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Residency permits For Members

Permesso di soggiorno: A complete guide to getting Italy's residency permit

John Last
John Last - [email protected]
Permesso di soggiorno: A complete guide to getting Italy's residency permit
Planning to become an official resident of Italy? Your residency permit is within reach. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Applying for your Italian 'permesso' can seem like a daunting task. Reporter John Last shares his experience of the process and explains the steps you'll need to take.

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It’s a rite of passage for newcomers to Italy: obtaining the permesso di soggiorno, Italy’s residence permit, is a necessary hurdle for anyone who wants to stay in the country more than a few months.

If you’re undertaking this journey, buckle up — applying for a permesso di soggiorno is a multi-step process that will at various points leave you waiting for hours, days, weeks, and even months for any signs of progress.

Stay patient, have faith, and keep your documents organized, and you too can become a legal resident someday.

What is a permesso di soggiorno?

Anyone visiting Italy for more than 90 days is required to have a permesso di soggiorno: a residence permit and ID card which connects your visa and passport information to your biometric data, your place of residence, and your legal grounds for remaining in the country.

As such, there are many different categories of permesso di soggiorno to cover the many different reasons someone may remain in Italy. That includes everything from business, study and seasonal work to marriage, research, or foster care.

Each requires a slightly different list of documents in addition to the more standard requirements described below — you can find details for each category on this official page.

READ ALSO: Italian residency: Who needs to apply for a permesso di soggiorno?

As an example, as a Canadian spouse of an EU citizen, I was required to provide a certified translation of our marriage certificate, a declaration of hospitality, a copy of our lease, and proof of my partner’s annual income, alongside the usual requirements.

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It’s a good idea to research and prepare as many of these required documents as is possible while still in your home country, as it can be tough or even impossible to track them down while abroad.

In our case, we learned too late that you can’t get a translation of a Canadian marriage certificate certified outside Canada. A bit of research could’ve saved us an expensive courier, many panicked emails, and a favour from relatives back home.

Getting started

Technically, if you’re planning to remain in Italy over 90 days, you’re supposed to apply for your permesso di soggiorno within eight working days of your arrival in Italy. In practice, it’s possible to apply well after this deadline has passed, though you are likely to run into problems if your initial arrival visa has expired. 

Either way, getting started early is always a good idea, because the whole process can take up to six months or more.

As the process also tends to vary by provincial immigration office (Questura) and the rules are subject to change, you'll need to find out what the exact requirements are for your category of permesso at the office where you intend to apply.

READ ALSO: Can second-home owners get an Italian residency permit?

For most categories of applicants, the application begins with a visit to the nearest post office with a sportello amico (note, this is not all post offices). 

In large envelopes with yellow stripes, these offices will have application kits that contain the forms you need to apply for your permesso di soggiorno.

New arrivals will need to become familiar with their local Italian post office. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)

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At first glance, these forms can be daunting: eight pages long, covered with endless tiny red boxes, and labelled entirely in Italian. But break them down, and they are mostly requesting simple information like your passport number, date of entry, past addresses, and dependents.

If you’re still feeling lost, you can turn to an office called a patronato. These are local organizations appointed by the Ministry of the Interior that will help you with this, for free — you can search for them on the sidebar of this official website.

As already mentioned, alongside the form, you’ll need to provide a few other documents to complete your application. In every case, that includes photocopies of your passport (the photo page and the page showing the visa with which you entered Italy), four passport size photos, and a €16 marca da bollo proof-of-payment stamp, which you buy from a tabaccheria.

Then, there are the additional documents required for your category, which can include things like a work contract, apartment lease, or proof of finances or insurance. (Reminder: you can find a list with those requirements here, but you should also check with your local Questura in case their requirements differ).

Filing your application

Once you've completed your form and have your documents collected, it’s time to return to the post office. Make sure to bring your original passport (and originals of other documents just in case) — it will be checked by the postal worker as you file your application.

When you file, you'll be charged €30 just for sending the request, plus an additional fee for the permesso di soggiorno — €40 for a stay of three months to one year; €50 for a stay of one to two years; and €100 for a stay longer than two years.

The length is determined by your visa and your reason for staying. If you're a student, for example, it will usually be one year.

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There are some types of applications that don't get filed at the post office. Some uncommon categories of permesso di soggiorno need to be filed at the local police station, or questura, instead. Those include stays for reasons of sport or medical care, unaccompanied minors, working holidaymakers, or asylum seekers.

After you've successfully filed, you’ll fill out your name and address on some post office forms, and will receive a small, disposable-looking slip in return. This is very important: do not lose this slip!

Called a ricevuta, this is your only proof you are not overstaying your visa and that your application for legal residency is underway. For that reason, if you are at all worried about facing random identity checks, it’s advisable to keep this with you at all times, like an identity card.

