The SPID – Italian digital identity

What is it?

The Public Digital Identity System, or SPID (pronounced “speed”) which started life in March 2016, is an online identity system.  Through a single user name and password along with a one time password generated via a smart phone, individuals with an Italian ID card, can easily access and use the services provided online by over 4,000 Italian Public Administration institutions,  connecting from a computer or a smartphone. The SPID consists of a single set of credentials allowing you to enroll children at school, view your health records and prescriptions, book a hospital visit, access and report information to the Tax Agency or to the social security authority, INPS, and much more.

The SPID thus grants access with a single set of credentials to multiple sites and portals of the Italian Public Administration, without needing to remember  different credentials for each institution/portal.

The SPID provides greater security than the older style credentials, reducing the risk of identity theft and allows you to interface with the public administration directly from home or the office, avoiding the queues at public offices.

The system does not allow profiling, guaranteeing the protection of personal data.

Signing up for the SPID involves a process of verification your identity and the issue of a  username and password which you will need to remember.   The Level 1 SPID will allow you basic access to view information on some, but not all,  Public Administration portals.  Each portal will decide on the SPID level required for access and, in practice, for full access you need a  Level 2 SPID.

The Level 2 SPID involves an additional identity check and, generally, use of an app on your smartphone which generates a one time password (OTP) which must be inserted during the access procedure after you have entered your user name and password. It is possible, instead of the app, to receive an SMS with the OTP if you do not have a smartphone, but it is easier to download the relevant app from your SPID provider and use this to generate the OTP.

There is a Level 3 SPID, with extra security protocols but this is only necessary for those who need to access third party data via a public administration portal.  For most people a Level 2 SPID will be sufficient.

If you are 18 years of age or older, you can activate the SPID if you have a valid Italian identity document.

Getting a SPID if you are not registered as resident in Italy  and not an Italian citizen is at present a challenge. Given that old school credential methods of sign-on are being phased out, and the SPID becomes the only option to access a range of Italian public services, the Italian government needs to address this issue.  At this time Italian SPID providers will not issue a SPID except for Italian citizens resident abroad.  The EU Commission is coordinating efforts  for recognition of electronic national identities across the EU.  

Where can I get a SPID?

The SPID is issued by a series of service providers authorized and supervised by AgID, the Italian Digital Services Authority. You will need to decide in advance which one you wish to use. The Italian Post Office is the principal provider.

What does the SPID cost?

The Post Office and some of the Italian banks may offer a free SPID to existing customers. This may possibly be free for a defined length of time, with an annual fee becoming due on expiry of the free-period.  There is a range of dedicated providers of identity solutions that allow you to apply for a SPID from your desktop or smartphone with variable costs.

Most Providers charge a one off fee for the sign-up (and up to the first year) and then an annual fee after that.

What do I need to get a SPID

You need, for starters:

  • an Italian identification document, typically the ID card issued by your municipality (comune), but a driver’s license or passport may also be accepted;
  • your health card (tessera sanitaria) or either the old style plastic card showing your fiscal code number or the certificate of attribution of your fiscal code number;
  • an email address and a cell phone number.

The procedure for getting the SPID and the relevant cost depends on who you choose as your  Identity Provider and whether you want a Level 1 or Level 2 SPID.  If you choose the Post Office  you can make an appointment for the issue of a SPID, and then attend the appointment with the documents listed above and with your phone (to be able to receive the activation SMS) or smartphone to download the relevant app.  Some (but by no means all) municipalities can also arrange for the issue of  a SPID.  Alternatively you can access the website of one of the other Identity Providers.

The application for a SPID is followed by a verification process  whereby the Identity Provider will check your ID documents and perform the “recognition procedure”. This procedure can be done:

  • in person (e.g. at the Post Office or Municipality);
  • via webcam;
  • audio-video transfer;
  • by producing an existing electronic identity card(CIE), national services card (CNS) CIE, CNS or digital signature.

How long does the procedure take?

The time required to issue the digital identity depends on the individual Identity Provider.

Italian citizens resident abroad

If you reside abroad or you are an Italian citizen enrolled in AIRE, select an Identity Provider who can provide the service, and choose an online recognition mode marked by the EU or world symbol.

Foreign nationals resident in Italy

If you are a foreign citizen in Italy, it is not generally not possible to request SPID simply using your stay  permit “permesso di soggiorno”. You will need to obtain an identity card from your municipality (comune) once you registered as resident.

Foreign nationals resident outside Italy

For the time being obtaining a digital ID is not feasible, and online digital Identity Providers will not issue a SPID in the absence of an ID document issued by the Italian authorities.  This obviously poses problems for non resident, non Italian citizens who may need to access Italian public service providers )e.g INPS for information on their pension positions).   At present the only solution is to contact a tax assistance centre (- a web search for “CAF, Patronato, ACLI” and your location should give options if they exist. Your local Italian consulate may give support in locating a service provider that can access Italian public administration bodies on your behalf.

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