Tips for Getting Your Italian Visa

Italian Visa

With my Italian Visa successfully in hand, I had the official “green light” to begin my journey as an expat.

This is the crucial step in either moving to Italy for good, or for going for an extended stay. But, you won’t be going anywhere in Italy for such an extended stay if you don’t procure your Italian Visa.

I obsessed about this, and I spent countless hours online combing though information trying to find out EXACTLY what I would need to guarantee success. Some information was pretty black and white, and other information about requirements and the approval process was discouragingly “grey”.

Firstly, you need to determine which type of visa for which you want to apply. Student visas are fairly easy, as long as you have plenty of documentation regarding your place and course of study, your length of stay, and documentation of your place to live. Work visas are pretty hard to get, unless you are being sponsored by an Italian company or a U.S. company doing business in Italy. Again, lots of documentation. Remember, the economy in Italy has been pretty dicey for the past several years, and jobs aren’t in abundant supply. As you might imagine, the Italian government wants to do its best to prevent foreign interlopers from snatching jobs away from Italian citizens. Understandable.

Then there is the elective residency visa, which basically states you are coming to Italy NOT to work, and that you have sufficient financial resources to live without becoming a burden on the country. This is the grayest of all requirements, because there is no published criteria for the threshold of required financial assets, and those requirements seem to be much higher when applying for your Italian residency visa, than applying for your permesso di soggiorno (stay permit) that takes over from the visa once you have settled in Italy.

Not all Italian Consulates are created equal.

This is an unfortunate fact. Some Italian Consulates are notoriously tough on their criteria, and with there being a lack of defined criteria for things like require financial assets, this can be very frustrating. Add to this that being required to go to the Italian Consulate in your area, or the one closest to you in your part of the country. You can’t shop around. However, I’ve heard anecdotal stories of people moving to the vicinity of “friendlier” consulates in order to have a better chance of success. Bottom line, do some research online about other people’s experiences with your designated consulate, and prepare yourself accordingly.

My experience with the Italian Consulate in San Francisco was wonderful. They were gracious and they turned around my approval very quickly. But, I was also extremely prepared and organized in my usual anal-retentive fashion.

Your Italian Visa is good for a year.

Whether you’re planning to live in Italy for one year, five years, or the rest of your life, visas are only issued with one year validity. You see, once you land in Italy, you’re required to get a permesso di soggiorno, which becomes you document that allows you to stay in Italy. Once you successfully navigate that process (an upcoming post will be devoted solely to that) and get your permesso di soggiorno, you do not need to renew your Italian visa. You just keep renewing your permesso each year (until you pass the criteria for getting a longer term permit to stay). I recommend, when having your interview with the consulate, you articulate your commitment to living in Italy for a shorter time frame. You are still going to be “test driving” living in Italy in the beginning, and you can extend your runway as time goes on. If you show up at the consulate stating that you plan to live in Italy for the rest of your life, don’t be surprised if they delve deeper into your financial picture, and increase the threshold for what financial resources you should have in order to be approved.

What you will need:

A copy of your flight itinerary.

Proof of health insurance for a year from your starting date. If you’re extending a work policy via Cobra, be sure your medical insurance covers you in Italy. Also be sure to provide copies of such designation of coverage from your policy. In my case I purchased a travel medical policy for a year, which was very reasonable, and it passed muster with the consulate.

Proof of home ownership or a rental contract (and letter from your landlord). Don’t provide sketchy information. In fact, you may be required to provide a certificato di agibiltà, which you should have if you’ve purchased a home. If you’re renting, your landlord/landlady should be able to provide this important document. This is something on which the Italian government is cracking down, as some people (in the past) have provided addresses of properties that were, in fact, properties in ruins.

A criminal background check. Research your options carefully. Initially I went to my local police department and they informed me they no longer facilitated this kind of background check, and gave me a list of authorized “providers”. You should be able to find an authorized (i.e. accepted by the Italian Consulate) service that will take your finger prints, do a search in the FBI database, and provide an “all-clear” (provided you don’t have a rap sheet). Check the timing requirements for this document. Usually it has to be done pretty close to submitting your visa application.

Organized and detailed financial statements. Usually the consulate expects to see six months of statements (probably to demonstrate that you haven’t recently “stacked” the accounts) and a couple of letters of reference from your most important banks or brokerage firms attesting to your viability. If you are drawing a pension or social security, have the documentation showing how much you will be receiving each month. The more organized this information, the more appreciative the consulate will be. It is also a subtle indicator that you have your act together.

