Italy is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. A cultural marvel, with historical cities and landmarks around every corner, renowned cuisine, a warm climate, and that beautiful, slow pace of life associated with living around the Mediterranean. It’s no wonder people flock to this great nation.
Lucky for any would-be expat, Italy boasts a multitude of different visas, suitable for a wide range of different people and situations. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
Citizens of the U.S. and Canada do not need a visa to enter Italy for up to 90 days if the purpose of their trip is tourism- or business-related. If you’re planning on staying longer than 90 days, but aren’t yet sure about permanent residence, you’ll need a Schengen Treaty/Tourist Visa
Elective Residency Visa/Investment Programs
There are two avenues to permanent residency for those of us not of Italian descent. The first is a visa, obtained through the Italian consulate assigned to your area. The second is the Italian Investment Program.
Though straightforward, these programs require careful attention to your consulate’s requirements.
Finding Your Consulate
Go to the online site for the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. From there, ensure you’ve translated the page to English (you can change this at the top right of the page).
Now click on Visas in the top blue ribbon. At the bottom of the page is a question: “Do I need a visa?” Follow the instructions for the next few questions, and you will be led to the conclusion that if you are staying studying, working, in the military, or even going as a sports professional, for longer than ninety days, you will need a visa.
Next, you need to find your Consulate. Note: this is very important, as the requirements/costs and proofs differ from Consulate to Consulate. Ensure that in your jurisdiction is listed under the “Jurisdiction” of the consulate you are searching for.
Each Consulate will list several different types of visas. Read each type of visa carefully to find the one that matches your situation. If you are retired, or in the process of retirement, the Italian Elective Residence Visa is a popular choice.
Now find the list of requirements for your visa. You will need to make a notebook with the required documents, in the order requested. When my wife and I underwent this process, we put all our information in both English and Italian, and added a letter from the owners of the house we were renting.
The translations are unnecessary, but I had a 65-page Sale of Business Agreement that was better translated than left in English. After all, I wanted to make the process as easy for them as possible. I wanted our visas!
Generally, as a minimum, you will need the following:
- Your U.S. Passports
- Two to Four Passport photos
- Driver’s License(s)
- Italian National Visa Application form
- A letter stating why you want to come, where you are staying, the length of your stay, and the names of the person(s) accompanying you.
- Proof of Residence (address to stay) in Italy
- A “Codice Fiscale” or tax number. Similar to our social security number.
- Certified Marriage Certificate.
- Documentation of proof of substantial and ongoing income, usually with a monthly minimum per person. Account by Account.
- Necessary Income changes with the exchange rate, but at the time of writing, it’s about $3,375.58 per person per month. This amount significantly varies from year to year.
- Processing payment through money order or cashier’s check. Note: due to changes in the exchange rate, the price will change at the end of every quarter.
- An appointment for an interview at the Consulate before or after delivery of the visa requirements.
- Make three copies of your application and all the documentation.
- One you will give/send to the Consulate.
- One you will need when you arrive for your Permisso de Soggiorno (see below.)
- One you will keep for yourself.
The most challenging part for us was getting an apartment lease and Codice Fiscale before we moved to Italy; getting the real estate contract, and understanding the differences—most Italian rental agreements run from two to four years, and you must ensure who pays for water, electricity, and sewage. But we have found that owners are very willing to let you out after two years, if a serious change occurs. In our case, our owner agreed to let us move if we found a detached home that we wanted to move to.
Currently, the fees vary depending on your type of visa, ranging from $51 to $118.30 for the Los Angeles Consulate. Please check your consulate for current rates.
You must also include a secure return envelope for the return of your passports, fight tickets, and any other return documents you might have.
Once mailed or carried to the Consulate, they have ninety days to rule on your visa and return the passports with your visa back to you.
It took us a year, from the decision to move to Italy, getting our documents in order, creating the VISA BOOK, going to the Consulate, and getting our acceptance, to get everything done. Plan out your times with your flights, visa requirements, and Consulate interviews carefully!
We did our interview in Los Angeles before we mailed our documents. From the time we mailed our documents, (June 10, 2017) to the time we received our visa, passports, and flight tickets back (August 24, 2017) was about ten weeks.
