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Brexit: Why Brits in Italy are being urged to apply for the new biometric ID card now

Obtaining a new electronic ID document could save British nationals in Italy a lot of bureaucratic headaches.

Brexit: Why Brits in Italy are being urged to apply for the new biometric ID card now
Photo: AFP

From January, a new electronic ‘tessera’ or ID card has been made available proving the rights of British nationals resident in Italy – and citizens’ rights campaigners say they “strongly urge” people to apply for it.

“If you don’t, you risk facing serious practical problems,” the British in Italy group warned on Thursday. “It is the best evidence you can get that you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.”

READ ALSO: ‘What I learned when I applied for the Brexit residence card for Brits in Italy’

The new biometric ‘tessera’, officially called a carta di soggiorno, is available to British citizens who were legally in Italy before December 31st 2020.

While several readers told The Local they experienced problems trying to get the card last month, British in Italy said: “it seems that most Questure have got their act together, so there is no need to hold back any longer. Our advice is to apply now.”

The urgency is partly because “in some areas there are long delays in getting an appointment,” the group said.

However, some of Italy’s British residents have also reported problems with bureaucracy and in accessing certain services.

According to British in Italy, “without the new carta di soggiorno some people have not been able to:

  • Renew a tessera sanitaria;
  • Get an employment contract or enter a bando di gara for a job;
  • Get benefits;
  • Complete the purchase of a house.”

“If you leave Italy you might have your passport wrongly stamped at a border if you do not produce the carta di soggiorno,” British in Italy added.

Amid confusion about the various documents issued by Italian authorities, “the WA attestazione that many of us obtained from our Comune last year is not always being accepted as the necessary proof that we are covered by the WA.”

DEALING WITH BREXIT:

“As a matter of strict law none of these problems should be happening,” British in Italy explained. “As long as you were resident in Italy by December 31st, you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and should have all the rights it confers.”

“But knowing that you are in the right is not much consolation if the computer (or an official) says no.”

British in Italy noted that people should however make their own decision on the timing of applications, with regards to the Covid situation and any restrictions in their local area.

How do I get the new carta di soggiorno?

You’ll need to make an appointment at your local Questura, or police headquarters. Check your local Questura‘s website for details, as the process varies from one place to another.

The Italian Interior Ministry has given full details of the application procedure in English here and Italian here.

What’s the difference between this and my existing Italian residency card?

The biometric carta di soggiorno is a new document, and it’s not the same as any other residency documents despite several of them having similar names.

You do not have to exchange your existing Italian ID card.

Is it mandatory to get the new biometric ID card?

“For those already registered in Italy there is no legal requirement to obtain the new card. It is not mandatory,” a British Embassy spokesperson stated.

However the Embassy is urging British nationals to get the card “as it provides the clearest evidence of your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement in a high-security and simple format.”

“For example, it will provide a simple way of evidencing your rights at the border or when accessing services in Italy.”

“However, if you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement your rights do not depend on holding it and local providers cannot require you to have it.”

Anyone who faces difficulties in accessing healthcare or benefits is advised to contact the British Embassy via their Living in Italy website. You can also find more information on the British in Italy website.

See The Local’s Dealing with Brexit section for more updates.

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For members

VISAS

How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

If you're a non-EU UK resident or a British citizen who wants to move to Italy post-Brexit, the elective residency visa is one of the options available to you. Here's how to apply from the UK.

How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

Since Brexit was finalised at the start of 2021, British nationals who want to relocate to Italy have been in the same boat as all other extra-EU citizens, requiring a visa to make the move.

For those who receive a passive income and don’t need to work, the elective residency/residence visa (ERV) is a popular choice – though the application process can be confusing.

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an elective residency visa to move to Italy

A recent survey conducted by the Local on the experiences of British citizens moving to Italy post-Brexit found that a number of respondents – mostly retirees – had applied or attempted to apply for this visa.

However many described the process as being far more onerous, complex and stressful than they had anticipated.

One couple who were on their second attempt strongly advised retaining a lawyer, as they found that the information provided by the Italian authorities was not clear or detailed enough to allow for a successful application.

READ ALSO: ‘Seek legal advice’: Your advice on applying for Italian visas post-Brexit

The Local spoke to three experts about how to maximise your chances of success when applying for the ERV.

