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. Italy has a multitude of visas–the most common ones are for business, family reunion, independent work, religious reasons, study, tourism, and transit. 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.

Schengen Treaty/Tourist Visa

This is valid for most countries in the  EU—Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. At the time of writing, a fee of $40 must be paid in exact cash. The exchange rate is adjusted every three months, so be sure to check the exact amount before you visit the embassy.

Elective Residency Visa for Italy

If you are visiting Italy for a longer period, and can afford to live there without working, you may want to apply for a Visto per Residenza Elettiva o Dimora, or Elective Residence Visa. This type of visa is generally used by foreigners who are retired and can collect income from a retirement or pension plan.

A Residence Visa is issued solely to those who are planning to move to Italy. It does not allow the applicant to work.

The documents you will need are:

  • A cover letter detailing the reason for your stay in Italy, duration of stay, where you plan to reside, and name of persons accompanying you, such as a spouse and children (including marriage and birth certificates, as appropriate).
  • Proof of financial means, such as original financial statements from banks, investment/brokerage firms, Social Security, etc., indicating current balances. These balances cannot come from current employment or other work activities. In other words, you cannot finance your residence in Italy through work.
  • Rental agreement, deed for property in Italy, or an affidavit of the invitation to stay with a legal resident of Italy (along with a copy of their permit to stay).
  • Proof of valid medical insurance with a minimum coverage of €30,000 ($37,250) that has been translated and stamped by the Italian consulate. Travelers insurance is acceptable.

It is recommended to check the website of the Italian Consulate for the exact paperwork and procedures they require; there may be slight differences from one consulate to another. Although U.S. citizens are unlikely to experience problems, having a residency visa does not automatically guarantee you entry to the country. Consulates advise travelers to carry copies of the documentation they submitted to get their visa, particularly the documents showing financial means. You will also need these documents to apply for your permesso di soggiorno. 

Family Visa

The Visto per Coesione Familiare is a visa for family members, applicable when the whole family is leaving and returning together and staying in Italy longer than three months. Besides the usual documents, you will need proof of the familial relations and proof of the qualifying person’s residential legitimacy in Italy.

Student’s Visa

A Student’s Visa, or Visto per Studio, is the fastest and easiest visa to obtain and there is no applicable fee. It is valid for those students enrolled in an Italian university or in a foreign university or course held in Italy.  Language schools do not qualify.

Stay Permits

If you plan to stay longer than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a permesso di soggiorno (stay permit) within eight business days of arrival with your visa. Application “kits” with the relevant forms and instructions can be obtained from and submitted to post offices with a Sportello Amico counter, or from local trade unions and municipalities set up to handle them. You must then return the kit to one of 5,332 designated post office acceptance locations. It is important that applicants keep a copy of the receipt the post office issues. This applies to most types of permesso di soggiorno.

The Stay Permit is the only legal document that legitimizes your stay in the country. Theoretically, the free movement of people within the EU should have meant that this document was obsolete years ago. But you still need it. Without it, you won’t be able to join a library, let alone get your telephone hooked up.

Working Visa

U.S. or Canadian citizens who have a job offer in Italy or who wish to work in Italy, either temporarily or permanently, must have a work permit obtained by the prospective employer. They must also get a work visa from the Italian consular authorities before coming to Italy.

A written job offer or an employment contract is not regarded as a valid document for non-EU citizens to work in Italy. The prospective employer has to apply for preliminary clearance from the provincial employment office (Ufficio Provinciale del Lavoro e della Massima Occupazione) in the proposed city of employment. This requires submitting evidence that people qualified for the position offered to the non-resident foreigner are not available in the local labor market.

If clearance is granted, the prospective employer then has to obtain a work permit, with the approval of the regional and central authorities. The permit is then sent to the worker so that he or she may apply for the entry visa.