SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

BREXIT

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

Now that Britain is well and truly out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to Italy from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals'.

The view from the roof of the Milan's Duomo Cathedral on August 5, 2021. Moving to Italy as a UK citizen has become complicated as a result of Brexit.
Moving to Italy as a UK citizen has become complicated as a result of Brexit - but what exactly should you expect? Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Freedom of movement between the UK and Italy may be over, but the desire many people have to move between the two countries to live and work remains very much alive.

To learn more about how the process of moving to Italy as a British national has changed in the past couple of years, The Local asked British readers for your experiences of applying for an Italian visa post-Brexit.

The two most common routes explored by those who responded were a spousal visa – for which you need to be married to an Italian citizen – and an elective residency visa, which requires a sizeable passive income.

A spousal visa application is generally regarded to stand a much higher chance of success than the elective residency visa, for obvious reasons – but it isn’t without its challenges, as reader Alex James found.

James was ultimately successful in his application to relocate from London to Terracina, Lazio with his Italian wife, but describes the process, which took five months in total and cost several hundred euros, as “a nightmare”.

READ ALSO: ‘Not just extra paperwork’: What it’s like moving to Italy after Brexit

“Dealing with the office workers, no one seemed to know what they were doing and had a genuine lack of interest in helping you,” he writes.

He singles out officials at the Agenzia delle entrate – Italy’s tax agency, with which all residents are required to register – as being particularly obstructive: “they were so unhelpful and didn’t allow my wife to help translate”.

Those questionnaire respondents who didn’t have Italian spouses instead opted to apply for the elective residency visa.

This option is generally only available to retirees, as you’re not allowed to work when you arrive; and requires a substantial passive income.

You'll need a generous passive income to be granted an elective residency visa in Italy.

You’ll need a generous passive income to be granted an elective residency visa in Italy. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

The latter requirement tripped up one anonymous writer who had hoped to move to Veneto, but whose application was denied “due to insufficient income, despite substantial savings.”

The amount of supporting evidence required for the visa is “VERY onerous,” says Jan Bennett, who recently started her application process and hopes to relocate from Staffordshire to Penne, Abruzzo.

“We have to provide evidence of income and assets, to meet a threshold that does not seem to be actually documented anywhere,” she adds.

READ ALSO: Permesso di soggiorno: A complete guide to getting Italy’s residency permit

“So far, it is very complex and stressful as we keep being told different things by different people.”

Julia Hurstfield from Cheshire purchased a home in Umbria with her spouse in May 2022 with a view to moving over with the elective residency visa.

They managed to get an appointment to file their application eight weeks later – but, like our other respondent, were turned down on insufficient income grounds.

The couple then turned to an Italian legal team who believe they do meet the threshold but were mis-assessed the first time around, largely due to the requirement to apply on separate forms despite having joint bank accounts.

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

They are now making a second application, having already spent £3,000 on legal costs so far. So far, they’ve found the process “frustrating and stressful.”

“The UK and Italian websites do not provide sufficient or detailed information to make this process viable,” Hurstfield says. Her advice for those planning to make an application?

“Seek legal advice and assistance from experienced and specialist lawyers who can assist and fully advise you at the outset.”

“I was a UK lawyer and we fully researched what was required & followed the recommendations but it wasn’t enough,” she adds.

“Spend the money at the outset and pay the lawyers… as always it’s a question of presentation!”

Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey, including those who are not quoted here.

Have you applied for a visa in order to move from the UK to Italy post-Brexit? How did your experience compare? Please share your thoughts with other readers in the comments section below.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

VISAS

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

The elective residency visa is a popular route to relocating to Italy, but the application process can be confounding. The Local asked the experts how to maximise your chances of success.

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

What is an elective residency visa?

An elective residency visa (ERV) allows you to move to Italy for one year in the first instance, with a view to gaining permanent residency. You can’t work once you arrive or receive an ‘active’ income, so although it’s not a retirement visa it’s typically retirees who apply.

