An Overview of Italian Immigration

Damien O'Farrell
8 min readMay 25, 2021


Every year, Italy is always among the top ten countries that foreigners would like to move to. There are many reasons for this, including the country’s rich history, culture, and art scene, beautiful landscapes, delicious cuisine, and pleasant climate. Additionally, Italy offers a high quality of life, excellent healthcare, and a laid-back lifestyle that many find irresistible.

Italian immigration is quite straightforward for EU citizens, but for non-EU citizens, which visa you can apply for is very case-specific and is based on your personal circumstances, such as income, education, skills, or retirement.

Below you will find a general overview of both EU and non-EU immigration in Italy.

EU Citizens (except Italian citizens)

Moving to Italy for EU citizens is, at least in theory, quite easy. Anyone from the European Union moving to Italy is required to register as a resident at the Town Hall (Municipio) within ninety days of relocating here.

Before submitting a residency application, it is always a good idea to check with the Town Hall in advance what documents they require, as this can vary from one to another. Depending on where you live, the registration process can take from a few days to a few months to be completed.

Once your residency has been confirmed, you will be able to request an Attestato di Soggiorno at the Town Hall. This is the document that allows you to stay in Italy and replaces the previous Permit of Stay for EU citizens. A permanent Attestato di Soggiorno can only be requested after five years of uninterrupted residency in Italy.

Registering at the Town Hall is also mandatory to be able to carry out the following: health care registration (ASL), car purchase or import, Italian ID card, Italian driving license, and several other aspects of daily life that you encounter living full-time in Italy.

Non-EU Citizens

As a non-EU citizen, you can enter Italy for up to 90 days within any 180-day period visa-free if you are a citizen of a country that qualifies for this, or with the relevant tourist or business visa. If you wish to stay beyond 90 days, you must have a long-term visa that allows you to be compliant with Italian immigration laws.

Please do not listen to the “fireside lawyers” who tell you to stay as there won’t be any problems. Most passports are scanned or stamped when you enter Italy; therefore, there is a record of when you entered the Schengen area, and even if you are not checked leaving Italy, many overstayers are caught in Zurich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Frankfurt, where there are much more stringent checks in place. If caught, you risk a fine, or worse, a ban from entering Schengen for a certain period. Regardless of your nationality, if you stay beyond 90 days without a visa, you will be undocumented.

NB: In the next couple of years, the EU will introduce two new systems, starting with the Entry/Exit System (EES) in 2024 & the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) in 2025, whereby individuals arriving and leaving the Schengen area, especially through EES, will be recorded, thus alerting authorities immediately to anyone who overstays their 90-day stay.

Non-EU Visa Options for Italy

If you wish to live and/or work legally in Italy beyond 90 days as a non-EU citizen, you must apply for the relevant visa. Here is a brief overview of your current options:

Work Visa: You can secure a work visa for Italy either by an intra-company transfer or by qualifying for a highly skilled position, which is processed outside the regular quota system. It’s important to note that while most employers may hesitate to sponsor work permits, some are open to it if it benefits them, especially if you offer a unique professional skill set that is scarce within Italy.

Study Visa: This can be obtained for a full-time Italian course or for higher education. With this visa, you can work up to 20 hours per week. If you finish a university degree in Italy, you can convert a study permit to a work permit if you are offered a full-time position. This can also be converted sometimes in other circumstances, for example, if you complete a long-term Italian course, but this is very much at the discretion of the Italian authorities.

Self-Employment Visa: Securing this visa for Italy ranks among the most difficult challenges for potential immigrants, yet it remains within the realm of possibility. Governed by the quota system, known as Decreto Flussi, the issuance of this visa is limited to approximately five hundred applicants annually. This stringent limitation contributes to the heightened challenge of obtaining one. The process involves navigating through a competitive selection, underscoring the importance of preparing a compelling application that stands out. Given the scarcity of available visas and the rigorous application process, it’s crucial for applicants to understand the requirements thoroughly and to strategize effectively to enhance their chances of success.

Start-Up Visa: Italy’s Startup Visa is open to non-EU citizens with innovative business ideas. It offers an opportunity to launch a business in a culturally rich country. Eligibility is broad, welcoming applicants of any age, gender, or background with a solid business idea. Essential application requirements include a well-structured business model, internet access, and at least €50,000 in financial resources. Applications are accepted when the quotas are available, as it falls within a self-employment visa, and you can apply from anywhere outside Italy. A Technical Committee from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development reviews applications. They assess if the business model is innovative, with a focus on technological innovation, research and development, and intellectual property. To qualify as an innovative startup, the business should be centered around technological innovation, not be a result of corporate restructuring, and meet criteria like investment in R&D or having a highly-qualified team.

