Before you can start to dream about moving to Italy, you need a handle on visas and residence permits. A visa can let you visit Italy for 3 months, 6 months or up to a year. But if you’re planning to stay any longer – or even move to Italy permanently – you’ll need a residence permit. Trouble is you can’t get a residence permit without first getting a visa. So let’s get started.
Can I visit Italy without a visa?
Italy is one of 26 countries in the Schengen Area of the European Union, meaning the same visa rules apply as other Schengen countries like Spain, France and Germany. Short-stay Schengen visas will let you visit or stay in Italy for 90 days within a 180-day period. They don’t let you study, work or retire in Italy and you can’t renew a short/stay Schengen visa for longer visas. But if you’re planning to go house-hunting or get a feel for the country, you don’t want to start by an interrogation at the airport. Here’s an overview of the visas you need to visit Italy as a tourist. (Note: The Vatican City and San Marino are independent states within Italy and not signed up to the Schengen Area agreement. No border control is enforced, though, so you can visit without extra paperwork.)
UK citizen (including after Brexit)
You do not need a visa to visit Italy, and may stay up to 90 days with a 180-day period. Note: counting begins as soon as you enter any of the 26 Schengen countries, including neighbouring France, Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland (Switzerland is not an EU country but joined the Schengen Area in 2008).
You do not need a visa to visit Italy, and may stay up to 90 days with a 180-day period. Note: counting begins as soon as you enter any of the 26 Schengen countries (see above).
You do not need a Schengen visa to visit Italy, and may stay up to 90 days with a 180-day period.
Citizen of other non-EEA nation
You may need to apply for a Schengen visa in your home country before entering Italy (notable exceptions include Australia and New Zealand). Consult a list of which citizens need a Schengen visa here. Some countries need an airport transit visa just to pass through an Italian airport.
Can I live in Italy for just 6 months or a year?
Non-EU citizens staying in Italy beyond 90 days for whatever reason – including from the UK after Brexit – must be in possession of a Long Stay Entry Visa. They’re valid for either 3 months, 6 months, a year or even two years depending on the type of visa. The long-stay visa can be renewed, letting you live permanently in Italy if you meet requirements. If you’re planning to move to Italy for a year or shorter you’ll still need to register with regional Italian authorities and get a residence permit (Permesso di Soggiorno) even if you don’t renew it. The permit is a plastic card with an electronic chip. To get a Permesso di Soggiorno you’ll turn up at one of 5,700 Italian post offices that also offer public administration services – Sportello Amico – and pick up a residence permit application kit. You’ll out relevant forms and submit them at the same post office then wait 1-2 months for an appointment at your local Italian Questura office to get your residence permit. Get a receipt from the post office to prove you’re waiting for an appointment.
Apply for a long-stay visa within your country of residence before travelling to Italy. Depending on the type of visa, expect to fill out forms (in Italian), pay up to €116, prepare relevant documents, and apply at the nearest Italian consulate or embassy or official third-party provider. The most important visas for expats moving to Italy are:
- A salaried employment visa lets you work as an employee in Italy. You may need letters from your employer during the application process.
- A self-employment visa lets you work freelance in Italy, providing you can prove an income above €8,500 in the previous financial year and may need a certificate from a regional Italian Chamber of Commerce recognising resources necessary for your business, trade or craft.
- An elective residence visa lets you live in Italy without a job, and is also known as a retirement visa. You must show proof of financial resources to support yourself without working, such as a pension, annuities, property income, or income from investments, stocks or shares, etc. You must prove a minimum income of €31,000 per year if applying alone, or €38,000 as a married couple. This amount increases by 20% for every dependent moving to Italy along with you. Note: this visa doesn’t allow you to work in Italy later on. You’ll also need to purchase international health insurance, with €30,000 coverage a year for all medical expenses in any EU member state.
If the above situations do not apply to you, and you’re not moving for study, research, religious reasons or for marriage or family reunification, it will be hard to move to Italy without a job or without any money.
You can find an easy-to-use guide on the website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation that informs you of visa requirements depending on your citizenship, current place of residence and purpose of stay in Italy. The guide also lets you download all relevant visa application forms and tells you how to contact your nearest Italian consulate, embassy or third-party service provider.
How can I move to Italy permanently?
If you want to move to Italy permanently, you’ll need to follow the steps above to gain a long-stay visa and a Permesso di Soggiorno and then renew you residence permit. The valid period of your long-stay visa depends on the visa type, for example the elective residence visa grants you a year in Italy, whereas family reunification and employment visas are valid for two years. You can continue renewing your residence permit for five years, by which time you can apply for a permanent residence permit. The permanent residence permit grants you extra rights, like being able to live and work in other EU countries without a work permit. You can also receive Italian state benefits, like maternity or disability pay. After living in Italy for 10 years, you can apply for citizenship, providing you have a B1 level language certificate in Italian.
It may be a surprise you don’t need an Italian bank account to purchase a house in Italy. Similarly, you don’t have to possess a unique Italian IBAN number to pay for home utilities. Italian banks are notorious for charging high maintenance fees – often around €300 to €500 – but they can make life easier for expats moving to Italy. For example, to buy a house or pay rent or utilities without an Italian account, you’ll need to pay an Italian law firm or property management services to do it on your behalf. If you want more control of your finances in Italy, avoid money exchange commissions or avoid fees at the ATM (Bancomat) then get an Italian bank account.
What Italian bank account should I open?
Expats moving to Italy have three options when opening a bank account:
- Open a non-resident account. You can open this kind of account without being resident or even physically in Italy, but banks might be unwilling to help unless you’re taking out an additional service like a mortgage.
