The Italian Dream- But First, The Bureaucratic Nightmare

“You moved to Italy?!” “You are SO lucky!” “What a dream!” are typically the reactions from people when I tell them about my move to Italy.  Though all of the above are true, and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity, I am here to tell you that my little piece of paradise did not come free.
In my experience, Italy will welcome you with open arms as long as you are here to spend your tourist money.  As far as permanently residing under the Tuscan Sun, well, that is a different story. Italy is a socialist country and non-contributing members of society quickly become financial burdens.  That, combined with a history of governance issues and bureaucratic unclarity to put it mildly, makes legally moving to Italy something you cannot do overnight or on a whim.  If moving here has been your dream, I by no means am the one to tell you not to do it.  On the contrary; maybe I can shed some light on the process by sharing my own experience.  I am here, however, to say you better be willing to work for it because the Italian government will make you capital letter W-O-R-K for it.  On paper, here are the steps to requesting residency in Italy:
  1. Apply for a long-term visa at the Italian Consulate in the USA.
  2. Enter Italy with said visa and request the right to stay (Permesso di Soggiorno) at the police department (Questura).
  3. Take your Permesso di Soggiorno, let’s call it a green card of sorts, and get your Codice Ficale, a social security number equivalent.
  4. With all of the above documents, request residency, which will then allow you to get a Carta di Identità, your Italian ID card.
  5. Get a tax ID account if you are self-employed (partita IVA) or a document from your employer and apply for your health insurance.
  6. Congratulations! You are now a tax paying Italian resident with the rights to health care and retirement benefits if you stick around long enough.  Now you just have to apply for the renew of your “green card” on a yearly basis.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right?  Well, for those looking for the short version of his post, just know the actual process of getting Italian residency is complicated, long, and difficult.  For those looking for a little more detail into my current immigration saga, read on.
Let’s begin with: “What I wish I had known because accurate expectations can ease emotional suffering”:
  • Not only will you not find a clear description of the process or required documentation for ANY of it, when you ask an official for information, they might just give you the WRONG information. Roll with the punches. You will find out the next step as you go, so think of it as a treasure hunt with the final treasure being your right to live in Italy.
  • None of the application process can be done remotely. Essentially any questions or requests for official documents etc. will require a personal visit to the pertaining government office as most places don’t pick up the phone and when they do, can’t answer your questions. Keep the treasure hunt mentality going.
  • You will pay fees that you do not understand nor know what they cover. All of them come with receipts, so at least you know that though obscure, they are legitimate.  You will think all is in order because you’ve paid everything you’ve been asked to, then you will call to follow up and learn that your application is paused because you owe a fee you never heard of nor were you ever asked to pay.  This reminds me:
  • ALWAYS FOLLOW UP.  Even when they tell you they will be in touch with an update or with your scheduled time to pick up your residency card, do not believe them.  Follow up.  In person.
Now for the nitty gritty:
Americans are allowed to reside in Europe (Schengen countries) for a total of 90 days every 6 months.  This includes Italy.  If you would like to stay longer, you will need to ENTER the country with a long-term visa.  I emphasize enter because once you arrive in Italy, the visa does not give you the right to stay, it gives you the right to request for the right to stay (more on this on Permesso di Soggiorno below).  There are various kinds of long-term visas and you will need to research if a) you actually quality for one (another misconception, you cannot just simply decide to move to Italy for no reason other than you want to) and b) the documents required for the application.  Here is a link with more information on visa types as well as cost.
Long Term Visa Application, Independent Work Visa:
I applied for a self-employment visa because that was the only path that allowed me to pursue D. França Designs from abroad.  I later found out this is the hardest road to pursue when trying to move to Italy, so take that for what it is.  The required documents included:
– Filled out application
– Official statement from the Chamber of Commerce of where you will reside in Italy describing scope of activity you want to pursue
– Nulla Osta from the Questura (Police) stating you have no legal pendency in Italy
– Copy of tax return
– Bank statement as proof of financial means to support yourself in Italy
– Arrangement of lodging of where you will be staying (lease agreement or a letter of hospitality from a local family)
