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Do you need a lawyer for an Italian visa or residency permit application?

Jessica Lionnel
Jessica Lionnel - [email protected]
Do you need a lawyer for an Italian visa or residency permit application?
Seeking professional help is often the best way to navigate Italian bureaucracy. But when is a lawyer necessary? Photo by Scott GRAHAM via Unsplash

Italian bureaucracy can be daunting - but does hiring a lawyer help? We take a look at where their services may (or may not) be needed.


For some people the idea of taking on Italian administration tasks can be too daunting, time consuming, or simply boring, and they would rather pay someone else to do it.

Others may encounter problems or delays and wonder whether a legal professional can help smooth things out.

Obviously, this comes down to personal choice. If you do decide to pay for help, make sure you find someone reputable, qualified, and with knowledge of your specific needs. You'll also need to know exactly what they can help with, and what they can't.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at visa and residency permit applications and when hiring a lawyer may benefit you.


If you are one of the people coming to Italy from a non-EU country and looking to stay for longer than 90 days, you’ll need a type D visa, which is what we’ll be looking at in this section.

Categories under the type D visa include: work visas, family visas, self-employed visas, investor visas and student visas (those staying under 90 days should have a type C visa).

The visa allows you to enter Italy, though it doesn't give you residency rights (see more on residency permits below). Type D visas enable the holder to travel freely for up to 90 days out of every six months within the Schengen zone, and they permit one or multiple entries.

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

Application fees are in the vicinity of €120, and the documents needed vary from visa to visa, but you can check precisely what you need on the Italian government's visa portal here or by contacting the Italian consulate in your country.


Bear in mind that you will need to gather all or most of these documents yourself even if you have a professional handle the application itself.

The process of applying  for an Italian visa is different from applying, for example, for a French one. For a French visa you submit your application online first and then go to the consulate to get your fingerprints taken and your documents checked. For Italian visas instead you do everything at the consulate from submitting to checking documents to getting fingerprints.

In some countries application tracking and appointment booking is managed by a service called VFS Global on behalf of Italy’s foreign ministry.

Why might you need a lawyer?

If your situation is complex, it may be a good idea to check with an expert which visa is right for you. If you apply for a visa and select the wrong one, you will not get your money back.

It’s also a good idea to get a lawyer involved if you intend on applying for an investor visa. This type of visa involves a lot more paperwork, including a criminal record check and bank checks to ensure you are not a terrorist.

READ ALSO: Where to look for a good lawyer in Italy

Another point to consider is potential language barriers. The government website for visas is available in English and Italian. If you don’t feel completely confident in either of these languages, yu may want help with your application.

Obviously, the consulate does not have to grant your visa. They can refuse your application if for example you don't meet the requirements or don't supply the correct information. If this happens and you believe you have grounds to challenge a refusal, then you should definitely look at getting a lawyer.

British nationals now need a visa to live in Italy.


Residency permit

Once you have a visa and have arrived in Italy, getting a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno) will usually be the next step.

Anyone staying in Italy for more than 90 days is required to have a permesso di soggiorno: a 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.

There are many different categories of permesso di soggiorno, covering stays for various reasons: from business, study, or seasonal work to marriage, research, or foster care. Find out more about these here.

The application process is different than for visas: you apply for them within Italy at the immigration office of your province's police headquarters (questura), as opposed to at an Italian consulate. Their purpose is to allow you to stay in the country, whereas visas are used to get in and out of the country.

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

The steps for applying for a permesso di soggiorno are also a bit trickier and usually involve visiting a post office to get a 'kit' containing forms you'll need to fill out.

You will also need to gather photocopies of your passport (the photo page and the page showing the Italian visa), four passport-size photos, and a €16 proof-of-payment stamp known as a marca da bollo, which you buy from a tabaccheria.


You then return to the post office with your application and original copy of your passport, pay the fee, and get your receipt (ricevuta). Do not lose this as it is evidence that you are not overstaying. The ricevuta also contains the appointment time and date at the police headquarters for your fingerprints.

After that’s been done, you can check the progress of your application via the police website. You may also get a visit from a police officer during this time to ensure you’re living at the address.

Why might you need a lawyer?

Unlike the visa application, the permesso di soggiorno application is all in Italian. You can go to a patronato for help, though they are often very busy and do not always speak English. A specialised lawyer fluent in both your language and Italian would be able to help.

And if you don't receive your permit within the stipulated six-month time frame, you may want to ask for legal advice.

However, it must be noted that both the permesso di soggiorno and the visa appointments require you to be there in person.

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

A lawyer may well be useful for advice and in preparing the application, but they're unlikely to come with you to appointments unless paid a handsome fee and/or if they have free time.


Nevertheless, if you’d feel more comfortable with a lawyer, there are a few things to consider: Don’t go for the lawyer with the best Google rating. Do your research. If your situation is complicated, go with someone who you feel sure knows the law in your country and in Italy.

Also, think twice before you hire a lawyer based on someone else’s experience. What might have worked for them may not work for you, and the lawyer's expertise may not be as relevant in your case.

With or without a lawyer, becoming familiar with the application steps yourself first is always a good idea. Knowledge is power, after all.

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


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Mary Austern 2023/10/31 10:34
An attorney (immigration specialist), is helpful w/contacts on a process that is a bit opaque. And the agency's website isn't designed to clarify. Follow-up (renewals & requests for info) is easier using those familiar w/local admin & legalese. I suggest asking friends or contacts in the quartiere for a good, local attorney. I consulted attorneys both "in country" & "out" and ones NOT in Italy were lacking critical details. It takes a local professional, current w/changing regs.

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