My path to Italian residence

My path to Italian residence

Monday, December 6th, 2021

I don’t want to continue to talk about my hip or the pandemic and an American friend had talked about a desire to live in Italy so I want to recount my experiences. As background, if you don’t know already, I had been coming to Italy in the spring and fall every year for 7 years. I finally decided in 2018 that I really would prefer to live here so maybe you can find my experiences useful. If you would like details on any of this leave a comment.

Surely if you are contemplating such a move you know that it will be a huge change in your life and will not be easy. I would assume that you are well along in your learning of Italian. I would advise you to open an Italian bank account on your next trip here. You will of course have expenses and you want to have a stable source of funds in Italy. You can transfer funds from an American account periodically, hopefully when there is a favorable rate of exchange. There are rules for the transfers and the maximum funds in the account during the year. Also you need an American bank that supports expatriates. I opened an account here a year or two before I moved. I used Carisbo (which is now completely Intesa Sanpaolo) and it was relatively easy to do. I don’t know if Intesa Sanpaolo has changed the rules. You will also need to get your Codice Fiscale which is roughly the equivalent of the U.S. social security number. To be safe I went to the office that deals with such things. Actually you may need that before you go to the bank to open your bank account (conta corrente).

Since I was retired and had no intention of working or long term study in Italy the visa that I needed was “Elective Residence”. So you need to find out what are the requirements to get this visa issued to you. I found that the rules varied a bit between consulates. There are 9 in the U.S. plus the embassy in Washington D.C. You must deal with the consulate responsible for your place of residence. I lived in northern California so I had to go through the San Francisco consulate. By the way as a side note, at some point you need to have an appointment with a consular official to present all of the required paperwork for the visa application. There are also kind of satellite consulates (Consolato Onorario). Northern California has 3 and I went to the one in Fresno where I could get an appointment much sooner than the other two. San Francisco was the most difficult. Also I was not able to ever talk with a consular officer in San Francisco other than going there (that too is difficult) but I could exchange emails.

The two most significant hurdles for a visa for me were (1) proof of adequate income without working to live comfortably in Italy and (2) an Italian residence. They never say what is an adequate income so I did a lot of web searching and it seemed like $45 annual income from pensions, rental property and/or other income producing investments was considered a sure bet. I passed that hurdle. The second means that you either have to own a house (typically an apartment) or rent one with a rental contract (lease) that is certified by the city (comune) where the property is. I chose to rent. Obviously you have to do this while in Italy and then have a certified copy in hand when you present your documents to the consular officer. This pretty much means that you’re going to be paying rent on your first apartment in Italy for 2 or 3 months when you will not be able to reside there. I think that I had to pay for 3 months. Just part of the price to realize your dream.

So after you get all of your documents together and present them you have to hold your breath for what seems like forever (I think it was only about a month for me) until you receive an envelop with your passport with the visa fixed inside. Feel free to weep with joy at have successfully overcome the first set of hurdles. For me the next step was my house. I had anticipated that I would in fact receive the visa so I was already working with a realtor to rent my house. I thought it prudent to not burn that bridge immediately by selling it. So I rented it on a 2 year lease. I quickly realized that at least in the US where I lived it is almost impossible to rent a furnished house for 2 years. So I had to sell basically everything that I owned that would not fit into 2 large suitcases, transported 2 or 3 times from California to Italy. Once I had faced that fact I actually found it relatively easy to part with a bunch of stuff that I personally valued. It was something of a freeing experience. By the way it is relatively easy to rent a fully furnished apartment in Italy.

It was the only time in my life that I had bought a one way ticket for an international flight. At check-in they were a bit stunned and demanded to see the visa which was of course in the passport. I don’t really know why they cared.

So now you will have dealt with the Italian bureaucracy in the U.S. which is just warm-up for the serious bureaucracy in your newly adopted home. You will by now know that you have to apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit to stay) within, I think, 8 or 9 working days of your arrival. An Italian friend had done some research and directed me to an organization which helps immigrants with such matters. At least here in Bologna one is CGIL which is a labor union which has a branch for helping immigrants. You’ll want to make an appointment as soon as you arrive. They are very helpful and fill out all of the paperwork for you. There is no cost but I donated 20 euros – a small price to pay for such a valuable service. You then take this packet of documents in the envelope provided to the post office where they have you pay whatever sum is required (the last renewal was something like 140 euros) and they give you an appointment for the questura (police office) section for immigration where you will get fingerprinted and give them passport sized photographs. Then you will wait again for what seems like eternity to find out when your permesso is available.

There is a lot more to this story so I will do chapter 2 on the next post if there is interest.

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