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How to Get an Italy Visa, Residency and Italian Citizenship

Moving to Italy permanently from the United States and obtaining Italian citizenship as an American is a multi-step process. Below is an overview of the steps most U.S. citizens would have to go through, from obtaining your first Italy visa to becoming a citizen in Italy and getting an Italian passport. This guide does not apply to those who want to visit Italy for a period shorter than ninety days.

Step 1. Entering Italy with the purpose of a stay longer than 90 days

All foreigners from non-EU countries, including Americans, planning to stay in Italy longer than 90 days require a long-stay visa, also called a type D Visa or a National Long-stay Visa, which allows you to enter Italy.

You can obtain a long-stay Italy visa from an Italian Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. You may access a list of U.S. Italy embassies and locations for consular services as well as information and a list of documents needed to apply for a long-stay visa on the official U.S. Department of State website.

Types of Long-Stay Visas for Italy:

  • Work Visa – available to Americans who want to move and work in Italy and have a job in Italy before applying.
  • Study Visa – available to American students over 18 who are enrolled in an Italian university.
  • Family Visa – available to Americans who want to join an Italian family member (citizen or permanent resident).
  • Self-Employed Visa –available to entrepreneurs planning to open a business or self-employed persons who want to work in Italy.
  • Retirement Visa or Elective Residency Visa – available to those who want to retire in Italy and can financially support themselves without working in Italy.

The most common visa for American retirees to live in Italy is the Elective Residency Visa. To apply for this visa, you must demonstrate enough passive income to live in Italy without working, such as retirement income or rental income. For individuals, the minimum passive income is €31,000, plus an additional 20% for married couples and an additional 5% for a child. If you don’t have the required minimum income for the elective visa, you can qualify through investing in residential real estate in Italy as your permanent residence.

Italian consulates have the information necessary for this type of visa, including a list of documents, which may vary by location. To apply for an elective residence visa, you would typically schedule an appointment online for an in-person appearance at the consulate. It is recommended to be as detailed as possible when preparing your documents, including extra copies of everything. The application process can take up to three months.


Step 2. Obtaining a permesso di soggiorno in Italy

Prospective residents or anyone planning to stay in Italy longer than ninety days must obtain a permit of stay, also known as permesso di soggiorno, within 8 days from arrival. For complete information about how to obtain a permesso di soggiorno and a complete list of documents required, visit the State Police official website. Your permesso di soggiorno is valid for the same time period indicated on your visa.

Documents required to apply for a permesso di soggiorno:

  • Your application form
  • Your valid passport showing an entry visa
  • A photocopy of your passport showing an entry visa
  • 4 recent and identical passport-format photos
  • €14.62 electronic revenue stamp
  • Documents supporting your request for the type of residence permit you are applying for.


Step 3. Obtaining an EC residence permit

If you have lived in Italy legally and continuously for five years, you may apply for permanent residence (carta di soggiorno). Documents needed for an EC residence permit:

  • a copy of your valid passport
  • a copy of your income tax statement showing evidence that you have a minimum income higher than the social allowance (assegno sociale)
  • criminal records and pending charges
  • evidence of appropriate accommodation, if the application being submitted includes family members
  • copies of pay slips for the current year
  • residence and family certification
  • postal receipt for payment of the electronic residence permit (€27.50)
  • a €14.62 electronic revenue stamp

Additional documents are required to apply for long-term residence for family members:

  • Proof of income sufficient for you and all your family members
  • Documentation demonstrating the family relationship

Italian citizenship

Photo by Michele Bitetto on Unsplash


Step 4. Apply for Italian dual citizenship

How to obtain Italian dual citizenship as a U.S. citizen:

  1. Italian citizenship by naturalization

You can apply for an Italian passport by naturalization as a US citizen after being a permanent resident for a minimum of five years. This is the equivalent of having lived in Italy legally for at least ten years. There are several other requirements to be eligible for citizenship in Italy, including proof of a minimum income, having paid taxes, passing a language test and providing a certificate of no criminal record. It is typically recommended to consult an immigration attorney to assist with the citizenship application process.

  1. Italian citizenship by descent

If your parent, grandparent or great-grandparent is an Italian citizen, you may apply for Italian citizenship through jure sanguinis (the right of blood). This is the fastest and easiest way to obtain Italian dual citizenship. The conditions necessary for this type of citizenship application include proof of Italian heritage, to have legally lived in Italy for three years and be present in the country for at least six months and one day, proof of a minimum income and having paid taxes, and passing a language test. It is typically recommended to consult an immigration attorney to assist with the citizenship application process.

  1. Italian citizenship by birthright

Children born in Italy or of Italian citizen parents born outside of Italy receive Italian citizenship.

  1. Italian citizenship by marriage

If you are married to an Italian citizen, you are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship after two or three years of marriage, the timeline depending on whether you live in Italy or outside of Italy. Wait time may be shorter if you have a child together. Other criteria such as passing a language test might apply. It is typically recommended to consult an immigration attorney to assist with the citizenship application process.

Standard documents required when applying for Italian citizenship:

  • An application for citizenship
  • Original passports for you and your family members and notarized copies of same
  • Copy of permanence residence permit
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Italian language proficiency certificate
  • Proof of citizenship of ancestor, if applicable
  • Police clearance certificates
  • Application fee (250 Euros)
  • Four passport-size photos
  • Postal stamp

The citizenship application process may last from a few months to several years, depending on the method of application and complexity of your case. For information and to apply online, visit the official Italian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration website and talk to an immigration attorney.

Italian citizenship useful resources:

Italian Embassy and consulates in the United States

US Embassy and consulates in Italy

US Department of State Dual Nationality

Italian passport application

Italian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

Italy State Police


Lara Bianco

Lara is an Italian-American content manager at My Dolce Casa. Lara splits her time between Chicago, United States and Puglia, Italy, sharing la dolce vita with her adorable beagle Goldie.