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

Italy is keen to attract foreign investment and prepared to cut some red tape to do so. Tuscany-based tax experts MGI Vannucci e Associati explain how investing in Italy could secure you the right to live here.

What is Italy's investor visa and how can you apply?
Investing in an Italian business is one way to get residency. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

In recent years, Italian economic policies have invested particularly in measures to make the country more attractive to international investors by facilitating business initiatives and simplifying internal regulations in order to make the bureaucratic system more streamlined for those who want to start a business.

What is the Investor Visa for Italy?

This particular visa has been introduced in our country to attract foreign capital and talent. It therefore represents a measure which, together with the facilitated tax regime of the “flat tax”, allows foreign investors to enjoy important tax benefits and immigration concessions.

READ ALSO: Why Italy's inheritance taxes aren't as high as you might expect

Today these benefits are even more interesting. In fact, the minimum thresholds for investments in innovative companies and startups by foreign investors have been halved, so that they can invest in Italy and enjoy tax breaks even with a lower financial contribution.

The thresholds are now as follows:

  • For investments in instruments representing joint stock companies operating in Italy and maintained for at least two years, the minimum investment threshold went from €1 million to €500,000;
  • For investments in innovative startups registered in the special section of the business register referred to in article 25, paragraph 8, of law decree n.179 of 18 October 2012, the minimum investment threshold went from €500,000 to €250,000.

The reduction of the financial threshold makes Italy the most competitive nation in the European context.

Who is eligible?

The investor visa is valid for two years for non-EU citizens who choose to invest in strategic activities for the Italian economy and companies.

How do you apply?

To obtain a visa, non-EU investors must obtain a nulla osta (certificate of no impediment) issued by the Investors Committee for Italy (IV4I). The procedure is quick: it is concluded within 30 days of sending a complete application. It is free and entirely online. 

After obtaining the nulla osta, the application for an investor visa must be submitted to the diplomatic mission of your place of residence within six months.

Once you receive the visa, you have two years to enter Italy.

What does the investor visa allow you to do?

With the residence permit for investment you can:

  • Circulate freely for the Schengen Area for a maximum period of 90 days within 180 days;
  • After five years of regular residence in Italy, you can apply for an EU residence permit for long-term residents;
  • After ten years of residence, you can apply for Italian citizenship.

Are there tax incentives?

The Investor Visa for Italy programme incentivizes Investments in startups and innovative SMEs. The benefits consist of:

  • For individuals, a deduction from income tax (personal income tax) equal to 30 percent of the amount invested, for a maximum contribution of €1 million. Currently, based on the Relaunch decree, the percentage rises to 50 percent for investments up to €100,000.
  • For limited liability companies, a deduction from the taxable amount for IRES (corporate income tax) purposes equal to 30 percent of the investment, with a maximum threshold set at €1.8 million.

For more information, visit the Italian Ministry of Economic Development's website

MGI Vannucci e Associati are a team of English-speaking chartered accountants and tax experts based in Tuscany, Italy.
 

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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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