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MOVING TO ITALY

How British citizens can retire to Italy after Brexit

Retiring to Italy is a dream for many people, but Brits now face more bureaucratic hurdles since the UK left the EU. Here's what you need to know about planning your retirement in Italy after Brexit.

How British citizens can retire to Italy after Brexit
Photo: Daniel Fazio on Unsplash.

It’s true that Brexit has made it considerably more difficult for British people to retire to Italy, but it is still possible.

As of January 1st, 2021, people from the UK no longer enjoy freedom of movement within the EU. British citizens now face the same immigration processes as other non-EU or ‘ third country’ nationals such as Americans, Canadians, and Australians.

People from these countries can retire to Italy, just as Brits still can, but it requires substantially more paperwork, patience and proof of significant financial resources.

EXPLAINED: What Brits need to know about visas for Italy after Brexit

From the visa paperwork to taxes and healthcare provision, here’s a guide to what British nationals now need to consider when retiring in Italy.

Visa

British people wishing to retire to Italy will now need to apply for a retirement visa known as the elective residency visa or ‘ERV’ (Visto per residenza elettiva).

This is essential for any British national who doesn’t have dual nationality with an EU country, and it applies to retirees wanting to stay in Italy for more than 90 days in every 180.

It’s a type of long-stay visa known as ‘Type D’ or ‘D-Visa’, which allows the holder to stay in Italy longer than the 90-day-rule permits. This type of visa covers moving here for study, work, family reasons – or retirement.

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

To be eligible for the ERV, you need to show proof of suitable accommodation for at least a year, which can either be a rented or purchased property. However, bookings in B&Bs, Air BnBs, hotels or staying with family and friends are not accepted.

READ ALSO: ‘How I got an elective residency visa to retire in Italy’

Dreaming of retiring to Italy? You’ll need to get your paperwork in order. Photo by Jonathan Bean on Unsplash

Since Brexit, this visa has gained in popularity according to immigration legal expert, Marco Mazzeschi of the eponymous consultancy firm Mazzeschi.

“It’s not that hard to get one of these visas, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria,” he says.

The application process itself however can vary from consulate to consulate.

International financial advisor Daniel Shillito of D&G Property Advice tells The Local: “Your nearest consulate may be an extremely busy one with a backlog of applications, meaning that this visa is instead extremely hard to get.”

“If you meet the conditions, it can be straightforward. If you don’t quite meet the criteria, of course it will be tougher,” he adds.

One of the requirements is that you can’t work to generate an income on an ERV.

Before Brexit, many British citizens bought second homes with the intention of retiring in Italy and living there permanently later on.

But anyone with a second home in Italy wanting to spend more than 90 days in every 180 will now need some type of visa. There are different options available, including visas that allow you to come and work in Italy.

For retirees, however, “the ERV stipulates that you cannot work in Italy under any circumstances, which includes working remotely or running a B&B for example”, Mazzeschi tells The Local.

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

The Italian Consulate in London confirms, “This visa is issued solely to those applicants who are planning to move permanently to Italy and it does not allow the recipient to work.”

Moving to Italy permanently is crucial to obtaining the visa. “It can be denied to those who are found to have an activity in their home country and only want the visa for the purpose of not being limited by the 90/180 day rule,” says Mazzeschi.

To apply for this visa, you’ll need to attend the Italian consulate closest to you in person and each consulate may vary in the documentation they request. Here is the application form required by the Italian consulate in London, for example.

Other documentation you may need includes a passport, passport photos, international health insurance, a letter explaining why you want to move to Italy, a registered lease or deed for property in Italy and one-way ticket travel reservations. Make sure you bring plenty of copies of all the above.

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

An Italian retirement dreams are made of. Proof that you can afford it is crucial, though. Photo by Kristine Tanne on Unsplash

The process is theoretically supposed to take around 90 days, but in Shillito’s experience, it can be up to four months, so bear timescales in mind when submitting your application.

In addition to truly proving you want to retire to Italy – rather than just spend more time here – and not being able to work, you’ll need to prove you have the resources to support yourself through retirement.

Finances

You must be financially independent without working, yet you’re asking to potentially spend the next 20-30 years, maybe more, in the country.