All of the Italian documents are essentially impossible to get unless you are in Italy or have someone there to act on your behalf (via a Power of Attorney that requires an Apostille and authenticated translation from English to Italian) .  All of them also take time to be requested and processed, specially if you don’t know someone that knows someone that works in that office.   Once you’ve identified the appropriate visa and collected the required documents, you must then make an appointment at the Italian Consulate residing over your jurisdiction to apply in person, in the case of Utah, it is located in San Francisco.  The appointment is done online, but other than the appointment booking service they provide on their website, the Consulate is essentially unreachable for questions or any kind of help.  They will occasionally respond to emails but be prepared for a moderate level of hostility, specially if you don’t speak Italian. My personal experience was unpleasant, as they were rude and unprofessional and assumed the attitude that all Americans are spoiled individuals who believe to be self-entitled to whatever the hell they want.  If you don’t have all of the documents exactly as they should be (all a guessing game really as you have no way of verifying if what you have complies with what they want because they don’t give you any detailed information of what they want) they will turn you away and tell you come back with a different appointment (if you don’t live in the city of where the Consulate resides, this means another plane ticket and hotel room).  If all of your documents are in order, you will leave your passport with them (yikes) with a pre-paid UPS envelope (they WILL NOT accept FEDEX and will make you walk down to the near UPS and get a new pre-paid envelope) and then, you should receive your passport back in the mail within the next 20 days.  You will know if your visa was approved by opening your passport and either finding the added visa page or not.
Permesso di Soggiorno: You Now Have Your Visa, But That Does Not Mean You Get To Stay:
Once you enter Italy with your long-term visa, the law states you must present yourself at the local police department within 8 days of entering the country.  This part was unclear to me because even though they give you this 8-day time frame, you must first mail in your application at which point the post office gives you an appointment at the police station.  My strategy:  I got my application sent in as soon as possible.  You do this by heading over to a main post office location and picking up a Permesso di Soggiorno packet.  This will be in Italian and you might need some help filling it out.  Do the best you can; they didn’t seem too stuck on having everything filled out perfectly.  Once this is filled out, you will have to return to the post office, pay a few fees, mail the packet off and do not lose any of the papers they give you.  You should now have your appointment at the Questura as well as the official receipt with your application number that can be used to check your application status online. This receipt is very important.  Do not lose it.
Next step is to show up for your appointment.  This is pretty straight forward as they will dig up your packet, verify your information, and do who knows what in their system.  They will then give you a piece of paper and send you over to another part of the Questura to get all of your biometrics (finger prints).  That is, if you are lucky and you get someone who actually knows how to do their job.  If you are me, you will not be sent off to biometrics, instead, will be informed that someone will contact you to schedule a 10-hour listening of an international agreement between your country and Italy.  At which point you will wait for weeks, try to call for a couple days, follow up in person, learn that your application was paused because you never went in for your finger prints, and find out the 10-hour listening is not actually a thing (insert face palm emoji).  After the biometrics, everything should be in order and you should wait for a text message telling you when to pick up your residency card.  Again, unless you are me.  Once I followed up after never hearing back, I found out there was an outstanding fee I didn’t pay, probably something to do with the fact that I had never been asked to pay it. I paid the fee, waited some more and voila, Permesso di Soggiorno obtained!
Residency Card In Hand, It’s Time To Claim Your Perks:
At this point I think it is accurate to say that the hard part is over.  Now it’s just a matter of patience and having enough time to make all of the stops at the required places in order to get everything set up to have all of the benefits you now qualify to have.  And being that the Italian government will be taxing you to the fullest, I think you will really want to do this.
  • Get your codice fiscale authenticated. This number appears on your residency card but when are ready to request the medical card, they will require proof of authentication.
  • Request residency. Head on over to the Commune (Court House? or Municipal Government Office?) of the place you reside and declare you reside there.  The documents you will need for this will depend on the living arrangements you have made in Italy.
  • Head on over to the Asl Locale, pick your family doctor from the given list and get your medical insurance card.
Pop the champagne, the treasure hunt is over and you are now an Italian resident! Tanti auguri! You should be set to enjoy your care-free Italian life until 60 days prior to the expiration of your residency card at which point you must renew it.  You will most likely have a period of 5-6 months before you need to renew because even though your residency period is for 1 year, it will take you 6 months to get your Permesso di Soggiorno, but your count down will have started from when you first entered the country (6 months before).  For me, however, it doesn’t end there.  The journey continues as I go about registering my business in Italy, but since this post is already turning into a small novel, that is a tale for a different day.
Sunset as seen over Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.
Sunset as seen over Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

3 thoughts on “The Italian Dream- But First, The Bureaucratic Nightmare”

      1. We we’re thankfully, but just barely; we FINALLY got everything together 4 days before I had to leave to come back home.

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