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Italian residency: Who needs it and how do you get it?

Italian residency: Who needs it and how do you get it?
TheItalian flag flies over the Quirinale, the Italian presidential palace. File photo: AFP
Applying for residency in Italy doesn't have to be too painful - but you will need to prepare yourself. Here's what you need to know.

Most people who holiday in Italy have also no doubt thought of living here full-time. But of course making the dream of “la dolce vita” into reality comes with more than a bit of paperwork.

If you’re coming over regularly for a couple of weeks here and there, it’s not necessary to apply for residency. But if you’re planning to stay for longer than three months a year in total, you will need to apply.

Hundreds of thousands of foreigners apply for residence permits in Italy every year, which can often become a long, complicated process involving lots of paperwork.

But it doesn’t have to be too stressful.

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.

Photo: AFP

EU nationals

  • 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.

READ ALSO: How to become Italian: A guide to getting citizenship

  • 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.

For Brits: post-Brexit residency

British nationals who obtained (or started the application process for) residency by December 31st 2020 have their rights covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Anyone moving from the UK to Italy and starting the process after that date will now be subject to visa rules, as the end of freedom of movement between the UK and the EU effectively ends any long stays without a visa.

UK citizens wishing to move to Italy for the first time from 2021 have to apply for a new long-stay visa. The application should be made before they leave for Italy. They would then need to apply to the Italian authorities for permission to stay in Italy for longer than 90 days.

Read more about post-Brexit Italian visas for UK nationals here.

READER QUESTION: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a European spouse?

Photo: AFP

Non-EU citizens

  • 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, most 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.

You will need a long-stay or ‘type D’ visa if you want to stay in Italy longer than 90 days – there are different long-stay visas available depending on your personal circumstances, eg. if you are moving here for study, work, family reasons, or retirement. 

Remember that a long-stay visa allows you to enter Italy. After that, you will also have to get an Italian residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) in order to be allowed to stay for longer than 90 days. 

Find more information about the most commonly-used types of Italian long-stay visas here.

READ ALSO: What is Italy’s investor visa and how can you apply?

Photo: DepositPhotos

Nulla osta

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 residence 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 residence 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).

Note: The names of some of the documents listed above may sometimes vary from one Italian region or comune to another.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on specific cases. For more information, contact your town’s Questura or your embassy.

This is an updated version of an article originally published in 2018.


Member comments

  1. This is a really good article. It clearly outlines subjects which are always the subject of endless discussion on various expat forums, and other websites (which don’t always explain things so well). You ought to consider making it available to non-members, because you might well find that those people will eventually become members in the future – if/when they move to Italy.

  2. In addition to the previous comment, it should be noted that for Americans with just a US passport, (and I believe other non EU visitors) it is possible to stay in Italy a maximum of 90 days out of every 180 days (not 90 days per year). So it is possible to stay 180 days per year in Italy as long as it is spit up into two separate visits with a minimum of 90 days in between. I have researched this through the Italian Foreign Ministry and have practiced it myself.

    1. This is what I currently do, stay three months in my little village where I own a home and then return to the US for three months before I do it all over again. The tricky part of this process is to count the days from the right date. If I land in Italy on March 20, I can stay three months, but I cannot RETURN to Italy until around September 20. That is six months, 180 days from when I first landed.

  3. To answer Rossi’s question, retirees seem to be covered under the “self-employed” requirements; just show a bank statement from back home showing your ability to be financially independent. A note: We found the Italian consulate in LA to be so inept, uncaring and lazy, we applied for the same thing from the French consulate a couple of blocks away. In and out, same day. Once you arrive in France, go wherever you want in the EU’s 27 countries, with the same privileges. (We arrived in Nice, went to San Remo) This was good for a year, renewable yearly, over there, without coming back. After a year, nobody seemed to pay any mind to us. It’s pretty loose. In answer to another question, a friend of ours stayed continuously without coming back to America, for a number of years; her secret was to plan a short trip every three months to a nearby non-EU location, get her passport stamped leaving and returning, and then the clock supposedly restarted for another 90 days or whatever (Gibraltar was good for six more months, for some reason). She lived like this for a number of years.

  4. One area not discussed is for US citizens with a residency permit in another EU member state. I’m currently on a DAFT residency permit in the Netherlands which allows me to spend up to 180 days outside the Netherlands but I cannot change my residency. And I need to maintain a home/apartment in the Netherlands. If I want to spend 5 months in the summer in Italy, from this article it appears I need to apply for a residency permit despite having residency in the Netherlands. Also the need to apply for an Italian residency permit may affect my permit in the Netherlands. It appears that Italy’s requirements may contravene the Netherlands.

  5. We have German visas and plan to retire in Italy when my husband’s job ends. We were told we’d need an Elective Resident visa. This seems to say we can just move to Italy and apply for a residents visa. Is that correct?

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