As such, the authorities request proof of a minimum passive income of around €31,000 per year. This can come from pensions, investments, rental income and dividends for example.

However, in reality, the consulate may ask for much more in Mazzeschi’s experience.

“You need substantial income, so the authorities may deem that €31,000 per year is not enough,” he says. “They want to see that you can afford to come to Italy and support yourself in the life you’re planning – their question is, ‘how can you justify coming to Italy to enjoy yourself?'”

To prove you have enough passive income, you’ll need to submit documents that show a hefty and steady income for the rest of your life.

These can include bank account statements, showing how much money your capital is generating. Mazzeschi points out that it might not be enough to simply have a large lump sum sitting in the bank – it must keep making you money.

Social security pensions, private pensions, property ownership deeds, business ownership evidence and tax returns may also be submitted for consideration.

“The authorities need to see that enough money is coming in every month. If that’s evident, they can tick the box and move on,” Shillito says.

You don’t already need to be retired to show how much your monthly pension payments are, as there are other ways to show your passive income if you wish to apply beforehand.

“Get advice before you make the application. Show an immigration lawyer or consultant your proof first to check you truly have a passive income or how to set up the evidence that will work,” recommends Shillito.

A bright and sunny retirement in Italy is alluring – and still possible for Brits post-Brexit. Photo by Nicola Pavan on Unsplash

Benefits for pensioners in Italy

Good news for foreign nationals retiring to Italy: some municipalities in central and southern Italy are offering a 7 percent flat-tax regime on all income generated abroad.

They are located in Sicily, Calabria, Sardinia, Campania, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia, and must have a population not exceeding 20,000 inhabitants, according to Italy’s Inland Revenue (Agenzie delle Entrate).

Elsewhere in Italy, the normal personal income ‘Irpef’ tax brackets apply. All foreign nationals retired in Italy must file tax returns in Italy on all worldwide income.

Healthcare

As noted, you will have to show that you have health cover when you make your visa application.

In the past many British citizens have used their EHIC (European health insurance card) to cover them in the gap between arriving and getting registered within the Italian system, but this is no longer possible.

Once residing in Italy, you can apply to Italy’s national healthcare system, Il servizio sanitario nazionale (SSN), by paying a fee in proportion to your income.

Getting your residence permit

If you’ve jumped through all the hoops and satisfied all the conditions, you’ll have your visa and be allowed to enter Italy.

Once you’re on Italian soil, you’ll need to register your residence at the Questura (local police department) within eight days of your arrival date.

To be legally allowed to stay in Italy, you need a residence permit known as a permesso di soggiorno.

READ ALSO:

This can take a few months to obtain and usually lasts a year, which can then be extended yearly. Sometimes, a two-year extension is granted, according to Mazzeschi.

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 further conditions such as passing a language test.

Getting a mortgage once you’re retired in Italy

Italian banks may be prepared to offer you mortgage even if you’re retired on passive income and no longer have a permanent job.

They prefer you to be employed, but they will look at people on pension income and check that you have a regular stream of funds that you can’t spend before in one go, like blowing it on a Porsche!” Shillito tells us.

READ ALSO: How can a non-EU citizen get a mortgage to buy property in Italy?

He advises that it’s worth bearing in mind that you can’t have outstanding mortgage debts and that mortgages usually have to be paid off by the time you’re 75. So obtaining a 15-year-loan at the age of 60 is feasible, but beyond the age of 65 would be “fairly tough”, he adds.

Citizenship

It might be worth checking if you are entitled to citizenship of an EU country. The above rules only apply to people who don’t have dual nationality with an EU country. People who have the passport of an EU country can continue to take advantage of freedom of movement, which eliminates a lot of paperwork.

Getting Italian citizenship isn’t an easy process, but it is an alternative route for British and non-EU nationals wishing to avoid the paperwork required to retire to Italy.

Daniel Shillito provides financial planning and property purchase assistance services for expats, retirees and investors in Italy.

Marco Mazzeschi runs an immigration and citizenship consultancy firm in Italy. You can get in touch with him for advice on retiring to Italy here.

Find out more on our section on visasresidency 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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EUROPEAN UNION

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

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

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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