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BREXIT

‘Seek legal advice’: Your advice on applying for Italian visas post-Brexit

Now that Britain is well and truly out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to Italy from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals'.

The view from the roof of the Milan's Duomo Cathedral on August 5, 2021. Moving to Italy as a UK citizen has become complicated as a result of Brexit.
Moving to Italy as a UK citizen has become complicated as a result of Brexit - but what exactly should you expect? Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Freedom of movement between the UK and Italy may be over, but the desire many people have to move between the two countries to live and work remains very much alive.

To learn more about how the process of moving to Italy as a British national has changed in the past couple of years, The Local asked British readers for your experiences of applying for an Italian visa post-Brexit.

The two most common routes explored by those who responded were a spousal visa – for which you need to be married to an Italian citizen – and an elective residency visa, which requires a sizeable passive income.

A spousal visa application is generally regarded to stand a much higher chance of success than the elective residency visa, for obvious reasons – but it isn’t without its challenges, as reader Alex James found.

James was ultimately successful in his application to relocate from London to Terracina, Lazio with his Italian wife, but describes the process, which took five months in total and cost several hundred euros, as “a nightmare”.

READ ALSO: ‘Not just extra paperwork’: What it’s like moving to Italy after Brexit

“Dealing with the office workers, no one seemed to know what they were doing and had a genuine lack of interest in helping you,” he writes.

He singles out officials at the Agenzia delle entrate – Italy’s tax agency, with which all residents are required to register – as being particularly obstructive: “they were so unhelpful and didn’t allow my wife to help translate”.

Those questionnaire respondents who didn’t have Italian spouses instead opted to apply for the elective residency visa.

This option is generally only available to retirees, as you’re not allowed to work when you arrive; and requires a substantial passive income.

You'll need a generous passive income to be granted an elective residency visa in Italy.

You’ll need a generous passive income to be granted an elective residency visa in Italy. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

The latter requirement tripped up one anonymous writer who had hoped to move to Veneto, but whose application was denied “due to insufficient income, despite substantial savings.”

The amount of supporting evidence required for the visa is “VERY onerous,” says Jan Bennett, who recently started her application process and hopes to relocate from Staffordshire to Penne, Abruzzo.

“We have to provide evidence of income and assets, to meet a threshold that does not seem to be actually documented anywhere,” she adds.

READ ALSO: Permesso di soggiorno: A complete guide to getting Italy’s residency permit

“So far, it is very complex and stressful as we keep being told different things by different people.”

Julia Hurstfield from Cheshire purchased a home in Umbria with her spouse in May 2022 with a view to moving over with the elective residency visa.

They managed to get an appointment to file their application eight weeks later – but, like our other respondent, were turned down on insufficient income grounds.

The couple then turned to an Italian legal team who believe they do meet the threshold but were mis-assessed the first time around, largely due to the requirement to apply on separate forms despite having joint bank accounts.

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

They are now making a second application, having already spent £3,000 on legal costs so far. So far, they’ve found the process “frustrating and stressful.”

“The UK and Italian websites do not provide sufficient or detailed information to make this process viable,” Hurstfield says. Her advice for those planning to make an application?

“Seek legal advice and assistance from experienced and specialist lawyers who can assist and fully advise you at the outset.”

“I was a UK lawyer and we fully researched what was required & followed the recommendations but it wasn’t enough,” she adds.

“Spend the money at the outset and pay the lawyers… as always it’s a question of presentation!”

Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey, including those who are not quoted here.

Have you applied for a visa in order to move from the UK to Italy post-Brexit? How did your experience compare? Please share your thoughts with other readers in the comments section below.

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VISAS

Five expert tips for getting your Italian elective residency visa approved

Here are the main things you should know if you want to succeed first time round when applying for Italy's popular - but elusive - elective residency visa.

Five expert tips for getting your Italian elective residency visa approved

The elective residency visa (ERV) is a popular route to permanently relocating to Italy, but the application process can be hard to navigate and the rejection rate high.

To help readers who are considering taking the plunge maximise their chance of success first time round, The Local spoke to three experts about how to put together the best application possible.

