November 30


Permesso di Soggiorno Part III – Entering the Arena

By Rick

November 30, 2012

Let’s continue our discussion of obtaining your Permesso di Soggiorno.  You’ll be relieved to know that we’re almost finished, and indeed these are the last steps in our quest.

OK, by now you’ve obtained your application kit (Permesso di Soggiorno – Part 1) and filled it out properly in black ink (Permesso di Soggiorno – Part 2) and have the Marca da Bollo for €14,62 affixed to the top of the application.  Now it’s time to do battle.  If you don’t feel adequately prepared, please review those two previous blog entries first before entering the Arena (a.k.a. The Italian Post Office).

A couple of years ago I read a book by the Milanese writer Beppe Severgnini called, “Ciao, America!”  In the book, he recounts his year-long sabbatical in the U.S., highlighting the things he found strange and peculiar about American culture.  In one of my favorite passages, he laments that American bureaucracy is too easy—for an Italian, there’s just no challenge in it.  The simile that he used was perfect: an Italian confronting American bureaucracy is like a champion matador facing down a milk cow.  There’s simply no contest, ergo no fun.

This comparison can be enlightening to the newly expatriated American in Rome when you ponder the scenario from the other way around.  Just so.  My first foray into an Italian post office left me feeling like a Wisconsin dairy farmer that had accidentally wandered into La Corrida de Madrid on a Sunday afternoon.  It wasn’t pretty, my friends, and I was grateful to have emerged with my limbs intact.

La Corrida

So you must steel yourself against this enemy.  Stare into his bottomless eyes without even a hint of fear as you present your documents at the Sportello Amico.  Act as though you’ve done it a hundred times before and that you are, in fact, quite bored with the whole process.  Unless you are a seasoned actor, you may want to practice this at home a few times before you go, either with a friend or at least in front of a mirror. And for God’s sake, do not wear red that day—it only further riles their anger.

Here’s exactly what you’ll need to bring with you:

1)      The completed Modulo 1 form.

2)      Copies of every page of your passport (Yes, even the blank ones—yet another false assumption that I made during my process. Why should logic prevail, after all?)

3)      Photocopy of Financial Statements

4)      Verification of health coverage

5)      Four passport size photos

6)      Plenty of cash (technically you’ll only need € 27,50 for the application plus € 30,00 for the postage, but it never hurts to carry a little extra for any unforeseen acts of extortion that you might be subjected to).

7)      Don’t forget to bring along your original passport, too.  They’ll want to look at it to make sure that it matches the copies in your packet.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT submit any original documents in the post office kit (except for the Modolo 1, of course, which you should make a copy of for you records.)

So at this point hopefully you’ve been absolved of your sins by the Pope, you’ve had the malocchio removed by your roommate’s Sicilian grandmother, and all the requisite bribes have been paid out to the appropriate minions.  If so, you will leave the post office with two documents in hand:

1)      A yellow receipt (ricevuta) that is absolutely necessary in getting your final permit. What’s more, on this receipt you’ll find the user ID and password needed to check the status of your application online at:

2)      A letter with the appointment date and time at the Police Station (Questura), for the last step in the procedure where you will hand over one of your kidneys (Or is it fingerprints?  I can’t remember).  You can verify that appointment at:

*NOTE* Until you have the final physical identification card, the receipt (ricevuta) has the same legal value.  Don’t lose it.  And please don’t make explain what will happen if you do.  In fact, at that point, just give up and go back to your own country.

One more piece of advice: check the above websites from time to time to make sure that you’re at least in the system.  If for some reason there is a problem with your application, they will NOT contact you.  It is up to you to be proactive.  If you discover a problem, bring the above two documents along with your passport to the Questura where you gave your fingerprints.  The chances of encountering a helpful person are remote, but it’s your only hope to save you from starting all over again from square one.

Un toro morto!

