Permesso di Soggiorno

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.

Other Documents

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)

Application Fees

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.

Waiting Period

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.

The Codice Fiscale

The Codice Fiscale is the Italian tax ID number, and is used for a variety of purposes in Italy, including obtaining health insurance and opening a bank account. Anyone who has legally entered Italy can obtain a codice fiscale – you don’t need to have signed a lease or filed a tax return.

If you are seeking an Elective Residency visa and don’t already have property in Italy, you will need to present a signed copy of your lease or rental agreement at your consular appointment, together with proof that your lease has been registered with the Agenzia delle Entrate. To register the lease, even if your landlord does it for you as is usually the case, you will need to obtain a Codice Fiscale.

To obtain a Codice Fiscale you should go to the local office of the Entrate. You will need your passport (or residence permit or Carta d’Identità if you have them already). You can generally complete the application and be assign ed a number on the same day as your visit. (If you are working with a local realtor, they can help you with this process). The Entrate will eventually send you a plastic card evidencing your number, but you can start using the number right away. (According to the official website, the Codice Fiscale can also be obtained at the Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione at the Prefettura. We haven’t tried that.)

The Codice Fiscale is actually computed using an algorithm applied to your name and birthdate and place of birth. Merchants can verify the data you enter, for example to a website, to check if the codice you entered is correct. For this reason, if you need to enter a Codice Fiscale anywhere in addition to your name, be sure to enter the same exact name, including middle name, that you used for registering for the Codice Fiscale.

Important Note: In order to apply for the Codice Fiscale, you will need to demonstrate that you have legally entered Italy. The easiest way to do this is by showing a passport stamp issued by an Italian border official. If you entered the EU through another country (e.g., Germany) you will not have an Italian stamp in your passport, because there are no border controls within the EU. The Entrate will not accept a passport stamp from another EU country for this purpose, and you will have to first register your entry into Italy at the local questura (police station). To avoid this frustrating additional step, we strongly advise arranging your trip such that you enter the EU through Italy.

Elective Residency Visa

The elective residency visa is designed specifically for persons (especially retired persons) who wish to reside permanently in Italy and have adequate financial resources to do so. The elected residency visa is not designed for extended tourism, but for those who intend to establish a permanent home in Italy. Individuals who receive this visa cannot work in Italy – they must be able to sustain themselves from their existing financial assets. You must obtain the Elective Residency visa in the United States. You may not enter Italy as a tourist and seek to extend your stay by obtaining an elective residency visa from Italy. The Elective Residency visa is valid for exactly 365 days, and may not be renewed. You must convert it to a “permesso di soggiorno” (residence permit) once you arrive in Italy.

Obtaining an Elective Residency visa

In general, obtaining an Elective Residency visa requires an interview with the appropriate consulate, and the presentation of required documents.

Consular Jurisdiction

You must present your documents at the appropriate consulate, depending on where in the U.S. you reside. Note that the appropriate consulate may not necessarily the one closest to your residence. Here is a list of Italian consulates in the USA and their jurisdictions.

Required Documents

Once you have identified the appropriate consulate, you can find the requirements for the Elective Residency visa on the website for that consulate. Each consulate has its own list of requirements, which
differ slightly. IMPORTANT NOTE: These requirements change frequently and often without notice. You should check your consulate’s website not only when you begin the process, but at regular intervals thereafter, to make sure requirements haven’t been changed or added.

