October 3, 2023 - Written by: Nancy Pollard
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From Here To There

Crivelli painting in Le Marche MonasteryAlthough food is not exactly the topic of this post, I got enough emails  from KD readers asking about how and why we moved to Italy that I thought I would go through our experiences and the things to think about and plan should you consider a  transfer to Italy or another EU country. And in honesty, the food and culture certainly played a part  We still are in shock and were thrilled at walking into a monastery in Le Marche to see Crivelli masterpieces resting on the floor during a renovation.  As a side note, I have been told that the foreign residency requirements for Spain are perhaps the easiest. There are two things to consider: the paperwork involved and how you actually want to move. This post addresses only the first part. 

You have a few options for extended visas in Italy – a Golden Visa program is one.  You can  invest a minimum of $250,000 in an Italian venture (not a residence purchase); it can be an existing company or a start up. The Golden Visa program allows you to work in Italy as well as reside with legal rights (such as admission into Italy’s national health care system). This visa is good for two years and can be renewed in three year extensions if the investment is maintained. 

Jure Sanguinis

Another avenue is claiming citizenship (you can be a dual citizen) by Italian descent. My understanding is thatItalian Immigrant family Ellis Island photo by Lewis H. Hine if you are a direct descendent of an Italian who immigrated to the US and did not renounce  his or her Italian citizenship, you can apply for citizenship in Italy. You should note in your research, though, that until August 15, 1992, Italian citizenship was exclusive and that one normally had to renounce it when he or she applied for citizenship in another  country. This process can take up to two years to finalize. You cannot stay in Italy longer than the normal tourist visa of 90 days while your case is being processed, unless you have arranged an alternative visa arrangement. Interestingly, it gets more complicated if your ancestor is an Italian woman – technically speaking, her child would have to have been born after January 1, 1948 (that’s when women got the same  rights as men in the Italian constitution). According to the newsletter, The Florentine,  if your ancestor was a female who gave birth to her child before January 1, 1948, the only way you can apply for Italian citizenship is through filing a lawsuit in Italy. 

Elective Residence

Bolognese corner Centro Storico bu Nancy Purves PollardSince our family trees had only immigrants from the British Isles and descendants of the  luckless French Huguenots who fled to the New World after being persecuted for being Protestant instead of Catholic, that route was not open to us. But both our children had emigrated from the US to the UK and Italy, and we wanted not to be an ocean apart when we retired. Italy does offer an elective residence program for retired people who are not citizens of another EU country, (or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein), and so we applied. 

Elective residence is not citizenship. You maintain your original citizenship and passport. Once you have the Elective Residence Visa, when you enter Italy, you can then apply for a permit otherwise known as a Permesso di Soggiorno.  You can, once you have been approved through the personnel in either an Italian Consulate or the Embassy, have this special visa embedded into your passport.  The elective residence does not allow you to work in Italy. Each person must show that they have a minimum of $32,000 stable annual income to apply. A married couple needs to show a combined annual income of  $38,000 – again it cannot be related to employment.  It also is implied that you should show a certain amount in financial assets besides the minimum annual income. 

Going Solo & Otherwise

Technically you can file and manage the appointments yourself and fill out the forms. which are downloadable from the Italian Embassy website. You must schedule an appointment and appear thereItalian Embassy i DC from Wikipedia yourself for an interview with all requested documents. When we started the process, we filled out the form and scheduled an appointment ourselves. But in deciphering the document requirements, we found that it was almost impossible to get through to the necessary embassy personnel when we had questions. It was after a couple of months of working with our daughter who lives in Bologna that she found a savvy immigration lawyer, whom we hired. The difference in the process at the embassy was amazing. Her law firm’s website is also associated with a law firm in Pensacola, Florida, and both specialize in immigration law and issues. 

There are some variables in the required documents, such as a marriage license if you are applying as a couple. We did not have to get copies of our birth certificates as our marriage certificate sufficed. But we did have to submit the following documents: 

  • Current statements from all our bank and outside investment accounts,
  • Proof of lodging – either a rental agreement, purchase or a lodging agreement with a relative (contratto gratuito)
  • proof of current health insurance – in our case it is the US Medicare program.
  • valid passport with a minimum of three months after your visa expires and at least two blank pages.
  • Completed Italy Long Stay Application Form which must be signed and dated.
  • A civil status document such as a marriage license or birth certificate.
  • Two passport photos with a white background and your face occupying a minimum of  70% of said photo – it must measure 35x45mm. 

The Paper Chase

Police clearance is also suggested, but we did not need it. We did include tax documents showing that we owned our home. When you have completed the form, gathered all the necessary and suggested documents, you come in person. Depending on your paperwork, you may have an interview with questions about why you want to move to Italy. You will be required to bring a postal money order or Cashier;s Check to pay a fee. They do not accept checks, credit cards or cash. We found out that we needed to send complete copies of every page of our passports as well as our drivers licenses. Your passport will be kept by the Consulate or Embassy and when you return on the date they request, your visa will be embedded. Our lawyer had briefed us thoroughly on the possibilities of the interview and had organized and filled out the documents and sent copies to the Embassy. This was enormously helpful, and we were cleared immediately. 

Fiumincimp Airport has many wonderful eating spotsWhen you enter Italy, our lawyer suggested that  it is best not to have a layover outside of Italy (possible additional forms to fill out) on the initial trip. And actually, Fiumincino Airport is much better place to eat than Frankfurt You then go to an Italian post office with your Permesso Di Soggiornio application, which they send to the  Questura ((Italian Police Department), and you will be given an appointment for the final steps for a renewable (one or two years) temporary residence permit. I have to point out here, that we found out we needed additional 35x45mm photos taken for the trip to the Italian Post Office; and Italian photographers want you to look your best – slight photo enhancements are given to each little snapshot. At my age, I was quite touched. 

The Questura will register your fingerprints. You should also get a Codice Fiscale at the Italian version of our IRS, which is your tax number and allows you to open a bank account and get an Italian phone number. Payment and membership into the Italian health care system can only be gotten when you have your actual residence permit. It is an annual fee of about $3000 and is not prorated. Your Permesso Di Soggiorno can  be renewed as required for five years before you can apply for a permanent residence permit. After ten years, you may if you so choose, apply for Italian citizenship. With all these steps completed, I’m now devoting my energy to learning Italian. Another mountain to climb!


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Janet Hirshberg
6 months ago

Congratulations on your monumental move, Nancy! What an undertaking. And I thought we jumped through hoops back in 1980 when we decided to marry in Venice! As onerous as it was, it can’t hold a candle to this. You leave Old Town, and we move in… from DC. Hardly your Odyssey. Your adventure continues. Great story! Good luck in the next chapter!