So that’s it, the last of a three-part series to guide you through the process.  Along the way, I’ve poked a little fun at the Italian bureaucracy, but the truth is that (in theory) this is a pretty fair process—especially compared to the U.S. system which literally extorts money and subjects would-be immigrants to unnecessary medical procedures.  The problem with the Italian system is that none of the employees that you’ll encounter are even vaguely familiar with the steps that I’ve just laid out for you here.  More frustrating still, if you ask the same exact question to ten different employees, you’ll certainly get ten different answers.  It fosters self-doubt and anxiety in the newly arrived expat who isn’t accustomed to such a seemingly mutable set of rules.

Don’t fret my friends.  Follow the steps that I’ve described with confidence, and once you’ve given them all your documents, you can take your revenge by going to the nearest trattoria and ordering a big plate of Coda alla vaccinara—the tail of the bull.  Who’s the matador now?  Ole!

P.S. The average waiting period from the time that you submit your packet until you receive the actual permesso is 4-7 months.  Don’t fight it, that’s just how it is.

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About the author

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

  • Hello Rick, I’m heading to my first renewal of my PdS, and am confused by when I submit my photos. Do I sent them with the kit at the Poste, or just bring them to my Questura appointment? Thanks for the help!

  • Hi Rick, I just read your blog on Permesso di soggiorno, great info indeed. I am just preparing to apply for my Elective Residence Visa. I want to enquire after I applied for the PDS (while waiting 4-7 mths for it), am I allowed to leave Italy ?

    • As long as you have your E.R. Visa and you’ve applied for the Permesso, yes, you may leave Italy. But two things: 1) don’t leave until after your fingerprint appointment; 2) carry the little yellow receipt with you to prove that you’ve applied. It serves as your “temporary” permesso until you get your final document. Cheers

  • Hey Rick,
    I am a student in Milan. I went for my Police Verification somewhere mid December, 2016. I havnt received my permesso di soggiorno as yet. I was planning on visiting the police station on one of these days to follow up, but when I started searching for my receipt, I couldnt find it. I have a photocopy of the receipts though, but will it be a problem for me if I am not able to find the original receipt? Or will they accept a photocopy?

    Thanks a lot for your time!

  • Hi Rick
    Thank you for your hilarious, yet very informative blog. I am South African married to an Italian. It’s been more than 3 months since I applied for my permesso di soggiorno. Each time we call the questura office, we get different advice, and often not useful at that – come back on Tuesday or Thursday. Eventually my husband insisted on speaking to the immigration officer, who told us to come through to the questura in Milan. He wouldn’t give his name though! I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that there will be some good news for me. All my personal belongings are still in storage in South Africa and can only be shipped once I receive my permesso di soggiorno! By the way, your description of the process at the questura was spot-on! My husband and I stood in the queue for 4 hours, outside in the cold in February! I could not feel my feet, though my kidney was still safe! Thank you for the tip to track my application online from the information in the post office yellow receipt. Thanks also for helping the would-be applicants 🙂

  • Hi my question is my permesso di soggiorno is ready 5 days ago if go to qustura after some monthe like 5 or 6 month they will give to me or not I have recivota

  • Hi! I’ve gone to the questura for the first appointment. So what I have now is the receipt from the post office, a sheet of paper that says that I will get a text message when the card is ready but with another appointment written down that u need to go back in April for fotosignalamente. Do I need the fotosignalamente before I can get the card.
    Being that I don’t get the card either way, in the next month and a half, can I travel out of italy, like to Paris, with just the receipt from the post office, that sheet of paper and my expired permesso Di soggiorno from last year?

    Thanks! All this is really helpful!

    • I’m not sure that I follow your timing concerns, but I will say that you DO need to show up for the photo/fingerprint appointment or else your application will be suspended and then eventually deleted. That said, the receipt will be your temporary permesso until the final one is processed.

      • This is actually my second permesso Di soggiorno that I have applied for. I apologize for the confusion. What I wanted to ask is:
        1. Is the fotosignalamente necessary to get the card? My appointment for that is still on April. So that is 4 months after my first appointment. My last permesso was ready after a month and a half.
        2. Is it possible to travel outside italy with just the receipt and not the card?

        • The answer to the first question is definitely YES. The second, I’m not sure, but I think so. Anyway, if you’re travelling by train or car within Europe, you probably won’t be asked for your passport.