Most of the advice given was relevant to anyone intending to apply for the ERV, but some related specifically to the experience of people applying from the UK; we’ve compiled that information here.

Because where you’re applying from – rather than your nationality – is the main thing that matters for this application process, this guidance applies equally to non-British citizens who are legally resident in the UK.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re applying for the ERV as a British resident.

Going through an agency

If you want to apply for an ERV from the UK, you’ll likely need to go through VFS Global, an outsourcing agency that handles visa applications for the UK’s Italian consulates.

This is different to how the application process works for people in countries like the US, Canada, or Australia, who usually need to apply directly to the Italian consulate closest to where they are legally resident.

Most UK applicants, by contrast, deal exclusively with VFS Global, whose representatives conduct the appointment, review the documentation and deliver the application to the consulate on their behalf.

Some of the Local’s readers have said they felt penalised by the requirement to go through a third party middleman, as it blocks them from having direct contact with anyone with at the consulate.

But Nick Metta from Studio Legale Metta says going through an agency can actually provide an advantage, as their representatives tend to be well-versed in all the ERV requirements. “Basically they can do a pre-check, and usually that will avoid you the denial letter,” he says.

Agencies can assist you in making sure all your paperwork is in order.

Agencies can assist you in making sure all your paperwork is in order. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In the absence of an agency, he says, the consular staff member tasked with conducting ERV meetings is often “a front office handler who in most cases is not very well-versed in Italian regulations or requirements,” – some of whom have provided his clients with incorrect information in the past.

Elze Obrikyte from Giambrone & Partners, who regularly assists UK clients with ERV applications, says that the involvement of an agency also means UK applicants have more flexibility about where – and therefore when – they can book an appointment.

For example, while US applicants have to wait for a slot at their nearest consulate to open up, someone in London has the option to book an appointment at VFS’s application centre in, e.g., Edinburgh, potentially fast-tracking the process for those who are keen to get started.

READ ALSO: EU Blue Card: Who can get one in Italy and how do you apply?

What’s required

VFS Global’s checklist says applicants for the ERV in the UK should have:

    • A completed application form, which can be obtained from your consulate.
    • Two recent passport photos.
    • A passport that is valid until at least 90 days after the requested ERV would expire, plus two copies of the front page and of all Schengen visas issued in the past three years.
    • For non-British citizens, a UK residence permit.
    • A cover letter explaining why you intend to move to Italy.
    • Detailed documentation showing “substantial and stable private income”, including official letters from the banks or financial institutions listed (this must be passive income, as ERV recipients are not allowed to work once they arrive in Italy). 
    • Your last two years of income tax returns.
    • A registered ownership deed or rental lease agreement for property in Italy.
    • A reservation for a one-way ticket to Italy.
    • A marriage certificate for those applying as a married couple, and/or a birth certificate showing both parents’ names for dependent minors.

Applying for an ERV to move from the UK to Italy requires a substantial amount of paperwork.

Applying for an ERV to move from the UK to Italy requires a substantial amount of paperwork. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Advice for UK applicants

Giuditta Petreni, who assists clients with ERV applications at Mazzeschi Legal Counsels, says she believes the ERV process has been getting tougher for UK-based applicants in recent years.

Obrikyte says she thinks consulates have become more strict in general over the past decade, but has observed that British applicants tend to struggle more with the application process than their North American counterparts.

“I see that most of them tend to be not well prepared for this type of application, while American and Canadian citizens, they’ve been living in this situation for years, so they prepare better,” she says.

READ ALSO: From visas to language: What Americans can expect when retiring in Italy

British applicants, by contrast, “tend to submit the application without actually putting a lot of effort in and then they are surprised when the application is rejected.”

Obrikyte says one key area where applicants often fall down is the cover letter explaining why they want to move to Italy.

In her experience, ‘pre-rejections’ – provisional refusals that give applicants the opportunity to fix an unsatisfactory aspect of their application before the final decision is made – are often issued on the basis of this letter alone.

She says that when asked to write a motivation letter, her clients will often write about loving the food or the weather. “This is not enough,” says Obrikyte.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

“You must really convince them that, for example, you have purchased a property, you have already been spending a lot of time in Italy, and you are integrated in that neighbourhood.”

“Italian language is not a requirement for this visa, but of course if you mention that you are studying Italian or you know Italian, which helps you to integrate better, this is also an advantage for your application.”

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