Reader question: Can I stay more than 90 days in Italy due to travel restrictions?

Reader question: Can I stay more than 90 days in Italy due to travel restrictions?
Will Italian authorities go easy on people who overstay in Italy due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Travel has been heavily restricted around most of the globe for the past year, so are immigration authorities relaxing the rules about how long visitors can stay in Italy?

Reader question: We are British and travelled to our second home in Italy in December when it was allowed to do so. Since then travel restrictions have been tightened and several of our flights have been cancelled so we have holed up here. But now the 90-day rule is in force will we have to leave by the end of March or has the rule been waived because of the difficulties in travelling?

Many people’s travel plans have been thrown into disarray over the last year. For many that has made trips to Italy impossible, while others have ended up staying longer than they planned.

But however topsy-turvy the world has become, there are still limits on how long certain groups can stay in the country.

For people who are not EU citizens – which from January 1st 2021 includes UK nationals – the 90-day rule comes into play.

You can find an explanation of how it works HERE, but essentially it limits trips into the Schengen zone to 90 days out of every 180. People who want to stay longer than 90 days in every 180 must apply for a visa (find out about the visas available to Brits HERE).

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So have these limits been waived during the Covid crisis?

The EU has issued some general advice on this, encouraging member states to grant extensions where necessary and waive sanctions on people who have overstayed due to travel restrictions.

For nationals of visa-waived third-countries who are compelled to stay beyond the extended 90/180 days, the competent national authorities should extend the validity of the authorisations for legal stay, issue a new one or take other appropriate measures that ensure a continued right to stay on their territory,” the European Commission recommends. This includes citizens of the UK, who don’t need a visa to enter Italy for a 90-day tourist visit.

“Overstays due to the temporary travel restrictions should not be taken into account during the processing of future visa applications,” the Commission says.

As ever, though, decisions on border issues remain with national governments within the EU.

Italian authorities have extended out-of-date visas and residence permits several times over the past year to reflect the difficulties of getting immigration paperwork processed during a public health emergency. Under its current emergency rules, expired permessi di soggiorno (residence permits) are valid until April 30th 2021.

But the rules are less clear for people who entered the country without a visa for what was only supposed to be a short stay and therefore do not have immigration papers.

READ ALSO: Why some Britons will have to leave EU countries by March 31st

The Local recently put this question to the British Embassy in Rome, who told us: “Any stays beyond the 90 days in any 180-day period will be dependent on the applicable visas and immigration rules of each EU member state. This may require applying for a visa and/or permit.

“British nationals should direct any queries on possible extensions to their length of stay with the local questura and be prepared to provide any extra documentation that may be required. 

“The Schengen Borders Code governs the rules for entry and exit in the Schengen Area for third-country nationals. Member State border forces are responsible for the implementation of the rules, including in emergency cases.

“The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is not in a position to comment on the enforcement or penalty policies of Schengen Area Member States. However, further information on the Schengen Borders Code is available on the European Commission’s website.  

“British nationals should discuss the specifics of their situation with their local questura (immigration office).”

Q&A: The British Embassy answers your questions about life in Italy after Brexit

If you decide it’s wisest to return to the UK, remember that Italy’s restrictions allow people to travel home if necessary.

While Italian residents are not allowed to visit the UK for tourism, people who live, work or study in the UK can travel there from Italy. The same applies to all non-EU countries on which Italy has travel restrictions.

In order to travel you will need extra paperwork and, depending on your destination country, a negative Covid test. Find more information on the rules HERE

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