  • Hi Rick – thanks so much for stepping this process out, really helpful. We’ve organised our visa’s in Australia and are just about to leave for Italy where we’ll complete the Permesso di Soggiorno process using your advice. I’ve just seen at the end of your article it can take 4-7 months to receive the Permesso? Is that correct? Can you work before the official Permesso is authorised? Our visa is only 12 months, so if it can take up to 7 months that seems crazy, but maybe unsurprising!! Thanks Rick.

    • I’ve just read Campbell’s post and our visa is the same – a 12 month vacanze lavoro so the process might be different compared to a longer-term visa? Hopefully it doesn’t take 4-7 months for everything to be finalised! All of the comments have been really helpful, thanks so much.

      • We had a 12-mo. visa, and got ours in 5 weeks. We needed them in order for our kids to play organized soccer, so we appealed through offices and personal channels on those grounds. The ‘calcio’ angle seemed to get traction. But we were also in a smaller city, not Rome. Details:

    • Jarrod, mine took 7 months, but lately they’ve been faster. I’m hearing that 3 months is more typical nowadays. But yes, once you’ve applied, your receipt functions as a temporary permesso. And you can get your Codice Fiscale quite easily, too. Search my site for another article about that process. Cheers, Rick

  • Well I’m a happy camper because I have my Permesso di Soggiorno receipt now! Thanks to Rick’s blog and all the comments.

    I agree no two stories are the same.

    I’m from New Zealand and have a working holiday visa (vacanze lavoro) which lets me work for 6 months of the year. It definitely is a rare type because no official I came into direct contact with had heard of it.

    Make sure you go to the police station or post office first thing in the morning because often they stop doing some things by 1pm. I went to one post office in the afternoon and from what I could understand I was too late or they didn’t have any permesso di soggiorno kits so I went to another post office which told me to go back to the one I had just been at. So I went the next morning, didn’t bother getting a queuing number, instead I just quickly asked someone when they looked like they weren’t too busy. The kit is an A4 envelope with a bit of yellow on one side.

    It’s all in Italian, including the notes and guide. I was lucky that the guy at my hotel helped me fill it in but I cross referenced it against Rick’s guide and you can just go off what Rick has put up. I could have just used that and it would have been perfect.

    I went to get a Codice Fiscale (tax number) for completeness from the Agenzia Delle Entrate. I just needed my passport and a photocopy of the photo page and the visa page. I had to fill in a one page form, sit in the queue once you have a number from the machine and then soon after I had my Codice Fiscale.

    It took me 4 Tabacci shops to find one that had the mysterious Marco da Bollo sticker/stamp, and yes it’s now 16 euro. I wouldn’t stick it on straight away (later on when I was at the police station I think he was suggesting I shouldn’t have put it on already??)

    When I translated some of the notes that come in the pack they say working holiday visas have to be applied for at the police station (Questura) because it’s not on the list of 20 or so visas. The same thing is stated on the following website and its guidelines:

    So I went to the main police station and got sent to the information desk. The guy tried telling me I had to go to the post office for my application but I showed him the notes which said for visas not listed on the notes that you apply at the police station. He went and saw someone else and then agreed I was in the right place. I think it was his first time doing one of these! In the permesso kit there’s this receipt thing called Conti Correnti Postali. The guy told me I had to go to the post office to pay for this application but made it very clear make sure I didn’t even show them my application because they might try send it. But for my case since I have a working holiday visa I have to apply at the police station. I had to pay 107.50 euro which is an option on the receipt thing for visas between 3 months and a year. At the post office I did join the queue this time and the lady put the receipt thing through a machine and signed it then gave it back to me.

    So off I went to the police station again. I eventually talked my way through the people that give you queuing numbers because they wanted me to go to the post office for my application! I was lucky the guy had dealed with before waved me down so I didn’t have to wait again. He got a green permesso di soggiorno form and filled out a lot of the information I had on my module 1. He then just ripped off the first page of my module 1 (didn’t use page 2 or 3) and stapled them together. He didn’t want all the copies of my whole passport only the photo and visa pages but I’d stick with the advice of copying every single page if applying at the post office I guess. He didn’t take my proof of funds or medical insurance. He used 2 photos then fingerprinted me there at the counter. Then I had to wait a few minutes for this mysterious room. It had a bigger fingerprint scanner and it also scans your whole hand. Then I had to go back to the guy doing my application and very quickly I had my green receipt!

