June 12


Schengen Visa and other Italian Bureaucracy

By Rick

June 12, 2013

Living in Rome, you are quickly introduced to the convoluted Italian bureaucracy whether you like it or not.  The so-called “system” gets a bad reputation and of course I’ve done my part in disseminating this view.

Getting your Schengen Visa is particularly annoying, as is my old nemesis, the Permesso di Soggiorno.  But let me be clear: it’s not that the Italian bureaucracy is so impossible, it’s that nobody understands it; or more to the point, nobody can explain it to you—least of all in English.

Schengen visa, Italian bureaucracy
The logic of Italian Bureaucracy

So for what it’s worth, I’ve compiled a short list of some of the most common questions that I receive from people who contact me through my blog.  Let’s call it “Caro Riccardo.”  I’ve edited them for brevity and changed the names to protect the desperate.  I’ve also corrected some of the grammar and spelling, including my own.

Schengen Visa

Caro Riccardo,

I found you by accident, by “googling” Expats in Italy.  Here is my situation…
I dearly want to live in Italy for at least one year in order to see many religious/spiritual sites and visit family living there. I would support myself with my own funds from home.  My question… with your knowledge of visas etc., can I do this OR are there “obstacles” about which you know?  PS: I hope to stay at a religious “house for pilgrims” in Rome, to start, and maybe for the entire stay.

Thank you kindly,

Pilgrim from Pittsburgh

Salve Pilgrim!  And thanks for reading my blog.

Good news for you…the “obstacles” are minimal and you’ll have no problems realizing your dream.  Yes, they’ll be a few annoying bureaucratic steps, but nothing too challenging since you’re able to demonstrate sufficient funds to support yourself.

Most of the information can be found here (in English and Italian):


But I’ll quickly summarize for you.  First, you’ll have two options: 1) Elective Residence Visa.  This is what I did and I’m very familiar with this type of visa.  2) Visa for Religious Reasons, which I’m less familiar with, but you might consider this as a “backup” if  #1 doesn’t work for some reason–although I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t.  In either case you’ll need:

  1. visa application form (click here)
  2. TWO recent passport-style photos
  3. passport or travel document valid for at least three months after visa expiry date
  4. documented and detailed guarantee of substantial and steady economic resources deriving from private income (pensions or annuities), properties, stable economic and commercial activities or other sources
  5. availability of adequate lodgings in Italy (which your religious organization can probably provide for you)

Only #4 is the only tricky one and you seem to have that covered.  Technically, you need to show 8,400 Euros (about $11,000) per year of savings or income.  But I’ve been told that the bigger the number, the easier it will be to get the visa.  To be safe, be ready to show about 20k of savings in U.S. dollars.

For #5 I’ve attached a sample of the letter that I used (modified, of course, to protect my privacy).

That should get you started!  Once your departure date gets closer, let me know if you have any more specific questions.

Ciao, Riccardo

Time frame for applying for Permesso

Caro Riccardo,

I found your name/page on the Expats Living in Rome website.

I just received my “Elective Residence” visa from the Italian Consulate in the U.S.  I leave for Italy next month.

However, I’m having a major problem trying to figure out where I need to go and what I need to fill out, to acquire a residency permit, once I arrive.

What I’m confused about is that the general instructions state that with this visa type, I can apply at the post office.  But then, in one of the following paragraphs, it reads: “Foreign nationals must request a residency permit from the police department (Questura) of the province where they are staying, within 8 business days of their entrance.”

Then, just two paragraphs down from there, it reads: “Foreign nationals who have presented an application at the post office will receive a registered letter from the Immigration Office summoning them to be fingerprinted, when provided by current law, and to receive their residency permit/card.  Upon their first convocation, they must present 4 passport-sized photos with a white background, one of which will be attached to their residency card/permit.”

I’m SO confused!  I assumed I was a “foreign national”.  Do I need to apply at BOTH the post office and the police department?

Also, nothing was mentioned to me about having to fill out tax paperwork or about setting up an Italian bank account. Are those only requirements for EU citizens settling in Italy? (I understand that I will have to supply proof of funds to stay.  Will they accept my US bank statements?)

Additionally, I am arriving in Venice and spending 4 days there and 3 in Florence, before I arrive in Rome via train.  SO, my window to appear and submit this application now is 3 days after my arrival in Rome.

One other question, if you know the answer.  Do you know what the standard fee/charge is if I hire a real estate agent to help me locate an apartment?  I think I may be forced to use an agent, since I don’t know enough Italian to decipher a rental/lease agreement.  Can you recommend any reliable real estate agents?

I am wondering how many of these emails you get every week. 🙁   I would so very much appreciate any assistance/info you can provide.

Grazie mille!!

Confused in California

permesso di soggiorno, bureaucracy in italy,
Do you really need ALL of these?