Permisso de Soggiorno
Once you arrive in Italy, you will have ten days to submit a second book with the same information to get your Permisso de Soggiorno or your Permission to Stay. This is a plastic card that you will use as an ID, to get your ID Card and your driver’s license, bank account, and pretty much anything else that requires an ID.
This step is the primary reason we decided to get everything translated into Italian. Everyone at the Italian Embassy and the Consulates speaks English. However, only some people in your Italian police station (Cuestura) or post office (Postale) where you will take your application for you Permisso, will speak English. The translated documents helped us a great deal.
Since you already have the required visa, getting your Permisso is easy, and the documentation is the same.
Often the visa will need to be renewed every two years. But after five years, you can apply for permanent residency.
According to the EU, once you have lived in the EU for five uninterrupted years of residence, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency. This is also referred to as an EU Long Term Residence Permit.
How do you get an EU Long Term Residence Permit? Ask your local Post Office for a “yellow kit.” Please fill out the kit and file it at the post office. It should be processed within four to six weeks. To be successful in getting the permit, you must prove four things:
- That you have resided in Italy for five uninterrupted years.
- That you have a clean criminal record
- That you can pass an Italian language test to the A2 proficiency level.
- That you have income sufficient to support yourself and your dependents.
Residence by Investment Program
There is also a residence-by-investment program that only some know about. This Residency Investment Program requires a minimum of 250,000 euro up to 2,000,000 euro. This method carries three simple requirements:
- Two million euro in Italian government bonds.
- 500,000 euro in Italian shares – 250,000 euro /innovative start-ups
- A non-refundable donation of 1,000,000 euro to projects of public interest in Italy
Benefits of Permanent Residency
While many feel that the process of obtaining a Visa is a bit daunting, we did it ourselves, and we know of many people who have successfully gone through the process. We even know of two couples who moved to a different state to change their consulate, giving them fewer, easier visa requirements.
There are good reasons for all this effort, and the benefits of moving to Italy are, to us, endless.
- Lower cost of living – 40% to 60% lower.
- Consistently fresh, excellent, Italian food.
- A much healthier diet.
- The national healthcare system that costs 5% of U.S. costs
- Available after six months of residency
- No pre-existing conditions.
- Simple one-card access system to healthcare
- Healthcare costs vary by the province you live in.
- No deductibles
- Small co-pays.
- We estimate our savings after five years of living in Italy to be over $100,000.
- World Health Organization ranks Italy’s healthcare system second in the world.
- Simple, short, inexpensive European travel.
- Excellent inexpensive, train, bus, and metro systems.
- An incredible list of historical sites in every direction.
- A deep appreciation of history.
- A wide acceptance and interest in Americans.
- A slower, more leisurely pace of living.
- A culture that works to live, not lives to work.
- A population that forms friendships quickly and easily.
- A culture that respects old age and the aging process.
I could go on but suffice it to say that we have never been happier.
Italian Citizenship Through Ancestry
There is another permanent way of living in Italy if you have, and can prove, Italian heritage through grandparents or great-grandparents.
Here is a link to a service that can help you explore your Italian heritage. They are not lawyers, but I have friends who have received Italian citizenship—the right to permanent residency using their services.
For those with ancestry of Italian descent, consider writing to italyMondo.com – ([email protected].) Alejandra is this company’s entry customer specialist, helping those of Italian descent obtain their citizenship. I have friends who have used this company successfully. They’re not lawyers, so your expense is much lower. They are experts in the procedure and process necessary to get Italian citizenship when possible. This process takes three to six years for most people I ‘ve talked to, with much of the time spent researching lineage or family trees. This is where the cost of lawyers is much greater, and the cost of non-lawyer researchers is much less.
For most of us, the Italian visa is the best way to go, unless you have Italian ancestry. While the visa system is detailed, once you have been through it, it’s easy to reproduce and use over again when you renew your information.
The EU Residency program is new, and we will test the waters at the end of this year. But we expect, as in all things Italian, that it will be a process that will take time and result in a satisfactory outcome.
Many people use law firms to do their visa work. The firm must keep the requirements the same, and it can go to the Embassy or Consulate for you, and it can speed up the process and gather your documents.
What a law firm can do is double-check that what you are sending is in the correct order and checks all the requite requirements. But the cost is exorbitant and entirely unnecessary.
The hardest part for us was waiting from the time we mailed off the application until we received our visas, passports, and tickets back in the mail.