- Open a resident account. You can open a regular resident account by walking into any high-street bank in Italy, and sometimes you can do so online. You’ll need a passport or valid ID, an Italian tax code (codice fiscale) and go through a money laundering check. Some banks might ask for proof of residence. Look out for high maintenance fees and account closure fees. Also check if your bank assists expats. The most popular banks among expats in Italy are: BNP Paribas Italy; ING; Intesa Sanpaolo; Poste Italiane; Unicredit; Fineco Bank.
- Open an online account. You can open an online account with an Italian IBAN without leaving your home, through popular online banks like N26. These banks are often commission-free, but do not allow for cash deposits and may limit Bancomat cash withdrawals.
How do I get a codice fiscale (tax code)?
The Italian codice fiscale is a unique tax number created from your surname (three letters), first name (three letters), date of birth and sex (five characters) and a checksum letter. Here’s an example of how it looks: MLNYSE17A41F205U. To open an Italian bank you’ll need an Italian tax code, regardless of which bank you choose. But you don’t need to be a resident in Italy or even physically in Italy to get one – you can apply at your nearest consulate or embassy after downloading the forms on this webpage. If you’re already in Italy, go to your nearest Italian Revenue Agency office (Agenzia Entrate). You’ll also need this tax code for seeking employment or freelance work.
Sending foreign currency to an Italian bank account
Whether you need to make a large one-off transfer for a property purchase, pay school fees or need to buy everyday items and utilities, exchanging money from a foreign bank is an expensive, inefficient method to do so.
MumAbroad has partnered with Clear Currency, the money transfer people, to provide a more efficient and far cheaper way to exchange currencies. Free to join, and FCA regulated, they offer competitive rates, a dedicated currency exchange platform, phone support and same-day transfers across more than 35 currencies.
Italy has rocketed up the rankings becoming the top destination for UK and American expats buying a second home in 2021, according to Bloomberg. The country has introduced significant incentives that caps income tax at €100,000, reduces capital gains tax after five years and slashes inheritance tax. These measures have attracted nearly 700 Britons and Americans of over €30 million net worth in the last few years, according to UK-based real estate consultancy Knight Frank. House prices in Italy are on average cheaper house than in France and Spain, and many smaller towns and villages have made headlines for selling off abandoned rural homes for just €1 a pop. Some towns will even pay you to move there, pay you to have a baby, and pay you to set up a business – according to Forbes.
Where do expats live in Italy?
There are more than 5 million foreign nationals living in Italy, about 8% of the population. The majority are from eastern Europe, Morocco, China and southern Asia and seek work in Italy’s northern powerhouse region of Lombardy, home to Italy’s financial and industrial capital of Milan. Many of these groups seek permanent citizenship in Italy and pursue different goals to the 36,000 Germans, 31,000 French, 30,000 UK citizens and 15,000 Americans with residency in Italy, typically known as expats. The majority of expats do live in Milan – some 5,000 British citizens, for example – mostly for work but also to live near the stunning Lake Como and Lake Garda. There are significant populations in the regions of Tuscany (Florence and Pisa), Piemonte, Veneto (Venice), Emilia-Romagna, Lazio (Rome) and Umbria. The region of Chianti in Tuscany has become particularly famous among wealthy UK expats – notably Tony Blair and Sting – and enough British have flocked to the area it’s been dubbed Chiantishire. According to a UK government survey, while 34% of British citizens moved to Italy’s cities to work, a sizeable 29% moved to Italy to reunite families and 27% to retire.
You can also find a map from leading Italian property portal Idealista that displays a flag for each town along Italy’s 7,500km coastline according to popularity with expat homeowners.
Distribution of UK citizens USA citizens living in Italy. Source: Tuttitalia.it.
What are the houses like in Italy?
When moving to Italy, knowing what type of home you could be living in is all part of the attraction. Depending on the city or the region you are moving to, your home may look a little bit different. Below you can see the kinds of property for sale in Italy:
A villa is a type of home you’ll find in the Italian countryside. These homes were once built for wealthy and upper-class people, and are influenced by Spanish architecture, with flat roofs, tall and arched windows, and surrounded by a garden. Prices for well-maintained villas in popular regions can begin at around €180,000.
This type of housing style in Italy is most popular in mountainous regions of Italy. These homes tend to be made of wood with many exposed beams. The interior of the home will usually have high ceilings and an open-space concept. Chalets are built to withstand the cold weather and trap heat. Chalets in the rural north can begin at €70,000,.
Tuscan style homes in Italy are made of plaster and typically have a courtyard. Many Tuscan homes have frescos, murals, and ceramic features. Roofs tend to be low and made from clay tiles of earthy tones like brown, yellow and green. Prices of Tuscan-style homes can begin at around €100,000.
Mediterranean style homes are the ones most expats may be familiar with. Roofs are made of red clay tiles with stucco walls, arches and enclosed patios. This style of home is popular in warmer environments since they are built to keep the interior cool. They are typically the most expensive, since many are built near the sea. Prices can rise to well over €1,000,000.
Is Italy still selling homes for €1?
More than 60 towns and villages across Italy have joined a nationwide movement to reverse rural depopulation by selling homes for a token €1 each. The houses are typically in rural regions like Sicily, Sardinia and Calabria in the south, but there are villages dotted around Lazio and Umbria too. Many of the homes are abandoned farm houses and in a state of disrepair and attract expats dreaming of doing up an old Italian stone house in style. You can find out more at www.1eurohouses.com.