Last week I was contacted by the good people at HiFX to contribute some advice to those thinking of moving abroad. HIFX is an incredible site if you are thinking of moving to another country, filled with expert tips and advice from expats all over the world (feel free to visit here).
If I had used it as a resource 6 and a half years ago when I came to Italy, maybe I could have spared myself a lot of time, headaches, money, confusion, anger and trips to the post office!
They’ve asked me to give some insights for people thinking of moving to Italy so here goes!…..
What You Need to Know if you Want to Live in Italy for More Than Three Months
Italy is famous for its bureaucracy, and for good reason! If you decide to move to Italy for more than three months there are a lot of terms you need to familiarize yourself with (and quickly!) in order to work the system, get the documents you need and stay here legally!
Taking a vacation in Italy is one thing, but if you make that LEAP and decide to become a full-blown expat and live here, there are some things you should know!
The Three Month Rule
The moment you are on Italian soil for more than three months you are REQUIRED to have what is called a Permesso di Soggiorno. This Residence Permit, ensures that you are not here illegally and states the intentions of your stay. And I recommend you start the process as soon as possible.
Permesso di Soggiorno
Now, let’s say that you’ve decided you want to have a life experience and move to Italy, how do you get a Permesso di Soggiorno (Residence Permit)?
There’s actually no need to get your Permesso di Soggiorno before you come to Italy, in fact, it may actually be EASIER to do it once you are on Italian soil.
Before I explain the numerous ways you can get your Permesso di Soggiorno I’m going to tell you a few special things about Italy that you should keep in mind while you live there!
Special Thing Number 1: The Post Office is NOT the Post Office
La Posta Italiana, the Italian Postal Service, is second home to most Italians. In Italy, you can pay bills, have a bank account, buy life insurance and have investments with the Post Office. In fact, when you arrive at the Post Office you have to choose your number based on the type of service you need, and the line for sending a letter is always the shortest!
You can go to the Sportello Unico (a Kiosk for all things bureaucratic) where they will direct you to the Sportello Amico (the “Friend” Kiosk) to give you a Kit Giallo (Yellow Package) with all the forms you need for your Permesso di Soggiorno.
But, HEAR ME NOW…They are NOT YOUR FRIENDS! And if you decide to fill out the Kit Giallo for your Permesso di Soggiorno, you will be left with many unanswered questions, you will most likely fill out the forms incorrectly and you will cause a huge backlog in the line of people who have to pay their electricity bills and get back to work before lunch ends!!!
The better way to get your Permesso di Soggiorno is to GET SOME HELP, from someone who actually wants to help you aka NOT a postal worker! But I’ll get to that later.
Special Thing Number 2: You’ll be asked to give money to the people selling cigarettes
At some point in your Permesso di Soggiorno process you will be asked to pay il bollo (a type of stamp) at a Tabaccheria or tabacchino (a shop that sells tobacco products). In Italy, certain types of shops have special permits to provide services on the state’s behalf. The Tabaccheria (tobacco shops) will give you a special stamp (bollo) for the amount of money you’ve paid which can go towards your passport renewal, residence permit, driver’s licence renewal, or any other type of government administered document. Just make sure you specify at the time you get your bollo WHAT you need the bollo for!
What type of Permesso di Soggiorno do I need and where should I go?
I’ve found this great online list of associations in ALL OF ITALY that provide services to newcomers, including helping them with their Permesso di Soggiorno. These people and associations are actually here to HELP YOU fill out the forms, understand the process and guide you to the correct office for your residence permit.
I recommend you have a look at the list, find the office that is closest to the area you are moving to/living in, look at their HOURS (remember this is Italy), and visit directly or call and make an appointment. Often, these associations have people that speak multiple languages, can direct you to free Italian language classes and can also help you with other documents (health card, fiscal card, I.D. card….oh the list goes on!!!)
If you happen to be relocating to Modena, where I live, here is another incredible list for Modena and the surrounding areas, with all the associations that specifically help foreigners in filling out their residence permit documents.
There are three ways to stay in Italy legally once your three months are up:
- Be an Italian Citizen
- Have a valid Visa (Il Visto), to learn more about Visas visit this site
- Or have a valid Residence Permit
Types of Permesso Di Soggiorno
For example, if you are here to study and follow a course you should apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno per Studio (Study Residence Permit) that is approximately 100 Euro (plus other fees!!!) and is valid for a year.
If you have family members that are already residing in Italy you can stay for two years and pay 200 euro! If you have a job lined up, there are all kids of Residence Permits based on your work contract, but your future employer will most likely guide you through the whole process.
Now let’s say you are just a globetrotter looking for a life adventure, you haven’t thought about work yet and you just want to LIVE IN ITALY! If that’s the case, then you may want to apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno per Residenza Elettiva (Elective Residence), whereby you have to prove that you can live here without working … AKA you have some money in the bank!
For more information to see if you qualify to apply for Elective Residence feel free to visit this site with a detailed outline of who is eligible (sorry, it’s in Italian!)
Where to Apply?!
La Questura – The Police Station! That’s right, the Police Station is where you go if you already have family legally residing in Italy and you want to apply for a Residence Permit under them. For more information on the whole process, fees and guidelines feel free to visit the State Police website, with very vague guidelines available in several languages!
L’Ufficio Postale – The Post Office, jack of all trades!
or my personal favorite the Comune (City Offices) more friendly than the Post Office (generally), but plan to be there ALL DAY!
And that’s it!
My top tip for anyone thinking of moving to Italy for more than three months is to get informed about the Permesso di Soggiorno and start the process as soon as possible!
Don’t let the Permesso di Soggiorno scare you away, it’s actually not that bad. Once you’ve learned to master the Italian bureaucratic system you acquire an incredible self-confidence that only Italians have!
You know in your heart that you’ve been able to get DOCUMENTS in ITALY which is like parallel parking with your eyes closed, using only your knees to manoeuvre the steering wheel that’s been covered in petroleum jelly while a fly buzzes in your ear!
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING AFTER YOUR GET YOUR RESIDENCE PERMIT…including enjoy this spectacular county!
Of course after the Permesso di Soggiorno the documents saga doesn’t END….oh no THAT would be too easy! There’s the Codice Fiscale, the Carta d’Identità, the Tessera Sanitaria…but I’ll save those for another time!
Have a great day,