For members


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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For members


TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

To become an Italian citizen, you may need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

From being able to confidently order a gelato to total fluency, there’s a huge variation in the levels of Italian attained by foreigners in Italy.

But there are certain bureaucratic processes that require formal qualifications. When applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence (but not via ancestry), you must prove proficiency in the Italian language at B1 level or higher.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy’s language test for citizenship

In most cases, getting a carta di soggiorno residency permit has no formal language requirement, though some non-EU nationals may need to sit a language test at the lower A2 level. Read more about that here.

This article relates solely to language ability for obtaining citizenship; the application process has several other requirements depending on which route you take. Read more about this here.

So what does B1 mean?

A B1 level certification is a ‘lower intermediate’ level and means you are proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).

This level of proficiency allows you to “communicate in most situations that arise while travelling” and to understand topics “regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

So there’s no need to write with perfect grammar, have an extensive vocabulary, or be able to recite Dante’s Inferno in the original language – but people at this level should be able to make themselves understood in most everyday situations.

It should also be enough to follow most conversations and TV shows or get the gist of what’s in Italian newspapers.

If you’ve lived in Italy for a while, there’s a good chance you’re already at this level or close to it. After all, a decent grasp of Italian really is necessary for everyday life in the country outside of the main city centres and tourist hotspots.

If not, it might be time to sign up for Italian language classes – if you haven’t already. 

If you want to check, there are numerous Italian language level tests available online, such as this one.

What does the B1 language test involve?

The exact structure of the test varies between the four administered by educational institutions approved by the Italian Education Ministry or Foreign Ministry.

They are: The University of Siena for Foreigners (CILS); The University of Perugia for Foreigners (CELI); The Dante Alighieri Association (PLIDA); and The University of Rome 3 (CERT)

These tests can be taken at language schools around Italy and abroad. If your language school advertises B1 testing for citizenship, make sure they are accredited by one of the above institutions.

The structure of the test also differs depending on whether you’re taking the B1 cittadinanza exam or a regular B1 level Italian language certification.

READ ALSO: 12 signs you’ve cracked the Italian language

Could you pass an Italian language test at B1 level? Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Both tests involve answering similar questions at the same level, but the B1 cittadinanza is essentially a shorter version which costs less to take. The downside is this certificate can only be used for your citizenship application and not for other purposes, such as for university applications.

And though it’s shorter, it may not actually be easier to pass; if you fail on one section you will have to retake the entire test (as opposed to just retaking that section under the standard B1 level tests listed above.)

If you’re fairly confident of passing and don’t need it for anything else, it may be the more convenient option.

In any case, the test will involve at least four sections; a written test, reading tests, listening test and an oral test where you have a conversation with an examiner.


For this section you will have to listen to two recordings; one of a conversation, and another of a short monologue.

The format varies and each section will be played at least twice.

Here is a sample question from a past paper, after the candidates had listened to a short clip of someone talking about the southern region of Puglia – click here for the audio and transcription.

Ascolta il testo. Poi leggi le informazioni. Scegli le informazioni presenti nel testo (3 per testo).

A) Il programma radiofonico riguarda la cucina tradizionale italiana.
B) Gli ascoltatori partecipano a un quiz e possono vincere un viaggio.
C) La regione Puglia ha ricevuto un importante premio.
D) Questa estate in Puglia è diminuito il numero dei turisti.
E) In Puglia ci sono paesi tranquilli dove ci si può rilassare.
F) La Puglia offre un’ampia scelta di sistemazioni turistiche.

Reading and grammar

This section involves reading two pieces of text, testing your reading comprehension and grammatical knowledge.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, relating to a report about new public services from the regional government in Tuscany.

A) La Regione Toscana vuole migliorare i servizi online per i cittadini e i turisti.
B) Attraverso un numero verde i cittadini possono segnalare difficoltà, chiedere informazioni, dare consigli sui trasporti pubblici.
C) L’attivazione del numero verde ha lo scopo di limitare i danni ai viaggiatori nell’ambito del trasporto locale.
D) Il numero verde 800-570530 non è attivo il sabato e la domenica.
E) Se il numero verde riceve una telefonata di protesta su un servizio deve informare la ditta responsabile di quel servizio.

See the text and further questions here.


For the writing test, you’ll need to choose between two prompts and then write 80-120 words.

In this example, you’re asked to write to your landlord to tell them you’re moving out because you have problems with the neighbours.

You’re asked to explain the problem and ask what you need to do, and whether you need to pay rent for the next few months.

Hai dei problemi con i vicini e hai deciso di cambiare casa. Scrivi un messaggio al proprietario del tuo appartamento per chiedere cosa è necessario fare. Spiega perché vuoi trasferirti e chiedi se devi pagare l’affitto dei prossimi mesi.

Do you understand the prompt? Now you need to prove your ability to get the double letters and accents in the right place when writing.


The speaking section is in two parts.

The examiner will ask you to begin by introducing yourself and talking about your work, family or hobbies – the examiner will then ask you some questions about yourself.

It should be a discussion, with the examiner asking questions and giving other responses which you are expected to understand. This part will last 6-7 minutes.

Then you’ll be given a choice of several topics to talk about for 7-8 minutes. These topics can be almost anything; you won’t see exactly what they are in advance, but the examiner should give you some time to read through the options and may help you decide which one to choose.

Your answer should include certain grammar points and involve giving your opinion. Again, the examiner will prompt you with questions and it should become a discussion.

Some examples of topics you may be asked to talk about:

    • Preferisci vivere in città o in campagna? Quali sono i vantaggi e gli svantaggi?
    • Quali sono gli aspetti della cultura italiana che senti più lontani rispetto alla tua cultura?
    • L’assistenza sanitaria in Italia e nel tuo Paese: somiglianze e differenze.
    • Quali documenti ti servono per ottenere la cittadinanza italiana? Quali sono le procedure?


    • Do you prefer to live in the city or in the countryside? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
    • What are the aspects of Italian culture that you feel are most distant from your culture?
    • Healthcare in Italy and in your country: similarities and differences.
    • What documents do you need to obtain Italian citizenship? What are the procedures?

Could you keep a simple conversation going on these topics in Italian? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

These sample questions are from the CILS B1 cittadinanza exam – see more details on the university’s website here. Exam questions will vary and the structure of exams from other institutions may differ.

READ ALSO: Which italian verb tenses are the most useful?

It usually costs €100 to sit the B1 cittadinanza exam, though some schools also add a default charge for a preparatory course.

Even if you already have a higher level of Italian, exam preparation courses could be useful as they explain the exam structure and likely content.

Find out more about taking the exam in a separate article here.

Speak to your local Questura or consulate, or see the Interior Ministry’s website (in Italian), for the latest information on the process and requirements when applying for citizenship.