While the ERV is one of the most popular visas for those looking to make the move to Italy without job offers or family ties, it has a relatively high rejection rate, and the complexity of the process can trip up first-time applicants.

The Local interviewed three professionals who regularly assist clients with the ERV application process – Giuditta Petreni at Mazzeschi Legal Counsels, Nick Metta at Studio Legale Metta, and Elze Obrikyte at Giambrone & Partners – to get their insights into how to maximise your chances of success.

Where to start

You’ll need to apply for your ERV at the Italian consulate in the country and city nearest to where you are legally resident.

While the basic requirements are broadly the same, the application process varies slightly between countries and consulates. 

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

In some countries, including the UK (but not the US and Canada), Italian consulates outsource the process of gathering applications and managing appointments to third-party companies like VFS Global.

In most cases you will need to make an in-person appointment to file your application. During the pandemic some consulates introduced postal applications, and a few have retained this option.

Some consulates accept ERV applications by courier post.

Some consulates accept ERV applications by postal courier. Photo by Joe RAEDLE/ Getty Images via AFP.

You’ll want to start by going to the website of your local consulate and looking over their ERV requirements and instructions. If anything is unclear or information is missing, ask for clarification.

The consulate has 90 days to process your application, though usually you’ll get an answer within weeks. It can take months to get an appointment at some places, however, so you’ll need to do your research and factor the average wait time into your plans.

Requirements

Generally, the key requirements for the ERV are:

  • One or more passport photos.
  • Your passport, which should be valid for at least 3 months after the date when your ERV would expire (you need to send in your actual passport, so plan not to travel abroad for 90 days).
  • Separate application forms for each person applying (even if you are applying as a married couple).
  • Proof of passive income of just over €31,000 per person or €38,000 joint income per year for married couples plus five percent per dependent minor.
  • A valid marriage certificate (re-issued in the past six months) if you’re applying as a couple, and a valid birth certificate (re-issued in the past six months) for dependent minors.
  • A property ownership deed for an Italian property or a rental lease agreement (not an Airbnb or other short-stay booking).
  • One-way travel tickets to Italy.
  • Proof of private health insurance.
  • An application fee of €116 per person.

Regardless of whether or not it’s required by your consulate, the experts we spoke to also recommend:

  • A cover/motivation letter explaining why you want to move to Italy. This should include as much supporting evidence as possible of your connection to Italy and commitment to moving there long-term – not just say that you really like the food and weather.
  • Another cover page with a clear summary of all the documents included in the application, what information they contain, and how they relate to each requirement.

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

You'll need to send off your original passport for up to 3 months when applying for an ERV.

You’ll need to send off your original passport for up to 3 months when applying for an ERV. Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP.

The experts’ advice

Two of the most common mistakes experts say people make when applying for the ERV is thinking they can come to Italy to open a B&B (this counts as working), and believing that having substantial savings is the same thing as a passive income.

READ ALSO: Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?

“We’ve had clients come to us with very significant wealth – two, three-plus million – invested in the stock market, bonds, but they didn’t have any conventional income… so the consulate told them they would not qualify,” says Metta.

For people in this situation, lawyers or financial advisors can assist you in turning your savings into a passive income stream. Buying property that can be rented out is a common solution that is generally regarded favourably by decision-makers, say Metta and Obrikyte.

The next piece of advice is to include as much relevant documentation as possible with your application. For example, even though not all consulates require travel tickets, “it’s always better just to enclose them,” says Obrikyte.

Petreni says that in her experience, it helps if an applicant owns a property in Italy rather than signing a rental contract, as it shows you’re committed to relocating there.