    I was pretty stoked to have finished it all that morning (had got the kit and filled it out prior). Hope this helps people especially those with the rare working holiday visa. He said it would take about 20 days and they will text me my appointment time where I just need to bring along my passport and the receipt.

    Good luck everyone or buona fortuna I think!

    • Campbell, thank you SO much for the informative notes, and for the kind words about my blog. With your permission, I’d like to post a link to your comments on my Facebook Page so that other folks from New Zealand may benefit from your experience. Va bene?
      Grazie ancora!! Ciao!

      • Great blog, and I would just like to say that even for Italians living in other countries, the Italian burocracy can be overwhelming. I have been trying to get an appointment with the Italian Embassy in London, but there seems to be a mistake in my internet account. It is impossible to get an appointment without being registered beforehand, so for the moment I gave up … It is not possible to fix an appointment on the phone. Next time I am in London, I will just go there personally, but I live 5 hours from London …

  • Well Rick your information on how to fill out Permesso di Soggiorno was invaluable. I think we got full marks for form completion when we lodged at the post office in Monopoli, Puglia last Friday, which was our day 8.
    Many twists and turns beforehand, such as not realising that the PO only opens in the morning, or the fact that the form is now out of date, so we were informed by the lady in the tabbaceria, so we needed a €16 marco di bollo, not a €14.62. Anyway form in the system, appointment for fingerprints at questura late July. We will have moved on to Ferrara by then so will have to work through this next challenge on how to change the appointment location.
    It is so easy to fill in your days living la dolce vita dealing with the admin required to settle in to living in Italy. But I am sure it is worth it! Thanks again.

    • Jan, I’m SO glad that my info helped! And yet, as you learned, you still experienced plenty of twist and turns of your own. No two stories are the same! Ha, ha….you wouldn’t think that would be the case with such a routine procedure, but alas…
      I had a similar experience in moving during the processing of my application. I took the “easy” way and just left the appointment as it was. For me, it was only a one hour train ride, but Monopoli to Ferrara is a different story. Not sure how to handle that one, unfortunately, but if you figure it out, let me know so I can pass it on to others…ciao!!

  • p.s. i’ll be contacting your wife for help with my Italian, I’m in Sondrio, but perhaps we can do lessons on skype!

  • ciao Rick, grazie mille for posting all this very helpful info! Your translation list is fantastic! Just wanted to say that a copy of our “rental contract” (proof of housing/lodging while staying in Italy) is pertinent in the package for the Permesso di Soggiorno. At least it has been required for me to include it in my first, second and third Permesso di Soggiorno’s. Don’t want folks to forget!

    • VERY good point, Sarah, thanks. But you can also have a letter of hospitality instead, which is what I did (twice). Of course, that’s assuming that you already have Italian friends willing to host you.

      • Thanks for your reply Rick. Gosh, I had an attorney help me get the elusive Elective Residence Visa (the paperwork required was immense for me to do myself and there were just no clear-cut guidelines of “income” to get it, I had read different Consulates require different amounts, some up to almost $1 million dollars!!!); and then my Consulate required a rental contract from me!! Not sure if other Consulates accepted the letter of hospitality or not, all my Italian relatives live in Italy and I had that but my Italian Consulate specifically told me I had to have a registered rental contract. I have read that others got their Elective Residence Visa for far less, but it seemed that at least $100k was the “norm.” But for LOS ANGELES, it was much MUCH MORE!!

        My Consulate was LOS ANGELES and their rules at that time was a fully registered rental contract, at least for the elective residence Visa. In the end my Italian relatives made for me a “Contratto di Commodato,” which is a bonafide registered rental contract (registered with the province just like a regular rental contract) for their upstairs room converted into an apartment, but with the agreement I would not pay actual money, just my share of the utilities. Go figure!