If you have any difficulties with the application process for your residency permit, help is available from the 'patronato'. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

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In most cases, this slip will also allow you to leave Italy for short periods and return, if necessary. Legally, it should permit you to travel to Schengen countries and even return to your home country, so long as you depart and arrive through the same Italian port.

In practice, some travellers receive far more latitude than others. On a return trip to Canada, I was able to leave and return to the EU via different third-country airports (Germany and Austria). When I asked the Austrian border police about this, they said the ricevuta didn’t matter — most Canadians automatically receive a visa, they said, regardless of their residency status.

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

Most importantly, your ricevuta will contain a key date for the next step in the process: an appointment at your local Ufficio di Immigrazione, where they will review your documents to ensure you have filed everything and process your fingerprints.

Waiting in queues

Depending on how overworked your local immigration office (Questura) is, this appointment may be months away. When the time comes, collect your original documents and your copy of your application, get there early, and be prepared for a long wait. Appointment times rarely reflect reality in Italy — but once you receive a number at the entrance, you should be seen eventually.

It’s worth knowing in advance that even though these are immigration offices, staff behind the windows rarely speak anything but Italian. If you’re missing anything, you may be able to ask for a printed checklist where they can highlight what you’ve forgotten. Then, you’ll be sent for fingerprinting, which can be another long wait in itself.

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Before you leave the office, they should give you an alphanumeric reference number you can use to check the status of your application online using the Polizia di Stato’s online portal. This will save you the headache of coming back to the immigration office before your card is ready.

It can take as long as four to five months to receive your residency card. During this time, some people report that police come to check that they’re actually living at the address they've given.

The only way to know for sure when your card is ready is to check the online portal using your reference code. One day, it will magically change from a yellow X to a green checkmark and the day will have arrived when you can collect your hard-earned residency card.

Renewals and changes

Nothing lasts forever — least of all immigration status. Once you’ve got your residency card, it may not be long before you need to renew it, or update key information like your address.

Updating your card is relatively simple. You’ll need to visit the questura with some proof of the change in hand, fill out a form, and, in some cases, pay a fee. If you’ve moved, a residence receipt or lease should be proof enough. For a new baby, you’ll need a birth certificate. For a new passport, a photocopy will do.

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Renewals, however, are largely the same as your first application. You’ll fill out a form at the post office and submit much the same accompanying documents, and you’ll get an appointment for an interview at the immigration office or questura, where you will have those documents reviewed.

READ ALSO: When and how should I renew my Italian residence permit?

You might even need to provide additional information — for example, students must show they’ve passed at least one exam in their first year (and two in subsequent years).

For that reason, even though you’re likely to receive your replacement card faster, it’s advisable to begin the process of renewing your permesso di soggiorno as early as possible: depending on the questura, the advice is generally to start anywhere from one and six months before it’s due to expire.

With luck, these steps will see you claim your residency with minimal fuss, and allow you to live your life in the meantime. And if you ever get stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help — remember, you can find a list of free, helpful, local organizations by searching for patronati on this official website. Good luck!

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on specific cases. Some requirements can vary by Questura or immigration office. For more information about the application process, contact your local Questura or the Italian consulate in your country.

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Comments (2)

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Anonymous 2022/12/29 13:41
It's not entirely correct to say that, once you have a ricevuta from the Post Office, you can use it to transit through other countries. The Polizia di Stato website https://www.poliziadistato.it/articolo/10722 is clear that, if you have applied for your FIRST residence permit (i.e. not a renewal), you can travel to and from other countries but NOT Schengen countries. This applies irrespective of the 90-day stay limit. I exited and entered via Pisa airport to and from UK, showing my ricevuta and not having my UK passport stamped. Also, not all Questura are the same. The link in this article is to the Venezia Questura. When I submitted my application kit at the Post Office I was given a very precise date and time (five months later at 11:06!) for my convocazione at my local Questura (Piombino, Livorno). I turned up and there was no waiting or queuing. They did send me away to get more documents, but gave me a new appointment, seven months later, at 11:48 - so it seems that they have a fixed period of 42 minutes allowed for each appointment. I intend to be there on time.
jgmariggio_604280249faf5 2022/12/27 15:01
As an American retiree applying for the Permesso in Piemonte this spring, it was just under six months before my appointment for interview, fingerprints, and photos, then 3 more weeks before I could pick up the actual card, earlier this month. My comune would not list me as a resident without it, nor would the local autoscuola let me begin attending lessons for my patente without the actual card. On that card, the expiration of my Permesso is noted as one year from my original entry into the country in late April, which means I have to begin the renewal process in about a month. I was told the renewal window begins 90 days before and extends to 60 days after expiration, but the bright spot is that I can renew for two years. As an interesting aside that is reflective of the workings of the Italian bureaucracy, my Italian Carta d’Identita is good for ten years.

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