Not required, but helpful, is a spreadsheet that pulls your financial picture into a good overall snapshot. The other statements serve as back-up if they need to dig further.

Also, an overall letter (not too long) stating your intentions and why you want to move to Italy can be extremely helpful. Don’t let this be a “dry” document. Instead, talk about your dream and passions regarding living in Italy. This brings me to one of the most valuable pieces of advice I was given by a dear friend and expat who had already been living in Italy for 20 years…

Make your story personal.

If you go into your interview, even with all your information organized perfectly, bringing an attitude of “This is a slam dunk” or “I’m entitled to this”, you might not have such an easy time. On the other hand, if you open up your heart and show them this is a dream and a passionate endeavor, you’ll have an easier go of it. At least, that is what happened in my case. I shared images of my art work and talked about how, ever since studying art with my university in Tuscany, I had dreamed of returning to Italy to focus on my art. The extremely nice woman with whom I was meeting, took a keen interest in my story, and she was also appreciative that I was very organized. What she didn’t know was how nervous I was, because getting the Italian visa is not always a sure thing, and I was afraid I would run into an unanticipated snag or a detail that I had overlooked.

I was one of the lucky ones, and I received notice that my visa was approved within a couple of days. The following week I returned to the consulate to retrieve my passport into which the visa had been added. I walked out of the consulate feeling and thinking “All systems go!”

I called the movers to confirm the pick-up date of my goods, and I submitted my notice to vacate my apartment. And, I inked-in the date I would give my notice at work.

The adventure was REALLY beginning!

Disclaimer: These are my experiences and learnings and they should, in no way, be a substitute for doing your own research and establishing all you will need to do to secure your Italian visa.

 

 

 

By |2015-11-10T19:39:16+01:00January 3rd, 2015|Get a Head Start, Getting Your Italian Visa|8 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

8 Comments

  1. Neil Vetrano February 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Just to add a little from my experience… Not all Consulate are the same, that is so true. I actually visited two in my pursuits, first in Miami as I lived in Georgia when I started. Then in New York as I transferred residence to New Jersey before leaving the US. In Miami I was told that the Consular was on vacation and would not return to process applications for another two weeks. I imagined there would be quite a stack ahead of me, and was told that it didn’t look like I had everything they wanted, so I withdrew my application. Note that I had everything their website said I needed for my type of visa, but they asked for more once I was there. So please follow the consulate website directions and also bring everything Jed listed in this post regardless of the consulate’s documentation list.

    Next I tried New York, where I was denied my visa because I did not meet the financial requirements. A note of that: you need to have either $3,500 income per month that is NOT from your employment, or a sizable bank account. Income must be from investment, retirement pension, social security, etc. And it must be in the form of “income” as regular payments to your account, not simply funds available for withdrawal. I had considerable investments from which I could easily draw the $3,500 a month for well over one year, but since it was not set up as “income” my application was denied. I was told that for “money in the bank”, even in investment form, I would have needed one million dollars in accessible funds. This was Sumer of 2016. Unless things have changed in 2017, you can see the financial obligation is substantial for an elective residency visa.

    I actually had to leave Italy after 90 days, come back to the US, and wait to return to Italy again as a tourist 90 days after that. Since I applied for citizenship through blood, as a descendant of Italian Citizens, I was able to do all my legalities here in Italy once I returned as a tourist. I was able to apply for the permesso di soggiorno without a visa. Not an option for many, but it worked for me. (With tons of certified documents required)

    • Jed February 7, 2017 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Thanks Neil for adding important detail around this – particularly as it applies to the consulate experience. What you write concurs with my experience and those experiences I’ve heard from other people – particularly clearing the hurdle for what you earn or how you will pay yourself while in Italy.
      Thanks also for speaking to the path to a permesso here in Italy if you are applying for citizenship through your family heritage. Good to know! Jed

  2. Janet Conway November 26, 2016 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    We are in the process of gathering paperwork for our national (residence) visa. We are US citizens from Kentucky. My first question is about the health insurance needed to obtain our visa. Is the emergency evacuation portion of the policy required? Also regarding housing – Is at least a one year lease required or can we get by with 2.5 months so that we can look for something more permanent?

