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Residency permits For Members

Can you travel abroad while waiting for an Italian residency permit renewal?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Can you travel abroad while waiting for an Italian residency permit renewal?
Italian residents travelling home for the holidays are often concerned that they could face difficulties at the Italian border on their return if their residency permit has expired. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

If your Italian residency permit has expired and you face a long wait for a new one, you may have heard contradictory things about whether or not you can travel abroad. We look at what exactly the rules say.

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This is a question many people in Italy have at the moment as waiting times for appointments to renew residency permits are getting longer, with many applicants now reporting a wait of up to 10 or 11 months.

After this appointment, the new permit usually arrives within a couple of months, or just a couple of weeks in some cases - but this plus the long wait for appointments leaves many of Italy's international residents without a valid permit for long stretches of time.

So, during that waiting period, are there any restrictions on travel abroad within the Schengen zone, or back to your (non-Schengen) home country?

As with so many other things in Italy, the answer you get seems to depend on who you ask.

Several of The Local's readers have recently reported that immigration officials told them in no uncertain terms that they cannot travel until they get their new permesso di soggiorno.

READ ALSO: 'I feel trapped': How long waits for residency permits are affecting people in Italy

Mike from the US applied to renew his elective residency permit (permesso di soggiorno per residenza elettiva) earlier this year and faced another long wait, after initial delays with his first permesso.

“We were told we should not travel outside Italy without the permit, that the application and receipt would not be sufficient,” he said.

As we reported on The Local last week, this is not such an unusual situation for international residents to find themselves in.

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We heard from several students from the US who told us they were unable to travel home for Christmas as they had not yet received their Italian residency permits and had been told not to travel without them.

However, many other readers got in touch in response to that article to say that it should be fine to travel without the permit if you have your ricevuta (the receipt you got from the Italian post office when you applied for your permit renewal) and that this has not been a problem for them.

"Just avoid Schengen countries as you're not allowed to travel through them," said one reader. "I've travelled back to the UK with just the receipt, no problem."

So what exactly are the rules on leaving and re-entering Italy from a Schengen country or from a non-Schengen country without a valid permesso di soggiorno?

Unfortunately, they're more complicated than they might initially seem.

First permesso or renewal?

One thing that causes confusion is the fact that the rules differ slightly for people who are waiting for their first residency permit than for those awaiting a renewal.

The rules also vary depending on the type of residency permit you have, at least when you're waiting for the first one.

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The Italian Polizia di stato (State Police) website says that you can leave and re-enter Italy while awaiting your first residence permit for the reasons of employment, self-employment, or family reunification if:

  • You show your passport or equivalent travel document, along with the entry visa specifying the reasons for your stay (employment, self-employment, or family reunification) and your ricevuta;
  • You do not transit through other countries in the Schengen zone;
  • You “leave and re-enter Italy through any Italian external border crossing point.”

The website does not specify what the rules are for those waiting for other types of permits, such as those issued based on elective residency or study visas.

Meanwhile, people waiting for renewal of their residency permit (no reasons are specified here), or for an EC residency permit for long-term residents, can leave and re-enter Italy if they have the following documents:

  • the ricevuta certifying the submission of the application for renewal; 
  • the expired residency permit;
  • their passport or other equivalent travel document.

In the case of renewals, there is no mention of not being allowed to transit through or travel within the Schengen zone.

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So can I travel without my residency permit?

If you're sure that you meet all of the stated requirements, and you have not been advised otherwise, you should in theory be able to exit and re-enter Italy without any problems.

But if you have a type of permit that’s not mentioned here, such as a permit issued for study, then the rules are less clear.

If you're in any doubt, or have been warned that you can't travel abroad by an immigration official, then you should seek further advice before attempting to travel. Your country’s consulate in Italy should be able to advise on how the rules may apply in your circumstances.

READ ALSO: How the rules on renewing Italian residency permits have changed

Further confusion arises from the fact that, in Italy, the written rules are often left a little vague and open to interpretation, and they don't always seem to match the way things work in reality.

Italian border guards and other immigration officials have a lot of individual discretion when it comes to interpreting these rules, which means that they may not be applied consistently - and that each official may tell you something different.

If you're sure you meet the requirements to travel, our advice is to bring as many documents with you as possible to prove your residency status, and be prepared to answer the border guards' questions politely.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. For more information on how the Italian immigration rules may apply in your situation, consult your local Questura (provincial police headquarters) or your country's consulate in Italy. See further details on the Italian State Police website.

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Comments (3)

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Sam 2023/12/12 19:03
Can anyone confirm that the internet portal of the Polizia di Stato can be relied upon as indicating when a permesso is ready to collect. My (first) application for a permesso was eventually approved five months ago, and the website just consistently reports “Il documento di soggiorno non è presente in archivio.” Not very reassuring!
William Nemir 2023/12/07 22:52
As someone waiting 11 months for a renewal appointment, I’m troubled by the lack of clarity about traveling in Schengen countries . Are the other Schengen countries the source of a prohibition, or is Italy? Such a restriction on someone seeking an initial Permesso makes sense. The applicant has not yet been vetted by a Schengen country. But someone waiting for a renewal has been vetted. Does anyone have good information on the reason for this prohibition? Has anyone successfully traveled?
Mike 2023/12/06 12:16
Thanks for the additional information!

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