8-Step Guide | Moving to Italy from the USA

June 23, 2022 | Life, Life Italy

Italy became the top destination for American citizens buying a second home in 2021.

The attraction of Italy alone could explain this.

But it’s worth remembering that between 1880 to 1924 more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States – today, Italian Americans are the fifth-largest ethnic group in the United States.

Behind the growing trend of people moving to Italy from the USA are those claiming Italian citizenship by descent. These applications boomed 400% in 2020 compared to 2019. This right is called jure sanguinis and in cases has seen US citizens granted an Italian passport because their great-grandparents moved to America in the early 1900s.

Today, there are over 15,000 American citizens who have moved to Italy from the USA.

The vast majority live in the fashion capital of Milan or Rome, the political capital and home to the world’s smallest nation – the Vatican city. But hundreds of rural towns around Italy have been luring US citizens in with promises of €1 houses ($1.05) and even paying you if you have a baby there.

But as with many things in Italy, the bella figura (good image) comes before the practicalities.

moving to italy from the USA

Italy is home to the most UNESCO World Heritage sites of any country – the Colloseum is the most-visited UNESCO site in Italy, but you’ll likely see it every day when commuting to work in Rome.

Moving to Italy From the USA – 8-Step Guide

If you’re reading this 8-step guide on moving to Italy from the USA, you may or may not have made your mind up yet.

We’ve created the following 8 steps as crucial questions you will have to ask yourself at some point. If these shatter your dreams of moving to Italy from the USA, well, we’ll explain exactly what you’re going to need to make it a reality.

If you have your Gucci suitcase already packed, then this will be a valuable checklist.

We also have a more in-depth Ultimate Family Guide to Moving to Italy page which you can open in a new tab and read afterwards for more information.

So, let’s learn how to move in Italy as an American!

Step 1 – Can I get a permesso di soggiorno?

Let’s get one thing clear.

You can visit Italy without any kind of visa if you hold an American passport. But you’ll be breaking the law if you stay in Italy beyond 90 days within a 180-day period.

If you’re thinking of moving to Italy from the USA longer-term – or even permanently – then you’ll need a permesso di soggiorno. It can be renewed up to 5 years after which you get a carta di soggiorno, which grants you similar rights to Italian citizens (receive state benefits, live and work in other EU countries).

After 10 years in Italy, you can apply for Italian citizenship provided you have a B1 qualification in Italian.

But not so fast.

To get a permesso di soggiorno, you’ll one of the following six types of long-stay visa:

  • Student Visa
  • Work Visa
  • EU Blue Card
  • Self-employed Visa
  • Golden Visa
  • Elective Visa

You must apply for one of the above visas before moving to Italy. Depending on which one you receive, you can live in Italy as an American for 6 months, a year or two years before renewing your permesso di soggiorno.

Let’s take a closer look at the requirements for each of these long stay visas:

Student Visa

This is for anyone moving to Italy from the US to attend university.

The student visa is valid for one year, and renewable as long as you continue your education. To start the visa process you’ll need a letter of admission from your university in Italy

Work Visa

A written job offer or employment contract is not enough to get a work visa. Your prospective employer must apply for clearance (nulla osta) from the provincial employment office alongside relevant paperwork.

Once your prospective employer has obtained a work permit, they will send this to you so you can apply for a work visa from within the US.

There is a limited number of visas available each year. This is called decreto flussi and in 2022 the quota is 80,000.

EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card visa is for highly-skilled foreigners with a minimum 12-month job offer in Italy.

This visa is valid for two years, and is not subject to the decreto flussi. There is a minimum gross income requirement of $28,000.

Self-employed Visa

This long stay visa is for any self-employed worker who doesn’t plan to be hired by an Italian company.

There are two kinds:

  • Italy startup visa (anyone opening a company in Italy or taking up an executive role in an existing startup)
  • Italy freelancer visa (for American freelancers)

This visa is valid for two years, renewable until you get your carta di soggiorno.

Note: this visa is subject to the decreto flussi.

If you want to make the cut, you will need a police clearance (nulla osta) and get it either within Italy or by a professional working on your behalf.

Golden Visa

The golden visa is for high net worth individuals based on the following conditions:

  • You invest €250,000 in a startup ($263,000)
  • You invest €500,000 in a limited company ($526,000)
  • You invest €2,000,000 in government bonds ($2.1 million)
  • You make a €1,000,000 philanthropic donation ($1.05 million)

The golden visa is valid for two years, and renewable until you gain permanent residency carta di soggiorno.

