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

If you're working on turning your dreams of moving to Italy into a reality, you'll need to get practical about paperwork. Visas, permits and residency are some of the items you'll need to check off your list. Here's our guide to moving to Italy and staying here legally.

Moving to Italy? You'll need to get your paperwork sorted.
Moving to Italy? You'll need to get your paperwork sorted. Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash

When building a strategy for your move to Italy, you’ll first need to consider your nationality and what you intend on doing once in Italy, whether that be work, study or retirement, for example.

The paperwork you need varies according to the route you take, so here’s an overview of what to consider depending on your personal circumstances.

You have an EU or Schengen zone country passport

If you hold a passport of any EU country, including Ireland or a Schengen zone country, then you are covered by the European Union freedom of movement rules and can move to Italy with much more ease than is the case for non-EU nationals.

All you need for stays under 90 days is a valid travel document, such as an identity card or passport. You can also present a dichiarazione di presenza sul territorio nazionale (declaration of presence in Italy) at a police station if you wish, although this is not obligatory.

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

A classic Fiat 500.
Moving to Italy Photo: Jonathan Bean on Unsplash

If you belong in this category, visa requirements do not apply but you will need an Italian residence permit for stays longer than three months.

You are British, American, Australian, New Zealander or Canadian

If you’re from a country that doesn’t benefit from EU freedom of movement, you’ll most likely need to work out which visa you’ll need in order to stay longer in Italy.

These countries do, however, benefit from the 90-day rule, which means you can travel to Italy visa-free for up to 90 days in every 180, which may be enough for second-home owners or frequent visitors.

But if you want to stay longer than that, you’ll need to work out which visa is right for you and begin applying for one in your home country.

Known as the ‘Type D’ or ‘D-Visa’, this is what you’ll need if you want to stay in Italy longer than 90 days for moving here for study, work, family reasons, or retirement, for instance.

You can read further details about long-stay visas here.

READ ALSO: 16 of the most essential articles you’ll need when moving to Italy


If you’re planning to move to Italy for employment, you’ll need a work visa. Which type you get depends on whether you’re a salaried employee, a seasonal worker or a freelancer for example.

Regardless of being on the payroll or working for yourself, you’ll need a work permit called a nulla osta before being able to get an employment visa or a self-employment visa.

Getting a self-employment visa is highly competitive and there are fewer available, which is important to note as this might mean a harder route to move to Italy. Businesses and start-ups have various options including investor visas and startup visas.

For a detailed guide on working visas, click here.

READ ALSO: Freelance or employee: Which is the best way to work in Italy?

Colleagues in a team meeting.
Work or study in Italy – either way, you’ll need a visa. Photo by Leon on Unsplash


Non-EU students are required to obtain a student visa prior entering Italy. There are two types of student visas in Italy, depending on the duration of the study program – type C for a maximum of 90 days and type D for more than 90 days. When applying you should provide a letter of acceptance to your course in Italy, as well as proof of accommodation, sufficient financial means and health insurance.

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

Not working

If you’re retired and intend to move to Italy and not work, you’ll likely opt for an elective residency visa. It’s designed for those who want to live in Italy and have the financial means to support themselves without taking from the state.

You’ll have to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself through pensions, savings or other sources. It is not for extended vacations, nor can you work remotely off it. Find out more about applying for the elective residency visa here.

Joining family

If you’re lucky enough to have Italian citizens as family or are married to one, there is a visa available for dependents of an Italian citizen, or a non-EU citizen with an Italian permit of stay.

The family visa allows entrance in Italy to their spouse, children or dependent parents. You will need to provide evidence of your relationship with the person whose dependent you will be, for instance marriage or birth certificates.

What next 

Once you’ve found your route to enter Italy and completed that set of paperwork, there’s more bureaucracy.

A long-stay visa allows you to enter Italy only. After that, you will also have to get an Italian residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) in order to be allowed to stay for longer than 90 days.

There are a few different types of permit to stay in Italy and it must correlate with your intentions and with the conditions of your visa.

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

Types of permit include the permesso di soggiorno per studio for students, permesso di soggiorno per lavoro for employees, permesso di soggiorno per lavoro autonomo/indipendente for self-employed foreigners, permesso di soggiorno per motivi familiari for the foreign spouse, children or relatives of an Italian citizen or foreigner residing legally in Italy. 