Ciao Confused,

First of all, take a deep breath because the good news is that you’re WAY ahead of the game compared to most American expats-to-be!  Now let’s look at your questions one at a time.

Regarding the residency permit (Permesso di Soggiorno), you can do it EITHER at the Questura or the post office.  Think of it this way: if you do it at the post office, you’re really just registering with the Questura via mail instead of in person.  No biggie.  And I wouldn’t worry too much about the 8 day limit, either.  Do you your best to do it a.s.a.p., but don’t stress about it.  They know that the process is confusing and cumbersome for foreigners, so just relax and get it done at your pace.  Do your best, but they’re not going around looking for American tourists to deport, believe me.

So when you’re ready, pick up a packet at the post office and follow the instruction on my blog:


But then again, don’t be surprised if you have to go back once or twice to “fix” something that you didn’t get right the first time.  In any case, once you’ve officially started the process, you’re “legal,” so don’t sweat it.

And NO, you don’t need (or want) an Italian bank account—use your Bancomat to get cash from your American account and perhaps a credit card for larger purchases.  Bring your US bank statement with you (the ones you used for your visa app) and that will be more than enough for your Permesso application.  They probably won’t even ask for those, but have them ready just in case.
As far as an apartment, yes, realtors charge one month’s rent to find you an apartment. If money is no object, they why not?  But truthfully you can do it yourself by word of mouth.  If you’re personable and flexible, it won’t be a big problem.  A little luck doesn’t hurt, but you really just need to start networking.  You might find someone with an apartment or even just a room if you’re willing to share and then you won’t have to even deal with contracts or agents or any of that.  I know it sounds flimsy, but it’s the way it is here—friends and contacts are better than websites and agencies, in my opinon.  Start with an expat group:


I realize that you only have a week before your departure, but don’t worry, you’ll be fine.  Look over this stuff and write me back in a day or two with any more questions.  Above all, relax and enjoy Venice and Florence and don’t let the stress interfere with the reason that you’re coming to Italy in the first place.

Ciao for now,


Student Visa / Letter of Hospitality

Caro Riccardo,
Hi!  I’m a prospective student at one of the universities in Rome. I’ll be living in Rome for a year IF I can get my student visa.

The problem I’m running into is this: I will not get approved for a visa until I have a signed rental contract covering the length of my stay in Rome.  So far, I’m in touch with two very kind women but they don’t want to draw up a contract for me until they’ve met me and decided that I’m a good fit.  But they can’t meet me unless I get into the country which I cannot do without a visa which I cannot get without a rental agreement.  Do you see the vicious cycle I’m in here?

I’m applying for my visa next month, time is going fast, and I have to have this all figured out and have paperwork in hand by then.

Desperate in Detroit

Buongiorno, Desperate.  Sounds like you have an exciting adventure planned.

After reading your email, the first thing that struck me was that the university should be assisting you with your visa, if not handling it outright.  If you’ve already been accepted into their program, they should have a protocol in place for helping students.  Very odd.

Regarding the housing issue, there are two options.  One, as you’ve alluded to, is presenting the consulate with a pre-signed housing agreement.  But there’s another option: you can have someone write a letter of hospitality saying that they’ll host you in their home.  This is what I’ve done (twice) and it’s as easy as can be–I’m attaching a sample letter to this email.  Now, the catch is that you have to have a friend or someone to write and sign this letter for you.  So I’m wondering if one of your two potential landlords would be willing to sign this type of informal letter, even if they’re unwilling to sign a legal rental agreement at this point.  Otherwise, do you have any other friends/contacts in Italy (doesn’t have to be Rome) that could do this for you?

I don’t personally know anyone who is looking for a roommate at this very moment.  But have you looked on the Expats living in Rome FB noticeboard?  https://www.facebook.com/groups/245501905500885/  I just looked this morning and didn’t see anything right now, but feel free to post your own announcement there telling them what you’re looking for.

Another good site is Easy Stanza: http://www.easystanza.it/?l=1

OK, let me know if that’s helpful. Remember you don’t necessarily need a rental agreement, a letter from a friend will do.  But again, you should press the school a little harder for help.  It’s surprising that they’re not assisting you in this.


Checking your status online

Caro Riccardo,

Just when I think all the Permesso stuff is over…..I have gone to the link that you sent, but I’m not positive which number to enter there. I entered the number under the barcode on my permesso packet, but it said it is not present in the archive. While this seems to me that this means it is not being processed, I’m hoping that it actually means I just entered the wrong number.
But the login and password they gave me don’t work either. Again, I’m not sure if that’s because none of this is being processed, or if I’m just entering something incorrectly. If you have any thoughts, I would greatly appreciate it. I do not want to have to go through all of this again, especially when it seemed that everything went well. The appointment was two weeks ago, so I would think it should be in the system by now.  I’ll keep asking around, but thought I would try you as well. Thanks again!!

