January 13


The Definitive Guide for the Permesso di Soggiorno

By Rick

January 13, 2015

There is so much to love about living in Italy: the food, the art, the history, the weather, the scenery.

“The bureaucracy,” however, is conspicuously absent from this list. As any expat can tell you, it’s the one thing that can be a real buzz-kill.

The undisputed King of all bureaucratic nightmares in Italy is the Permesso di Soggiorno. Day after day I receive desperate pleas via email from folks on the verge of a psychotic episode, driven to madness by the labyrinthine quagmire of governmental inefficiency in Italy. Take solace, my friends, you are not alone.

As one reader recently commented, “The REAL problem isn’t just getting it; it’s understanding how to roll with the punches when you try to secure one in different areas. I’ve gotten one in Rome, one in Bologna, one in Padua and three in the southern regions. Let me tell you: if all my kids resembled my Permesso experiences, they’d look like they came from different continents. In some towns you go to the police station, some you go strictly thru the postal system, and sometimes a banker has the reins. It’s pazzi!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself…

My Guide for the Permesso di Soggiorno

Like most Italy bloggers, I’ve covered this topic many times before. But apparently there is still a lot of confusion as to the exact steps in the application process. So what I’ve done is to compile everything that I know about this elusive “trophy” into one, handy-to-use pdf. I’ve created an email series to go along with it that includes tips about getting around town, healthcare, language acquisition, and other helpful topics.

I submit for your reading pleasure, my definitive guide for the Permesso di Soggiorno. If you’re in dire need of a Permesso, then I’m sure you’ll find this a riveting yarn. If you don’t need a Permesso at the moment, you can download it and save it for later. For the rest of you, it also doubles as the cure for insomnia. Go ahead, give it try—I promise it works! I even fell asleep myself a few times while writing it. Download it here:


permesso di soggiorno guide for expats in italy
It’s a long, looong road

[/one_half_first][one_half_last] [thrive_optin color=”blue” text=”Download Now!” optin=”6382″ size=”big” layout=”vertical”][/one_half_last]

This guide for the Permesso di Soggiorno contains step-by-step instructions for filling out the form correctly. There is also a copy of the form itself (Modulo 1)that you can download and print, as well as all the terms in translation, and some other useful resources. Then once the form is filled out, the guide explains the final steps before submitting the application package to the post office (or Questura, but post office is better, believe it or not).

The only thing I didn’t explain in this guide was how to open the celebratory bottle of Prosecco when you finally get your Permesso six months later. I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.

Apartments in Romeapartment rentals in Rome

Two friends of mine—Steven and Linda, a married couple from the U.S.—started a company called “Cross Pollinate” back in 2000. They’ve done a lot of legwork in the years since, checking out unique apartments all across the city, and making them available for rent via their website. And they only work with places they feel that they can truly recommend. In other words, they’ve screened the places so that you don’t have to.

Their site has an easy to use search engine, as well as an interactive map. You can filter your search by price, features, and travel dates, or use the map to search by geographic area.

I have more to say about apartment hunting in this post about finding accommodations in Rome.

On the Visa Question

But no, I won’t stop there—I’m aiming my sites higher. And if the mountain won’t come to me, then I will go to the mountain. I’m referring, of course, to the Italian Consulate. The Permesso is exquisitely confusing, like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the dark while wearing oven mittens. But the shifting criteria for getting your visa approved are guarded like a national secret, much the same as the recipe for Pompi’s tiramisu.

The Consulate doesn’t even know it yet, but I’m going to get to the bottom of this slippery issue, or get deported trying. (Actually, I feel pretty safe; I have an Italian daughter now, so that can’t keep me out. I think.) As you’ve probably guessed, this might take a few months/years, so stayed tuned.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

I was honored a few months ago when fellow Rome blogger, John Henderson, referred to me as “The Godfather of Rome Bloggers.” (At least I think he meant it as a compliment.) I don’t know if that’s true, but I try my hardest to abet those who’d like to attempt this crazy, ill-advised, impossible—wonderful—journey that I have completed. So what do you say, are you foolish enough to try it, too? Andiamo!

