How do I stay in Italy beyond my 90 day tourist visa?


I was looking through some old emails from readers this week and I started noticing that one subject in particular kept appearing. I counted and nearly 20 readers asked me the following question (or something very similar to this):

How do I stay in Italy for longer than my 90 day tourist visa?”

Friends, this is a VERY good question. I myself asked this back in my amateur immigration days. Heck, I didn’t even know what a visa was back then let alone what the difference was between a tourist visa and other types of visa.

Let’s break it down.

What is a visa?

A visa is a document that gives you permission to visit another country for a set amount of time. It is issued by the country you are visiting. For Europe, the type of visa issued is called a Schengen visa and it allows you visit all the Schengen countries (click here for the complete list).

There are different types of Schengen visas.

  • Airport Transit Visa (A) – allows you to travel through the international part of a Schengen airport without actually entering the Schengen country
  • Transit Visa (B) – allows you travel a maximum of 5 days through a Schengen territory in order to arrive at a non-Schengen destination
  • Short Stay Visa (C) – allows you visit a Schengen country for up to 90 days in a given 180 day period for tourism, family or business
  • Long Stay Visa (D) – allows you to stay in a Schengen country for more than 90 days for work, study, retire, etc..

*U.S. citizens do not need to apply for an airport transit visa (A) or a transit visa (B). All they need are a valid passport to function as their 90 day tourist visa.


What is a tourist visa?

All U.S. citizens holding a valid passport are allowed to travel to Europe for 90 days or less. You do not need to apply for a tourist visa; a valid passport is considered your “tourist visa”.

How do I stay in Italy beyond my 90 day tourist visa?

Well, you need to apply for a Long Stay Schengen Visa (D). You can apply for this visa at the Italian Consulate in the U.S.. There are different Italian consulates, so make sure you apply for the one that has jurisdiction over where you reside.

In order to apply for a Long Stay Schengen Visa you must have a motive for doing so. Valid reasons include work (you must already have a job and the employer must sponsor you), study (program must be 20+ hours per week and there must an exam; only certain programs are eligible), or retirement (you must show that you have property in italy and have sufficient funds to retire there).

For more information on how to apply for a study visa, please see How to Obtain an Italian Study Visa.

Remember after (and only after) you must apply for a permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay) card in Italy. For more info see How to Obtain Permesso di Soggiorno.

Movin_to_italy_faqMovin’ to Italy FAQ is weekly blog series. Every Friday, I post common questions from readers about movin’ to Italy. All answers are based on my personal experiences and knowledge.

13 comments on “How do I stay in Italy beyond my 90 day tourist visa?

    • Exactly! You apply for the VISA first at the Italian embassy in your home country. You apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno at the Italian police office AFTER you arrive in Italy. You need the visa in order to apply for the permesso!

  1. Sarah,
    I am a retiree. Own a home in Sicily. Moved here lock, stock and pets in March. Neglected to get a visa. My fault…didn’t know. Now I’m here and want to stay. How can I get visa and permesso without having to leave Italy? Help!

    • Hi Pat. Wow, sounds like you’re in a real pickle! First things first…are you an EU citizen? If so, I don’t think you need to do anything. Permessos and Visas are only for non-EU citizens. If you are not from the EU then the only way to legally apply for a visa and permesso is to return back home and visit your Italian consulate to apply for an “elective residency visa”. Once that is approved you’ll be able to return to Italy and apply for a permesso di soggiorno.

      • Thanks Sarah, I’m American. How long does it take to get that visa? I’ve brought both my pets here. I own a house and I am in no position to leave. Big pickle.

        • Hi Pat, A visa can take up to three months to process. It depends on how organized you are and how quickly the consulate can process the application. Where do you have residency in the U.S.? Some Italian consulates are better (and faster) than others.

          • My home was in Arizona…which would make Los Angeles my consulate. Just sold that home! Don’t really have a place to go back to! Everything is here…in Sicily.

  2. I’ll be interested in seeing how you work this out. :(

    I helped my son move to Europe with his 2 cats in November. He was able to get one visa extension, and extra 90 days, while he pursued a work visa. His company could not get him one and so he had to return to the USA yesterday.

    We are going to pursue dual citizenship after giving up on that two years ago. If he had hired an attorney he would have lost less money than being out of work 4 months waiting for the work visa.

    Back to you: If you can get a Sicilian friend to watch your pets, you could come back and apply for your visa. If you’ve already been in Sicily past your visa limit you may want to hire an attorney to help you get your elective residency visa.

    Do you have Italian heritage? If so you can get Italian citizenship after living in Italy after only 3 years.

    • Thanks for the advice Nancy! I absolutely agree. European citizenship is obviously the best option if possible. If not, elective residency visa is the next best thing, but you’ll have to return to the U.S. to apply for it first.

      • I will come back if I must….but I can’t for three months! I can’t put my old kitties through another move. I own a home here as well. I never had a visa in the first place…just a passport.

  3. Hello. I am a British and American (dual) citizen living in Arizona. My wife and daughter are American citizens only. We are planning on moving to Italy next year. We intend, within 90 days, to apply for perrmisso cards. Because I am British, do they need a Visa before we depart the USA?

    • Hi Matthew, From what I understand you don’t need a visa. You do however need to apply for a ‘carta di soggiorno per motivi familiari’ once you arrive in Italy for your wife and daughter since they aren’t EU citizens. Here’s a link (in Italian) about the carta di soggiorno. Good luck!