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BUREAUCRACY

The five most essential pieces of paperwork you’ll need when moving to Italy

Sunshine, good food, and breathtakingly beautiful sights are all guaranteed when you move to Italy. Unfortunately, so is a big pile of paperwork. Here's where to start.

The bureaucracy you'll need to get through to move to Italy.
Here's an overview of the bureaucracy you'll need to get through to move to Italy. Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash

Italy is famously entangled in red tape, and there’s even more of it for foreign residents. While some processes are gradually being simplified and even moved online, we can’t deny that Italian bureaucracy would test the patience of any of the country’s many saints.

Still, as Italy’s foreign residents tell us again and again, it’s all worth it to be able to live and work in one of the most fabulous countries in the world.

There are just a few key documents that you’ll really need when you first arrive. To help you get started, here’s a look at the very first things that should be on your to-do list as you plan your move.

Visa

Getting into the country at all is a good place to start.

If you come from a country outside the European Union (which now includes the UK) you will need to apply for a visa if you’re planning to stay in Italy for more than three months.

There are different types of visa according to the reason for your visit. Bear in mind you’ll need to do this while still in your home country, and make sure you apply in good time. The Italian embassy in your country should be able to give you the details of the application process and requirements for the type of visa you need.

EXPLAINED: What type of visa will you need to move to Italy?

And not forgetting that the most important document you need for this is, of course, your passport. It sounds obvious, but make sure it is up to date and also that it’s valid for the duration of your stay in Italy, whether you’re staying six days or six months.

It’s also never a bad idea to make and keep printed and digital copies of your passport and visa in case they get lost or stolen. Getting these replaced in Italy would add significantly to your paperwork pile – not to mention costs.

Permesso di soggiorno

If you’re planning to stay for more than three months and you’ve been granted a visa, once you get to Italy you’ll need to register with the Questura (police headquarters) and apply for your permesso di soggiorno (residence permit).

The process varies by province, but it involves paying €100-200 in fees and processing charges, giving your fingerprints and submitting numerous documents – and it usually takes around three to six months to process.

(While you’re waiting for it to arrive, be sure to carry your assicurata, or receipt of application, with you since it’s your proof that you’re in Italy legally.)

Once you have your permesso, it will give you full access to public healthcare, social assistance and education. So make sure you have a valid one: if it’s due to expire, prepare to renew it in advance. 

READ ALSO: Italian residency: Who needs it and how do you get it?

After five years living legally in Italy you can apply for a permesso di soggiorno per soggiornanti di lungo periodo (permit to stay for a long period), which can be renewed less frequently.

Although EU citizens can travel freely around European member states, anyone staying longer than three months in Italy is required to apply for a certificato di residenza (residence certificate) at their local Anagrafe (registry office). This serves as proof of residence and will help you access public healthcare and other services.

Visitors do not need a visa to stay in Italy for up to three months as a tourist. But technically they should also apply for a temporary permesso di soggiorno (residence permit). 

Even short-term visitors are supposed to register with the local Questura and apply for a permesso di soggiorno per turismo (permit to stay for the purposes of tourism) within eight days of arrival – though in practice, few tourists actually do so.

Photo: ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Carta d’identità

After successfully applying for residency, you’re expected by the authorities to get an Italian ID card from your local Anagrafe (the same office where you got your residency permit – but don’t expect to be able to get these on the same day).

You may have seen Italians showing old-school paper booklets – a surprisingly flimsy record of your name, date and place of birth, nationality and address, as well as personal details such as eye colour and marital status.

You’re very unlikely to get one of these – they are being replaced by a plastic version with a chip that stores the information electronically. 

You’re supposed to carry your ID card with you at all times in Italy, and to show it to authorities if asked.

You can also use it to access certain government services online.

While Italian citizens can use their ID cards for travel within the Schengen Zone and to certain other countries, those issued to foreign nationals are usually not valid for travel.

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Codice fiscale

A codice fiscale (fiscal code or tax code) is a personal identification number similar to a Social Security number in the US or National Insurance number in the UK.

The bad news is that you need it to do practically anything in Italy, from making purchases online to getting a job to signing a lease on a property.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to get hold of. This will probably be the most straightforward item to check off your list.

Go to your local Agenzia delle Entrate (tax office) armed with a photocopy of your ID and fill out an application form (some offices even have them available in English). 

You should be assigned your code on the same day, while a plastic card carrying the information will be posted out to you a few weeks later.

READ ALSO: Codice fiscale: How to get your Italian tax code

Tessera sanitaria

Italy has a comprehensive state healthcare system which many, but not all, foreign residents will be able to access.