Alla prossima,


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About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • I clicked download and all I received from this was a subscription to your blog. No permesso di soggiorno pdf at all.

  • hi , another question can you fill in the form for 2 people or is it one form per person? we arrive 22nd may so grateful for your booklet on how..

  • hi im struggling to find the links to open for the modulo 1 and the permesso terms in translation

  • Just came across your permesso document and it is fantastic. Thanks so much for writing it. Just wondering how to proceed when in a de facto relationship (30 years). Do we say “yes, another member of the family is applying”? Do they want a marriage certificate? All our female married Italian friends keep their maiden name, can we pretend I have done that and call ourselves married?

  • Excellent instructions on the Permesso de Soggiorno. Thanks for posting. Read through them all but have one question. I’m leaving for Rome next week for indeterminate time.

    Instruction in your guide for PdS lines 50-53 say to fill in the visa information. I’m going there on a 90 day tourist visit and need to get the PdS to stay over 1 year in Rome. Do I file for a longer term (multiple entry) visa in Rome after I arrive there?

  • Thanks to your guide we successfully applied for and received our Permessio di Soggiorno here in Ragusa, Sicily after starting with a visa from the Italian Consulate in Miami, Fl. Its good for a year (matches the dates on the Visa) and we we were warned that when we came again to renew it, we would have to have all our financial documents translated by the American Embassy, either in Rome or possibly in another country. The officer at the Questura in Ragusa said this was now required because the American Embassy would personally go to the banks and financial institutes listed in our application and verify the validity of the accounts and figures we provided. Seems unlikely but thats the current thinking here in Ragusa.

    Have you heard of this requirement or had any experience with translating documents at the American Embassy (do they really mean consulate) in Rome? Is this possible and if so I would assume we would need to contact someone there to make an appointment in advance. Thanks for all your help. Its made a jumble of confusion, more or less workable for us.

    • Hi Joe, and thanks for your kind words. The translation that you mentioned is news to me. My understanding is that they check out your finances at the Italian consulate in the US before issuing a visa. I can’t imagine why they would need to translate they would need to translate them as presumably the are already in English. It could be that you’ve gotten some misinformation…wouldn’t be the first time… ha, ha!

      • Yes, I was told in the Miami Consulate that they would review the financial documents I submitted in English and I believe they did before issuing my Visa.

        Now I doing a renewal of my existing Permesso di Soggiorno and the Ragusa Questura has stated that my financial documents – the originals are in English – must be translated to Italian by an American Embassy before they will accept them and consider my renewal application. It might be a local requirement, but before contacting the Embassy in Rome, I thought I would see if you had heard of others with a similar experience.

  • I had to laugh at the part about applying for permessos in different cities. They were so put out when I had my last permesso from a different city. I was like, Deal with it!

    I’ve found the best way to go about the process is to do it way in advance with the assumption that every step of the way, someone will tell you conflicting information.

  • Hi Rick, thanks for this blog! We are newly arrived in Napoli and managed to get the required package for the holy grail almost by accident! That was the easy part! Since then however, things have been complicated! My husband has an Italian passport (I’m Australian), but neither of us speak Italian. I entered Italy with a schengen tourist visa and am now trying to get permission to stay. Do you have any advice re what documentation is required to prove our marriage (which occurred in Australia and which we registered with the Italian consulate in Australia). It is also unclear whether we can use the postal system or need to go to the Questura. Thanks!

    • Hi Phoebe! Thanks so much for your kind remarks. But unfortunately, that’s a bridge that I haven’t crossed yet. Without much else to go on, I’d say you’ll need to go to the local questura in person, along with a translator. Show them your papers and they’ll tell you what to do. One word of caution, though. If you went to 5 different questure, you’d certainly get 5 different answers. Obviously you’re entitled to a Permesso (unless you’re a convicted felon or something….and even then.). So be proactive and act in good faith, and you can’t possibly get into too much trouble. Sorry, I wish I had some solid advice, but unfortunately I don’t.

