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RESIDENCY PERMITS

Reader question: Can I have residency in Italy and another country?

For those who own a home in Italy and also live in another country, the rules on how long you can stay in and away from Italy can be confusing. The Local spoke to an immigration expert to debunk the myths.

A view over the Italian countryside
How long can you spend in Italy legally? It all depends on your residency paperwork. Photo: Łukasz Czechowicz on Unsplash

Reader question: I have a home in Italy and I also live in the UK. Can I have permanent residency in both countries and do I have to spend a minimum amount of time in Italy to retain my residency there?

Living between two different countries throws up a lot of questions and confusion surrounding residency rights and the amount of time you can spend in Italy legally.

For people who have a home in Italy, the answer to the above question depends on how much of the year you want to spend in the country, and on your nationality.

“If an individual spends time both in Italy and in another country, the periods of presence outside of Italy are calculated and compared with the periods of presence in Italy to see which one is prevalent,” stated immigration lawyer Marco Mazzeschi of immigration consultancy firm Mazzeschi.

Essentially, you can spend time in Italy and another country, but the time you can spend out of Italy depends on the type of residence permit you hold. That is if, in fact, you have or need residency in Italy at all.

“If you have a house in Puglia, for instance, and you want to visit it three or four times a year for a week or two at a time, you don’t need to register for residency,” Mazzeschi clarified.

So, even though people may own a second home in Italy and pay taxes on that property, that doesn’t mean they automatically have residency in Italy – nor do they necessarily need it.

READ ALSO: What taxes do you need to pay if you own a second home in Italy?

But if you spend longer in Italy and have family and work here, or “where the person and family live on a day to day basis” according to Italian law, this is when you’ll need to register for residency, the legal expert said.

There are tax implications to this, as “you have officially declared Italy as your main centre, your main residence,” according to the immigration expert. It means you’ll need to pay income tax on all worldwide income, which we’ll explain in more detail below.

What may come as a relief to many is that it’s rare for people to lose their residency, once they’ve got it, for being out of Italy for periods of time.

Here’s what you need to know about keeping your residency in Italy, depending on your nationality and paperwork.

Do you need residency in Italy at all?

As a starting point, 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.

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

Under the EU’s freedom of movement policy, EU nationals on the other hand do not need a visa or permesso di soggiorno. All they need is a valid travel document, such as an identity card or passport. Anyone in this category staying longer than three months in Italy is required to apply for a certificato di residenza (residence certificate) at their local Anagrafe (registry office).

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

If you’re coming over regularly for a couple of weeks here and there, for example on holiday or business, it’s not necessary to apply for residency.

But if you’re planning to stay for longer than three months a year in total as a non-EU national, you will need to go through the process.

To find out how to apply for residency, you can find the full guide here.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

How long you can be away from Italy if you have residency

After you’ve successfully got your residency – if that’s right for your circumstances – what are the rules on how long you’re in Italy?

Once you register for residency, it’s no longer important how much time you spend in Italy,” Mazzeschi told The Local.

“It’s very rare for people to get kicked out of Italy for being away too long,” he confirmed.

In general, the registry office can remove anyone who is unavailable over a long period of time at the residency address, according to Mazzeschi.

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

“This is a very uncommon procedure, and a result of multiple attempts from authorities to reach out to the individual. When the person is no longer found at the given address, the residency can be cancelled,” stated the law firm’s senior immigration consultant Costanza Petreni.

So what counts as a long period of time?

The answer depends on the amount spent outside the country for non-EU nationals and also on the type of residence permit.

We’ll look at non-EU immigration permits, as the rules are much more straightforward for EU nationals.

Residence Permit – (permesso di soggiorno). Remember that you’ll need to get a long-stay visa first, which allows you to enter Italy. After that, you will also have to get an Italian residence permit, the permesso di soggiorno, in order to be allowed to stay for longer than 90 days. These types of permits last one to two years.

In terms of time spent away from Italy, the permit cannot be renewed or extended if the holder has left Italy for more than six consecutive months. In the case of two-year permits, this applies to holders who have left Italy for more than half the validity of the permit consecutively. This would mean being out of Italy for 12 consecutive months.