Rattled in Rome

Hi Rattled,

As you know, I’m all too familiar with your frustration and confusion.  When I read your email, the first thing that occurred to me was that “only” two weeks is not very long to still NOT be in the computer system.  It may yet take a couple more weeks.

Secondly, I’m quite sure that the website that I gave you was correct because that’s where I found my confirmation (eventually).

permesso di soggiorno online
Here’s where you’ll find your code.


I went to my files and dug out my info to try to jar my memory.  It looks like you need the 12 digit registered mail code that’s printed between the bar code and the word “password” on your mail receipt.  Mine was 0612XXX03-9 (you don’t enter the “dash” when entering the number).  Your will probably start with a “06” also, which I think is for the Provinica di Roma.

Give that another try and let me know!  Good luck!


Caro Riccardo,

I would like very much to experience living in Rome at least once in my life!  For the past year, I’ve intermittently applied for numerous jobs there. Unfortunately, nothing has come to fruition. It’s been discouraging. Family and friends think I am CRAZY for actually considering leaving my corporate American job and my comfortable, predictable life. I disagree! 

Anyway, your blog was great and quite helpful. I want to be an expat – but it just isn’t working out! Any suggestions you may have on what I may be doing wrong, or how I can make myself more marketable? 

Thank you so much for your time.

Jobless in Joliet

Ciao Jobless!
I understand your frustration over finding a job and I can offer a few facts that might clear things up.  (And for the record, I disagree with the naysayers, too.)  First, getting a job in Italy via email/Internet is about as likely as winning the lottery. I suppose it happens once in a while—but only for people who have VERY specific, desirable skills that an Italian isn’t likely to have. Secondly, this is also because that Italy’s job culture is still very much face-to-face. They’d never consider hiring anyone that they haven’t met in person.  Third, how’s your Italian?  If you’re not fluent in Italian then you’ve eliminate yourself from 99% of the jobs available.  And there aren’t that many available to begin with—the economic crisis in Italy is still on-going and in fact it’s getting worse.

If all of this sounds bad, well it is—but only for the “conventional” job approach.  So now you’ll have to think of something to create your own opportunity.  Find a job in the US that allows you to work remotely from anywhere.  Or apply with a US company that does business in Italy—there are many.  Not sure what field you’re in, but perhaps you can do some freelance consulting. And if all else fails, you can do what I did and teach English as a second language to Italians.  It’s not hard to get certified and finding a job is piece of cake.  The pay isn’t great, but it’s enough to live on and you could do it temporarily while you start getting your “regular” resume passed around.  Like I said, nobody is likely to hire you until you actually LIVE in Rome/Italy.  That’s just the way it is.

So that’s some food for thought while you mull over your decision.  Let me know if there’s anything else that you’re wondering about. And yes, poke through my website some more—buried within all my sarcastic commentary lies some useful information if you’re determined to find it.  Start here perhaps: https://rickzullo.com/cost-of-living-in-rome/

Any more questions?

The above inquiries are the most common, but there are certainly more.  If you have a question not covered in this article, please post on the comments below.  This way everyone can see them and benefit from your misfortunes.  And if you want all of this information in an easy-to-use PDF document, you can download it here:

And for more general travel questions, check out this page: Italy Travel FAQs

Recent Posts:

About the author

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

  • Hello Rick,

    My wife and I are looking into moving to Italy. It seems that the visa that we would need is the elective residence visa. I have searched over the internet and found a lot of conflicting information about what are the exact requirements. When I came to your blog I joined your news letter and downloaded your permesso di soggiorno but could find very little on the elective residence visa process. My main question is about financial requirements. My wife and I are both fortunate enough to have family that supports us and I am wondering how I can translate that into showing financial guarantee. We are both American citizens. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hi, my family and I moved to Italy from Dallas, Tx based on the Elective Residency visa summer of 2016. The requirements are set out by your nearest consulate. For us that was in Houston. You can try to call and see if they will give you the financial requirements over the phone a.) if they answer and b.) if they decide this is something that they want to do THAT day. Very annoying. They may tell you to just apply with your financial documents and they will tell you whether or not you qualify. I have gotten that answer before. However, before you waste your time and/or money. The income must be passive. THERE.IS.NO.GETTING.AROUND.THIS. Passive income: dividends, retirement money, inheritance money, rental income. NOT Passive: business earnings, online earnings, income from a job. The minimum by Italian law is 30k€/yr plus 8k€ for each additional family member. However, each consulate can and usually does implement a higher financial requirement.

      • Hi Emerald,

        I am still waiting for my reply from the consulate. I am curious what documents I need to provide regarding finances. Is it a lump sum? or bank statements. If bank statements then do you know how many months of statements? Thank you.


  • Hi Rick! I am student on “D type Single Entry” Visa in Italy for 3 and a half months. I have applied for the permit of stay but the date of getting it is in the last month when I will be about to leave the country. Now police has told me that as I have a single entry I cannot exit Italy to go to other schengen countries without my permit of stay.