  • Rick thank you for this post. Of all the sites my husband and I have checked out on the topic of long-term stays in Italy, yours is by far the most informative…we especially love the new long-term apartment rental site that you included. Thanks again.

  • Dear Rick,

    Thank you for your website.

    My situation is probably more complicated than usual regarding visas and the permesso di soggiorno. I am an American citizen while my husband is a British citizen resident in the US with a green card but not naturalized. We plan to move to Italy in September 2015. (I tried to use your link for UK citizens but it isn’t working, though I don’t know if it would explain our situation clearly if at all.)

    Since my husband is a member of the EU (but not now resident), does he need a visa to remain In Italy beyond 90 days? We plan to stay in Italy for at least a year, possibly much longer. As an American citizen entering alone, I know I would need a visa if staying more than 90 days, but since I’m the spouse of an EU citizen, couldn’t we both just land there and simply report in to the Questura within 8 days, and then look for an apartment rather than having to lease one sight unseen for a year, as with Elective Residency?

    In a nutshell, if we want to stay long-term, do we need to apply for Elective Residence outside of Italy (because my being American complicates things?) or can I stay without needing to do that beforehand, since I’m the spouse of an EU citizen?

    I did come across some EU info, but it’s confusing.

    Any advice, as you can expect, would be greatly appreciated.

    London Tyndale

      • Thanks for taking the time to research this, Rick. What you’ve directed me to is helpful. I’m getting the impression it will be probably be much easier in my situation, entering Italy for a long-term stay as the spouse of a UK citizen, than entering alone as a non-EU citizen. Along with information I hope to get soon : ) from the UK embassy as well as expertise from our local Honorary Italian Consulate, I see clarification on the horizon, though I can’t yet gauge how many miles off that is. I’ll let everyone know my findings when found, and look forward to reading any other useful comments here from those in the know.

  • Hi Rick,

    Another entertaining look into Italian “culture”…interesting to say the least!! You need a lot of patience or valium to go through the hoops and unlimited time on your hands!

  • Hi Rick,

    I don’t know if this applies here, but I’m looking for help trying to figure out what to pay to voluntarily subscribe to the Italian healthcare system. I visited my ASL office today and they gave me all the necessary forms. I’m listing my wife as a dependent, but she makes some income, too. Do you know if we have to pay two opt-in fees or just one fee — taking into account both our incomes?

    We both have permessi and are here through my work, with residence, etc. The form says it extends to your dependents, but it’s also quite confusing. Thanks for any advice.

  • Hey, Rick,

    Is the link to your Permesso guide on this page missing? I thought it was there a few days ago and now I can’t find it. I was writing a comment on one of Georgette’s blog posts and wanted to provide a link.


  • Rick,

    I always appreciate your comments. They are helpful as well as funny, but the question remains for me as an American of German descent, why do Italians accept this labyrinth of a govt that helps no one, must cost a lot of clerks to hire to {” implement: these byzantine regulations).

    It is funny but then it is really not. Italy like Spain are great countries to visit, but working there or making a permanent home…???? forget it, if you are young and enterprising…

    We were tempted someyears ago to live there as I love Rome, but the downsides were just too many…
    It also doesn’t help the Italian economy that has a few great companies left to have such a totally obscure and inefficient govt..

    How and why do Italians tolerate this system….?????

    Grazie molto!

    • Sabine, as a European having lived in 5 countries (Italy, Germany, Spain, US and UK) my answer to your question would be: because it’s worth it and because the good things make up for the problems by far. The government may be “obscure”, but surprisingly it is extremely effecient in many ways. Italians are and have always been artists of life and that makes up for many of the “weird” regulations, which, by the way, in my opinion are not worse than the any of the ones in Germany or the States. Having lived in Spain, too (which you mentioned above, too), I have to say that there were few places I felt as free as I did there. One of the reasons why I left was the school system which in my opinion is too rigid. England is great for schools and has a very high living standard but lacks the sun. So, it is difficult to find “heaven on earth”, but the closest to “heaven on earth” would probably be dividing your time between UK and Italy – at least in my opinion.