Residents of EU countries who are visiting Italy can access this subsidized medical treatment with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available via the healthcare system in your home country.

But wherever you’re from, if you are in Italy for more than three months you should look at registering with the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or SSN).

Once signed up, you’ll be issued a tessera sanitaria, or health insurance card. 

READ ALSO: Who can register for national healthcare in Italy?

Depending on your personal circumstances however this is not always free. Some people find they have to pay quite large contributions, or may in fact not be eligible to sign up. For these reasons, many non-Italian residents take out private health insurance instead.

And many people take out private coverage for their first year in Italy anyway. That’s because, to apply for the health card, you will need to already be a resident in Italy with the permesso di soggiorno to prove it (see above).

Until you have at least applied for this, your registration can’t go ahead.

Keep in mind that the tessera sanitaria can’t be applied for online. You need to go in person to the ASL, or Agenzia Sanitaria Locale (local health authority) office (find your closest ASL here).

For many foreigners in fact the process takes not just one but two trips to the ASL, as well as a stop at the post office. Find all the details of the sign-up and renewal process here.

Once registered with the SSN you’ll also be allowed to register with a local GP or family doctor. In fact, some ASL offices will “choose” a doctor for you.

You’ll need to show the card when seeking medical treatment or buying prescription medicine to benefit from subsidies – and it also serves as an EHIC, entitling the bearer to urgent care in any EU country.

Newer versions of the card also feature a chip and PIN that allow you to access certain public services online.

What next?

Once you’ve got these pieces of paperwork under your belt, there will be plenty more to come. 

See The Local’s Italian bureaucracy section for guides to some of the next things you may need to check off your list, from the paperwork involved in working as a freelancer to registering a foreign car in Italy.

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MONEY

REVEALED: Which are Italy’s cheapest supermarkets?

As the cost of living crisis hits household budgets in Italy as elsewhere, a new study says switching supermarkets could shave thousands of euros a year off your grocery shopping bill.

REVEALED: Which are Italy's cheapest supermarkets?

As the cost of living keeps rising amid soaring inflation – Italy’s inflation rate hit a 37-year high at the end of last month – many households across Italy, as elsewhere, are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

The government’s recent suggestion of lowering or even scrapping IVA (VAT, or sales tax) on basic food products hasn’t materialised. But consumers could still find ways to save on their grocery shopping.

Many shoppers are now switching supermarkets to save money, or considering it.

And doing so could pay off. A new study from Italian consumer group Altroconsumo showed a family of four can save up to 3,350 euros a year by shopping at discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Eurospin.

Altroconsumo, savings on grocery shopping

Maximum possible savings by type of shopping and household size. Graphic courtesy of Altroconsumo.

For context, the study found Italian families with two children spend an average of 8,550 euros a year on groceries. 

While discount supermarkets do allow for considerable savings however they also generally offer lower-quality products which not all consumers will be satisfied with.

Shoppers can also reduce costs by switching to supermarket own-brand items (i.e. items carrying the supermarket logo), available in stores such as Carrefour and Iper-Coop. 

In particular, shopping at Carrefour, which is the most affordable supermarket in Italy when it comes to own-brand goods, can allow a family of four to save as much as 3,250 euros per year (savings can amount to 2000 euros for individual consumers). 

Consumers who do not wish to part ways with branded products (prodotti di marca) can still save on their shopping, though in this case savings are comparatively lower.

Shopping at Esselunga – the most cost-effective Italian supermarket for branded goods – allows for savings up to 350 euros for single individuals and up to 570 euros for families with two children.

Finally, potential savings are considerably reduced for consumers choosing to stick with a spesa mista, meaning that they generally fill up their shopping cart with a combination of branded items, distributor-brand goods and low-cost goods.

Regional differences 

While switching supermarket can mean savings on food bills, exactly how much you’ll save varies greatly by region.

In particular, Altroconsumo’s latest report highlighted once again the stark divide separating the north of the country from the centre and south. 

READ ALSO: From coffee to haircuts: How the cost of living varies around Italy

 Of the 15 cheapest Italian supermarkets, only two are located in the central or southern regions of the boot (Sesto Fiorentino’s Coop-Fi and Spesa 365 in Bari).

More importantly, consumers living in the north and shopping at the cheapest supermarket or hypermarket available in their city can save as much as 18 percent on a branded-goods-only food bill.

In equal circumstances (i.e. buying only branded items at the cheapest local store), consumers living in most central or southern cities can only save between two and three percent. 

Convenience map by Altroconsumo

The “convenience map”, with the cheaper cities shown in green and the more expensive cities shown in red. Graphic courtesy of Altroconsumo.
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