    Now doesn’t single entry mean you cannot move out of schengen area but can roam inside it freely? Moreover according to European Union’s regulation of 5th April 2010, anyone with a D type visa is free to move about anywhere in schengen area then why is the police stopping me and how can they say that if I exit Italy to go to let’s say France my single entry expires as France is also Schengen?

    Please help me out in this. I am so confused! Doesn’t Italy follow the rules of the European Schengen agreement that allows free movement to people with a D type visa?

    P.S- My visa says ITALIA; no of entries-1; Type-D

  • Hi Rick! I am student on “D type Single Entry” Visa in Italy for 3 and a half months. I have applied for the permit of stay but the date of getting it is in the last month when I will be about to leave the country. Now police has told me that as I have a single entry I cannot exit Italy to go to other schengen countries without my permit of stay.

    Now doesn’t single entry mean you cannot move out of schengen area but can roam inside it freely? Moreover according to European Union’s regulation of 5th April 2010, anyone with a D type visa is free to move about anywhere in schengen area then why is the police stopping me and how can they say that if I exit Italy to go to let’s say France my single entry expires as France is also Schengen?

    Please help me out in this. I am so confused! Doesn’t Italy follow the rules of the European Schenegen agreement that allows free movement to people with a D type visa?

    P.S- My visa says ITALIA; no of entries-1; Type-D

  • Ciao Rick: I was born in Italy and moved to the United States with my parents (both born in Italy), in 1954. I am now a naturalized US citizen. I have moved back to Italy(I have a extended stay residence visa). I want to request reacquisition of my Italian Citizenship have any idea who or where to start.

  • Rick! We got our visas! Thanks so much for all your tips. Genzano di Roma here we come! Some notes for those going through the Houston consulate:
    -they do NOT ask for your health insurance. I actually called to see if I could get the insurance that has $250 deductible per person or did I need $0 deductible and I was told that I didn’t need it at all
    -We did not need fingerprint cards
    -we had to have the same financial copies for our girls even though they are 6 and 12
    -they told us the girls did NOT have to appear in person at all
    -appointment started on time. 9:48 was the appointment time and they called us to the window a couple days before.
    -She glanced over our financials really briefly and spent more time looking and reading our financial summary letter

      • Thanks Rick. We leave June 22nd and get there June 23rd. We shipped our car, the same day as the visa appointment, May 1st and it should arrive in Livorno June 19th.

        I forgot to mention, they told us we’d have our visas in about a week and it took 9 business days.

  • Salve! I’ve heard rumblings lately that the Italian government is working to finalize a new type of visa that would allow for remote work (potentially limited to IT, but that’s not final yet). Have you heard anything about this?


    • No, I have not, but that would be VERY interesting to a lot of people. I’ll keep me eyes and ears open!

  • Hi Rick! Sorry if this has been answered earlier but I keep reading contradicting comments on other websites! I have moved to Italy for 6 months on a student visa and have put in my application for the Permesso. My appointment for fingerprinting is only next month. In this time period with only the receipt, am I allowed to travel to other Schengen countries as I have read this is not allowed! Thank you!

    • Well, I don’t work for the government so I can’t say with 100% certainty, but all sources I’ve found say that your receipt along with a valid passport AND visa allows you to travel throughout the Schengen area without a problem. They will likely check these papers if you’re flying, but obviously it’s extremely rare to have your papers checked when crossing borders in a car or train. Although these days you never know!

    • I would really like to know your outcome?? I am faced with the same situation although i have had my fingerprints taken but still waiting for my permesso. I would like to travel to other euro countries during summer. Did you have any dramas at airports? Or when re-entering italy? Grazie del

  • Hi Rick,

    I’d like to start out by thanking you for your website, which has been a tremendous resource for me. Trying to navigate the Italian bureaucracy can certainly be difficult, but your articles and advice make it easier.

    Here’s my situation, and question. It’s similar to one of the questions above, but slightly different. I have been accepted into a masters program in Florence, which begins in September. I am starting the process of gathering all of the documents required for a visa application. One of these requirements is to show that I have a place to live.

    The institution into which I was accepted holds a ‘housing orientation’ on August 31st, a few days before classes are scheduled to begin. This does not sit well with me, as I feel that does not leave enough time for me to arrive in Italy, get my bearings and Italian up to speed, as well as find a place to live.

    I can not apply for a Visa without showing that I have a place to stay, but most landlords are hesitant to sign a contract with someone they’ve never met living overseas. I was considering making a hotel or hostel reservation for the first couple weeks, to use as a home-base of sorts while I look for apartments. I was wondering if that plan would be sufficient for a Visa application?

