Applying for residency in Italy can be a long and complicated process, but it’s something that anyone who wants to stay more than three months has to do. Here’s what you need to know.
Italy is the perfect holiday destination – and for some, the country’s outstanding beauty and culture make it impossible to leave. But if you’re planning to remain in the land of the dolce vita for longer than three months, you need to apply for residency.
Tempted into staying for a sabbatical or hoping to make Italy their forever home, hundreds of thousands of foreigners apply for residence permits every year, which can often become a long, complicated process involving lots of paperwork.
Whether you’re from inside or outside the EU, whatever your circumstances, the following guide contains all you need to know about getting residency in Italy.
Short-term residency (up to three months)
All citizens of European Union member states plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland have the right to live, work and travel in Italy for a period of up to 90 days without registering with the Italian authorities.
Under the EU’s freedom of movement policy, EU nationals do not need a permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay). All they need is a valid travel document, such as an identity card or passport.
But those staying less than three months can present a dichiarazione di presenza sul territorio nazionale (declaration of presence in Italy) at a police station if they wish, although this is not obligatory.
Longer-term residency (more than three months)
Although EU citizens can travel freely around European member states, anyone staying longer than three months in Italy is required to apply for a certificato di residenza (residence certificate) at their local Anagrafe (registry office).
Requests for the certificato must include evidence of employment, study or training in Italy, or proof that you have sufficient economic means to support yourself and any dependants. You will also need to get your personal codice fiscale (Italian tax code) from the agenzia dell’entrate, which will allow you to open an Italian bank account.
For EU citizens, applying for the certificato di residenza is something of a formality. The registration document costs €27.50 plus tax. But once you have it, it is valid for five years from the date of issue.
Permanent right of residence
Under EU law, citizens from European Union member states can apply for permanent residency after they have lived in Italy for a continuous five-year period.
The application must be submitted before the expiry date of your existing residency permit to the Questura (police headquarters) in your place of residence.
But remember that if you later move outside Italy for a continuous two-year period, you will lose your permanent resident status.
Short-term residency (up to three months)
If you live outside the EU you are not entitled to the same privileges awarded to European Union citizens. However, if you come from Canada, the USA, New Zealand or Australia, you do not need a visa to stay in Italy for up to three months as a tourist.
If you plan to stay more than a week in Italy, the law states that you should register with the local Questura (police headquarters) and apply for a permesso di soggiorno per turismo (permit to stay for the purposes of tourism) within eight working days. In practice, however, many short-term visitors do not.
Longer-term residency (more than three months)
If you are planning to remain for more than three months, you will need a visa (visto). You should apply for it at the Italian embassy or consulate in your home country, as the process may take a while.
There are different types of visa according to the reason for your visit.
For employees: work visa
If you’re a citizen of another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you don’t need a permit to work in Italy.
If you’re from another country, you will need a work visa. You will also need to check the requirements according to the type of work you intend to do, as Italy uses a quota system for visas for lots of occupations.
You must find a job before applying for the visa. The good news is that your employer will then complete most of the visa application process for you. All you need to do is provide them with the relevant paperwork.
Your employer will apply for permission to hire a migrant worker from the immigration desk at their local Prefettura (prefecture, the regional office of the central government). They will then be given your authorization to work. The local Prefettura will inform the Italian consulate or embassy in your home country that your application can go ahead.
Your local embassy will provide you with an entry visa, which should take less than 30 days. You’ll have six months from the date of authorization to visit your local Italian embassy and collect your visa.
For students: student visa
Non-EU students are required to obtain a student visa prior entering Italy.
There are two types of student visas in Italy, depending on the duration of the study program:
Type C: Short-stay visa or travel visa (for a period not exceeding 90 days).
Type D: Long-stay visa (for more than 90 days).
When applying you should provide a letter of acceptance to your course in Italy, as well as proof of accommodation, sufficient financial means and health insurance.
For people with relatives in Italy: family visa
There is a visa available for dependents of an Italian citizen, or a non-EU citizen with an Italian permit of stay. This allows entrance in Italy to their spouse, children or dependent parents.
