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BREXIT: How British citizens in Italy are overcoming bureaucratic problems

Campaign groups say not all of Italy's British residents are suffering Brexit-related problems, and that those who have are now getting them resolved.

BREXIT: How British citizens in Italy are overcoming bureaucratic problems
Many Brits in Italy say they're finding their way out of Brexit limbo. Photo: Anna Monaco/AFP

Many of Italy’s British residents have reported bureaucratic problems since the UK left the European Union, mainly due to being incorrectly asked for a permesso or carta di soggiorno which they do not have.

Some of these issues have been serious – including difficulties with accessing healthcare, benefits or employment contracts.

Italian authorities announced the new, non-mandatory electronic carta di soggiorno as a means to evidence the rights of British residents in Italy post-Brexit – valid for those who had registered or applied for residency before 31st December 2020.

READ ALSO: ‘What I learned when I applied for the Brexit residence card for Brits in Italy’

But many people are facing delays in getting the cards, either because of long wait times for an initial appointment, or because of problems with fingerprinting.

Despite these issues, many of Italy’s British residents have now been able to resolve their problems thanks to assistance from the British Embassy or the IOM, say campaigners from Beyond Brexit, a volunteer-run group providing information and support on citizens’ rights.

“It was, and still is, important to highlight the problems of being wrongly asked for a permesso or carta di soggiorno, from being unable to proceed with a purchase or citizenship application to losing a job,” Beyond Brexit representatives told The Local.

“It needs to be repeated many times; UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement can’t get a permesso di soggiorno; they can get a carta di soggiorno but it’s not obligatory. It is highly recommended as, although our rights don’t depend on it, it is the best way of evidencing them.”

“Now for the good news… We know from our members that not everyone is having difficulty, even if they are still waiting for their carta di soggiorno, and others who have had problems are getting them resolved.”

Police headquarters in some parts of the country have now begun issuing the first residency cards. But for anyone who is still waiting and experiencing problems in the meantime, there is help available.

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

Photo: JOHN THYS/AFP

“We are sharing links to communications from the Italian authorities and directing people to the right place when they need help,” Beyond Brexit said. “Support from the British Embassy and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has been absolutely invaluable and we are delighted that the funding for IOM is continuing for a while longer. And, of course, people help each other by sharing their experiences.”

Here, the group shares some examples from members who have found a solution to their problems:

“I was refused healthcare; from December the local ASL refused to renew my tessera sanitaria (health card) without the permesso di soggiorno even though I had been resident and paid taxes for years. It was only after assistance in February the issue was resolved. Beyond Brexit put me in touch with the healthcare case worker at the embassy.” – Kay, Piedmont

“I applied for the ‘Premio Nascita’ via the INPS app and was refused because I did not have a permesso di soggiorno and am no longer EU. I also went directly to the local INPS office where I was told to rectify my immigration status before I could obtain any benefits. I had a lovely lady from the Consulate helping me with this (first contact via the Living in Italy website contact form). After more than three months I have finally received the ‘Premio Nascita’ and I have been informed that a circular has been sent to all INPS offices stating that us Brits who benefit from the Withdrawal Agreement do not need a ‘Permesso di Soggiorno’ and the ‘Carta di Soggiorno’ is not mandatory.” – Kayleigh, Modena

READ ALSO: Setting the record straight: What post-Brexit rights do Brits have in Italy?

“We were asked for a permesso di soggiorno to sell our house. I sent him the document sent to all notaries, which I found in Beyond Brexit, and then they agreed we don’t need the permesso.” – Carol, Veneto

“I was originally denied a carta d’identità by an office of the anagrafe di Milano as I didn’t have the carta di soggiorno. I had made the appointment but was turned away on arrival. I spoke to IOM who contacted the anagrafe. I was recontacted shortly afterwards and invited to a new appointment where it all went without a hitch.” – James, Milan

“I was refused healthcare at first but sent them something from Ministero della Salute that I got from Beyond Brexit and it was sorted. Next problem, yesterday my boss went to a CAF (Tax assistance centre) to see about getting me a contract, they told her I need a carta di soggiorno. I’ve already said I don’t and sent the links from the Ministero del Lavoro.” – Clare, Lombardia

“With my car purchase, the dealer finally agreed that I could use self declaration an hour or so after I had contacted IOM. Brilliant result. Now, if only we could get out of lockdown, I could actually drive the beast.” – George, Le Marche

if you need assistance, contact the International Organisation for Migration by emailing [email protected] or calling 800 684 884.

You can contact the British Embassy via their Living in Italy website.

Find more information and advice in the Beyond Brexit Facebook group.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

How do you cancel your residency permit when leaving Italy - and do you even need to do so at all? The Local looks into the rules.

Reader question: Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

Question: My partner and I are leaving Italy after several years of living here. Do we need to cancel our residency? If so, can you advise us on how to go about doing this?

Most people know that you need to register as a resident in Italy if spending more then 90 days in the country. But what should you do if you decide to leave?

Do foreign nationals need to deregister as a resident, and under which circumstances? And how do you go about doing cancelling your residency?

We asked the experts to talk us through when you should deregister as an Italian resident and the the steps involved in cancelling your Italian residency.

Should you bother cancelling your residency?

As is so often the case when it comes to complex bureaucratic questions, the answer is: it depends. Both on your personal circumstances and on the type of residency permit you hold.

If you’re relocating away from Italy permanently then deregistering as a resident and informing the authorities of your new address is a legal requirement – and you’d want to do so anyway, says Nicolò Bolla of the tax consultancy firm Accounting Bolla.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

On the other hand, if you’re moving away on a temporary basis, you’re not required to cancel your Italian residency.