    I don’t have any friends who could write a letter of hospitality, either. I’ve been scouring Italian rental websites, and have found several good places, but I have not yet contacted anyone. Do you think my best bet would be to find an apartment online and sign a lease/rental agreement?

    Or, should I contact the school to see if there is anything that they could help with?

    I apologize for the long post.



    • Hey Colin, thanks for your kind words about the blog. Honestly, it sounds like you answered your own question towards the end… if you’re applying for a student visa, the school should supply the necessary confirmation for your application. If they’re used to hosting foreign students, then the chances are that they’ve faced the same exact issue many times. It’s not impossible, but it would be tough to convince a private party that you’ve never met to sign a declaration of hospitality. Sorry, I don’t really have any easy answers on this one. Rick

  • Hi Rick, thanks for doing this great service for us .

    I have two questions for you which may seem out of the ordinary My wife and i are planning to move to Sicily around Oct 2016.
    1, I am retired US Navy so I am able to use military flights to get me and my wife to Sigonella Airbase. The visa process requires us to show confirmed R/T flights. Since we will be flying space available, we can’t say exactly what day we will arrive in Italy. Any recommendations?

    2, We are not sure where in Sicily we want to live so how do we provide a contract for housing? Can we use Airbnb temporarly?
    Please advise, thanks in advance for your help


    • Hey Dan, well, after my initial battles, I’m a little out of the loop on this stuff for the last few years. Just off the cuff: 1) why not buy a REFUNDABLE ticket on a major airline, then get your money back after the visa issued? 2) Not sure if a letter from Airbnb would work, but a letter from the actual person whose apartment it is might. There’s a template on my site, as well as in the Permesso eBook. Sorry, that’s all I got… good luck! Rick

    • Hi again Dan, and thanks for your kind words. Sicily is not easy, but worth the effort. I love it there, and have been several times.

      1) Have you thought about buying REFUNDABLE commercial flights, then getting the refund after your visa is approved? They’ll be expensive, but if you get the refund, it will only be a “loan” to your credit card.

      2) I don’t believe that you can use the Airbnb website as a confirmation of housing, but you might consider asking the actual owner of the apartment if they’ll write a letter of hospitality for you. There’s a template in my Permesso eBook that you can use. Not 100% it will fly, but worth a try perhaps.

      Sorry, don’t know if that helps but it’s all I’ve got! Good luck,



  • Salve! I’m here on a tourist visa, which I would like to extend by 3 or 4 weeks. Do you know how viable this might be and who in Rome handles this sort of thing? The American embassy? Grazie mille!

    • Hi Silvia. Unfortunately, you can’t “extend” your visa, at least not while IN Italy. All changes in visa status MUST be issued in your home country.

  • Hi Rick,

    My husband is a government contractor at the US Embassy in Iraq. He works about 3-6 months a year and makes $80k. I’m a also a travel agent. Would we be applying for elective residence or for self-employment?

    • Definitely E.R. The self-employment visa is extremely hard to get. But to qualify for E.R. you must show ONLY “passive” income sufficient to sustain yourselves. Salaries and savings don’t count. The interest on your savings counts, but not the principal.

      • Rick, thanks. I just called the consulate in Hawaii (because none of the others EVER answer the phone even when I call within the very short 2-hour, 3 day a week time period OR answer my emails). You are right, she said to apply for elective residence. I told her our income was not passive. She suggested we write a cover letter explaining our circumstances with lots of compliments about the country and culture. She also stated to be really nice to the interviewing officer, even though they may be really cold in nature. She said they place the most emphasis on cash reserves and that we should at least have 50k, which we do. She seemed to think we would be okay, as the rules are not black and white, but again, subjective. I will keep you all posted. Our visa appointment is April 1st.

          • It did not do so well. As soon as we mentioned my husband is a contractor working in Iraq she told me we could not do the elective residence visa although, the Hawaiian AND Los Angeles Consulates said we could since he is not working IN Italy. We are currently setup for another visa appointment at the end of the month. We will omit all mentions of work and see if our rental income, and my husband’s trading profits can get us by. Next appointment is May 2nd. I’m pretty nervous about obtaining the visa but trying to keep faith. We ship our car on Friday. I read on another forum you need a valid visa to pick your car up from the por in Italyt. Is this true? If so, I’ll just put my friend as the cosignee.

            • Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Not sure about the car, as I’ve never tried it personally. But I would imagine that the name of the person on the title of the vehicle must match the name on the visa. So I’m not sure if you can have a cosignee…might want to look into that. If it were me, I wouldn’t ship a car until I had the visa in hand. Could get very expensive if you had to turn around and ship it back again.

              • Yes, I think you’re right. Someone else can drop off the vehicle, but I need to pick it up. Do you think his trading has any chance of NOT being classified as passive income?

              • Well, it’s subjective. I’d think of another term other than “trading.” Maybe “investing?”