        So each time I renew my PdS I summit a copy of the same rental contract. I suppose at this point I could do the Letter of Hospitality, since Italian authorities are not as stringent as the LOS ANGELES ITALIAN CONSULATE!! But I don’t dare change up on things, so I just submit my Contratto di Commodato each time I renew my PdS. Here in Arizona we don’t have a full Consulate (only a satellite office) and so I had to fly to California to apply. Everything was riding on me getting that Visa. I remember what a nightmare to create that Contratto di Commodato was. My cousins did not want to do a regular rental contract (did not want to pay taxes on the income for rent), so the attorney developed the concept of the Contratto di Commodato.

        I wish for me I could’ve just been able to use a Letter of Hospitality! And anyone in a different situation than me is surely FORTUNATE to be able to do that!!

        Your site is so wonderful, I must say again! I just got done reading and printing out all your information on the Modulo 1 & 2 — ah thank you so much, wow, all this time I had been submitting Modulo 2 even though I left 99% of it blank, but now I read where you stated we only need to do that if we are asking for permission to work in Italy (which I don’t work, retired). So this time I will leave it out.

        This is confirmed on a few Italian websites as well “Modulo 2
        Il modulo 2 deve essere compilato solo nel caso si percepisca un
        reddito da lavoro.” Basically the same thing you said, only if you are going to be working.

        sorry so long a post, thought I’d note all this just in case it might help someone else along the way.

  • Hi Rick,
    I owe you a thank you for the excellent instructions ~ I picked up my card for the permesso di soggiorno just the other week.In total it took 3 months from submitting the application to card pick up so I was lucky.

    Just a note of interest: I’m working at one of the UN agencies in Rome on a contract to contract basis. My original D mission visa (in my passport) was only valid until the end of February, but when I submitted the permesso application I applied (and paid) for a 1 year period. At the Questra I was told my permesso would only be valid until the end of February and then I would have to reapply with my new contract, but when I picked up the card it was for the one year period! I think it’s worth attempting this route for people with shorter contracts (that will be renewed) to avoid multiple renewals in a one year period.

    • Hi Jennifer, you’re quite welcome. I’m so glad it helped you. And yes, three months is quite good…like I said in the post, mine took seven.
      By the way, I applied for a one year Permesso and was given TWO! Now I’m wondering if they do that on purpose since they’re aware of how long the process might take. For some, it’s not unreasonable to think that the document could already be expired by the time they receive it!
      Thanks for your useful input…the more “stories” entered into the discussion, the more clear the picture becomes. Ha!

  • Hi Rick,

    Thanks for being so detailed with these three posts! I was wondering if you could apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno without a work visa and just a permanent address. Would a standard tourist visa count for anything? I wasn’t able to secure a working visa before coming to Rome to try my luck at living and working here but was still hoping to secure the Permesso di Soggiorno. Is this possible?

    I also saw in another comment by Elizabeth Jones where she spoke about bank account balances, what is this used for and why is there a certain limit that someone needs for the process?

    Any help would be very much appreciated!!!

    Thanks again

    • Hi Eric and Buon Anno!
      OK, let’s clear it up…no, unfortunately the tourist visa doesn’t count for anything as far as the Permesso goes. And in fact, any long-term visa (>90 days) MUST be acquired in your home country.
      What Elizabeth was referring to is the Elective Residency visa and yes, you need a certain balance in your bank accounts to qualify (to show them that you DON’T need to work in Italy). This amount is somewhat subjective and at the discretion of the consulate employee who reviews your application. Suffice to say, the more the better…but it should be at least 20-25k/year/person in my “best guess” opinion. There’s other factors, but that’s a reference point.
      Hope that answers your questions (for better or worse)….ciao!

  • Thank you *so* much for posting these! My family & I just arrived in Genoa for our Year of Adventure and finding your posts is helping to make my filling out of Modulo 1 much less stressful. One thing that seems to be unclear is when the 4 photos are needed for the PdS. The official website for Italian Immigration seems to say that they should be brought at the first Questura appointment, not to the Post Office. But, I suspect we will cover our bases & have them at the ready! Wish us luck!