Based on what they told us, we put together a detailed guide to the process, as well as specific advice for UK applicants.

Here are five key takeaways on how to make a successful elective residency visa application.

Write a convincing cover letter

Most consulates require a letter of motivation along with your application explaining why you want to move to Italy.

Applicants often put minimal effort into this, simply saying they love the Italian food and weather, says Elze Obrikyte from Giambrone & Partners – and that’s a mistake.

She says ‘pre-rejection’ decisions are often issued on the basis of this letter alone, even if all the other requirements are met. 

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an elective residency visa to move to Italy

That’s because consular officials want to see you have a strong interest in moving to Italy permanently, not just coming for short stints on holiday.

Because of this, you want to make sure you underscore your ties to Italy, your familiarity with the town you plan to move to, and any other supporting information.

While language skills aren’t a requirement, “if you mention that you are studying Italian or you know Italian, which helps you to integrate better, this is also an advantage for your application,” says Obrikyte.

You should provide as much evidence as you can for a successful ERV application. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.
Showing you have a strong connection to Italy will help your application. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Get your finances in order

Because you’re not allowed to work or receive an ‘active’ income when you come to Italy on an ERV, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have a ‘passive income’ of at least €31,000 per year (€38,000 joint income for married couples).

Nick Metta of Studio Legale Metta says applicants sometimes think that having a large amount of money invested in bonds or the stock market is sufficient, but this won’t satisfy the officials reviewing your application.

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

Whether it’s in the form of a pension, annuity, rent, or some other mechanism, you need to prove that you receive a regular income stream in perpetuity and won’t become a burden on the Italian state.

If you don’t currently have passive income of at least €31,000 you may want to speak to a consultant about restructuring your finances, as you won’t be granted an ERV unless the consulate can check this box.

More is more

Consulates can differ in their exact requirements for the ERV, with some saying you don’t necessarily have to provide a letter of motivation or travel tickets to Italy.

But our experts were all agreed: it’s always best to include as much documentation as possible with your application to be on the safe side.

Even though not all consulates require travel tickets, “it’s always better just to enclose them,” says Obrikyte; “I always advise our clients to close as many documents as possible, just to reduce the risk of rejection”.

READ ALSO: How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

“The cover letter for some consulates is not a requirement, for some consulates it is a requirement,” says Metta. “We always recommend that you prepare and file a cover letter with every single elective residency visa application.”

The experts also recommend providing a separate cover page with a contents summary for all the documentation submitted, to make things easy for the consular official reviewing your application.

Agencies can assist you in making sure all your paperwork is in order.

You should provide as much evidence as you can for a successful ERV application. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Be polite and deferential

The Italian consulate in charge of reviewing your ERV application has total power over whether or not it’s accepted – including the ability to raise the income threshold above the official minimum.

That means you want to be as deferential as possible all your interactions with staff, and avoid coming across as entitled or demanding.

READ ALSO: ‘Seek legal advice’: Your advice on applying for Italian visas post-Brexit

“You don’t want to go there and say ‘oh, here is the printing of the law’ and this and that – absolutely not,” says Metta.

You’ll also want to make sure you book your travel tickets for at least 90 days after your appointment date – the full period allotted for the consulate to review the application – so it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to rush their decision.

There’s room to negotiate

Finally, our experts stressed that if your application is rejected, that decision isn’t necessarily final.

Obrikyte says it’s typical for consulates to issue a ‘pre-rejection’ notice before delivering their final answer that specifies what the sticking point is, giving you a chance to fix the issue.

“In that occasion it is possible to try to negotiate and change their mind, and this happens very very often,” she says.

When a client of his was told he needed income of at least €100,000, “we contacted the person in charge, exchanged correspondence, provided some extra legal support in terms of evidence and official sources, and we got another appointment and the person finally got their visa,” Metta says.

While you can appeal a rejection in court, Metta says he advises his clients just to reapply, as it’s “so much faster, easier.”

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For further information on the ERV and how to apply, visit the Italian foreign ministry’s visa website.

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