    Our visa interview is Jan 5, 2017 and we plan on arriving in Perugia May 8, 2017.
    Thanks for any help
    Janet

    • Jed November 27, 2016 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Ciao Janet, Congratulations on making this big step towards a life in Italy. Before answering your specific questions I believe, from my experience, that the over-arching concern with the Italian Consulate is that you demonstrate that you’ve made the necessary commitments (including financial) to be able to stay in Italy as a non-working resident (unless you’re applying for another type of visa). Expatriation/emergency evacuation is a part of your medical insurance that the consulate will look to confirm that you have (unless something material has changed since I went through the process). They want to know that you are fully covered for any type of catastrophic medical situation – including evacuation, so that you don’t end up being a burden/responsibility of the healthcare system here (depending on you intended length of stay subsequently you will be able to apply for a Tessera Sanitaria, or private insurance here in the EU). I purchased my policy through Atlas through HCC medical services. As for a lease, I’d advise you to have a full one-year lease in hand. Maybe a 2.5 month initial lease won’t be a problem, but I’m afraid that would be a red flag, and possibly a deal breaker. They want to know that you basically have all basic living “covered” for the length of your visa – which, of course in one year. You might also need a letter from your landlord, along with a certificato di agibilita – or something that states that the place where you’re staying is up to housing codes. My belief, possible wrongly so, is that the Consulate wants to see that you are completely buttoned on on living arrangements, and have sufficient funds and/or income to sustain your living without working. Remember, whether you are planning on living in Italy for only a year or two, or the rest of your life, you still get a one year visa. Once you’re in Italy, and apply for your permesso di soggiorno, it will take over as your permit to stay. If you tell the consulate you considering moving to Italy permanently, be prepared for greater scrutiny overall (especially financially). If you present your move as a sabbatical or a test drive for a year or two, I think you’ll have an easier time. Ultimately, you have to decide what you’re comfortable with and how much you believe you need to disclose.
      Lastly, since I have experience with the bureaucracy in Umbria and Perugia, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me as you navigate the process. Be aware getting a permesso there has been taking up to six months (from the time of your appointment with the questura) to have the actual permesso in hand. You’ll receive a receipt from the post office when you make you application, but for your first year you’re not able to use that to do certain things like purchase a car. For that you need residency and a residency card – which only will be issued once you receive your permesso. It’s all doable, but just wanted to give you a heads up if you weren’t already aware of this.
      Hope this information helps! Jed

  3. Chandi May 18, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    Hi, Thanks for passing me to this, via your post on the expat site. Luckily the SF consulate will be mine too… I appreciate hearing about your process.
    Cheers,
    Chandi

    • Jed May 19, 2016 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Ciao Chandi, Thanks for you email. I hope my experience is helpful as you navigate the whole process! The woman with whom I had my interview at the consulate was incredibly nice (and very appreciative that I was “buttoned up”). Share your passion for Italy – that will go a long way towards helping the process to go more easily! Best, Jed

  4. Patrice Janega December 4, 2015 at 12:02 am - Reply

    Hello
    I just came across your website and I have a question on the Elective Residency. I have emailed the consulate but still waiting answers. You state on your blog that you need a background check. Now in December 2015 it looks like it’s done at your appointment time. Should we get a background check just in case. Question # 2 on health care. We are from the USA as well. We are looking at IMGlobal which covers Italy but it does not cover Repatriation or Emergency Evacuation. Is this required? Also can we opt for a 10,000 deductible? The website just states we have to cover 100% of our costs. I could interpret that many different ways as many health care companies don’t offer a $0 deductible. Which company did you go with?

    • Jed December 4, 2015 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      Ciao Patrice, First of all, congratulations for embarking on the journey to living in Italy! I don’t know which Italian consulate with which you are dealing. The experiences do vary. Any research you can do regarding other people’s experiences with your particular consulate will be good reference material. In response to you specific questions, I must first include my disclaimer that I am only offering my opinions and perspectives based on my experiences, and I don’t profess to be an expert. I have found that experiences do vary, often quite remarkably – at the Italian consulates, and at the questura (depending on which region you choose for your residence) here in Italy.

      While I found my Italian Consulate to be incredibly kind, efficient, and helpful, I wasn’t able to get answers to preliminary questions through emails with the consulate. So, my advice is not hold your breath, and not to get frustrated, when you don’t receive responses to email inquiries. A more productive path may be to go to your consulate, armed with a list of questions, and see if you can get answers directly.

      All that said, my over-arching advice to over-prepare, and to show up for your visa application appointment extremely well-organized (all your folder’s labeled or “tabbed” for easy reference and access). I believe the people there will be incredibly appreciative, especially when they see you’ve organized the required documentation in a way that makes their job easier.