Of course, you may not want to invest in a property when you don’t know for sure you’ll be able to move. Even as a tenant, standard rental contracts in Italy are for a minimum of four years, and temporary 12-month contracts tend to be viewed less favourably by the consulate, which wants evidence of a long-term commitment.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about navigating Italian rental contracts

Metta says he gets around this Catch-22 by advising clients who don’t own Italian property to sign a 12-month lease agreement but add a clause that allows them to leave with two or three months’ notice, explaining (largely for the consulate’s benefit) that they intend to property-hunt once in Italy as they plan to relocate permanently.

Lastly, Metta advises clients to book an appointment at the very start of the process – before gathering your documentation – in order to streamline things, as it usually doesn’t cost anything to book or cancel an appointment.

People enjoy dinner in a restaurant at sunset in southern Sicily.

People enjoy dinner in a restaurant at sunset in southern Sicily. Photo by ludovic MARIN / AFP.

The consulate is king

A key concept that applicants need to wrap their heads around at the start of the process is that your consulate has total control over your application, and can introduce additional requirements at will.

In fact, says Petreni, it’s not so much the consulate as the one individual working there who has all the power to decide who gets an ERV: “One consulate can be very strict, but if the officer changes, then it can become a friendly consulate.”

Unfortunately, you can’t choose a consulate with a more ‘lenient’ officer, as you can only apply to the one where you’re legally resident.

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

Because of this, you want to be careful to couch your requests in the politest of language and be humble in your dealings with anyone at the consulate. “You don’t want to go there and say ‘oh, here is the printing of the law’ and this and that – absolutely not,” says Metta.

You also want to avoid doing anything that could even imply you’re making a demand. For example, you’ll want to book your travel tickets for at least 90 days after your appointment date – the full period allotted for them to make a decision.

The most alarming discretionary power held by the consular officer from an applicant’s perspective is their ability to stipulate a passive income threshold that is far higher than the official minimum of €31,000 per person or €38,000 per couple.

Petreni says it’s “typical” for the consulates Mazzeschi deals with to require three to four times this amount.

Metta’s experience is less extreme – “in general, they will honour the €31,000, one person and €38,000, spouse” – but he’s also dealt with consulates that interpret the rules as requiring €31,000 per person, regardless of whether they are married, and a few routinely say they won’t take less than €100,000 per person.

Unfortunately, consulates are allowed to do this, as the minimum is “purely indicative” says Petreni – while it feels unfair, they ultimately have the power to set their own thresholds.

Visitors walk down a street in Bolgheri, Tuscany in October 2017.

Visitors walk down a street in Bolgheri, Tuscany in October 2017. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

What to do if you get rejected

Fortunately, it’s not necessarily the end of the line if your application is rejected on financial or other grounds.

Metta says his colleagues frequently contact the officer in charge at the consulate if they’ve issued a rejection to try and negotiate a solution, and this often works.

In a recent case where a client was asked to show income of €100,000, “we contacted the person in charge, exchanged correspondence, provided some extra legal support in terms of evidence and official sources, and we got another appointment and the person finally got their visa,” he says.

Obrikyte says it’s typical for consulates to issue a ‘pre-rejection’ letter before delivering their final answer that specifies what the sticking point is, giving you a chance to fix the issue.

READ ALSO: ‘Arduous process’: What to expect when applying for Italian permanent residency

“In that occasion it is possible to try to negotiate and change their mind, and this happens very very often,” she says.

If this doesn’t work and you receive an official rejection, you can appeal in court. Obrikyte says that in her experience, simply notifying the consulate that a claim has been filed has caused them to change their minds and issue the visa.

Metta, however, advises against filing an appeal, due both to the time and expense involved and the danger that it could work against you.

“If you go through court, that requirement will pass, but there will be… I don’t want to say retaliation, but there will definitely be a dragging, forever, of the process.”

Instead, he advises clients to start from scratch and reapply. “Usually what we recommend is, let’s rearrange your finances and submit the paperwork – it will be so much faster, easier.”

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For further information on the ERV and how to apply, visit the Italian foreign ministry’s visa website.

SHOW COMMENTS