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

Second home owners hoping to spend more time in Italy may consider applying for Italian residency - but how easy is it and what do you need to know?

A woman admires the view of Manarola in Italy's Cinque Terre.
Want to stay just a little bit longer? Here's a look at your options.  Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

If you own a second home in Italy but are from a non-EU country, you’re no doubt aware that owning property in Italy does not automatically give you the right to live in the country.

But several readers have recently asked if there’s a way to extend the period of time they’re allowed to stay in Italy for.

Citizens of many non-EU countries, including Americans and now Brits are allowed to spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without applying for a visa or residency. 

This rule does not apply to non-EU citizens who are legally registered as resident in Italy.

There is often confusion about the rules if you have a second home.

At the moment, if you plan to stay longer in Italy most people from outside the EU would need to apply for a visa and residency permit (permesso di soggiorno).

While some countries such as France have made special residency permit provisions for second home owners, and certain other EU member states have so-called ‘Golden Visa’ schemes available to those who can afford them, Italy has no such process.

The first thing to be aware of is that owning a home in Italy does not change the immigration rules or the visa or permesso application process.

“The buying of a property in Italy by a third party national (now including UK nationals) does not in any way, shape, or form give them any privileges from an immigration point of view,” says Damien O’Farrell, a global mobility expert and expat coach.

“Italy, unlike Portugal, does not have a Golden Visa,” he says.

For UK nationals

There has been confusion about this for British nationals in particular, as the rules have recently changed. But again, the post-Brexit immigration rules remain the same whether you own a property in Italy or not:

READ ALSO: Italy confirms post-Brexit visa rules for British nationals

If you were registered as legally resident before the end of the Brexit transition period (by December 31st, 2020), your rights to reside in Italy are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

If not, you can still apply for a residency permit after that date, however you may not be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. Read more about those rules here.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In Italy, most non-EU citizens wishing to stay for more than 90 days in 180 would need to apply for a long-stay visa.

In some cases, rules vary by country so be sure to check with your Italian embassy.

Is residency right for me?

Residency is of course more than just declaring that you live in Italy.

Whether or not taking up residency – and therefore paying income tax – in Italy would be the right choice for you is an often complex decision which depends on your personal circumstances.

Taking up permanent residency has an impact on access to national health services (depending on the system in your home country) as well as on taxes.

Second home owners will already be paying some Italian taxes, but this in itself does not mean they have any residency rights.

Those who own second homes in Italy are “liable for any property taxes such as IMU, garbage tax, and any other local taxes,” O’Farrell explains.

“As they are not residents, income tax does not come into play,” he adds.

Becoming a permanent resident in Italy gives you certain rights and privileges that visitors do not have – notably in heavily-touristed areas where visitors may face additional charges or restrictions, such as in the case of the Amalfi Coast’s summer driving limitations.

Residency also means filing annual tax returns with the Italian authorities, even if all your income comes from your home country or elsewhere, and registering with the Italian healthcare system (which may not be free).

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

For these reasons, many non-EU citizens with a second home in Italy may decide sticking to the 90-day rule is their best option.

It’s important to point out that the 90-day limit is for the whole Schengen area, so for example if you have already spent 89 days in Italy you cannot then go for a week in Spain. 

This Schengen calculator allows you to calculate your visits and make sure you don’t overstay.

If you are caught over-staying your allocated 90 days you can end up with an ‘overstay’ flag on your passport which can make it difficult to enter any other country, not just Italy, and is likely to make any future attempts at getting visas or residency a lot more difficult.

How do I apply for Italian residency?

If you’re a third-country national, you’ll need to start by getting a visa.

There are several types of long-stay visa available depending on your circumstances. The one most likely to apply to second home owners choosing to spend more time in Italy would be the ‘elective residency’ visa.

This type of visa is designed for those who want to live in Italy and have the financial means to support themselves without working. It is often referred to as a retirement visa, but you don’t have to be retired to apply. The application costs  €116.00.

The visa however is only the first step, and it must be applied for before you arrive in Italy.

READ ALSO: ‘Do your homework’: An American’s guide to moving to Italy

Once in Italy, you’d then need to begin the process of obtaining a residence permit.

There are a few different types of permit to stay in Italy, depending whether you’re there for work, study, family reasons or simply leisure. The permit you apply for must correlate with your intentions of the permit holder and with the conditions of your visa.

The application costs between €100-200 in fees and usually takes between three and six months to process.

Find further details of how the residency application process works here.

Please note The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the immigration rules apply to you, consult the Italian embassy in your country or, if you’re in Italy, the Questura (police headquarters and immigration office) in your province.

For more details about the process of applying for an Italian visa and residency permit, see the Italian Interior Ministry’s website or the EU immigration portal.