Elective Visa

The elective visa is for retirees or individuals with a pension or passive income over $35,000 a year.

For a married couple, the minimum required annual income is $43,000 and increase by 20% for every family member you bring along.

Get citizenship by marriage or descent

As we explained in the intro, you could be eligible for descent if your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents moved to the USA from Italy.

You can also apply for Italian citizenship if you’ve been married to an Italian citizen for at least three years – or you’ve been married 18 months and have children.

Ok, you got your long stay visa – now what?

Once you’ve got your long stay visa and arrived in Italy, you’ll use this to apply for your permesso di soggiorno. You can do this at one of 14,000 national post offices where you’ll pick up an application ‘kit’.

Note: you must apply for the permesso di soggiorno within eight days of arriving in Italy.

Once you’ve filled out the forms, you can return this to one of 5,332 post offices in the Sportello Amico scheme and expect to wait 1-2 months before getting an appointment at the local Questura office to get your plastic permesso di sogiorno card.

Find out more detailed information in our Ultimate Family Guide to Moving to Italy.

Step 2 – Can I afford to live in Italy?

Consumer prices along with rent are together 39% higher in the United States than in Italy.

Rent prices in particular are on average 114% higher in the US. For example, the writer at Apartment Therapy talks about finding a one-bedroom apartment in central Rome for the same price as sharing a four-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with three other roommates.

Restaurant prices are on average 7% higher in the United States than in Italy (and that’s without tips, which are not a given in Italy). Grocery prices in the US are on average 35% higher than in Italy.

So what’s the catch?

Local purchasing power in the United States is on average 69% higher than in Italy. So, yes, most things are a lot cheaper, but if you’re earning a salary in Italy you’ll likely have less disposable income to spend.

Another point: prices depend heavily on where you choose to live in Italy as an American. Milan has the highest cost of living index in Italy (72) but not the highest local purchasing power index – that’s in Turin (65) and Bergamo (64) in northeastern Italy.

Naples has a cost of living index of 57 but its local purchasing power index is also low (56).

Catania in Sicily has the lowest purchasing power index in Italy (49).

According to OECD figures from 2020 the average Italian annual salary is $32,233 – this was well under the OECD average ($39,178) and nearly half the average annual salary in the US ($60,200).

So, again, you’ll struggle with the cost of living in Italy if you’re earning a local wage or have no money to start with.

Income tax in Italy

Income (EUR) Tax Rate
1—15,000 23%
15,000—28,000 27%
28,000—55,000 38%
55,000—75,000 41%
Over 75,000 43%

You will also need to pay regional income taxes which range between 1.23% to 3.33% of your gross income, depending on which region you live in in Italy.

Social security contributions in Italy can be as high as 40% of your gross salary in Italy. If you’re employed, your employer will pay 30% of that for you. If you’re self employed, expect to pay 25% of your income in social security contributions.

You won’t be charged on income made within the United States – but you will need file tax returns to the US Government as an American living in Italy.

NOTE: To get an idea of the costs of shipping or air-freighting your belongs to Italy, check out this guide from MoveHub.

Step 3 – Can I work in Italy?

Italy has the third-highest unemployment rate in the European Union – it’s 9.3% of the working population, behind both Greece and Spain at around 14%.

So unless you’re retired, a student, have Italian heritage or family, earn more than $35,000 in annual passive income, or are a high-net worth individual, you’re going to need a job offer in Italy or have a steady career as a freelancer.

If you’re asking ‘How can I move to Italy with no money?’ the answer is likely ‘You can’t’.

(Even if you marry an Italian citizen, as we already explained, you’ll need to wait at least 18 months and have children first.)

There are towns in rural Italy that pay you to move there, start up a business and even have a baby.

They will even pay 50% of your rent.

It could be a great idea if you already have an active job you can do remotely.

In Santa Fiora in the heart of Tuscany, you’ll even get about $36,600 to open a bed & breakfast or turn an old building into a hotel. But first – get a job before you try to move to Italy.

moving to Italy from the USA

In Santa Fiora in Tuscany, you can receive $36,600 from the local council to move in and open a bed & breakfast.

Step 4 – Can I get healthcare in Italy?

The World Health Organisation has rated the Italian healthcare system as the second-best in the world.