“If, for instance, you undertake a two-year assignment somewhere, you can still remain a resident and benefit from all the coverage a resident has, such as healthcare,” Bolla explains.

You might want to hold on to your Italian residency in the short term if you're not sure whether the move will be permanent.
You might want to hold on to your Italian residency in the short term if you’re not sure whether the move will be permanent. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

There’s no official time limit for this – you could leave Italy for a number of years while maintaining your residency and then return to live in the country as if there had been no break.

That means that if you’re leaving Italy and aren’t sure whether you want to return, you might want to keep your residency status, at least in the short term (it’s possible to be legally resident in both Italy and another country).

Financial planning and property consultant Daniel Shillito warns: “you want to be sure if you’re leaving the country that it was a permanent decision, and that you weren’t aiming to come back to live – because if you do want to, it could be tricky and quite administrative.”

For British citizens in particular, he points out, “having an Italian residency these days is a valuable thing, it’s not easy to get again.”

This all applies to those with permanent or long-term residency.

If you have a temporary residence permit, you will no longer be considered resident in Italy as soon as it expires – so you may decide it’s not worth bothering to cancel your residency if it’s due to expire anyway shortly after you leave.

Why does it matter?

There are multiple factors to consider here, the biggest of which is taxes.

If you’re resident in Italy, you’re expected to pay taxes here. However, if you’re moving to a country with which Italy has a double taxation agreement or dual tax treaty, you’re protected from being taxed twice on the same income. Many states, including the UK, America, Australia and Canada, have dual taxation treaties with Italy. 

READ ALSO: Can second-home owners get an Italian residence permit?

If you’re moving to a country which doesn’t have a double tax agreement with Italy, on the other hand, you’ll be legally required pay the full amount of Italian tax on your income even if you spend very little time in Italy, so will almost certainly want to cancel your residency.

Even if you’re moving to a country that does have a dual tax treaty with Italy, you may still want to deregister as an Italian resident in order to avoid having to deal with the paperwork involved in proving you’re a dual resident whose tax obligations are limited.

There’s also a third category of emigrant: for those moving to a country on the EU’s tax haven blacklist, such as Panama, simply deregistering as an Italian resident won’t keep the tax authorities at bay. The burden of proof is on the individual to demonstrate they actually reside in the blacklist country and aren’t just trying to evade Italian taxes.

In these situations, Bolla advises clients to register as resident in an intermediate third country after leaving Italy and before moving to the blacklisted country in order to avoid the extra bureaucracy.

READ ALSO: What taxes do you need to pay if you own a second home in Italy?

Do you need to cancel your residency when leaving Italy?

There are multiple factors to consider when deciding whether to cancel your Italian residency. Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP.

Other considerations

Besides where you pay your income tax, you’ll want to consider other factors such as official correspondence, tax breaks, and timeframes for residency-based citizenship applications, Bolla says.

If you maintain Italian residency, the authorities will expect to be able to reach you at your registered address, including for things like traffic fines or notifications of tax audits. If you no longer have any link to that address and no one to forward your correspondence on to you, you could end up in a sticky legal situation.

It’s also worth taking into account the fact that new Italian residents can access certain tax breaks that aren’t available to people who’ve lived here for a while. If you cancel your residency and then return to Italy at a later date, you’ll be eligible for those incentives in a way that you wouldn’t be if you’d kept your residency.

On the other hand, Bolla notes, maintaining Italian residency could work in favour of those interested in pursuing citizenship through residency.

An individual must be continuously resident in Italy for 10 years before they can apply for Italian citizenship based on their long-term residence status.

In theory, maintaining your Italian residency while you’re temporarily abroad could mean that period still counts towards towards those ten years and you won’t have to restart the clock on your return – though it’s important to consult a professional if you’re considering this option.

How can you go about cancelling your residency?

There’s no standardised national protocol for cancelling your residency. Instead, you’ll need to contact the comune, or town hall, you’re registered with to inform them of the change and ask them what you need to do.

The process could be as simple as sending a few emails, without even having to set foot in the building. There may also be a form to fill out. Because things vary from one municipality to another, you’ll need to contact your local comune to find out exactly what’s required.

Generally the process can only be completed after, not before, leaving the country, because you’ll need to provide your new address and possibly supporting documentation proving that you’re now resident elsewhere.

“You say me and my family – and then you list all the members – are no longer residing in your town, please deregister us, and our new address is (e.g.) 123, Fifth Avenue, New York,” says Bolla.

If you have a Spid (Sistema Pubblico di Identità Digitale or ‘Public Digital Identity System’) electronic ID, Bolla notes, in many towns and cities (such as Milan), the process can be completed online through the comune‘s website.

You should expect to receive confirmation that you and your dependents have been deregistered as Italian residents, so it’s worth following up until you receive this.

READ ALSO: How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

Shillito advises using a PEC (Posta Elettronica Certificata, or Electronic Certified Mail) email account if you have one when communicating with your comune about deregistering. 

Messages sent between PEC accounts are certified with a date and time stamp to show when you sent them and when they were received, with a record of receipt automatically emailed to you as an attachment. Within in Italy they have the same legal value as a physical lettera raccomandata (registered letter).

“That secure email communication is official, you’ve got a receipt showing it’s been received,” says Shillito.

“That way you’ve got evidence and a record that you’ve communicated it to them, in case anything went wrong in the future and the Italian government decided to claim you were still living in Italy.”

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