  • Rick I don’t think you have covered the “how to get a driving licence in Italy”. We are an Australian couple and cannot convert our Australian licences to Italian ones. My dear husband who does all the driving is still driving on an International licence, but legally within 12 months of arrival one has to get an Italian licence. In our case this requires sitting an exam in Italian (I add that this is written in archaic Italian, with double negatives and even catches out the Italians) and in order to do this you must learn all 600 possible questions by rote. Once you have passed this test, there is a requirement of a minimum of 6 hours of driving lessons before you can take the driving test. Having sat twice for the first test and failed, we are getting desperate. How do other expatriates drive in Italy? (he is now 60 years of age and all this is really starting to get to him).

    • Winnifred, this is a GREAT question, and one that I should tackle on my blog. I guess the reason that I haven’t is because I don’t own a car. When I need one for a week or weekend, I just rent one with my American licence. This is actually the best strategy when living in Rome or another big city. But for the more remote areas, you certainly need a vehicle.

      Care to write a guest post for my blog?

      • I would keep studying and trying. Maybe get a private tutor for this exam? I’m sure you will pass eventually. I know several people with really basic Italian who passed and I don’t know how if it came to language…luck?
        It seems like with a lot of tests and exams in Italy this is just memorization and regurgitating the facts. And also, as norm, overly wordy and tricky. If you could do some “tricks” to recall the Q&A’s that might help?

  • If I were 20 years younger I might even read this as I’m sure it will be great. Unfortunately (maybe) I chickened out about 52 or 53 years ago when I was considering teaching for the U.S. Army in Europe (hoping for Italy, of course). Once the doctor diagnosed anxiety over a decision, I decided to stay in Illinois. Now and then I wonder what I missed.
    Many friends call me brave because I travel alone, but Italy keeps calling so I’m heading back but only for a while.
    A presto

  • You are a very brave man to attempt this Rick. Grazie! Grazie! Grazie!

    I’m going to have much pleasure in reading it (no fear that I will fall asleep) and comparing it to our hilarious experiences in getting our 12 month PdS not once but twice now. Obtaining “the kit” from the Post Office with the “Amici Sportello” that only like to hand out one kit at a time (there are 2 of us), numerous attempts at completing the documentation without error (rejected 3 times, crossed out word, wrong date ..that’s because the PO was closed when I went back and I had already dated it that day..failed again…and third time because they could see the pencil marks beneath the pen…after my third careful painstaking undated attempt), providing the supporting documentation (that varies depending on who you get), standing in a hellishly hot photocopy shop where it took over an hour to photocopy the required pages as the photocopier appeared to only work after it had been kicked every 5 minutes (not by me, but the shop-owner), back to Post Office, sent away to come back with every.single.page of passport photocopied…includes blank pages, only to have them ripped up in front of us the next time, the appointment time at the Questura doesn’t actually mean 8.31am despite the precise nature of the appointment time on the letter. In our case we got the insider tip and started queueing at 6.00am, our number came up at around 11.50am, then we were given another number, and finally the second number came up at around 3pm), the overcrowded Questura, no toilets, no water, the heat, the queues, the non-functioning ticket machines, the finger and palm printing, months waiting, the return visits, the asking questions but getting told “non pronto” and nothing else, no smiles, no engagement. Carrying around a dog-eared receipt in case we were kicked out if asked for papers. Too scared to go out of Schengen countries in case we couldn’t get back in. It all seems very funny now looking back on it and I must admit …well when you finally get that little Permesso di Soggiorno card in your hot little hands, it feels like winning the lottery!

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