You will need to provide evidence of your relationship with the person whose dependent you will be, for instance marriage or birth certificates.
For entrepreneurs, artists and qualified professionals: self-employed visa
Foreign citizens can also apply for a visa in order to start a company in Italy, to work as a qualified, self-employed professional (for instance an accountant or translator) or as a professional artisan, artist or athlete, or to take a corporate managerial role.
Applicants must demonstrate that they have the equivalent qualifications and meet the same conditions required of Italians doing the same activity.
For people with money: investor visa
Italy offers a “golden visa” for those planning to invest in strategic assets in Italy. Both non-EU citizens and people from within the Schengen zone can apply.
In exchange for a minimum investment of €500,000 to €2 million in certain companies, charities or government bonds, the visa entitles you two years’ residency, renewable for further three-year periods, and special tax benefits. Investors’ families are eligible to apply for dependent visas.
Along with your other documents, several visa applications also require you to provide a nulla osta (certificate of no impediment) to prove your eligibility. Procedures vary, but the application can often be made online.
What to do once you have your visa
When you arrive in Italy, you must follow the same process of registering with the Questura and applying for a permesso di soggiorno.
Different types of residency permit
There are a few different types of permit to stay in Italy, depending whether you’re there for work, study, family reasons or simply leisure (lucky you). The permit must correlate with your intentions of the permit holder and with the conditions of your visa.
Types of permit include:
Permesso di soggiorno per studio: for students.
Permesso di soggiorno per lavoro: work permit for employees.
Permesso di soggiorno per lavoro autonomo/indipendente: for self-employed foreigners.
Permesso di soggiorno per per motivi familiari: for the foreign spouse, children or relatives of an Italian citizen or foreigner residing legally in Italy.
When applying for a resident’s permit, further documentation may be required such as a declaration from a current or prospective employer, evidence of your enrolment on a programme of study, or details of spouses and dependents in the case of those who intend to stay in Italy for family reasons.
The permesso di soggiorno is usually processed in about three to six months, and the duration varies according to the type. The permit must be renewed at least a month in advance of the date of expiry.
Having the permit will give you full access to public healthcare, social assistance and education.
Applying involves paying around €100-200 in fees and processing charges. You’ll need to submit the documents at a post office, go for an interview at the Questura where police will check your documents and take your fingerprints, then finally pick up your permit at your local police station.
NB: Make sure to carry your receipt of application (assicurata) with you while you’re waiting for your permesso to arrive, as it serves as proof that you’re in Italy legally.
Long-term residency permit
After five years of residence in Italy a non-EU expat can apply for a permesso di soggiorno per soggiornanti di lungo periodo (permission to stay for a long period), which can be renewed less frequently.
Applicants must demonstrate continuous legal residency, as well as taking a language test to demonstrate at least A2 level (elementary) competency in Italian.
For non-EU nationals with long-term residency in another EU country
People from outside the EU who have long-term residency in a different member state still have to apply for a resident’s permit in Italy, but the process is slightly easier.
You don’t need a visa to enter the country and you’ll have up to three months after arriving to submit your application for a permesso di soggiorno. If you have dependents in your country of residence, they’ll be able to enter Italy on the same terms as you.
You can apply for a resident’s permit in order to work for an employer or yourself (though be aware that quotas apply), to study, or for another purpose so long as you can demonstrate that you have enough income or savings to support yourself.
And you’re planning on staying less than three months, all you have to do is register at the local police headquarters (called la dichiarazione di presenza, or declaration of presence).
For Brits: post-Brexit residency
Free movement of rights will continue until the day the UK withdraws from the EU on March 29th, 2019.
After that date, it is likely that people from Britain looking to gain residency in Italy will need to follow the same procedures as those for non-EU citizens we have outlined in this guide.
However, as the negotiations between the UK and the EU are still in progress and the withdrawal agreement is not yet final, it is still uncertain as to what the outcome will mean for Brits wishing to move to Italy.