Can an American Move Permanently to Italy?

Image via  Freepik

Image via Freepik

Is it possible for Americans to move their residency to Italy? The answer is yes.

Is it a quick process? Well, the answer can’t be but no.

The one about visa is among the most frequent topics we talk about with US clients or prospects who have the project to retire in Italy or to work here. 

Let’s try to shed light on the key aspect of this (pretty much long) process talking about the story of Jeff, one of our clients from Utah who has decided to move permanently to Lake Como during his retirement. 


Let’s start from the basics.

According to the US State Department,

"Americans staying in Italy for more than three (3) months are considered residents. Americans must have an entrance visa which should be obtained at an Italian consulate before coming to Italy, in order to remain in Italy more than three months and gain resident status. This procedure will take several weeks to complete so it is advisable to apply well in advance of the departure date. The visa will be granted only for the time indicated on the application. Americans already in Italy without a visa will have to leave Italy to obtain one before they will be able to gain resident status.”

Following this law, Jeff referred to the closest Italian consulate in the US, in his case in S. Francisco. The embassy put him in contact with their delegate in Salt Lake City, who assisted Jeff in the whole process of applying for the entry visa.

The whole communication has been via PEC e-mail (mandatory). The embassy provided Jeff with a 10-pages document to be filled in, with a series of specific data to declare, like the city he would have intended to live in. 

An example of the 10-pages paperwork provided by the Italian consulate

An example of the 10-pages paperwork provided by the Italian consulate

He then had to submit his fingerprints for the FBI check. 

Ultimately, he needed to provide them with his original passport (this way being unable to travel during those months), which must necessarily have at least 3 years remaining validity beyond the departure date. Jeff’s passport unfortunately had only 2 years left: that’s why he had to send back the passport to the American government to apply for a new one (taking around 3 weeks more!). 

“You have to complete every page of the application perfectly, labelling every section correctly”, Jeff warns, “otherwise the consulate will send all the paperwork back by e-mail asking you to do it again”.

In Jeff’s case, for instance, there was something wrong with his fingerprints: apparently the scan of the police department didn’t work well, and Jeff needed to replicate the procedure. 

So, bear in mind that the application you’ll submit needs to be perfect; even the order of the different sections of the required documents matters! 

In the end, the process involving the Italian consulate took approximately 3 months. 


It might interest you to know that there are several types of visa according to the reason of your visit:

  • work visa (to be asked after you get a job; then your employer will apply for permission to hire a migrant at the local Prefettura);

  • family visa (this applies only to Italian citizen or people with permit of stay in Italy);

  • self-employed Visa (for professionals who want to start their business in Italy; usually you can obtain one by providing proof that you are travelling for business reasons, and guaranteeing you have adequate financial resources for the period of stay and health insurance with a minimum coverage of €30k, as stated by the Ministry of Interior);

  • investor visa (aka “golden visa”: this is for who wants to invest in strategic assets with a minimum investment of € 500k up to € 2 mln. In this case the visa gives you two years’ residency, plus special tax benefits). 


After getting your visa from the consulate, you have 1 year of time to get your permit of stay (permesso di soggiorno).

Once in Italy, Jeff relied on a local lawyer who helped him in applying for his permit. 

First thing he went to the post office: paying a fee, the office sent a telematic request directly to the local central police station in Como (Questura). 

Jeff took 3 months to get a meeting at the Questura; in the best cases, however, if you have a regular entry visa you can obtain a residency permit within 60 days. 

Bear in mind that if it's your first time in Italy, you have 8 days since your arrival to apply for a residence permit!

This is what he had to deliver in Questura

  • Passport with entry visa obtained in the US

  • Application form 

  • Approved fingerprints

  • 4 passport-size photographs;

  • €1 4.62 electronic revenue stamp

  • 1 year of income taxes from the US

  • Bank letter showing his capital overview 

  • Life insurance 

After one month, Jeff finally got his permit of stay: a card with his name, address, and expiration date of the document. Afterwards he had 20 days to go to the town hall (Anagrafe office) to apply for the certificate of residency and - after one month - get his Italian identity card and tax code.

Once you have obtained your residency in Italy, you can remain only until your residency permit expires.

The first time you get the permit, it lasts for 1 year; after the first year you have to go through the same process, but then it will last 2 years.  

The whole process for Jeff took exactly one year, from March 2017 when he started his application in the Utah, to March 2018, when he finally got his certificate of residency.


After you get your permit and your residency, you are able to apply for the Italian National Health Service, benefitting from the health care assistance provided to Italian citizens. “Italy charges you a certain amount of money based on your last US tax return”, says Jeff. “In my case I have to pay € 2.000 per year. Depending on your income, you’ll pay between € 1.500/€ 3.000 per year.” 

When you register with the National Health Service, you receive a document called the Tesserino sanitario personale (Italian Health Insurance Card), that entitles you to a lot of free or part paid services (ticket sanitario) which can vary from region to region.


Since 8 January 2007, the permanent residence card has been replaced by the EC residence permit for long-term residents.

The new permit is permanent. You are entitled to apply for it only if you have been legally and continuously resident in Italy for five years. 

Your application must include:

  • a copy of your valid passport or equivalent travel document;

  • a copy of your income tax statement bearing evidence that you have a minimum income higher than the social allowance ("assegno sociale"). For domestic workers and caregivers: INPS (National Social Welfare Institution) payment receipts or INPS itemized statements;

  • criminal records and pending charges;

  • evidence of appropriate accommodation, if the application being submitted includes family members;

  • copies of pay slips for the current year;

  • residence and family certification;

  • postal receipt for payment of the electronic residence permit (€ 27.50);

  • a € 14.62 electronic revenue stamp.

The long-term residence permit entitles you to enter Italy without a visa, work, enjoy social benefits and social services supplied by the Italian government, and participate in local public life.


  • To be considered a resident you need to live in Italy for at least 6 months and one day.

  • You can apply for residency if you’ve rented or bought a house in Italy, and it doesn’t matter if you’re not an Italian citizen, or if you don’t want to apply for Italian citizenship in the future. And of course you can buy a house even if you are not resident in Italy or you’re not an Italian citizen.

  • As Italian resident, you can benefit from the reduced payment of a 4% tax on the purchase of your main home, and reduced payment of other municipal taxes (e.g. IMU).

  • The total cost for submitting the residency paperwork? You have to pay the revenue stamp and administrative fees for a total of about € 150.

  • Double residency is not possible. You can anyway keep your domicile abroad.

You can read an helpful interview to a lawyer specialized in Private International Law here.

Do you have any question related to the process of applying for residency? We can put you in contact with Jeff!

[Image via Freepik]

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