Investor Visa (aka The Golden Visa Program): Italy remains an attractive destination for investment, celebrated for its strategic location, reputation for quality and excellence, and the provision of tax incentives aimed at fostering competitiveness. To be eligible for the Italian Investor’s Visa, potential investors have several options: a) Investing €2 million in Italian government bonds; b) Contributing €500,000 to an Italian company; c) Allocating €250,000 to an innovative Italian startup; or d) Making a minimum donation of €1 million to a philanthropic project within Italy.

Elective Residency Visa: If you are a non-EU citizen and you would like to retire in Italy, then the Elective Residency Visa may be an option. To qualify for this visa, you must demonstrate that you have a monthly income to support yourself that derives from investments, a pension, rental properties, or any other non-work-related source. This type of visa needs to be applied for at the Italian Consulate that has jurisdiction over where you currently reside; it is advisable to contact the consulate before requesting an appointment to obtain the list of documents that you will need to present during your application process. Once your visa has been issued, you will be able to apply for a permit to stay in Italy. Please keep in mind that the deciding factor is showing wealth. There are no strict guidelines, and each application is decided on a case-by-case basis. In a recent immigration decree, it was deemed that in some cases, a Permit of Stay obtained through this visa can be converted to a work one.

Digital Nomad Visa: The Digital Nomad Visa is aimed at highly qualified remote workers from outside the European Union who wish to live and work in Italy. This visa simplifies the path for tech experts, online entrepreneurs, and other remote professionals to embark on an Italian adventure. Eligibility hinges on proving a minimum annual income of €28,000, securing comprehensive health insurance, maintaining a clean criminal record, and providing evidence of accommodation and sufficient remote work experience. The visa not only grants a residence permit within eight days of arrival, valid for a year with the possibility of renewal, but also extends the opportunity for family unification under similar terms. Additionally, it offers clear guidelines for navigating tax obligations, including obtaining an Italian tax code and VAT number. This initiative offers an unmatched blend of professional growth and personal enrichment, encouraging adherence to tax compliance to ensure a seamless experience in Italy’s vibrant cultural setting.

NB: Buying a property in Italy or taking part in the €1-house schemes in no way, shape, or form qualifies you for an Italian long-term visa. If you are a non-EU citizen and you buy a property in Italy, you will still need to apply for a visa if you want to remain beyond the 90-day limit.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being legal in Italy. For example, what one could do when I moved to Italy in 1988, especially as a non-EU citizen, is no longer possible in most cases today. Therefore, if your dream is to live in Italy, please make sure that you procure the appropriate visa to live and work legally here long-term.

Italian Immigration Premium Consultation

Navigating the complexities of Italian immigration can be challenging, especially for non-EU nationals. Everyone’s situation is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works. That’s why I provide a personalized online consultation with my colleague who is an expert in the field.

Meet The Expert:

  • Italian licensed attorney with specialization in immigration and citizenship law.
  • Former legal advisor at the immigration office of the Rome Prefecture.
  • Current immigration and citizenship advisor for the Italian Federation of Baseball and Softball.

What You’ll Gain from the Consultation:

1. Deep Insight: Acquire a comprehensive and detailed insight into the mechanisms and procedures of the Italian immigration process.

2. Personalized Assessment: Get visa recommendations tailored to your unique circumstances — be it income, education, skills, or even retirement plans.

3. Current & Accurate Information: Receive up-to-date guidance, along with a step-by-step roadmap, for the visa most suited to your needs.

4. Interacting with Consulates: Learn the best strategies to engage with the Italian consulate in your jurisdiction.

5. Real-time Q&A: Clarify all your doubts on the spot with precise and specific answers.

6. Post-Approval Procedures: Understand the next steps after your application is approved, preparing you for what lies ahead.

7. Contingency Plans: In the unlikely event of an application denial, we’ll discuss alternative options, ensuring you’re fully prepared for any outcome.

How to Book the Consultation: For further details on scheduling your premium 60-minute consultation, kindly direct your inquiries to at your earliest convenience. We look forward to assisting you with your Italian immigration journey.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for Italian immigration news, real estate insights, and valuable relocation tips. Just click this link for the latest information from Italy.

Grab your copy of my eBook’ 10 Must-Knows For Moving To Italy’ today and open the doors to a new chapter of your life in the heart of this captivating country. To get your copy, please follow this link for the PDF version or this link for the Kindle version.



Damien O'Farrell

Global Mobility Specialist and Expat Coach with thirty plus years’ experience in providing high-touch immigration, relocation, & coaching services in Italy.