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Reader question: Why do I now have to register British visitors with the police in Italy?

After an update to the UK government's advice, there is some confusion over the rules on registering guests with the Italian police. Are these requirements new - and are they because of Brexit?

Reader question: Why do I now have to register British visitors with the police in Italy?
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

QUESTION: Is it true that we now have to register any visitors from the UK who stay with us at our house in Italy? Is this a new Brexit rule or is it Covid-related?

There were some raised eyebrows this week after an update to the UK government’s advice for British nationals living in Italy warned they must declare guests from the UK to the local police:

“If you host a UK national (or any non-EU national) as a guest, you must inform your local immigration office (questura) within 48 hours after they arrive at your property. You could be fined if you fail to comply with this Italian immigration law,” the government website states.

In fact, this is not new – it’s a rule Italy has had in place for a long time for all non-EU nationals.

Brits now join Americans, Australians, and anyone else not from an EU member state or the Schengen travel zone in being legally required to declare their presence in Italy to the local police – even if they’re only here for a brief visit.

While these rules have been in place for years, they’re not well known and, as a result, not always well followed. Foreigners resident in Italy (and many Italians themselves) are often surprised to hear that this is a requirement.

“Foreigners who stay in Italy for visits, business, tourism or study for periods of less than three months are not required to apply for a residence permit,” the Italian police website states. “Instead, they must report their presence in the country.”

Of course anyone who already has a residence permit in Italy, and is therefore already registered with the Italian police, is not subject to this rule.

Anyone who stays for longer than three months must apply for a residence permit.

READ ALSO: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a European spouse?

While the British government advises people living in Italy to register guests with the questura, there is some confusion about the rules as the Italian police website appears to say that it’s enough for arrivals to get a passport stamp at the Italian border.

Those arriving in Italy from non-Schengen countries “can report their presence to the border authorities and obtain a Schengen stamp in their travel document on the day of arrival. This stamp is considered the equivalent of the declaration of presence,” according to the Italian police website.

There is also the option to “report their presence to the local Questura (central police station in the province) filling out the relevant form (dichiarazione di presenza), within 8 days of their arrival.”

For filing the form with the questura, the process can vary significantly from one province to another. You will need to contact your local office for further details of how to do this.

The Local has requested clarification on the rules from the British Embassy in Rome.

If you’re staying in a hotel however, the registration procedure will be taken care of for you.

“For those staying in hotels or other reception facilities the registration form submitted to the hotel management upon check-in, signed by the foreign guest on arrival, constitutes the declaration of presence. The hotel will provide a copy of this form to the foreign guest who can show it to police officers, if requested,” the police website states.

It’s also worth noting that the Italian rule applies depending on your nationality, rather than the country you travelled to Italy from.

Brits are only being informed about this requirement now because it did not apply when they were classed as citizens of an EU country.

As the Italian police website explains: “EU citizens who intend to stay for less than three months are not subject to the obligation of reporting their presence or to any other formalities.”

Italy is one of several European countries with similar registration requirements for visitors from third countries, as the EU’s Your Europe portal explains in its advice for UK nationals:

“Some EU countries require you to report your presence to the relevant authorities (often the town hall or local police station) within a reasonable period of time after arrival and may impose a penalty, such as a fine if you fail to do so,” it states.

“All you need to report your presence as EU national is your identity card or passport; if you are accompanied by family members who are not EU nationals, they will need a passport. You should not have to pay any fees. If you are staying in a hotel, it is usually enough to fill in a special form – the hotel will take care of the rest.”

Member comments

  1. We are non-resident Brits visiting our house in the Provincia di Terni (Umbria) and when we went to the Questura to ask about providing a dichiarazione di presenza we were met with blank looks and simply urged to consider applying for a permesso di soggiorno. This we are reluctant to do because of issues around being able to drive our UK car here and intricacies of dual UK-Italian residency that have foxed me. They implied that if the Comune knows we have a house here then the Questura aren’t really interested in our comings and goings. I’d be interested in others’ experience.

  2. Note that there is ALSO a requirement for people hosting non-EU guests to declare this to the questura. This must be done within 48 hours

    This separate from (and in addition to) the travellers needing to declare their presence

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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