Get an Italian Long-Stay Visa in 3 Steps
And stay (reasonably) sane in the process.
Whether it’s for a year or forever, getting an Italian Long-Stay Visa (aka, National Visa) is the first official step to living in Italy full-time. A lot of people say they want to move to Italy, but I wrote an article on why you probably actually don’t that I strongly encourage you to read if you’re seriously considering it. If nothing else, it can help you prepare for the realities of immigration and your first year of la dolce vita. (Which is a lie, by the way, and I say that with love, not malice.)
Yes, Italy is beautiful and Italians are charming, but going beyond the highlight reel that you get when you visit means taking the shit with the shinola. In twenty-one verb tenses that are really more like forty since most have a masculine and feminine version.
Whether you’ve committed or just started thinking about it, living the Italian dream begins with applying for a visa. But before I delve into the “how to”, allow me to clarify that your visa is merely your entry ticket into the country. It is NOT how you stay. That honor goes to the Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay), which replaces your visa once you’re in Italy. Rather immediately, in fact, since you have to submit your Permesso application to the Ufficio Postale (post office) within eight days after you land. It – not your visa – is what you renew every year. (And sì, I wrote an article for that too. 🙂
Behold: A basic overview of the Italian visa application process.
So, the simplified rundown I’m about to give you is from an American POV. The visa types are equivalent in most non-EU countries since it’s the Italian government that issues them, but if you don’t reside in the USA (or territory thereof), you’ll need to do your own research on the requirements for your home country. Spiacente.
But let’s say you do live in gli Stati Uniti (any state) and want to move to Italy for longer than 90 days. (You can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa as long as you don’t work for an Italian company in Italy while you’re here.) Note: If you already work remotely, you can probably do that while you’re here just like you could from anywhere else, but check with your employer (and lawyer or accountant if you have one or both) to be sure. PSA of the day to avoid breaking laws or losing your job when you move here: 90% of “remote” jobs with US companies actually require you to be on American soil the majority of the time on account of IRS withholding laws. Some even require you to be physically located in certain states.
On that note, let’s dive in.
Applying for an Italian Long-Stay Visa: Part 1
THE ITALIAN CONSULATES: FIND YOURS
As a prequel to applying, you register on the website of the Italian consulate with jurisdiction over your legal USA residence. (Where you get your mail, and YES, proof is required.) FYI, the embassy conducts the diplomatic business of the ambassador, who represents the Italian government in America to cultivate alliances and maintain trade relationships. It’s too busy doing high-level political things to mess with visas. Those are handled by the consulates, which operate as the embassy’s administrative branches. Meaning they’re the ones who get shit done, including processing, approving, and issuing visa applications. That makes them your new best friends, so be nice/respectful/patient.
The consulates are located in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and San Francisco. SF also oversees Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Samoa, and Midway/Mariana Islands, along with NorCal, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.
THE MENU OF VISAS: PICK ONE
Next, you pick a visa type based on your circumstances, goals, income, and family situation. The three most common are:
- The study visa, which is not just for the 18-22 crowd or art/uni students. You can also do things like go to culinary school or study Italian.
- The elective residency visa, for the retired, trust fund babies, and those with investment or other passive income sources, and one of the strictest. The caveat is that you cannot work, in Italy or anywhere else, and yes, they check. Violating this requirement is probably a bad idea.
- The freelance visa, which requires a Partita IVA (i.e., a business tax number) with a separate application process and its own set of terms and conditions, including having an existing paying client base. (Freelance in Italian = professionista libero)
Less common are the subordinate work, medical, family, religious, research, sports, civilian employee, and military dependent visas, and for those wealthy enough to buy their way into the country, there’s the investor visa option.
Re: the “Digital Nomad” Visa
There’s been a lot of hype around the digital nomad visa proposal Italy signed into law in April 2022. It’s theoretically a sister version of the existing freelance visa, but for remote workers. It sparked much excitement amongst those looking for an easier way to move here than a traditional visa.
But…slow your roll, e’rybody. The ONLY thing it approved was the visa’s existence…the mechanics, logistics, and specifics are all TBD. Also, the law states that the visa will be for those “who carry out highly qualified work activities through the use of technological tools that allow them to work remotely, autonomously or for a company that is not resident in the territory of the Italian state.”