Italy also has the eighth-highest life expectancy in the world – 82.8 years. It also has some of the world’s lowest fatality rates from coronary heart disease and strokes.

The Italian Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN) is free at point-of-service. These services include:

  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Inpatient care
  • Preventative medicine
  • Outpatient specialist care
  • Maternity care
  • Home care
  • Primary care
  • Hospice or end-of-life care

The only significant services not covered by the SSN are psychology and dentistry.

As public healthcare is so good, in Italy less than 1% of all money spent on health in Italy goes into private hands.

If you have a job in Italy or are self-employed you can access Italian healthcare via the iscrizione obbligatoria. Otherwise you can pay an annual cost to gain access via the iscrizione volontaria scheme.

The cost for paying into the Italian healthcare scheme can cost as little as $160 per year.

If you do not choose the above options, you’ll need to take our comprehensive private healthcare.

Step 5 – Where am I going to live in Italy?

If you’re thinking of moving to Italy from the USA, you’ll be interested to know where other Americans live.

There are over 15,000 Americans who have moved to Italy from the USA, and the majority of American, British and other Europeans in Italy live in Milan. This is because Milan is the economic powerhouse of Italy, home to manufacturing and fashion industries, Italian banks and the Italian stock exchange.

Milan has the third-largest economy in the European Union after Paris and Madrid.

There are also significant numbers of Americans living in Tuscany (Florence and Pisa), in Piemonte, in Venice, in central Emilia-Romagna, in Rome and in Umbria.

According to a survey of British foreigners living in Italy, the majority (34%) moved there to work.

A map from the leading Italian property portal Idealista also shows the coastal areas where Americans make up the largest share of buyers.

The regions dominated by Americans include the Tuscan coast, Lazio and Campania where the regional capitals are Rome and Naples, large parts of Sicily as well as in the regions of Apulia, Abruzzo, Marches, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto on the eastern coast of Italy.

moving to italy from the USA

A map from Idealista showing where Americans make up the largest share of foreign house buyers in Italy.

You can also have a browse of the 1eurohome website with more than 60 towns and village across Italy selling old homes for €1 ($1.05) each.

You can find a more in-depth guide to the difference kinds of properties (and their prices) on the Italian market in our Ultimate Family Guide to Moving to Italy.

Visit our Relocation Services in Italy page for our recommended removal companies to Italy.

Step 6 – Where do I send my children to school in Italy?

Italian schools are free and mandatory for children aged 6-16.

But if you want your children to get a good grasp of English – or even study for an American High School Diploma with Italy – you’ll need to send them to an international or bilingual school. Tuition fees for these can be as high as $15,000 a year.

Visit our extensive list of international schools in Italy for an overview of the top-rated institutions in Milan, Rome, Tuscany & Umbria and Emilia-Romagna.

Step 7 – Will I integrate well in Italy?

Italy is famous for its people being extremely friendly and welcoming.

That said, if you do not speak Italian you will struggle to get along well with the locals. Italy has ranked as the worst country in the European Union for proficiency in speaking English.

And it’s not just the actual language you may struggle with.

According to one study, Italians make use of over 250 hand gestures in everyday conversation. This includes everything from pinching the fingers together and moving the hand up and down to mean ‘what are you talking about?’ to swiping the fingers out from under the chin to say ‘I don’t give a damn’.

MumAbroad is lucky to have a huge expat community in Italy. One of our members has written about the frustration of Italians always arriving five minutes late or more. The writer, Sophie Charlotte, also urged all women that in Italy going to supermarket is enough of an outing to warrant donning your best outfits.

If you don’t, be prepared to receive comments about your sloppy attire.

Another fantastic blog on raising children in Italy by an Australian-Italian talks about the differences between her kids – tucked in at 8pm at night – and Italian kids still roaming the streets until midnight.

She also talks about the disapproving stares from Italian mothers as she lets her kids run ‘wild’ in the local playground. Italian parents, it appears, are zealously over-protective and won’t let their bambini even graze a knee.

If you’re seriously thinking about moving to Italy from the USA then you’ll need to embrace all these cultural differences – and more.

Step 8: Should I move to Italy permanently?

There are many reasons to fall in with Italy.

