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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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EUROPEAN UNION

Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain long-term residence, court rules

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that non-EU citizens who have residence rights in an EU country as family members of an EU national can acquire EU long-term residence.

Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain long-term residence, court rules

EU long-term residence is a legal status that non-EU citizens can obtain if they have lived continuously in an EU country for at least five years, have not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period (although the rules are different for Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement), and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as knowing the language.

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment, self-employment or education, as well as the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

But the procedure to get this status is not always straight-forward.

In this case, a Ghanian national who had a residence permit in the Netherlands because of a ‘relationship of dependency’ with her son, a Dutch citizen, saw their application for EU long-term residence refused.

The Dutch authorities argued that the residence right of a family member of an EU citizen is ‘temporary in nature’ and therefore excluded from the EU directive on long-term residence.

The applicant, however, appealed the decision and the District Court of The Hague referred the case to the EU Court of Justice for an interpretation of the rules.

On Wednesday the EU Court clarified that non-EU family members of EU citizens who live in the EU can indeed acquire EU long-term residence.

The EU long-term residence directive excludes specifically third-country nationals who reside in the EU temporarily, such as posted workers, seasonal workers or au pairs, or those with a residence permit that “has been formally limited”.

A family member of an EU citizens does not fall into this group, the Court said, as “such a relationship of dependency is not, in principle, intended to be of short duration.”

In addition, EU judges argued, the purpose of the EU long-term residence directive is to promote the integration of third country nationals who are settled in the European Union.

It is now for the Dutch court to conclude the case on the basis of the Court’s decision, which will apply also to the other EU member states.

The European Commission proposed in April to simplify the rules on EU long-term residence, especially when it comes to obtaining the status, moving to other EU countries and the rights of family members. 

These new measures are undergoing the legislative procedure have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council. These rules also concern Britons living in the EU as family members of EU citizens.

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