So you want to move to Italy…

And you don’t know where to begin. Unfortunately, you can’t just pack up and go. Italian law requires that foreigners residing in Italy for longer than 90 days (the length of a tourist visa) must have legal documentation beyond a simple passport. Of course, like most things in Italy, acquiring this documentation can be a pretty complicated process and you need to follow certain steps carefully in order to ensure you get the best out of your experience.

Like many American expats in Italy, I’ve had to jump through countless hoops in order to remain in Italy legally. I am no expert on Italian immigration law, but what I can tell you is that you need to be willing to do a lot of research and preparation before coming to Italy. Although I cannot provide you with all the information that you need, I hope I can at least alleviate the process by sharing with you my knowledge on the Italian visa and citizenship process.

First things first – you need a legitamate reason for going to Italy (and eating pizza is not one of them!). There are essentially three options: apply for a work visa, a study visa, or citizenship.

Option #1: Work Visa

Pros: You can actually earn money while living in Italy; it is renewable so long as you maintain a job

Cons: Very very difficult to acquire; only temporary.

Unfortunately, a work visa is quite difficult to acquire. Every one or two years, the Italian government issues what is called a “Decreto Flussi” or Flow Decree stating how many work visas are allowed to be issued. At the moment of writing this post, the Flow Decree is closed and the government will not issue work visas. There is rumor that a new Flow Decree will be issued in April 2013 but there is no guarente.

Nevertheless, some positions are outside of the Flow Decree and work permits can be issued for them regardless of the quota status. These include highly specialized jobs such as performing arts positions and positions which are controlled by a non-Italian company based in Italy. English teaching jobs do not follow under this category.

How do you know when the decreto flussi is open? When applying for a job, ask the employer if it’s possible to apply for a work visa.

Another option is to apply for a study visa first and wait until the flow decree is open. Once it is issued you can then converte your study visa into a work visa.

How to Apply

  • Find a job.
  • Speak with your employer about applying for a work permit. It is the employer’s job to make the application to the employment office in Italy. Once this is cleared, the work permit will be mailed to you from Italy.
  • Apply for a work visa at your local Italian consulate. (Click here to identify your consulate.) Check your consulate’s website for more information the application requirements.

The process can take up to two months to complete, so you should be prepared to wait.

You can read more about this process here.

Option #2: Study Visa

Pros: Probably the easiest to acquire; education is always a good investment in my book; you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week with a study visa.

Cons: Only temporary; courses can be expensive.


  • You are enrolled in a course at a recognized educational institution for longer than 90 days.
  • The course is at least 20 hours/week.
  • Typically, the course must cover material that you could not learn in the United States.

How to Apply
Check your consulate’s website. Every region in the United States has its own Italian Consulate. You must first identify which consulate has jurisdiction over your state. After that, you should carefully review that consulate’s website and instructions. Some consulates require you to apply in person, while others accept mailed in applications. Check here to identify your consulate.

Generally, the consulate requires the following documentation to be considered for a study visa:

  • Passport: A valid passport with at least 2 blank visa pages; expiration date of passport should be at least 3 months longer than hypothetical visa expiration date.
  • Proof of Sustenance: All this means is that you can prove that you have enough money to support yourself while abroad. For long-term stay, the required amount is about 30 euro/day. I showed the consulate that I had at least $8,000 for 6 months and they accepted this.
    • If you are a young student and your parents are going to support you financially, you need the following:
      • Affadavit of Support, signed and notarized.
      • Bank Statement – Bank Statement must be on the bank letterhead and must verify that you (or the person that is supporting you) is the account holder and has XXX amount in their account at the time the letter was written. It must be signed and dated by a bank representative. You must present the original copy to the consulate.
    • If you are going to support yourself, you need the following:
      • Bank Statement
  • Proof of International Medical/Travel Insurance: You need to show the policy number and the dates of coverage. Most international insurance companies offer “study abroad” insurance which should cover at least $45,000 of expenses, including Emergency Medical Evacuation, Hospitalization, Medical Expenses and Repatriation.
  • Proof of Accomodation: Typically, the school or program that you are studying through will provide housing. They should state this in their letter to the consulate. If you are booking an accomodation on your own, you need to prove this by showing hotel reservations, a rental contract or a letter d’invito.
  • Letter of Acceptance: You need a letter of acceptance from the institution you are planning to study at. Usually, schools that deal with foreign students are familiar with what this letter should include. From my experience, the letter should indicate how long you will be studying for, number of hours per week and any accomodation provided. It also should include information about the institution, “la dicharazione” and proof that you have paid IN FULL for the course.
  • Letter of Enrollment OR Affadavit of No Current Enrollment:  If you are currently a student, you need a letter of enrollment from your current institution verifying that you are a student and explaining why you are studying in Italy. If you are not currently a student or recently graduated, you should write an Affadavit of No Current Enrollment explaining the details of your previous education and why you want to study in Italy. Check here for these forms.
  • Travel Itinerary: You should print a copy of your airline ticket, showing the dates and destinations of your trip. It is typically best to book a roundtrip flight for two reasons: Usually, booking a roundtrip flight is cheaper than booking two one way flights AND the Italian consulate prefers to see that you have already purchased your return flight. If you do not want to book your return flight now, you need to factor in this cost and add it to you “proof of sustenance”.
  • 2 passport-style photos: You can usually get these taken at your local drugstore for less than $10.
  • Long-term Visa Application: Check your consulate’s website for the long-term study visa application form. Please note that you should NOT sign the visa application form until you are in the presence of the consulate or a representative of the consulate. Leave the signature box blank until you are told to sign.
  • USPS express mail envelope, stamped and addressed to yourself: This is important if you want the consulate to be able to mail your passport and visa back to you after you apply.
  • Photocopy of each document presented, for your own records!

*Note – this is just based on my experience. You must check your consulate’s website for specific instructions, as they may differ from these!

Option #3: Italian Dual Citizenship 

italyflagfingerprintPros: Once you acquire citizenship, you can remain in Italy indefinitely; get the satisfaction of knowing you are officially Italian; allows you to live in Italy with the full benefits of a citizen.

Cons: Very long and complicated process with endless paperwork; documents can be expensive to acquire.

You must have Italian ancestors OR marry an Italian citizen in order to acquire citizenship. To see if you are eligible, check here.

How to Apply
Similar to a study visa, you must gather all the required documents and apply to the Italian Consulate in your area. Check here for application information.

The documents you need depend upon how you are related to your Italian ancestors. I am no expert on this, although I hope to apply for Italian citizenship soon. Please consult the following sites for more information on the documents you need to apply:

Best of luck and remember…being an expat is no easy feat. Where there us a will, there is a way!

13 comments on “So you want to move to Italy…

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  2. Thanks – that’s a really interesting article for non-Europeans wanting to work in Italy. We get asked this question quite a lot so in future I’ll send them here! :)

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  9. Really really useful information! I need it desperately. I am going to apply for Italian visa. I am so glad that I have found your article on time. Thank you for sharing it. Best regards!