General Requirements: These documents are required by all consulates
  • Valid US passport. Most consulates require the expiration date be at least three months after the expiration date of your visa. Since the visa is for one year, that means that your passport must have an expiration date no sooner than 15 months from the the start date on your visa.
  • Your passport must at least one blank page (or, for some consulates, two blank pages) for affixing the visa.
  • Proof of physical residence in the consular jurisdiction, e.g., driver’s license, state ID, utility bill).
  • Passport-sized photograph (check specific dimension and other requirements on your consulate’s website)
  • Long stay visa application (form available on the consular website)
  • Lease, rental contract of deed for property in Italy, in your name. If you are a married couple, the lease should have both your names on it.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources: bank or brokerage firm statements, copies of pension of social security checks, other sources of income.
  • Letter stating why you want to move to Italy, where you will live, and who is moving with you ((e.g., spouse or children)
  • Declaration for Mailing Passports (form available on the consular website); this authorizes the consulate to mail your US passport back to you once the visa has been affixed.
  • Self-addressed pre-paid US Express Mail envelope which the consulate will use to return your passport; the consulate will not accept regular US mail envelopes or envelopes from couriers such as Federal Express.
  • Visa application fee, which must be paid in the exact amount by money order made out to the Consulate General of Italy. The fee (approximately $140 as of spring 2019) adjusts every three calendar months based on the government’s official exchange rate.
Certain other documents are required by some consulates and not others:
  • FBI criminal background check
  • Proof of overseas health insurance
  • Flight reservations
  • Certified copy of marriage certificate (if traveling with spouse) or childrens’ birth certificates (if traveling with children); note that these documents will be required in any event to obtain the permesso di soggiorno.
  • Although most of these requirements are straightforward, some require additional explanation
Document details:

Financial Resources: Since this visa does not allow you to work in Italy, you need to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the consular official that you have enough resources to support yourself in Italy. Some consulates state only this general requirement; others require you to bring specific documents such as bank statements for the last six months, tax returns for the last six months, or letters from your bank financial advisor, or accountant. If you are receiving Social Security or pension checks, you should bring evidence of those.

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for how much income is enough to meet this requirement, although the Los Angeles consulate suggests a minimum income of $3,375/month for a single applicant.
In general, fixed sources of income, like Social Security and pension benefits, are preferred to variable ones, like income from investments.

Registered Lease: The housing requirement has changed significantly during the last few years. Short-term leases, or contracts to enter into a lease, which were accepted by some consulates in the past, will no longer be sufficient. Unless you already own property in Italy, and intend to live there, you will have to present a signed lease with a term of at least one year during your consular interview, together with proof that the lease has been registered with the Entrata (the Italian tax authority). If you are working with a realtor in Italy, they should be able to help you with registering the lease.

Be sure to negotiate a clause in the lease under which you forfeit only the first month’s rent if for some reason the visa does not issue. In order to register the lease in Italy, you will need a Codice Fiscale (Italian Tax ID number).

Overseas Health Insurance: Some consulates require you to present evidence of a health insurance policy that will cover 100% of your medical expenses in Italy; some consulates have a specified minimum policy limit. Travel insurance policies are generally sufficient.

Even if proof of health insurance is not required by your consulate, it is probably a good idea to purchase short-term health insurance anyway, to bridge the gap until you are able to buy into the Italian health insurance system.

FBI Criminal Background Check: You can order this directly from However, since processing of individual requests can take several months, we recommend that you use an expediter, who can usually provide turnaround of about a week.

You will need a set of fingerprints to begin the FBI background check. In the US, fingerprint services are often available at copy shops or the offices; larger cities may have dedicated fingerprint specialists.

Consular Appointment

You must present your documents in person at the appropriate consulate. Consular interviews are by appointment only, which you can book online. Your appointment date must be within 90 days of your departure date.
For an ER visa, the typical wait time for an appointment is 2-3 months, although that may vary by consulate. When beginning this process, you should check your consulate to see how far ahead appointments are being made so you have an idea how to organize the timing. If your application is approved, the consulate will affix a visa to your passport and mail it back to you. Consular websites indicate this can take up to three months. However, our experience has been that turnaround is much faster — anywhere from 48 hours to a couple of weeks after your visit.

Timing Issues

As you can see from the outline above, getting the required documents in the right order can be a bit of a juggling act. If you are renting in Italy, you will need to get the lease signed and registered before your visa is issued. It is a good idea to start collecting documents about 6 months before your anticipated departure date. You want to make sure that you have all the required documents before the date of your consular interview, especially if your consulate is in another state.