There are exceptions, such as completing required military service abroad or “other serious grounded motives,” the immigration experts said.

EU long term Residence Permit(permesso di soggiorno per soggiornanti di lungo periodo). After five years of residence in Italy, a non-EU citizen can apply for this ‘permission to stay for a long period’. The permit is revoked if the holder leaves the EU for 12 consecutive months or leaves Italy for more than six years. Otherwise, this permit has no expiration.

A tourist wearing a respiratory mask as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, walks past the closed Colisseum monument in Rome on March 10, 2020 as Italy imposed unprecedented national restrictions on its 60 million people on March 10 to control the deadly coronavirus.

Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Permit for family member of an EU citizen (Carta di soggiorno). This is not to be confused with the post-Brexit electronic ID card with avery similar name, which proves the rights of British citizens who were in Italy before Britain left the EU.

Instead, this permit is valid for family members of an EU citizen and remains valid as long as the holder doesn’t leave Italy for periods of no longer than six months in a year. This can be for longer in case of military service.

In some cases, it is still valid even if the holder leaves Italy for up to 12 months. Pregnancy, maternity, illness, study and professional reasons or work assignments are all acceptable causes for leaving Italy longer than a year, where this permit is concerned.

It’s worth noting that it’s the holder’s responsibility to provide relevant supporting documentation to keep the carta active.

READ ALSO:

How this affects your tax payments

Residency is of course more than just officially declaring that you live in Italy. It has tax consequences too.

Mazzeschi noted that some may want to opt for maintaining residence in the UK, for example, in order to avoid paying higher Italian income tax (Irpef).

However, this is not advised as the authorities may learn that something is amiss “if your partner is here, your business is here, but you just about spend enough time outside Italy to avoid paying income tax”.

He cited high-profile tax evasion cases such as that of former MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi, who was forced to pay €35 million in fines to Italy’s revenue agency. This came after he moved his residence to London and didn’t declare his earnings of €60 million across four years, from 2000 to 2004.

The penalties were based on the second, more subjective, component of residency – not just physical presence, but other factors that show an intention to live in Italy.

“Reference is made to a number of things, including but not limited to an individual’s conduct, social and personal habits, working relationships, family relationships, business and personal activities,” the immigration expert told us.

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

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

Becoming a permanent resident in Italy means filing annual tax returns with 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).

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.

Marco Mazzeschi is the founder of Mazzeschi, an immigration and citizenship consultancy firm based in Italy. You can contact him further here.

Please note The Local cannot advise on specific cases. 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. When I asked about applying for a long stay visa the Italian embassy told me it wasn’t necessary. They suggested I enter on the automatic 90 day tourist visa and then apply for the permesso di soggiorno after arrival. I was skeptical, but this actually worked for me, saving me both time and fees. The key to making it work is to schedule an appointment with the questure in advance of your arrival so that you can complete the process before the 90 days expires. And one also needs to be from a country like the UK or USA that has an automatic visa agreement with Italy.

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For members

CRIME

What happens when a foreign national gets arrested in Italy?

It’s a situation nobody ever wants to be in, but what if you’re arrested in Italy? Here's an overview of your rights and what you should do if this happens to you.

What happens when a foreign national gets arrested in Italy?

Most people come to Italy to enjoy the weather, food, and relaxed lifestyle. Very few come to break the law, but there’s always a chance you could find yourself in trouble with the Italian police whether through misunderstanding or misdemeanour. 

Pray it never happens but if you are arrested while in Italy, what are your rights? What happens next, and who can help you?

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Italy

Whether it’s a road traffic violation, a minor offence or a more serious charge, here’s what you need to know about Italian legal processes upon arrest. 

The Italian system

Italian legal procedures may slightly differ from those in your home country, but just like in most Western countries, the Italian judiciary is independent from the government and all foreign nationals have the same rights (and face the same laws) as citizens.

Rights upon arrest

Upon your arrest, you will be orally informed of your rights, which, in short, are the following: 

You have the right to appoint a lawyer of your choice. If for any reason you cannot find a lawyer, the police will ask the local bar association to produce a state-appointed lawyer (difensore di ufficio). In Italy it is mandatory to have a lawyer when facing criminal charges. 