              • Visa is coming up Monday! Just curious, do you think it would pose a problem that we only have 1 rental property and the lease starts after we move to Italy? It’s just more convenient for us to start the tenant’s lease after we’ve moved out.

              • Well, like everything else, it’s subjective. But I think they’d be fine if you planned to spend a few days in a hotel or something before assuming your lease. Sounds like a normal thing to do. In any case, I doubt that will be the deciding issue…it always boils down to the financial statements and how they perceive your motivations for moving to Italy.

              • Hmmm,motivations?! Well, I was referring to our passive income portfolio. Someone said that only having one rental property would not be enough to be considered sustainable as the property could be vacant for part of the year, but your answer of subjectivity would again be inserted. I worded in my cover letter that we wanted to move there because we love Italy, but also because we wanted a break and vacation from the states for a few years until the oil and gas industry bounced back. I’m a petroleum engineer and have been laid off twice in the past 2 years also though with hefty severance packages. But now, you have me wondering if I should rephrase that.

        • Emerald, my girlfriend and I are in the same position; please keep us posted. If you would not mind sending me a separate e-mail, that would be super helpful too! [email protected]. Thanks, -Adam

  • Hi Rick – can’t thank you enough for your posts. Not only are they informative but they’ve provided me a sense of assurance that despite all the hurdles, making the jump to live in Rome is not as insurmountable as it may seem. My girlfriend and I will be following a very similar path that you previously paved, as we’ll be leaving South Florida in July for a taste of life in Rome.

    One thing that I have not been able to find online is any clear cut answer in regard to what suffices as adequate financial resources to obtain an Elective Residency Visa. I sent an email to the Miami consulate inquiring for specifics and the response I received stated “documented and detailed guarantee of substantial and steady economic resources deriving from private income (pension or annuities), properties, stable economic and commercial activities or other sources (cannot come from subordinate employment) of at least $3,500 per month per person to be reflected in the last 6 months financial statements. This seems considerably higher compared to what I’ve seen some people comment on in other posts/forums (roughly $11,000 a year per person). I recall reading that you first went over to Italy on an ER. Was this your experience as well or have the restrictions gotten substantially tighter? We have funds in savings accounts, but we would have little income flow outside of that once we leave our jobs in the US. If ER is not an option for us, I’m concerned our options are: (a) win the lottery by obtaining a work visa (b) cap our stay at 90 days or (c) overstay our 90 welcome pass illegally. I appreciate any additional insight you or fellow readers may have.

    • This has to be the most common question about obtaining a visa, and you’re right–there are conflicting accounts.

      The $11,000 (at one time about 8,500 Euros) number that you had found is a result of the Italian government stating that this the minimum demonstrable amount a person must earn in order to disqualify themselves from the public healthcare system. In other words, they don’t want an influx of foreigners to come to Italy just for free medical treatment. True enough, BUT…

      While that may have been the primary benchmark a while back, the regional consulate offices are now requiring larger amounts to qualify for the ER. Also, with the immigrant problem in Italy/Europe these last few years, rules are being enforced more rigorously than in the past. And of course the rules must be applied equally to all “immigrants,” even Americans.

      Also keep in mind that the $3,500 per month per person is in PASSIVE INCOME, which can NOT include savings or money earned from a job or business. So by the letter of the law, you’re NOT even allowed to work remotely from Italy, whether it be for a company back in the US or an Internet based business. (Such as a blog!)

      • Thanks a bunch for the quick response! Right, I was afraid you would confirm that only passive income would be considered eligible for ER. Time to hit the pavement for jobs. I believe you mentioned you taught English in Italy previously. Was your experience freelance or through an organization? And would any language schools even go through the hassle to assist with visa requirements?

  • Salve! Can I apply for an elective residence visa once in Italy? If I arrive on a tourist visa, can I apply for elective residence once I’m there? Thanks!!!

    • Hi Silvia! NO, you MUST apply for the visa in the country of your legal residence. Then once in Italy, you apply for your “permesso” at the local comune or post office.

  • Rick: thanks for the information. Is getting a letter from a sponser a travel breaker? Also, checked out your rental sites very good information. I look forward to my travel. Ciao and Grazie

  • I have my american citizenship I’m attempting to get my italian citizenship and hold both. Do you know if the consulate would issue me an italian passport; and is that done on the spot when I meet with the consulate in San Francisco. As to the FBI summary it’s one of the requirements now when requesting a Visa. I found that located in the elective Residency Visa section within the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco.

    • From what I’ve heard, getting your citizenship recognized is the long (2+ years) process, but once you have that, the passport is issued in a matter of weeks. The FBI thing is new. My last visa was in 2010 and I didn’t have that requirement back then.