    • Hi Jacqueline, and thanks for your kind words! OK, here’s the thing: the first step is to apply for the Permesso either at the Questura OR at the post office. (If you do it at the post office, basically you’ve applied at the Questura via mail.) The post office is no picnic, but it’s the lesser of two evils most of the time. If you do it there, you’ll be given a receipt for your fingerprint appoint which will be at your local Questura in any case. Tutto chiaro? Write me if you have more questions…in bocca al lupo!

      • Just wanted to give you an update and share a tidbit for anyone applying with family members. We ended up not having time to get photos (Ferragosto and nothing open nearby…) but were told it didn’t matter, that we should just bring them to our Questura appointment at the end of the month. There was confusion about doubling the paperwork & listing kids when applying with the same financial documents. We only had one copy of those with us (which is all we needed when applying for the visa) and since Kinkos are nowhere to be found in Italy 😉 we ended up submitting passport copies with one parent & kids, financials with the other parent. Since spouses & kids (under 14, so thankfully no fees for them) were listed with both adult applicants, we were assured that it would all come together. The 2 applications for a year ended up costing upwards of 300 Euro, with Marca da bollo, Electronic PdS fee, and postage/processing fee. Here’s to hoping the Saints of Italian Bureaucracy send their blessings…

        • VERY good information, Jacqueline, thanks so much for sharing. I knew the procedure for including children, but have never had to do it personally. From what you’ve described, it sounds like you stumbled upon a helpful employee and in doing so have greatly increased (although I’d never say guaranteed) your chances of success. Please keep me posted…ciao!

          • Thank you, Rick and Jacqueline! Our family is about to leave for a sabbatical year in Italy, and my wife and I both have study visas (the consulate told us to just bring the kids in on tourist visas, which did cause some friction with the airline). We have a pretty good idea of how to apply for the permesso di soggiorno now thanks to you, but we have one nagging question– do we have to worry at all about a nulla osta? That document appeared many times in descriptions of ricongiungimento di familiare visas, but if our kids are already over there with us, then perhaps we don’t need it? Thanks!

            • Hi Pedar! Thanks so much for your kinds words. My first reaction is as you said: no, you don’t need to apply for a “family reunion” visa since your family is already together. And in any case, you already have student visas. Furthermore, your children may not even need separate permessi, depending on their ages. I believe the cut off is 12-13, but I can’t swear on it. And remember, as a general guideline, a visa gets you into the country and the permesso is what allows you to stay. A nulla osta is just sort of a supplementary document (like an affidavit) to assist in the processing of other procedures. As far as I can tell, your golden.

  • There is more truth to this then you know I will tell you moving from Florida to Milano we had a team of attorneys at our side at all times through this process and although it was not as complex as yours it was very similar! Really enjoyed reading your journey it was very funny!

  • Great blog, very funny 🙂 Just out of curiosity, if the chances of me getting the permesso before I leave in five months are so slim, why even bother trying to get it?

    • Ciao, Alyssa, thanks for reading! You raise a good question. In fact, you might not want to bother, to be honest. It depends on your long-term plans–will you be returning to Italy any time soon? If you apply for it now, then technically you’ve fulfilled your obligation, even if you’ll be gone by time it’s ready to be picked up. (Remember what I said in the post–your receipt serves as your temporary permesso).

  • Very accurate description! I’ve gone through the same process a few times and it’s always just as stressful as the first. It can be done, but it’s definitely a challenge!

    • You’re welcome, Elizabeth! In theory, the sum should be over 8,400 Euros, which is the amount needed to exceed the limit of exemption from participation in the national health services. That said, there is still a bit of subjectivity involved, so the more you have, the better. I hope this answers your question…ciao!

        • OH, sorry, I didn’t realize! Yes, that’s for foreigners (Non-EU)! For EU citizens, the amount is a bit less–in 2011 it was €5,424.90 and I assume it’s the same this year. Also note that while most of the process is the same, you’ll use a different form, the one for EU nationals, obviously.

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