Member comments

  1. I’m a GBR passport holder.

    I’ve owned a property in Italy since 2007. I pay for garbage collection etc etc. to the local commune. They know who I am and where my Italian home is. Does that make me officially part of the Commune population and therefore entitled to a Permesso under the withdrawal agreement???

    I pay a mortgage to an Italian bank. I have a codice fiscale. I have never before applied for Residency in Italy but I pay to declare Italian income (none) via an accountant on an annual basis. Brexit and the 90-day rule have removed my rights to FOM.

    I’m sure I’m not alone on this one but let’s be honest, it remains unclear and there are zero articles that really deal with this. Hence 2 thirds of UK passport holders living in Italy deferring from a Permesso application. Incredible really…..

    1. Hi,

      Your rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement if you were registered as lawfully resident in Italy before the end of the Brexit transition period (so by December 31st, 2020).

      If not, you can still apply for a permesso after that date, but you may not be covered by the WA. You would need to make an appointment with your local Questura to find out what the rules are in your situation.

      Please find some more information about these rules here: https://www.thelocal.it/20200924/brexit-q-and-a-brits-rights-to-travel-move-to-italy/

      And in our ‘Dealing with Brexit’ section here: https://www.thelocal.it/tag/brexit/

      Best wishes,
      – Clare

  2. But surely Australians can stay 6 months under the reciprocal arrangement. Has this changed ??

  3. Really, British people have to make a choice now. We chose residency in Italy after owning a house here for years and visiting for about 6 months every year. We still have a very small flat in England “just in case”.

    We have been residents since 2018 and it’s expensive – two tax returns each, paying around 2,700 euros into the health service every year, not being able to insure a car in England anymore, etc. However, I don’t think there’s any other way around it now. You either choose to live in Italy or GB, unless you’re happy with just taking holidays in Italy.

    Brexit ruined everything for us, and for a lot of other people too.

  4. as far as I am aware you can have permanent residency in more than one country at a time – I know of many people who do. The Italian tax authorities website states that you don’t pay income tax in Italy if you reside in Italy for less than 183 days.

    1. Hi TP – I would be very interested in your sources for the double residency assertion. I had previously thought that it was possible, but the Local is informing us otherwise. Thanks .

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For members

MOVING TO ITALY

Reader question: What are the rules on moving household goods to Italy?

If you plan to bring furniture and other household items with you when moving to Italy, here's a look at how import tax applies and the other rules in place.

Reader question: What are the rules on moving household goods to Italy?

Question: My husband and I are buying a second home in Italy and would like to ship household items over from the US. Will we need to pay import duty? Does one of us need to be a resident? And are there any other rules we need to be aware of?

According to EU rules, goods transported into the bloc that have a value of more than €150 are subject to customs duties and sometimes excise tax as well, depending on the item.

Since July 2021, a customs declaration form has been required for all goods imported from outside the EU, and Italian VAT must be paid on items with any monetary value – unless the package sent between private individuals and the value of its contents is below €45.

However, there is an exception for people relocating to Italy.

The Italian customs agency says that you are “generally entitled to VAT and customs duty relief” if you are moving to Italy and bringing household goods which you have owned for more than six months.

To qualify, you also need to be able to show that you have been living in a non-EU country for at least the preceding 12 months.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

The exemption only applies if you have Italian residency: you’ll need to show the customs office both your permesso di soggiorno stay permit, obtained from the questura police headquarters, and your residency certificate, issued by the comune town hall where you’re resident.

Note that buying a second home does not automatically entitle you to a stay permit or give you any residency rights; non-EU nationals require a visa in order to stay in Italy for more than 90 days in a 180-day period.

To claim the import duty relief, you’ll need to file a request with your local customs office once your household goods have arrived in Italy.

You’ll also need to be able to show the customs office your passport and your Italian tax code.

According to the A1 Auto Transport international moving company, you’ll need to prepare a significant amount of paperwork, including filling out a customs declaration form and making a detailed inventory of all items that is signed and stamped by the Italian consulate of your departure country.

While the Italian customs website does not provide any details on timelines, A1 says you should transport your items within six months of moving to Italy in order to be eligible for import duty relief.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about having a second home in Italy

If you’re using a shipping company, they should be familiar with the process and able to advise you on the documentation required and the most up-to-date procedures.

If you don’t qualify for import tax relief, you’ll be liable to pay both customs duty and VAT. The Italian customs agency website says that customs duty varies according to the type of good being transported, while VAT is 20 percent.

Online calculators like those provided by Simply Duty or Easyship can help you determine how much import tax you’ll have to pay.

Please note that the Local is unable to advise on specific cases. For more information, refer to the Italian customs agency website or contact the customs office of your town of residency.

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