behind your phone until it connects). Keep it there for several seconds until the app says ‘Registrazione carta terminata con successo’ (‘registration successful’).

If your phone has a fingerprint scanner, it will give you the option to enable your print to identify yourself next time you use the app. Alternatively, you’ll just use the last four digits of your PIN from now on.

Now you’re registered, open the website you want to access, either on your computer or directly on your smartphone. Important: make sure you’re using Chrome, as for the moment it’s the only browser that CieID is compatible with.

Click ‘Entra con CIE’ (‘login with ID card’) and follow the instructions. If you’re on your phone, you’ll be automatically prompted to open the CieID app, identify yourself with your fingerprint or the last half of your PIN, scan your card, and authorise the use of your data.