The permesso di soggiorno is usually processed in about three to six months, and the duration varies according to the type. Having the permit will give you full access to public healthcare, social assistance and education.

After five years of residence in Italy a non-EU citizen can apply for a permesso di soggiorno per soggiornanti di lungo periodo (permission to stay for a long period), which can be renewed less frequently. But you’ll need to meet certain conditions like having a minimum income and passing a language test.

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

The Italian frecce tricolori.
The Italian Frecce Tricolori make a flypast. Photo by Mauricio Artieda on Unsplash


If you decide Italy is to remain your home forever, with the bonus of becoming an EU citizen and all the freedom of movement that entails, you may consider applying for citizenship.

Citizenship gives you a lot more rights than residency but, of course, it’s harder to get. Once granted, you are entitled to stay here for the rest of your life, even if you commit a serious crime, and you can pass your citizenship on to your children. You can also leave the country for as long as you want and return to live without having to ask permission.

You’ll also be guaranteed free access to the Italian healthcare system for you and your dependents, even if you don’t have a job. You are entitled to vote (and even stand for prime minister, if you want).

Italy’s rules are more generous than many other countries when it comes to allowing people to claim citizenship via ancestry: you can apply even if you only have one Italian ancestor several generations back.

Otherwise, the main ways to obtain citizenship are through marriage to an Italian person or through residency.

READ ALSO: How to become Italian: A guide to getting citizenship

In either case you need to fulfil a number of criteria, including having lived in the country for 10 years if you’re a third country national or being married to your Italian spouse for three years (two if you live in Italy and one if you have Italian children), as well as passing an Italian language exam at B1 level or higher.

Be prepared to wait – the Italian state gives itself up to two to four years to process applications.

If you satisfy all the requirements and are approved, you will finally have to swear allegiance to the Italian Republic in a special ceremony (just make sure you practice it).

This is an overview of the various requirements – you can find more on our section on visas, residency and moving to Italy.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on specific cases. For more information about visa applications, see the Italian Foreign Ministry’s visa website, or contact your embassy or local Questura in Italy.

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For members


REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

Soon those non-EU nationals requested to have a Schengen visa to travel to European countries will no longer need to go to a consulate to submit the application and get a passport sticker, but will be able to apply online. 

REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

The European Commission has proposed to make the Schengen visa process completely digital.

The special visa, which allows to stay for tourism or business (but not work) in 26 European countries for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. 

Nationals of third countries such as South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka need the Schengen Visa to visit Europe, but they are not needed for other non-EU nationals such as Britons or Americans. You can see the full list of countries who need a Schengen visa here.

The proposal will have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, but is in line with an agreed strategy that EU governments are keen to accelerate in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Once agreed, the system will be used by the countries that are part of the border-free Schengen area. These include EU countries, excluding Ireland (which opted out), and Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus (which do not issue Schengen visas). Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, which are not EU members but have signed the Schengen Convention, will be part of the new system too.

Paper-based processes required applicants to travel to consulates to submit the application and collect their passports with the visa, a procedure that “proved problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Commission said.

Some EU countries have already started to switch to digital systems but not all accept online payments for the visa fees. 

When the new system will be in place, the Commission says, applicants will be able to check on the EU Visa Application platform whether they need a visa. If so, they will create an account, fill out the application form, upload the documents and pay. 

The platform will automatically determine which Schengen country will be responsible for the application and applicants will be able to check their status and receive notifications. Travellers will then be able to access the visa online, and if needed extend it too.

“Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distance to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require short term visa to travel to the EU,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

“With some member states already switching to digital, it is vital the Schengen area now moves forward as one,” said Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas.

However, first-time applicants, people with biometric data that are no longer valid or with a new travel document, will still have to go to a consulate to apply.

Family members of citizens from the EU and the European Economic Area, as well as people who need assistance, will also be able to continue to apply on paper. 

The EU Visa Application platform will be used from third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa to enter the EU and is different from the ETIAS (European Travel Information Authorisation), which is currently under development.

The ETIAS will be used by non-EU nationals who are exempt from visas but who will need to apply for a travel authorisation prior to their trip. This will cost 7 euros and will be free for people below the age of 18 and above 70. 

Based on the discussion between the European Parliament and Council, the Commission could start developing the platform in 2024 and make it operational in 2026. EU countries will then have five years to phase out national portals and switch to the common online system.