Italy has become one of the most popular expat destinations for people from all across the world. Known for its rich history, modern infrastructure, warm people, scenic beauty and pleasant weather, Italy offers its residents a highly attractive lifestyle, with special emphasis on aspects such as family, food, fashion and festivities.Often referred to as the boot‒shaped peninsula, this country juts out of the southern part of the continent, into the Adriatic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Tyrrhenian Sea and other waters. The country is surrounded by sea on all sides except the north, and therefore has several thousand kilometers of spectacular coastline.
Expats moving to this European nation for education, employment, business or even retirement will be completely taken in by its zeal for la dolce vita. In fact, many foreigners decide to settle down in Italy and apply for permanent residency after visiting this country for a short while.
Before you decide to establish your new home here, make sure you get your legal paperwork in place. This means that you and your dependents will have to apply for a residency permit. Do keep in mind that the process for obtaining the visa is different for people from the European Union (EU) as compared to non‒EU nationals.
Citizens of the US, Canada and a few other eligible nations can enter Italy and stay on for up to 90 days, without obtaining a visa. This allows tourists as well as businessmen to travel in and out of the country, without an excessive amount of hassle. However, they are required to sign a declaration of presence when they arrive, for a smooth and trouble‒free entrance. Since the borders are not heavily guarded at all places, some travelers may have to ask for the declaration and request to get a stamp on their passport at the official point of entry.
Types of Visa
If you plan to live in Italy for a longer period of time, you will have to obtain the right type of visa, based on your status and situation. Fortunately, there are several different visa cards available to expats. While some of them are valid for a shorter period of time (three months), others may allow you to stay on in the country for up to a year. The most common types of visa include the following.
By acquiring a Schengen Treaty Visa, you can travel in and out of various places in Europe. This visa allows you to stay in Italy for up to 90 days at a time. Once it expires, you will either have to apply for an extension, or exit the country.
This type of permit is issued to people who are entering Italy for professional reasons but are neither going to seek employment nor will get paid in any way. It lets you stay in the country for up to 90 days at a time. After that the visa holder may need to exit the country, or may be able to get an extension to stay on.
Anyone can apply for a business visa including entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers, lawyers, computer programmers and so on. You will be required to submit several documents supporting your work experience, purpose of visit (meetings, training, projects, etc.), duration of trip, and where you’ll be staying. Also make sure that you submit your invitation letter, company letter and itinerary with your application.
Family Reunion Visas
Italians rate family values very highly, and they also have a special type of permit that brings together husbands, wives, children and parents. However, the authorities are a bit stricter when it comes to issuing this visa, since the duration of stay it grants is relatively long. Once you obtain a family reunion visa, you are allowed to stay on in Italy for up to 365 days. This visa is therefore not granted to extended family members.
When applying for the family visa, you will be asked to submit proof of blood relation to a resident. It is also important that you have documents supporting how closely you are related. Do bear in mind that your documents will only be accepted if they are approved by the Embassy of Italy.
There are several reasons for allowing religious officials to enter the country on religion visas; one of them is that it helps spread religious training, studies, and beliefs among the people, which is seen as a valuable service.
However, not everyone is eligible to apply for a visa on the basis of their religious practices. Only if the religion is recognized by the Italian Ministry of Interiors will an applicant be considered. Once the visa holder enters, they can stay for up to 90 days at a stretch.
The types of visa listed above are ideal if you are planning to spend a few months in Italy. However, if you are looking for something more long‒term, it is best to apply for residency.
Foreigners who wish to stay in Italy for a longer period of time can obtain different types of permit, depending on their national status and purpose of moving. The most common types of residence visas available are as follows.
Permesso Di Soggiorno
The Permesso Di Soggiorno, or ‘Permit to Stay’, has several subtypes and it allows non‒EU nationals to live in Italy for a limited period of time. However, it is only issued for the purpose that is stated on your visa and could take up to three months to obtain.
To initiate the procedure, ask for an application kit from any one of the 1,400 National Post Offices (Poste Italiane). Make sure that you fill out all the required information and return the kit, with supporting documents, to one of the 5,332 designated post office acceptance locations. Make sure that you keep a copy of the receipt that you receive from the counter.
The most common permits issued are:
• Work Permits (Permesso di soggiorno per lavoro)
• Work Permits for Freelancers (Permesso di soggiorno per lavoro autonomo/ indipendente)
• Residency Permits for Students (Permesso di soggiorno per studio)
• Residency Permits for Students (Permesso di soggiorno per studio)
• Establishment of Residence for Foreigners not working or studying (Permesso di soggiorno per dimora)
Find out more about applying for the Permesso di Soggiorno.
