How To Get A Visa And Permesso Di Soggiorno In Italy
There are essentially two distinct categories of Italian visas that we will concern ourselves with here today: student visas and working visas. While there are spousal visas, diplomatic visas, and religious visas, the student and working visa branches make up the majority of potential options you can pursue in your endeavor to legally gain long term access to living in Italy.
For starters, the Italian immigration system is ordinarily based on an ‘yearly quota’ framework, according to which the government decides, on a yearly basis, how many posts are available for various kinds of visas (students, seasonal work, employment, self-employment, investment, innovative start-ups etc.).
The Italian immigration law also regulates a different category of visas which deviates from the above mentioned ‘yearly quota’ system, in order to favor the entry of certain jobs (CEOs, journalists, artists, interpreters/translators, professional athletes etc.) or in light of the high degree of specialization of the applicant (those who qualify for the so called ‘EU-Blue Card’), or in order to make some Italian constitutional rights effective for foreigners (medical treatment visa and family visa, to name a few).
Just to get us started, I want to clarify the following things to consider, all of which are present in any visa process:
-> Italian law is flexible and often the party interpreting the law determines the visa approval. While there are rules, there are always exceptions to the rules, and Italian immigration policy interweaves with EU immigration mandates in a sometimes very confusing labyrinth of bureaucracy. The 2009 economic crisis and recent climate of potential terrorist activity around Europe have only further mired Italian immigration and labor laws.
-> Italian law is complicated and it is imperative that you consult a well-informed source for information. For this article, I consulted a Roman lawyer with over ten years’ experience in immigration regulations. He has successfully procured a variety of student and working visas for many people in his career and has worked in multiple areas of the Italian immigration system.
-> Acquiring a visa or transforming one type of visa to another requires a significant amount of time. While student visas are mostly straight forward, work visa applications especially necessitate vigilant review.
But you’re not alone, we’re here to help as much as we can to make this process as easy as possible for you.
The Work Visa:
There are a wide variety of work visas (visti di lavoro) and each has their own specific provisions and requirements. With work visas, keep in mind that:
1.) they must fall within the available posts under the yearly “Decreto Flussi” . Basically, the Italian government gives a time frame within which people can apply for the in-quota visas. If there is no Decreto Flussi, then there are no in-quota visas issued that year. Even the Decreto Flussi is specific to the kind of work being applied for. So, there could be a Decreto Flussi for care-taker workers but no Decreto Flussi for general subordinate work.
2.) alternatively, they must fall within one of the “fuori-quota” visas listed by the Italian immigration law (EU Blue Card or the other jobs that the law refers to as “particular cases”). Certain specialized work visas, such as those issued to CEOs or specialized independent contractor workers, are “fuori quota” meaning an unlimited number of people can apply and be approved. You can also apply for these visas where there is no Decreto Flussi.
3.) occasionally, the Italian government allows foreign illegal workers to “legalize” their statuswithin an exceptional window (the so-called “sanatoria”), provided that the foreigner’s employer formally applies (declaring that the foreigner has been working for them) and shows some requirements (sufficient income, lack of criminal record etc.).
It should also be noted that, due to the effects of the Lehman Brothers financial crisis, the Italian government has not enacted a Decreto Flussi for “employed work” since 2007 (with the exception of seasonal work, in order to support the demand of workers from tourism and agriculture sectors). The unemployment rate in Italy is too high for the Italian government to justify offering too great a number of work visas to foreigners. That being said, there are still a few ways to obtain a working visa.
Here, I will review the main kinds of work visas, both those that are “in quota” (within the yearly available posts of the “Decreto Flussi” system) and “fuori quota” (the posts not falling within the “Decreto Flussi” system). Be advised that all these visas require a great deal of paper work. Also, proper consultation from a professional who is specialized in immigration matters is highly recommended.
Student residence permits (Permesso di soggiorno per motivi di studio) converted into employment residence permits (permesso di soggiorno per lavoro subordinato):
Even after the outburst of the economic crisis, All “Decreti Flussi” have allowed foreign students to convert, under certain conditions, their study permit into a working permit. Students can opt to convert their study visa into a working visa. However, in order to do this, you need to have the following:
1.) A valid Permesso di Soggiorno as a student. Often, students who are studying short-term (up to a 3-month course) are not issued a PdS. In order to apply for a student to worker permit conversion, you must have a valid PdS when you submit the application.
2.) The government must have approved a Decreto Flussi that year which expressly states the possibility for students to convert their permesso di soggiorno into a permesso for work (either employment or self-employment work).
If you have a Permesso di Soggiorno and there is a Decreto Flussi for conversion that year, you can apply. However, should you go for the employment permesso, you must show the availability of an employer who is willing to hire you and has adequate financial means to pay you the minimum salary set by the Italian labour law for that specific job.
The process takes two subsequent and distinct procedures – the first one before the competent “Immigration Desk” (Sportello Unico Immigrazione). The second one – which should be activated upon positively completing the first one (that is to say, after getting the preliminary authorization or “nulla osta” from Sportello Unico Immigrazione) takes place before the immigration office of Questura through the sending of the “postal kit”.
A particularly tricky requirement to show in order to obtain the preliminary authorization from Sportello Unico is the lodging requirement, as the Italian authorities not only ask for the availability of a house, but also for a certificate issued by the competent town hall office, stating that the house in question is eligible according to the Italian health code. This often results in a long, costly and unpredictable sub-procedure. Additionally, some landlords might not permit you to apply for a house certificate on their behalf, most often because they did illegal renovation and do not want to get in trouble with local police.
