Your visa is the right to enter Italy for reasons other than short-stay tourism. The permesso di soggiorno is the right to stay in Italy.
Even if you have been to Italy many times, obtaining a permesso is likely to be quite different from any process you have been through in Italy before. You might have visited an Italian post office to mail a letter, for example, or to buy stamps. But you have probably never had to obtain and submit documents through the post office. Neither, most likely, have you ever visited an Italian police station. Obtaining a permesso and renewing it will require you to become familiar with both these places.
Unlike people working in the tourist industry, many of the people that you will encounter during this process will have only limited knowledge of English. If your Italian is not fluent, try to have an Italian-speaking friend accompany you, at least on your initial visits.
Whatever your command of the language, make sure you understand the process and have all the relevant documents ready for inspection.
Applying for a Permesso di Soggiorno
Under Italian law, you must apply for a permesso di soggiorno within 8 days of your arrival in Italy. Kits for putting together this application are available from your local post office.
Post offices are used for many more functions in Italy than in the United States – bill paying, banking, even package delivery, as well as legal documents such as the permesso. As a result, Italian post offices are often very busy.
Many post offices have machines near the entry which will give you a ticket with a number. In smaller post offices, you can go to any window for any function. In larger post offices, however, you may need to specify at the ticket machine what function you are looking for.In some post offices, you need to go to a special window for the permesso called a sportello amico. If your post office does not offer such a window, select a ticket for “all other functions.” If they don’t have the kits, they may direct you to another post office.
If you are moving into a large city, you can search the Poste Italiane website for post offices near you. Under the “servizi” section, you can check to see whether a sportello amico is avaialble at that branch.
In post offices with a multi-function ticketing system, your ticket will have both a letter and a number. There is often a small electronic board which indicates which ticket numbers are being served, and at which window.
Occasionally the local post office will be out of kits. Usually, it is better to go to another post office rather than waiting for the original post office to re-stock.
Since completing the application process can be confusing, we recommend that you obtain the permesso kit prior to moving to Italy, e.g., on a house-hunting trip. This will allow you to complete the form and collect the required documents at your leisure, without worrying about the 8-day time limit. Otherwise, you should obtain the kit as soon as possible upon your arrival in Italy.
Unfortunately, the application form for the permesso is not available online. You can find facsimile forms online, which can be useful as a guide, but exercise caution because the forms change frequently.
Completing the Application Form
The kit will include an application form and will contain a list of documents that you will need to bring to the post office when submitting your application.
The application form is not especially difficult, but can be challenging depending on your knowledge of Italian and your comfort level in using an Italian dictionary (or even better, an Italian-speaking friend) for assistance. You can also find some instructions (in English) for completing the form on YouTube.
If you are entering Italy under an elective residency visa, you will only have to complete Part I of the application form.
If you are a married couple, you will need to complete an application form (and pay the requisite fee) for each person.
DO NOT sign and date the application. You do this in front of the post office representative when you submit the application.
In addition to the application form, you will also need to bring other documents with you when you submit your application, as specified in your kit. These include:
- Your passport, endorsed with the visa issued by the consulate
- A photocopy of every page of your passport, including all the blank pages
- Proof of health insurance (plus photocopy for mailing)
- Documents relating to why you are in Italy, including your lease or proof of residential property ownership (plus photocopy for mailing)
- Copies of the financial information you submitted for your visa
- Envelope for mailing documents to immigration office (included in the kit)
- Marca de bollo plus money for other fees (see below)
There are several fees associated with applying for the permesso di soggiorno:
- Fee for the permesso (70.46 or 80.46 euro depending on length of stay requested)*
- Fee for the post office (30 euro)
- Fee for the marca di bollo (16 euro)
These fees are not listed in the application kit and are subject to change – you should check online before you go to the post office to submit your application.
The fee for the permesso is based on the duration of the permesso you are requesting: 30.46 euro for the issuance of the card, plus either 40 euro for a one-year duration, or 50 euro for two years. Different regions have different policies for the durations permitted: some will issue a 2-year permesso to new residents, some will only issue a one-year permesso initially but will permit a two-year duration on renewal, and some will only issue the permesso for one year at a time. If you have friends in your comune who have been through the process, you may be able to determine what the policy of your comune is. Keep in mind that if you request (and pay for) a two-year permesso and your comune will only issue a one-year permesso, you will not receive a refund.
You can obtain the marca di bollo at any tabaccheria (recognizable by large T signs). The other fees are paid at the post office.
Note that some but not all post offices will accept credit cards or local bank debit cards. It is safer to bring cash.
