Permesso or visa?

Every now and again I receive some really good questions from readers about moving to Italy. Which made me start to wonder…wouldn’t it be nice to share some of these things with other readers?

It’s kind of like when you were in school and the teacher would tell everyone, “Now class, never be afriad to ask a question because no question is stupid and chances are, someone else in the class probably has the same question.” Well I hate to sound cliché, but yeah…teacher was right.

So over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you some of my favorite movin’ to Italy questions, along with my response based on my personal moving to Italy experience.

First up? A very astute question is from Wilmington, DE.


First let me start by saying “grazie” for your blog. If you’ve taken a look at your stats recently and noticed someone from Wilmington, DE parked at your site, it’s me.

Second, thank you for the Permesso di Soggiorno Checklist. I have been trying to make sense of this whole Italian process for some time. Based on what I’ve read (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) one can apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno [PdS] either in the states or in Italy.

I do have another question. It’s kinda like: which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

I would love to come study for a few months in several locations. My question is “how can I safely apply and pay for these programs without having the PdS in my hands first?” In order to get the PdS I need proof I’ve paid for programs. But if I don’t get the PdS in time (in the States) I’m going to be SOL to attend the programs. Mama mia!”

Any chance you can shed some light on this for me?

Grazie mille (from a beginner Italian language student),

-Wilmington Gal”

My Response:
Ciao Wilmington Gal!Thanks for your message. Glad you found the Permesso di Soggiorno Checklist helpful.I was also wondering about the the whole chicken-egg thing when I first started. The truth is, you can only apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno once you are in Italy. It is a document issued by the local police office of the Italian city you will be residing in.However, you can and must apply for a visa before coming to Italy if you are planning on staying longer than your 90 day tourist visa. You apply for a visa at your nearest Italian Consulate office. This you need in order to apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno.And yes, you are correct. You have to demonstrate that you have paid for your course, your flight, booked your accomodation etc. beforehand. So even though that sounds risky, it’s what the consulate requires in order to issue you your Visa. Sound absurd? is…Your best bet is to contact the Italian Consulate in the U.S. beforehand, find out exactly what you need and make sure that the type of course you are enrolling in qualifies you for a visa. Sometimes the Consulate will reject applications if the course does not qualify as a strong enough motive to study in Italy (for example, they told me once that studying Italian in Italy is not a good reason to get a visa…..?????).Hope that helps. Any other questions just let me know.xx

Dare I say that I solved the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Alright, so maybe I can’t be that much of a genuis, but I can answer the question, “Which comes first, the permesso di soggiorno or visa?”. The correct answer: VISA!

I love this comparison of the chicken and the egg to the visa and permesso di soggiorno. It’s spot on and it’s something that I think gets glossed over in a lot of moving to Italy advice. People know that they need both documents to stay in italy for more than 90 days, but what they can’t understand is that the documents are actually issued from two different organizations at two different times.

So, just to recap:
  • If you are coming to Italy for more than 90 days, you must apply for a long term stay visa.
  • You must apply for the visa at your nearest Italian Consulate office in the U.S. before you come to Italy.
  • Once you have the visa, you can fly to Italy. Within 8 days upon arrival, you must apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno card.
  • You apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno at your city’s local post office.
  • Afterwards, the local questura (Italian police office) will issue you your Permesso di Soggiorno card.

For more details on study visa requirements, check out my post on How to Obtain an Italian Study Visa.

For more details on Permesso di Soggiorno requirements, check out my post on How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno.

For more tips on visiting the Italian Consulate Office, check out my post 8 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Italian Consulate.

Keep those questions comin’!

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.