  • Rick: First of all found your site and it is very helpful, Grazie. I’m in the process of getting my elective residency Visa and one of the items being requested is FBI summary do I also need one from the DOJ? Will one do or do I need both. My other question: I was born in Italy and become an naturalized citizen in 1966; I have an appt with Italian Consulate for my dual citizenship do I still need the visa. My appointment with the consulate is scheduled for March 2016 and my plan is to move in April 2016. Any comments or hints that will help. I’ve done research but it’s getting confusion.

    • Ciao Gabriela! Regarding citizenship versus a visa… IF you have citizenship, then you DON’T need a visa. That said, obtaining your recognition can take years, from what I’ve heard (I don’t have citizenship myself). If you already have documented proof of citizenship, but just need the consulate to issue an Italian passport, then you’re in pretty good shape. I wouldn’t worry about the visa if you have papers proving that you’re a citizen.

      Regarding the FBI summary, that’s a new for me. When did they start requiring that? Sorry, but on this issue, I’m clueless… but I’d love to hear your feedback on it.

  • Hey Rick! Very Helpful post, thanks!
    I’m looking to do elective residence, but I’m really only looking to stay for about 4-5 months. Is this possible? or do I have to go ahead and apply for elective residence for an entire year?


    • Hello! Well, I’m not really sure exactly what you’re asking; the process is the same regardless if you stay 4 months or 12, as is the price. So yes, they’ll probably give you the standard one year visa, but you aren’t obliged to stay for the full term, of course. Even if the visa is valid for one year, certainly you can just stay for 4-5 months.

  • Hello – we are interested in an Elective Visa for our family of five. I called the consulate and could not get clarification the checklist of requirements. For example:
    1) What constitutes “proof” of income and assets? Are statements from my broker sufficient? Bank statements? Or do I need something notarized?
    2) They require proof of full payment of lodging for our stay “signed by both parties” but most lodging now is secured via AirBNB or similar site and done electronically. What will suffice here if we plan to rent for 10 months?
    3) Are there any documents required for the Elective Visa that must be notarized? I am told no matter what you bring they’ll come up with something else you need, but I want to be prepared.
    Thanks for any insights you have.

    • Hello, I’ll answer your questions as best as I can, but as you’ve not doubt already discovered, nobody has “the final answer.”
      1) Bank statements are fine, and they don’t have to be notarized, but make sure that you give them AT LEAST 6 months of history. A year is better.
      2) This one I’m less sure of. I simply provided a letter from a friend (Italian citizen) who said that I’d be staying with them. They’ve tightened up on this criteria over the years, but suffice to say, the more “solid” your contract, the better. So if you do something electronically, simply print out any receipts and provide them with phone numbers/email addresses for verification. It “should” be sufficient, but who knows?
      3) I was granted the ER Visa twice; in 2008 and 2010. I was never asked to notarize anything. And as far as I know, that’s the scoop. Check out John at http://johnhendersontravel.com/ for a more recent account.

      Good luck, I hope that helps!

  • My husband and children are planning to move abroad this summer. I have a few questions:
    1. Type of Visa: My husband can work remotely via internet. However, we both plan to take language courses through a University (any school recommendations?). Should we apply for a student visa (if so how may credits or hours are required), elective residency or self employed visa? My husband is interested in teaching English but I would like him to be able to wait to take a teaching position.
    2. When should we start the visa process?
    3. We were considering a trip in March to locate housing but we were concerned that the consulate would retain our real passport while processing our visa? Is this the case? And what if we have our visa by March and entering the country activates our year visa when we aren’t moving until the summer?
    4. Can our children attend public school? We are looking into home schooling but our younger child would love to be in a school setting. If not public schools, what international schools are available and are they expensive?
    5. Do you have any resources for families with children moving to Italy…more likely Rome? We have also looked at Genoa.
    6. When providing proof of income is it $11,000 per family member for the year? And can we submit the income earned monthly through my husband’s online business?
    7. Can you give an estimated realistic monthly budget for a family of 5? Housing, transport, utilities etc…

    Thank you for sharing your expertise. This can be a daunting task…

    • Sorry, I’m not really a professional adviser. I’ve posted some notes from my own experience, but I can’t really comment beyond that.

  • Hi Rick,

    This is great information. After reading this article, I feel more confident about applying for an Extended Stay Visa. One question I still have, though, is this: at the end of the visa period (one year?), is it possible to renew your Permesso while still in Italy, or would I need to return to the states and start all over again? I’ve read other blogs where it appears that people are able to stay beyond the one year by renewing their Permesso. Can you clarify that for me? Thanks so much.


    • Hi Chris, and thanks for you comments. And I will certainly give you my two cents, although I don’t think that anybody can really clarify Italian bureaucracy!
      Two thoughts come to mind: first, when received my ER visa, it stated very plainly that it was good for one year…but yet when I used that visa to apply for my permesso, the permesso was good for two years. My sense is that that the visa is for entry and exit reasons, while the permesso is for “staying” in the country. In other words, if you didn’t cross any borders, then the permesso alone would work. Secondly, yes, you can (in fact, you must) renew your permesso in Italy. Whether or not they will allow you to do so with an expired visa is another question. Obviously, according to the intent of the law, no, you can’t. But I have also heard stories about folks who have done so.
      Sorry I can’t offer more, but as I said, nothing is clear when it comes to Italian bureaucracy. You what you can and hope for the best!