Note that the fees are per person, so if you are a married couple you need to double all of these amounts.
Submitting the Application
Once all your documents are ready, and in any event within 8 days of your arrival in Italy, you must submit them at the post office. You should follow the same procedure you used to pick up your kit, e.g., if you needed to use a special sportello to pick up your kit, you should submit your application at the same sportello.
The post office employee will check your passport, have you sign and date the application forms, collect your fees, and put your documents into the envelope to be send to the immigration office.
Most of the websites we have reviewed suggest that you include photocopies of all required documents in the packages sent to the immigration office. In our area (Ascoli Piceno) we were advised that we needed include only the application forms and the photocopy of every page of our passports (including the blank pages). This seemed to work – we were not asked for the other documents until we had our appointment with the questura. Practice may vary by comune; if you are unable to determine what specific policies are followed in your area, it is safer to
Once you have completed the submission process, the post office will issue you an appointment date for the questura (police station). They will also issue you an official receipt that you have submitted your application.
Important: Keep your receipt, which will operate as your temporary permesso until the actual permesso is issued.
The length of time between the date you submit your permesso application at the post office and the questura varies by region. In some areas, appointments are scheduled only a couple of weeks out; in other areas, the delay may be several months. However, as long as you have your receipt, which is your proof that you have applied for the permesso, you have the right to remain in Italy.
Your Appointment at the Questura
When you go to the questura, you should bring the following:
- Your passport
- Proof of health insurance
- Documents relating to why you are in Italy, including your lease or proof of residential property ownership
- Copies of the financial information you submitted for your visa
- 4 passport-size photos
Once again, you should bring the originals of all relevant documents (for inspection) and photocopies (to submit for your file). You do not need to bring another photocopy of your passport.
You can obtain passport-size photos at public photo machines; these machines can usually be found close to the questura, although they are generally found in other commercial areas as well. These machines issue photos in two different sizes – be sure to select the size designated for the permesso di soggiorno. The pictures are inexpensive (5 euro for 4) and take only a few minutes to create.
The immigration office at the questura can be a bit chaotic. In some areas, people are seen based on the order of their appointment. In other areas, everyone with an appointment for that date is seen on a first-come, first-served basis. In some offices, you keep your documents with you until your name is called. In others, you put your identifying documents (your appointment care and your receipt) in an in-box which is then collected by someone in the office. In any event, you should not arrive later than your appointment time, and even in a questura which follows appointment times you may have to wait.
When your name is called, you go up to the sportello with your documents. Husband and wife can go up together. The police officer at the sportello will then ask to see whatever documents they consider relevant. They may not ask to see everything — in our case, for example, we had to provide our lease, but not our financial statements or proof of health insurance. Still, it is safer to bring all the documents required, since you don’t know what the reviewing officer will ask for in your situation.
Once your file is reviewed, you may be asked to wait while they complete your application. You will be asked to sign an integration agreement, which requires you to attain an A2 language certification within 2 years, and to attend a citizenship course. (In our case, we were told to report to a course given at a local school, but you can take the course elsewhere if the dates are not convenient.) Finally, you will be fingerprinted at the questura, and the fingerprints will be submitted with your file.
When this process is complete, they will return your receipt (which is still acting as your temporary permesso) and assign your file a tracking number. You can check the status of your application, either on a website run by the polizia de stato or one run by the post office, using your tracking number. In many cases, if you provide a local phone number, they will send you a text message when your permesso is ready.
The waiting period between the date you submit your application at the questura and the date your permesso is issued varies by comune. In some areas, it can be issued in as little as 6 weeks; in others, the wait can be as long as six months. Although the process is not totally transparent, it appears that the difference in wait times is the result of staffing issues – how many people are available to review documents in your region relative to how many people are applying, rather than any problems with specific applications. Check the website periodically to ensure that it indicates that your application is still in process.
You should carry your receipt, which acts as your temporary permesso, at all times while you are waiting for your permesso to issue – it establishes your right to remain in Italy. You can also use your receipt acts to establish residency, apply for the health care system, etc.
There may be an issue if you want to travel outside the country while your permesso is still pending. If you travel within the Schengen zone, there are generally no passport checks at the borders. However, if you want to travel outside the Schengen zone, e.g., to the US, you may experience difficulties upon re-entering Italy, particularly if you enter through another EU country. The receipt for your permesso application acts as a temporary permesso for many purposes within Italy, but it is not necessarily recognized as such by other countries. It is safer to postpone any foreign travel until after your permesso has issued.