You also have the right to inform your family and your consulate of your arrest.

Keep in mind that, in case you’re caught and arrested in the act of committing a crime (un reato) or immediately after committing a crime, you do not have the right to know the allegations held against you until the udienza di convalida, a judicial hearing for the validation of your arrest (this must take place within four days of the arrest).

In all other circumstances, you will be served an arrest warrant (mandato), which must include an overview of the allegations.

Legal representation

You are entitled to representation by a lawyer (avvocato) during all stages of the criminal proceedings against you.

You can find contact details for Italian lawyers through the Albo Nazionale Avvocati (National Lawyers Register). Alternatively, you may also reach out to your consulate and ask to be given the contact information of lawyers suited to your case.

As previously mentioned, if you can’t find a lawyer, a defense counsel will automatically be appointed by the police or by the court from a list of lawyers provided by the local bar association.

READ ALSO: Guardia di Finanza to Carabinieri – who does what in the Italian police force? 

Please note that, if you are not under arrest but merely under investigation, you cannot be interviewed by the police in the absence of your lawyer. Any evidence gathered during an unlawful interview will be stricken as inadmissible at trial.

Conversely, if you are under arrest, the interview can only be conducted by a judge or a prosecutor. In such a case, your lawyer must be informed of the interview but their attendance is not mandatory.

Trial of two US teenagers in Rome

Lawyer Massimo Ferrandino takes the floor during a high-profile criminal proceeding in Rome on July 22nd 2020. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / POOL / AFP.

Legal aid

As of January 2021, if you are earning less than €11,746.68 (approximately £9960 or $12,511) per year, you are entitled to apply for legal aid.

If your application is successful, your lawyer of choice will be paid in full by the state at the end of your proceedings.

In order to apply for legal aid, non-EU citizens need to produce an official statement validated by their consulate and indicating their personal yearly income.

Translators

If you do not have a good command of Italian, you should be provided with an interpreter for any stage of the proceedings where your presence is required. The service will be free of charge.

While you are entitled to a translator, you don’t have the right to ask that any evidence against you be translated into your mother tongue. 

Interrogation

Whether you’re being questioned by the police, a prosecutor or a judge, you should know that anything you say can be used against you during your trial. 

As a result, it is advisable that you consult your lawyer prior to answering any question.

Pre-trial detention & bail

Your pre-trial detention or other conditions imposed on your freedom are decided by the judge in camera di consiglio, ie. not in an open court.

The length of your pre-trial detention period depends on the nature of your alleged offence.

For instance, for minor offences, you cannot be detained for more than six months prior to your trial. Keep in mind that, by Italian law, if your trial at the first instance doesn’t end within 18 months of your detention, you must be released.

Local police officers standing outside Milan’s San Vittore prison. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Defendants who are granted bail (libertà provvisoria) are free to go back to their home country unless the judge has imposed conditions that would make it impossible to do so (for instance, the confiscation of one’s passport).

Any breach of the relevant bail conditions generally results in the application of harsher measures, such as restraining orders (ordinanze restrittive), house arrest (arresti domiciliari) or custody.

Note that the judge’s decisions regarding a defendant’s freedom prior to the start of their trial can be challenged by applying for a judicial review at the Tribunale della Libertà (Freedom Tribunal).

Rights while in custody

All prisoners have a number of rights, including the right to security, healthcare and sustenance. Detainees also have a right to unlimited mail correspondence, six one-hour-long visits per month (no more than three visitors are allowed at a single time) and one 10-minute phone call per week.

Foreign nationals can request to receive the Charter of Rights (Carta dei diritti e dei doveri dei detenuti e degli internati) in their own language. The English-language version is available here.

All detainees who believe that their rights may have been violated can reach out to their regional ombudsman and request intervention.

Bear in mind that ombudsmen have the authority to set up meetings with detainees and visit penitentiary centres without previous authorisation.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. If you find yourself under arrest in Italy, we suggest you contact your country’s consulate for advice.

For further information, please consult Fair Trials’ online resource hub and Prison Insider’s website. Other useful links are available below:

National Bar Council

Ministry of Justice

National Guarantor for the Rights of People Deprived of Liberty

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