Permanent Residence Cards
The Permanent Residence Card is also known as the Permesso Di Soggiorno per Soggiornanti di Lungo Periodo, or SLP. This EC permit for long‒term residence was introduced in the year 2007 and is now permanent, unlike the old residence permit that it replaced. You can apply for it if you have been living in Italy legally for a minimum period of five years at a stretch. If you are an EU national, you can apply for this if you plan to spend more than three months in Italy.
You will be asked to present your application to the Post Office or at your Local Municipal Office (Commune). Make sure that you submit the relevant supporting documents, which may include:
• A copy of your valid passport
• Income tax statement copies, testifying that your minimum income is higher than the social allowance
• National Social Welfare Institution (INPS) payments and receipts or itemized statements (for domestic workers and caregivers)
• Legal records
• Certification of residence and family
• Receipt from the Post Office for payment of the EC residence permit
• A revenue stamp
The list mentioned above is not exhaustive and you may be asked to submit additional paperwork, if required. The authorities will need proof that your annual income is adequate enough to support you as well as all your dependants. Make sure that you submit as many documents as possible as evidence of this.
Please note that all foreign documents have to be translated into Italian and attested or certified by the Italian Consulate in your country of origin.
You can also obtain this permit for some of your family members, like your legal spouse and minor children. Dependent children over the age of 18 are also granted permits under this program, but only if they are suffering from serious health conditions, due to which they are permanently unable to earn their living.
The authorities have made it mandatory for all applicants to pass an Italian language test before they can obtain an EC residence permit.
With effect from June 9th 2017, the Italian government has reintroduced a fee for filing the Permesso Di Soggiorno application. The structure of the new fees is:
• Fixed fee for the Residence Permit Card ‒ € 76.00 (US $ 90.68; £ 70.27). This includes an electronic card for € 30.46 (US $ 36.34; £ 28.16), the application stamp fee of € 16 (US $ 19.09; £ 14.79) and a mailing fee of € 30.00 (US $ 35.79; £ 27.74)
• Residence Permit Card that is valid for 3 months to 1 year ‒ € 40.00 (US $ 47.73; £ 36.98)
• Residence Permit Card that is valid for 1 to 2 years ‒ € 50.00 (US $ 59.66; £ 46.23)
• EC Residence Permit Card for long‒term residents and intra‒company residence permit cards for highly skilled workers and managers ‒ € 100.00 (US $ 119.31; £ 92.46)
This residence fee is far from new; it dates back all the way to October 2011, when a joint ministerial decree put forth a high residence permit application / renewal fee, ranging from € 80.00 (US $ 95.45; £ 73.96) to € 200.00 (US $ 238.63; £ 184.91).
In 2015, the European Court of Justice ruled that the tax was a violation of EU regulations. Soon after that, the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio declared the residence permit tax illegal. In May 2016 the fee on residence permit applications was abolished.
On September 14th 2016, Presidential Decree No. 03903/ 2016 came into effect and the Council of State made the decision to suspend the court order of Lazio’s Regional Administrative Court. With this, the fees were temporarily reintroduced until a final verdict could be arrived at.
After that, in November 2016, the Council of State once again declared that the residence permit application / renewal fees introduced in 2011 had been abolished. This ruling was in effect until June 2017, when the application fees were reintroduced.
In the recent past, Italian immigration laws have undergone several changes and these revisions are likely to continue. It is therefore important to check and verify the eligibility criteria, application procedure and documents required with the immigration authorities when you are thinking of moving here.
You can get access to the latest news and information about visas and work permits for EU and non‒EU citizens by contacting the authority listed below.
The Italian Immigration Authority or Portale Immigrazione
Tel: 848 855 888
You can call and speak with a representative anytime between Monday and Friday, from 8:00AM to 8:00PM. However, most of the customer service agents are not likely to speak fluent English, so you will need to be able to speak some Italian, or have a translator with you when making the call. Moreover, while the website has pages in both languages, the English page is not always up to date.
Alternatively, you can find detailed information about most immigration cases on the website of the Polizia di Stato.
The Ministry of Interior has also published an immigration guidebook PDF called “Staying in Italy Legally” for foreigners who wish to move to their country permanently. This guide has comprehensive information in English, covering almost all possible situations.
Applying for a residence permit for any country can be quite a drawn-out and complicated procedure. It is therefore best to engage the services of an attorney or a licensed agent in Italy, who can guide you through every step of the way.
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