Here is an illustrative schedule, assuming an October 1 departure date:

  • April
    • Check validity of US passport and get passport renewed if necessary
    • Get fingerprints and begin FBI check (if required)
    • Schedule consular interview for July
  • May – June
    • Schedule trip to Italy to select apartment, sign lease, obtain Codice Fiscale; if you are working with a realtor, he or she can help you with these documents. (If you already own property in Italy, obviously you can skip this step!)
    • Collect required documents – note that some documents (like letters of reference from banks or accountants, if required) may take more time than others
    • Periodically check consular website to make sure requirements haven’t changed
  • July
    • Verify current visa fee amount on website (changes at beginning of calendar quarter) and obtain money order
    • Consular interview, with visa dated October 1
    • Visa arrives up to 2 weeks later

Tips for the Consular Interview

The Elective Residency visa is a discretionary visa, which means that they don’t have to issue one to you even if you meet all the requirements. You should indicate, by your manner and the way you present yourself, that you take the process seriously. Dress as you would for a job interview. Arrive on time.

Have all your documents organized and readily available.

Other tips:

  • Don’t put your documents in individual plastic folders. The consulate is likely going to open a paper file on you and they don’t need any more volume than necessary.
  • Order your documents in the order they are listed on the website.
  • Bring the original copy of your lease as well as a copy for the consulate file. You will need to retain the original copy of your lease for a number of purposes in Italy, including establishing residency, obtaining health insurance and opening a bank account
  • You may be able to find sites on the Internet where people share experiences and tips on the consular interview. The value of the tips on these sites varies widely, but you may find useful information, particularly with respect to your consulate.

Legally Residing in Italy

Italy specializes in bureaucracy. Here is an accounting of some of the most important documents that you might need in order to live in Italy in compliance with the law. Be sure to keep copies of everything. If you’ve moved to Italy, you might find a copier/scanner a useful investment.

Under current law, you can visit Italy as a United States citizen for up to 90 days without a visa. For longer stays, you will need a visa. Various types are available, including: work visas (very difficult to get, usually coordinated through your employer), student visas (course of study at least 20 hours/week, renewable for up to 2 years); and family reunification (with immediate family member already resident in Italy).

For most people who want to live long-term in Italy and don’t need to work, the best option will be an Elective Residency visa.

You will want to obtain a Codice Fiscale. It is necessary for pretty much any sort of financial transaction and including some online purchases.

When you arrive in Italy with the intent to reside here, you are required to apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno within 8 days. Once you receive your Permesso, you can register your residence in the local Comune and obtain a Carta d’Identità. Normally, your Permesso will expire after one or two years. After you have legally resided in Italy for 5 years (and satisfied a number of other requirements such as A2 level Italian) you can obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno di Lungo Periodo the main benefit of which is that it doesn’t have to be renewed so often.

Folks who are lucky enough to have Italian heritage may qualify for Italian citizenship by the law of Jus Sanguinis. If you qualify, you are and always have been an Italian citizen, but you need to apply to have that fact recognized. The application can be done either at an Italian consulate or at your local Comune, depending on where you live. There is a Facebook group with detailed information on this topic.

An Italian citizen can obviously live here without further documentation. However, his or her immediate family can live here as well. To do so, the family member must obtain a Carta di Soggiorno di Familiare di un Cittadino dell’Unione at the local Questura. The most important piece of documentation needed to obtain this permit is the certification of family relationship (e.g., marriage). Normally, this information is recorded either in a Comune or in AIRE, the registry of Italian citizens abroad. But if this is not the case, you’ll need a certified, apostilled, and translated certificate from the relevant authority.

Spouses of Italian citizens can gain Italian citizenship by the process of Jus Matrimonii. In addition to appropriate birth documentation, criminal background checks, and more paperwork, JM citizenship also requires a B1 level of Italian language. The process can take up to 4 years.

Anyone who has lived legally in Italy for 10 years can apply for citizenship by Naturalization. This also requires B1 level language skill and a ton of paperwork.