So you want to live in Italy?

So you want to live in Italy?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

I’ve been this route before and have learned from the experience. Almost any country is pretty selective about who they will let come in to their country to live. Italy is no exception. There are a number of possibilities for receiving a visa; work, school, family, religious reasons, etc but if you just want to live there because you like the beauty of the cities, the excellence of the food and the style of life there is only one option – Elective Residency.  On the consulate website they warn you that this is the most difficult visa to obtain. The two key hurdles are a place to live and income that you have without having to work for it. The latter because you are prohibited from working in Italy in any way.

So first of all you need a place to live. You have two options, buy a house or apartment or rent. For me, since I don’t want to buy that leaves a rental. But of course you need to have a rental contract, i.e. lease BEFORE you can apply for the visa. They also warn you that it can be up to 60 days (!!!) before you get a visa and of course there is no guaranty that you will get it at all. So in my case, and I’m sure in anyone’s case that means that you need to lease an apartment in Italy, return to the U.S. make the application and the earliest that you can reasonably plan to return to Italy is 3 months. So that means that you either have to be extremely lucky to find a place that is being advertised as being available 3 months from when you’re looking (and that you like) or you wind up paying rent for a couple of months when you are not there. That is what I am doing. So there is a significant financial risk that you need to take to attempt to get a visa.

The second hurdle is the financial one – income that you receive without working for it, pension, investments rents from properties, etc. The consulate says that it must be “substantial” income. So what does that mean? They won’t tell you. So there’s another risk factor added in. I found through talking to people and probing the nooks and crannies of the web that perhaps $35k- 40k dollars a year is probably OK. Fortunately I qualify on that front.

Most of the other stuff is not particularly onerous but they do advise you not to book your ticket until you receive the visa. Now think about that for a minute. Say that soon after returning to the U.S. you go for an appointment to apply for a visa and it is approved in even 30 days. So after perhaps 2 weeks you make the application and after another 6 week you receive the visa, now you are just 30 days from your desired departure date. Now you will probably be purchasing a one-way ticket which is, by the way, more expensive than a round trip. And now you are doing it with only 30 days before the flight. Can you say extraordinarily high ticket price? That seems the norm for flights near departure date. So in early June I found a reasonably priced one way ticket to Italy and bought it. It was with Iberia, the Spanish airline, at a little over $1000 which is not bad for a one way. The cheapest competitor at the time was Lufthansa at $1700.

Add to this the difficulty of getting an appointment at the consulate. In April when I was still in Bologna and had decided to take a shot at making the move I found that the first appointment at the consulate was in August! Fortunately there are so called, honorary consuls in each state. In California there is one near me in San Jose, another in Sacramento and a third in Fresno. The guy in San Jose refused to even make an appointment. I guess he doesn’t really understand the nature of his job. The person in Sacramento was going to be out of the country during the entire month of June so that left Fresno. The guy there was very accommodating and I made an appointment for mid June.

I did find an apartment reasonably near the very center of Bologna. It’s a nice place, on the 2nd floor (here it would be the 3rd) but with an elevator (yippee!), reasonably energy efficient (energy prices are much higher in Italy) with air conditioning to deal with those hot muggy summer days and pretty close to a bus stop and good food shopping opportunities. It’s also nicely furnished complete with kitchen stuff and  about everything else I would need. Just about perfect. So I have a lease, registered with the city and that hurdle is overcome.

So I did get the visa and in just about 30 days.  I was so happy to see that visa in my passport when it was returned from the consulate that I danced around the kitchen with tears in my eyes. A break in the anxiety of so much at risk can be very emotional.

The visa

But the story doesn’t end there. Stay tuned for the next installment.

6 Responses to “So you want to live in Italy?”

  1. Joy O'Neal Says:

    I hope the story has a wonderful ending! I am excited for you! Joy

  2. Joe Says:

    More in the next post. The adventure continues.


  3. Helen Brainerd Says:

    So happy for you, Joe! You have truly “earned” this place in your beloved Bologna! We will be back some year and are happy to know that you will always be in residence!

  4. Joe Says:

    Thanks Helen. Look me up if you come. There’s always more to see in Bologna.


  5. Susan Jones Says:

    Congratulations Joe!!! I know it’s been a long and arduous road for you. Enjoy life in Italy and we look forward to seeing you when we visit.

  6. Joe Says:

    Thanks Susan. It indeed has been and that part of he journey is not yet finished.


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