Here are some fascinating facts if you’re thinking of moving to Italy from the USA permanently:

  • There are many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy than in any other country on earth – many of them in the centre of Rome
  • The average Italian eats 52 pounds of pasta a year – 2.6 times more than Americans
  • The Gregorian calendar used in the United States and most other countries was created in Italy
  • Italians drink two to three cups of coffee per day, on average
  • Italian musician Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano
  • Temperatures rarely fall below 30°F and stay around 80°F to 90°F in the summer.
  • Most Italian cities enjoy 2,000 to 3,000 hours of sunshine a year – the same as in Atlanta, Detroit and Louisville
  • There are more than 300 ski resorts in Italy
  • Milan is home to four of the top 13 universities in Europe
  • A YouGov poll found that Italian food is the world’s most popular cuisine, with pasta and pizza claiming 1st and 2nd place respectively
  • Italy is home to many of the world’s top 10 fashion brands, including Gucci, Versace, Armani and Prada – though Chanel and Dior may take in more annual sales than some of these brands, they rely on Italian craft factories in Naples and northern Italy
  • Fashion is the third-biggest industry in Italy

There’s so much to love about Italy nearly all of us have dreamed of actually living in Italy as an American.

However, we saved these secrets until last. That’s because we want you to know exactly what you’re going to need to seriously consider booking those flights.

If you still require more information of moving to Italy from the USA, read our Ultimate Family Guide to Moving to Italy.

moving to Italy from the USA

Pasta and pizza ranked as the no. 1 and no. 1 favourite foods across the world.

FAQ – Moving to Italy from the USA

Will my American appliances work in Italy?

Italy, and the European Union as a whole, supplies electricity at a different voltage to the United States. While you may be able to use common appliances with an adapter, these are likely to wear out or break after long-term use. It is advisable to leave your electrical appliances at home in the United States if considering moving to Italy from the USA long-term.

Can I drive in Italy with my American licence?

Americans will need to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) alongside their US-issued driving licence from day one in Italy. The United States and Italy have no special agreements on driving licences, meaning you will need to take a driving theory and practical test in Italian to obtain an Italian driving licence after one year of living in Italy with a residence permit.

Find out more about driving in Italy in our Ultimate Family Guide to Moving to Italy.

Can an American move to Italy permanently?

Yes, you can move to Italy as an American citizen. The most important document you’ll need is a long-stay visa. There are six different kinds available to US citizens – see above to find out exactly what each of them require.

Can you move to Italy without a job?

Yes, you can move to Italy without a job. But you will need to be receiving a pension, passive income over $35,000 a year, be married to an Italian citizen, claim Italian citizenship through family heritage or be a high-net worth individual. If not, you’ll only be able to stay 90 days as permitted any American passport holder.

How to move to Italy with no money?

You will struggle to move to Italy with no money. That is, unless you are receiving a pension, you’ve been married to an Italian citizen for three years (or 18 months and you have children already) or you can claim Italian citizenship through family heritage. Otherwise, you will need a job offer and a valid work permit before you can apply for a work visa.

Is it expensive to move to Italy as an American?

On average, consumer prices (including rent) are 39% higher in the United States than in Italy. Unless you are living in Italy’s most expensive city – Milan – you will find your money going much further in Italy than in the USA. That said, average Italian wages are nearly half those in the United States.

How long can I live in Italy as an American?

Assuming you have a long stay work visa – and therefore can receive your permesso di soggiorno – you can live in Italy as an American permanently. You will need to renew you permesso di soggiorno until you reach five years. Then you can apply for the carta di soggiorno permanent residence card. After 10 years in Italy you can apply for Italian citizenship provided you hold a B1 certificate in Italian.

Is moving to Italy a good idea?

If you can answer the 8 questions in this guide with confidence – then yes, moving to Italy is a good idea! It is hard not to fall in love with Italian culture. So long as you take steps towards understanding the culture and language, your stay in Italy will be one of pleasure rather than pain.

Can I take my dog or cat to Italy?

You can take your dog or cat to Italy provided they have an ISO pet microchip inserted and a rabies vaccine at least 21 days prior to arrival and no more than one year prior to arrival. If your pet received the vaccine before fitting a microchip, they’ll need those jabs again.

You will also need a USDA accredited veterinarian to complete official health certificates – or your dog or cat will be held in quarantine in Italy.

Find out more in our Ultimate Family Guide to Moving to Italy.

Do Italians eat spaghetti and meatballs?

Absolutely not! In Italy, meatballs and spaghetti do not go together. In a proper Italian meal the pasta dish will usually come before a meat dish – if they arrive together they will be on separate plates.

Cheese on fish is also a no-no.

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