The European Blue Card visa (more on that next) uses similar language, so it sounds like the digital nomad visa could require a Dichiarazione di Valore (declaration of valor). It’s another consular process that formally validates your education, which becomes the basis of determining whether your profession/experience meets the criteria that make you “highly qualified.” In other words, if it ever does come to fruition, the digital nomad visa won’t be as easy as “have laptop, will move to Italy.” Not by a long shot.
The EU Blue Card
Rarest of them all is the Blue Card, a European Union visa issued by the Italian government that has its own application process. The gist is that it’s a special two-year visa for highly skilled/educated workers. The consulate in the US verifies your apostilled education documents, which your school’s registrar sends directly to the Attorney General of the state your school is in. The AG stamps them, and then you have them sent to a certified translator of your choosing, who translates your transcript(s) and diploma to Italian verbatim, then notarizes the translated versions.
Next, you send the translated documents to the consulate along with their apostilled English counterparts. Once the examiner verifies that your education and GPA meet the Blue Card requirements, they issue a “Dichiarazione di Valore.” This clears the way for the company you’ll be working for to show the local authorities it needs you for the job instead of an Italian. You can move to Italy once that’s done.
Applying for a Long-Stay Visa, Part 2.
Back to our regularly scheduled visas though. Once you choose, you make an appointment via the consulate’s online system. You should also email them directly unless the website directions say otherwise. The SF consulate has a message on its visa page that says:
“Anyone applying for a national visa (> 90 days) MUST email the Visa Office. Include your nationality, city and state of residence in the USA, intended flight date, and the type of visa you want.” (I got a green-lighted reply the next day with additional instructions.)
Once you’re cleared to proceed, download the long form visa application. Print, fill out, and gather EVERYTHING the instructions and/or consulate staff say you need. Some documents have to be originals, which can take patience if you’re waiting on something from Italy. Consider it a warm-up for living here. 🙂
Molto importante: You’ll need an apartment contract or other proof of accommodation for the duration of your visa. No exceptions. (It doesn’t have to be paid for up front, just show you’ll have a roof over your head in Italy.)
Renting an Apartment in Italy
Making agreements in person is how things get done here. So, you may need to make an apartment-finding trip before submitting your visa application. It is possible to rent an Italian apartment remotely from the USA (I had to), but it’s risky AF.
So, if you go this route, proceed with caution. There are global fraud rings that have infiltrated legitimate platforms like Airbnb, and they are good. Do a video call (and record it) to verify as much as possible before handing over your identity documents. It’s normal to be asked for a copy of your passport. But if you’re asked to advance any money before you sign a contract? BIG red flag.
Requests to transfer funds to a non-Italian IBAN are an even bigger red flag. For the unfamiliar, IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number, and Italians/Europeans use them for everything from paying bills to transferring money between friends. Freely giving out your IBAN may feel weird at first, but it’s only for putting money in. Businesses even include them on their websites.
Applying for a Long-Stay Visa, Part 3.
Once you have everything compiled, go to a notary to sign the application and any other legal documents you’re submitting. If the notary probably isn’t familiar with the Italian way, anywhere on the page is fine. (And when in doubt, notarize it!)
Next, you need two USPS Priority Express 9×12 envelopes. One is for:
- The National Visa application
- All required documents (make copies first, especially of signed originals!)
- Your actual passport (yes, the real one)
- A cashier’s check made out to “CONSULATE GENERAL OF ITALY” for the stated amount (May 2022 = $136.80/long-form or $59.00/study).
The other envelope needs a prepaid label addressed to YOU, with the Consulate as the sender. Fold it in half so that it fits in the first envelope. Mail it to the address in the instructions exactly as it’s written.
Arrivederci e Buon Viaggio/Lavoro/in Bocca al Lupo!
If the consulate has questions or you forgot something, they’ll let you know. (But try not to forget anything.) Otherwise, your passport will arrive in 7-14 days with your visa already glued to a page.
P.S. While you’re at it, apply for a codice fiscale, which is the Italian equivalent of a social security number. You need a CF to conduct your life in Italy, from renting an apartment to obtaining healthcare or a grocery discount card. The consulate also generates these, and it’s also a number/code you’ll give out freely. (Unlike a SSN that you have to guard with your life, it’s unique to you.)
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