      For the background check, I wasn’t aware the procedure had changed and that the consulates are now equipped to do background checks at the time of the application. If this is the case (please let me know after your complete your application so I can provide an update on my blog) this is great. My understanding, when I applied almost three years ago, was that I needed a FBI background check based on my fingerprints. I researched companies that were “approved” for taking the finger prints and running the report with the FBI. I went with a local company and had my documentation/results in short order. Perhaps the Italian Consulates are now doing the fingerprinting and background themselves, in order to have greater confidence in the results. Makes sense to me.

      If you are not able to get clarification on this from the consulate, my advice would be to go ahead and work with a local approved agency and have the report included in your documentation. The worst thing that can happen, in my opinion, is they will still do their own fingerprinting and background check.

      For health insurance, I believe there are many options. I chose to go with a year’s travel medical insurance policy with Atlas through HCC Medical Insurance services. It wasn’t expensive and my deductible wasn’t as high as yours. My coverage included a repatriation and emergency evacuation, which I believe is required (only the consulate can confirm this). After payment (for the full year), I received a pdf of the insurance card, and documentation showing details of coverage. I provided all of this in a folder labeled “Health Insurance”. I had no issues with the consulate. A footnote, however…because I was leaving my job, I did choose to keep my Cobra extension with my employer’s healthcare plan for several months. I’m an over-planner, so I’m not saying this is essential, and I didn’t include this in my visa application. This is a decision you will have to make after doing your own due diligence.

      If you choose to research options with Atlas/HCC, I encourage you to call and speak with someone there. Don’t feel obliged to explain anything other than you are looking for a one-year travel medical insurance policy.

      One thing I liked about my Atlas policy was that it covered me for short trips (with defined limits) back to the U.S. But, again, don’t take this as fact, because policies may have changed.

      Once I had received my first permesso di soggiorno, I discontinued my Cobra policy, and went with a Cigna International Plan (they were great) with a deductible. It did not include the U.S. However, for any trips I made to the U.S. (which were brief) I went with Allianz.

      After you receive you permesso di soggiorno, you can go to your local commune and apply for your residency. Once you have your residency card in hand, you can go to the local ASL office and apply for your Tessera Sanitaria, which will give you coverage with the Italian national healthcare plan (provided you present proper documentation). You’ll also have to declare your earned income for the office to calculate what you owe. IMPORTANT: Whether you apply in January or in December of the same year, you’ll be charged the same amount for the calendar year. This is why, I planned “bridge” coverage with a year’s policy with Cigna, paying month-to-month. Once I had my Tessera Sanitaria in hand, I was able to cancel my Cigna policy (provided I hadn’t already submitted claims). I applied for my Tessera Sanitaria in January.

      Private medical insurance plans will also be available to you, depending on your particular situation and medical history, through insurance companies in Italy.

      When you go to the Italian consulate, I highly encourage you to include a cover letter explaining why you want to have an extended stay in Italy. Make it personal, and don’t be afraid to explain your “dream”. This is only a suggestion, and an opinion, but I believe if you show up in a perfunctory manner, expecting simply to provide your information, while simultaneously extending your hand for the visa, it might not go as smoothly as you’d like. I also urge you to consider your first year in Italy as a trial period, since there are people who decide the experience isn’t for them, and return to their lives in the States. I share this because, the Visa you will receive is only for a year, regardless of whether you are planning to move to Italy for the rest of your life or if you’re going for a two-year sabbatical. If you state you are going for the rest of your left, prepare yourself for more arduous scrutiny – particularly regarding your finances and how you plan to take care of yourself without becoming a burden on Italy once you are here. Consider having a short-term plan – the one you communicate to the consulate. You can initiate the longer term plan once you are here and once you have your permesso di soggiorno and your residency (and the Visa is no longer required). My experience, from talking to many different people is that the criteria/threshold for financial viability can be much higher with the Italian consulates in the States.

      When speaking with your consulate, consider preparing a spreadsheet that shows your monthly income, based on your particular assets/situation, and based on your initial planned time in Italy. At the risk of being repetitious, make it easy for the consulate to scan your documentation for the information they need. If you show up prepared, I believe things will go more smoothly.

      I know I haven’t been succinct in my response to your questions, but I do hope the information, based on my experiences, is helpful as you make your own decisions!

      Jed

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