If you decide to move to Italy, or if you plan a long-term sabbatical, you will need to have a permesso di soggiorno, a stay permit. I just received my third renewal, and I am working towards having a carta di soggiorno, a permit for a longer stay. My understanding is the carta is only available after five years of residency, so I still have some time before I can make that application.
If you’ve done your research about living in Italy, hopefully you will have learned that it’s all doable. However, I hope your research has taught you that you will need to have an ample helping of patience in the process. Many Americans, in my experience, are used to things happening at the snap of their fingers, and with greater predictability. If you are married to this way of thinking or to those expectations, I recommend you stay in the U.S. and only plan for short stays.
It’s complicated…or it can be complicated. Let me explain.
The most daunting part of the process is FIRST getting your visa from the Italian consulate. The hurdles can be significant, depending on your individual scenario. For instance, if you communicate to the Italian consulate of your jurisdiction that you are planning to move to Italy for the rest of your life, be prepared for much greater scrutiny, and be prepared to demonstrate that you have either a). A solid job with a company in Italy (and the documentation attesting to this) or b). Sufficient means of income, or money in the bank, to cover you for the rest of your life. Regardless of your plan, you will receive (at most) a visa of a year’s duration. Yes, whether you plan to move here for the rest of your life, or whether you plan to take a two-year sabbatical, you will receive a visa of the same duration. My advice? Unless you are certain you plan to live here for the rest of your life, set this up as a “test drive” and communicate in kind with the Italian consulate. Otherwise, be prepared to clear a higher set of hurdles.
Once you have your Italian visa in your U.S. passport, it becomes a different story. By that, I mean the visa gets you into Italy with some “runway” to work things out with the questura, or the local immigration police. Here’s the process as I understand it*:
Once you have “landed” you must make sure your passport is stamped adjacent to your visa to indicate your entry into the country. Otherwise, you will need to visit the local questura to announce your presence/arrival into Italy.
Within a couple of weeks (be sure to ascertain the timing, but err on the side of shorter, not longer) submit your application for a permesso di soggiorno. Here in Umbria, I was directed to utilize the service of a local union, where they fill out your application, without charge, and they deliver a computer printout with instructions on paying your bollo (tax stamp) and submitting your application at the post office, where you will pay additional fees. All in, I think I paid around $150 for the application.
There are several designations regarding the type of application for a permesso di soggiorno. Many people apply for a work permit, and that is a specific “animal” with specific requirements. You can apply for a permesso di soggiorno per residenza elettiva, which is a residency permit saying you will reside here without working – or without working here for a company in the traditional sense. Basically, it means you are retiring here, and not working in a way that takes work/opportunity away from an Italian citizen. Regardless, it is incumbent upon you to research and determine the type of stay permit you wish to receive, and the rules and regulations pertaining to each type of permit. Then, you proceed accordingly.
For me, I completed my application, which meant supplying:
– Copies of all pages of my passport which have a). Basic information. b). Pages that have been stamped.
– A document proving I have health insurance coverage.
– Financial proof of viability (bank statements, pension statements or social security statements if that applies to you)
– Proof of residence or ownership of a house. Either a lease agreement or document showing ownership of a house along with a certificato di agibilità, which certifies you are living in a house that passes the housing codes/standards.
I understand, from other people, that also you can complete the application online, but I prefer to work with the union, so that I have assurance from another set of eyes looking at my application.
At the post office, once you submit the application and the bollo, you will be assigned an appointment with the questura (immigration police). Be sure to make this date, where you will be finger-printed, and asked questions regarding any missing or questionable information.
Then, be prepared to wait. The first time I submitted my application, it took 3 1/2 months to receive my actual permesso. This was difficult, because for other things (like purchasing a car), the post office receipt was not deemed sufficient. In subsequent years, the receipt for renewal was said to be sufficient.
I’ve heard varying stories about applying for the national healthcare plan. I wasn’t able to do it until I had my first permesso, and after I also had my residency card from the commune.
The second year, my permesso took almost 4 months. This year it was over 4 months, which speaks to the backlog and workload of the questura.
Now, to complicate matters further, there is an “integration agreement” you sign when you first apply for a permesso di soggiorno. This details a point system you must follow and meet upon your third year of residency. You are required to have at least 30 points, which includes points for ascertaining/certification you can speak at an A2 level of the Italian language, and ascertaining you have passed a sufficient civic knowledge of life in Italy.
I was told, not only by other people who have lived here for several years, but also by the questura, that this additional criteria would not be tested unless I was applying for a longer stay permit. Wrong. This week I received a letter from the immigration office in Perugia to begin supplying documentation to begin tallying to point requirement. Yesterday, I visited the office, and submitted the documents. The biggie is the language certification. I took an official A2 certification test in Rome in early June, yet my results will not be registered until September. I’m sure all will be well, but it’s just a pain to be following all of the steps to make sure I am following protocol.
Don’t be discouraged. Just understand the different possible scenarios. Italy can be unpredictable. My strategy is planning for all the all possibilities.
At this point, I feel compelled to point out that there are many people living here in Italy while “skating” under the radar for certain requirements (like driver’s license, medical insurance, etc.). I admire them for their courage, but I’m a person who likes to be more “precise”, and I’m also a person who doesn’t want to be jettisoned from the country for not following certain protocol – and then being barred from re-entry – not only to Italy but to the EU. We all make our own choices. I prefer to sleep well at night, knowing I am doing my best to follow the guidelines.