If you plan on studying in Italy for anything other than an exchange program with your home university, you will more than likely have to obtain a Dichiarazione di Valore (DV – statement of value) for your high school diploma and any degrees you earned in college. The process can seem overwhelming, unnecessary, and complicated. It can also be lengthy, so be prepared to hurry up and wait when it comes to finally obtaining that *really important* piece of paper.
I will try to outline my process in hopes that it will help you get an idea of what you will need to do, but it’s good to know in advance that every consulate requires different documentation and has a different way of processing your documents. I had to submit my documentation through two different consulates, and both of them wanted different documents sent to them.
First of all, know that when you have all of the necessary documentation, you can either drop it by the consulate’s office during their lobby hours or you can send it in by mail along with a pre-paid self-addressed envelope so they can send it back to you.
I am a permanent resident of Arkansas and I got my high school diploma from the state of Arkansas, so the DV for my high school diploma had to be processed by the Italian Consulate in Houston. However, I went to the University of Missouri for my undergraduate degree, so when I graduated and obtained my final transcripts, I had to submit them to the Italian Consulate in Chicago. Working with two different consulates was stressful, especially since I then had to apply for my student visa with the Italian Consulate in Houston when I finally obtained both DVs. I’ll break down my process for you.
Before I could submit the documentation for either DV, I first had to email the Italian Consulate of Houston (again, because I am a permanent resident of Arkansas and I would be applying for my student visa from this consulate) and inform the student office that I had been accepted into a Master’s program in Milan beginning in September of 2015. They replied, asking that I fill out an application to pre-register to study in Italy with their consulate and send it back to them via email along with scanned copies of my acceptance letter from the Italian university (delivered to me but addressed to the Italian consulate for my visa appointment). Once I sent the consulate the application and the letters from my university, I was officially pre-registered and I was told exactly how to obtain a DV for my high school diploma.
1. Obtain official final copies of your transcript and diploma. If you no longer have your diploma and your school doesn’t have a copy in their files, you can have the registrar write a letter addressed to the consulate stating your name, date of birth, dates you attended the school, and the date of graduation (since I had to start this process immediately after I graduated college, my university didn’t have my diploma printed already so the registrar’s office wrote a letter confirming my graduation as well as my awarded degree). All documents (transcripts, diploma, letter) need to be notarized by an official notary. The registrar at your school cannot notarize his or her own signature, so you will need to tell them that. If you have a diploma, they can either sign and notarize the back so they don’t spoil the document, or they can attach a piece of paper with the notarization on the front.
2. Go to the website for your Secretary of State. On the site, there should be a section dedicated to Certifications and Apostilles. You will need an apostille for each document you submit. An apostille states that the notarization is legal in your state. The site should also tell you instructions for submitting your documents. You can either do so in person at the office of the Secretary of State or you can send them in by mail with a pre-paid self-addressed return envelope and the money required to obtain the apostilles (it was $10 per apostille in both Arkansas and Missouri, but I can’t be sure of the cost in each state). You should type a cover letter to go with your documents if you are sending them by mail, stating the use of the documents and why you are obtaining an apostille. I submitted my documents in person in Missouri, but I did so by mail for my high school diploma in Arkansas, so I wrote a cover letter saying I will use the certified documents to participate in a Master’s program at my specific school in Italy. I received my documents back by mail (I pre-paid to have my return envelope overnighted) within eight business days. Be careful not the break the seal of the apostille! If you do, the apostille is no longer valid and you have to start over.
3. Once you have your school documents back with the attached apostille, you need them translated into Italian. The consulate in Houston provided me with a list of translators whose work they approve, so I emailed everyone on the list for a quote and used the cheapest translator. She had my documents back to me within a day or two and she was really nice. If your consulate doesn’t send you a list of translators, contact me using my contact form and I can get you in touch with the lady that translated all of my high school and university documents. The translator will send you a copy of his/her translations that you will need to print. They should also send an electronic copy directly to the student office of the consulate.
4. Now you should have all of your certified documents with the apostilles and translations. You are ready to send them into the consulates! Here is where it got tricky because if you are working with multiple consulates, they might want different documents to accompany your school documents. The Houston consulate wanted my school documents, my printed pre-registration form, a copy of my acceptance letter from the university in Italy, and the pre-paid self-addressed return envelope. The consulate in Chicago wanted my school documents, a notarized version of my passport*, an acceptance letter from the university in Italy, an application form from their website, and photocopies of all of these documents as well as a return envelope. I also had to send in a photocopy of my high school DV from the consulate in Houston before they would release my undergraduate degree DV. However, you can submit both applications at the same time. You do not have to wait to receive your high school DV in the mail before you send in the application for your university degree DV. This is because the consulates process the DV applications as they receive them, and often it can take anywhere from 1-6 months. The consulates can also coordinate and communicate between each other. The consulate in Chicago emailed the consulate in Houston to confirm that they issued a DV for my high school degree, thus the Chicago consulate could release my university DV to me.
*Getting a notarized version of my passport is actually more difficult than I realized and I didn’t have time to actually get an official, notarized copy of the document. I ended up taking my passport and a photocopy of my passport to a notary and signing the photocopy with my signature and a sentence that read, “This is a true, unaltered photocopy of my most recent passport.” The notary notarized my signature. The Consulate in Chicago accepted this.
The end. I received both of my DVs and applied for my student visa. You will need to bring your DV(s) to your student visa appointment so the visa office at the consulate knows you correctly pre-registered to enroll in school in Italy. I literally received the DV for my university degree from the Chicago consulate on the same day as my student visa appointment at the consulate in Houston, so I didn’t have the DV for my appointment because it was early in the morning (I printed off an email conversation between myself and the consulate in Chicago to confirm they were processing my documents). I ended up driving 10 hours back to my house immediately after my appointment and UPS had delivered my DV that day. I sent a photocopy to the visa office in Houston that night and they issued my visa the next day. The visa office in Houston is very fast (normally), so I had my visa appointment on a Monday morning and my passport with my student visa was back at my house, using an overnighted pre-paid self-addressed envelope, the following Wednesday afternoon.
Okay, I know this is a ton of information to absorb and it’s probably still confusing. In total, it took roughly four months from the time I started gathering my documentation to the time I received both of my DVs. I waited over a month for each consulate to issue my DVs to me. This was partially my fault because I thought I couldn’t submit my university documents to Chicago until the my high school documents had been returned to me from Houston. I learned that is not the case.
Please let me know if I need to clarify something or if you have any questions. I’ll try to help you as much as possible because I know the consulate websites can be confusing and they don’t always respond to emails.