The Student Visa:
The student visa application process is, by far and away, the most straight forward means of obtaining an Italian visa. Potential students apply to their local Italian consulate in their home country for a student visa that applies to the school and academic program of their choice. Scholastic options range from U.S. university study abroad programs to Italian university degree programs to private institution language courses and even cultural associations. Programs can range from a few weeks to several years. It is not necessary that your studies result in a degree to qualify for a student visa.
All students should consult the Italian education website that lists the approved educational institutions that qualify for the student visa. Most U.S. programs operating in Italy are approved, as are all Italian-state universities. However, some private language schools that offer Italian language courses are not eligible to procure an Italian study visa. Research your program of choice before you pay any deposits on a course.
The basic Italian study visa application is as follows:
–> The student needs a letter of acceptance from their desired institution in Italy that indicates the type of academic program and length of intended study. For students attending a study abroad program through their home university, it is not enough to get a letter from your home institution. You will need a letter from the exact Italian institution you are attending.
–> The student must meet the needs of financial burden dictated by each Italian consulate. Students need to check the rules of their consulate. BE AWARE THAT YOU CAN ONLY APPLY TO THE ITALIAN CONSULATE BASED ON WHERE YOU ARE A RESIDENT. Some financial requirements oblige the students to show proof of having their own bank account and credit card with liquid cash available at a minimum of $6000. Sometimes a parental letter of financial support can be submitted in lieu of a student’s personal financials.
–> The student must show proof of health insurance. Most often the student needs to show that their insurance specifically provides financial coverage for medical expenses in Italy. Since the majority of private health insurance companies outside the EU don’t explicitly state their coverage for medical emergencies in Europe, students most often elect to purchase private travel insurance that covers the length of their academic program. BE AWARE THAT ITALIAN STATE MEDICAL INSURANCE CAN BE PURCHASED UPON ARRIVAL BUT THE ITALIAN CONSULATE WILL DEMAND TO SEE PROOF OF PERSONAL MEDICAL INSURANCE BEFORE YOU ARE ISSUED THE VISA.
–> The student must demonstrate the availability of accommodation in Italy, whether through the school or university that provides the course, or through a private residence in Italy.
–> In relation to the countries whose citizens can enter Italy for 90 days without requesting a tourist visa (for example: Americans, Australians, Canadians and many South American countries), the student visa will have to be converted into a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) only if the stay in Italy lasts more than 90 days.
–> The student must submit the standard Italian student visa application. Some applications are required to be notarised.
–> The student must submit one passport-sized photo
–> The student must submit a copy of their driver’s license and school ID
–> The student must submit a copy of their passport
–> The student must have a valid passport that extends at least 6 months beyond the end date of the study program.
Once the student has all this paperwork (and again, consult with your consulate to be sure you have all the required documents as each Italian consulate has their own stipulations) then you need to bring the original AND A COPY of each of these documents to their scheduled visa appointment.
Most Italian consulates do not allow walk-in appointments so check their schedule for available appointment times. Usually, appointments must be booked a month to two months in advance. Some universities will facilitate the visa process for the student but any student applying to an Italian school independently will need to go to the consulate and submit the paperwork on their own.
Once you have the visa, within the first 8 days of your arrival into Italy you will need to file a Kit Permesso di Soggiorno. This is a mandatory step in the foreigner registration process that ALL VISA HOLDERS will need to do.
Permesso Di Soggiorno:
he Permesso di Soggiorno is your foreigner registration card and literally translates to “Permit to Stay”. You have to follow a lengthy process to apply for the card and usually it takes 3 to 6 months to get.
No matter what visa (student, working, or otherwise) you have, you MUST apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno. The first step requires you to fill-out and submit the Kit Permesso di Soggiorno. The kit is actually a packet with two forms inside (each are 5-10 page packet forms) that require the visa holder to indicate all their personal information and reasons for staying in Italy. Once these forms have been filled-out, the visa holder takes the kit, along with copies of all their documents (all the documents you had to submit to the consulate to obtain your visa) and goes to the post office to pay the required fees. The post office, oddly enough, is where a lot of submission of government documents takes place, in addition to the traditional mailing of letters and packages, as well as paying for a swath of bills (including state or municipal issued fines) and receiving government-issued financial sums (like your pension). Thus the post office is always a busy, busy, BUSY place. Therefore go early, be prepared to wait, and bring cash or a debit car to pay as the Poste Italiane does not accept foreign checks or credit cards.
But back to the permesso. In addition to the forms you have to fill-out and the copy of all your documents, you need to get a MARCA DA BOLLO from a Tabaccheria. The Marca da bollo is a sticker and costs €16. Bring that to the post office. Then, at the post office, the postal worker will review your packet, along with your passport, and all your information will be sent to the Questura (immigration office). You will need to pay between €40 and €100 (depending on the length of time/type of your visa) just for permesso kit processing. This payment is made on a long rectangular piece of paper, called a bolletino. It is included in your permesso kit. Lastly, you have to pay €30 for an ASSICURATA which is another payment to the Italian government.
So, to recap, you need to pay:
1.) €40-€100 for the permesso kit processing (this fee goes to the Italian State)
* €40 for residence permits for more than 3 months, up to one year;
* €50 for residence permits of more than one year, up to two years;
* €100 for long-term EU residence permits and for those reserved for specialized workers and executives
2.) €16 for the Marca da Bollo sticker (which you buy at a Tabbacheria and then the postal worker puts on the front of your permesso packet)
3.) €30 for the Assicurata Postale (a payment to the immigration office)
4.) €30.46 for printing the electronic permesso di soggiorno
Once you have filled out all this paperwork and paid the required fees, you will be given several documents back. The first is a receipt of your Assicurata. The second is a receipt of your bolletino. The final is an appointment for when you need to go to the Questura and be finger-printed. DO NOT LOOSE ANY OF THESE PIECES OF PAPER. You will need all three when you go to the questura.