    • Well, the keep it until your visa is either approved or denied. If approved, the visa is affixed to one of the pages inside. I went through the Miami consulate and it took about two weeks.

  • Question about declaration of hospitality, and addresses in general.
    Does the declaration of hospitality address need to be in the city you will be living? for example: I will be studying in Milan but my friend offered to write a declaration letter with his Rimini address.
    Also do all these addresses need to correspond? When I apply for permesso di sorggiorno, can I use an address of Milan and not my friend’s Rimini address (which I suppose is on my file already).
    And if I stay in a hotel for the first month, what do I do when I apply for the permesso? I guess I can alway apply again for a change of address of permesso, but can I do that when I don’t even have my initial one yet?

    Thank youuuu

    • You’ve asked a complicated question and I’m not sure I can fully answer it with confidence. But here’s food for thought: First, if you’re there to study, then the school should be willing and able to vouch for your residency. But the address on the Permesso is the one that matters. They can (but probably won’t) stop by your apartment to verify that you’re there. Further, they understand that people need to move sometimes, so don’t worry too much about that. If you apply in good faith and do your best to keep them appraised of changes, then you won’t be hassled.

      • Thanks for the respond! Some study programs are not structured like university courses so they also don’t provide housing, and its nearly impossible (also unwise) to sign a contract overseas. I am just afraid when I present a declaration of hospitality not in the city of my studies, the consulate will raise questions.


        • They might raise questions, but you can always make up some answers! Just be confident and (relatively) honest and you’ll have no problems!

  • Ciao Rick,

    I have a question regarding the visa, is there a visa for partner’s of italian citizens? I’ve been with my italian fidanzata living with him for over a year now, and Italy looks like a potential plan in the next few years. Will it be difficult for me to get a visa if I’m moving there with him?

    • Ciao! Unfortunately, Italy does not recognize “partnerships,” only legal marriages. If you’re married, it will be quite easy to get a visa. If not, you’ll face the same difficulties that everyone else faces. 🙁 The easiest one for a young person is the student visa. Older folks can sometimes get Elective Residency. Beyond those two options, things get even more complicated…and less likely.

      • Thanks for that! Guess I’ll just have to wait for the first option to happen! haha, he’s not in much of a rush to go back to Italy for at least a few years, so who knows what can happen in that time 🙂

  • Great compilation of information Rick. But any advice for crazy people who moved here with their tourist visa? I managed to get an apt and I work online in the states but I realize this wont work well in the long run. What options are there for people like us?

    • Yes, my best advice: don’t get caught! I’m sort of kidding, but honestly it’s very unlikely that you’d be bothered for that unless you get into some other kind of trouble–so don’t rob any banks. In any case, you can ONLY get visas while in your home country (US, right?) and so you’d have to go back to complete the process.

      Or you can do what I did–marry an Italian!

      • HAHAHA all on my checklist, no banks, got it! And well yeah, we can go back and we have an opp for a religious visa BUT they say you can’t really work with that… for my husband’s sake, I don’t really need it… My only other concern is my kid in school… He’s signed up for sept. let’s see how it goes. Thanks for taking the time to answer. 😀

        • If you ever want to leave Schengen, do it via Italy no layovers. If you don’t have documents, pretty much every other country has been popping overstays left and right, with fines and bans. I don’t want to sound negative, but the days of the “Americans can do whatever” are long gone as are excuses for not knowing the rules. Try to go back as soon as possible for, perhaps, an ER visa or even try a student visa. Find a language school which will state you’ll be studying at an Intermediate (elementary doesn’t count) level and enrolled for a year.

          For Rick: Great website/blog, very useful info and easy to navigate.

          • Great point about the “good ol’ days,” everyone needs to be more careful now. And thanks for your kinds words about my blog…ciao!

  • Hi Rick, just want to tell you again what a useful and valuable service you provide with your advice. It’s comforting to know that someone else has been through it all and that it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.

    Ciao e grazie,
    Bob Smith

    • Thanks so much, Bob. I appreciate the kind words. Nah, it’s not that bad even though I like to make jokes about it sometimes. Just takes a good measure of persistence and patience. Ciao!

  • Although it’s mentioned in my link to the Italian consulate, I should have highlighted the basic conditions of the tourist visa (which you get automatically with a valid passport). ONE: it’s good for 90 days out of every 180 inside the Schengen Area. TWO: You CANNOT simply pop across the border into Slovenia or someplace for 24 hours and then return with a fresh 90 days. Twenty years ago or so that was possible, but not anymore.

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