illustration of italian visa.

How to Get Your Residence Permit in Italy

Learn about all the different types of residence permits in Italy and visas for non-EU citizens—like which options there are, who issues them, and how you can apply for or renew one.

9 min read

Are you an expat who is studying in Italy and needs a residence permit? Want to invite a friend from a foreign country to visit but need to know if they have to get a tourist visa? Are you a business owner who needs to hire workers, or simply want to put a domestic worker, such as a caregiver, on the books? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll find all the information you need to navigate this complex, yet important topic that is fundamental to your daily life in Italy. Let’s jump in!

Italian residence permit and visa

First, a note: All the points that are explained in this article are relevant to foreigners who are not citizens of the European Union. 

For EU citizens, an Italian visa isn’t needed at all. This is because of regulations created to encourage the free movement of people with the European Union. The need for a so-called residence permit was eliminated in 2007—within three months of entry into the country, EU citizens just need to register with the local registry office in your municipality of residence. No formal registration is required, however, for stays of less than three months.

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What are the differences in Italy between the visa and a residence permit?

Let’s start with visas. A visa is a document to certify that you’ve met all the requirements to enter Italy. It’s issued by the Italian embassy or consulate in your home country, and you typically need to have it before you arrive on Italian soil.

In contrast, the residence permit, in accordance with Article 5 of the Consolidated Immigration Act (Legislative Decree 286/1998 as amended) is issued in Italy by the Police Headquarters in the province where you decide to live. You’ll need to apply for the permit to stay within eight working days after you first enter Italy.

This is the formal difference between the visa and residence permit, but also a substantive difference. According to Italian law, entry into the country is allowed if you have a valid passport (or equivalent identity document). In terms of an entry visa, for stays shorter than 90 days, all you'll need is a tourist visa. If you want to stay longer, though, you’ll need very specific reasons and to apply for a permit to stay.

How to apply for an Italian permit to stay

The residence permit has recently been digitized and is now an electronic document. Not only that, but the process of applying for it is also digital now. This is possible because of an agreement between the Ministry of the Interior and Poste Italiane (the Italian Post Office). All this means that applications for new or renewed residence permit for non-EU citizens must be submitted at authorized post offices using the special yellow-banded kit. Besides the authorized post offices, the kits are also available at Patronati (Italian advisory service offices) and municipal offices. Get more information here.

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Integration agreement and revoking a residence permit in Italy

If you’re applying for a residence permit, you must also sign an Integration Agreement, based on a credit system, with a commitment to specific integration goals. If you lose all your credits, your permit to stay will be revoked and you’ll face deportation. If you lose your eligibility for the permit to stay in Italy, your existing permit will become invalid.

How much does the residence permit in Italy cost?

Submitting the application costs €30, which covers the postage costs, as well as €16 for a revenue stamp. You’ll also need to pay a €30.46 fee when your electronic permit to stay is issued.

On top of these costs, which must be paid regardless, you’ll need to add another fee related to the issuing or renewing of the permit to stay. This fee must be paid by all adults. The amount has recently been reduced—it varies from a minimum of €40 to a maximum of €100, depending on the type and duration of the permit you're applying for. In some exceptional cases, you don’t need to pay this fee, such as asylum or subsidiary protection. 

How long is the Italian residence permit valid?

According to Italian law, the duration of the residence permit is the same as that of an entry visa, unless it was issued for employment reasons. However, the limits vary from case to case, depending on the reason for the stay. 

Permits for visits, business, or tourism

In these cases, the permit to stay can’t be valid for more than three months (90 days).

Permits to stay for study purposes

If you're granted a residence permit in Italy for study purposes, the duration is equal to the length of your studies. The law stipulates that it can’t be "less than the period in which the course is attended, including multi-year attendance, of a program of study at educational institutions, higher technical institutes, university institutions and institutions of higher education in art, music, and dance or for duly certified training, subject to annual verification of profit." If you haven't completed your studies on time, the Italian law is lenient, but not open-ended: The permit can be extended for another 12 months.

Permits to stay for work purposes

If eligible for a work permit, you’ll have to look at the contract that defines the work relationship. This determines how long the permit is valid for. In fact, employees who come to Italy for work must sign a “residence contract for work.” The permit is valid for the term stipulated in the residence contract and can’t be longer than nine months for seasonal contracts, one year for fixed-term contracts, and two years for permanent contracts. The limit for permits to stay for self-employment is two years, as well as permits for family reasons

Renewing your residence permit

When you’re renewing your residence permit in Italy, the requirements will be the same as with your first application, so be sure to check whether any conditions have changed. The duration is the same as the original permit type. The application for renewal must be made at least 60 days before the expiration of your original permit, although the real penalty is only applied if you have a permit that has expired for more than 60 days. In this situation, your stay in the country is considered illegal. The way you apply is always the same: using the electronic kit at post offices, or at the police headquarters, depending on the type of permit. In the time that passes between the application and issuance of the permit, your stay is considered legal. 

Be careful, though—the residence permit can’t be renewed if you interrupted your stay in Italy for six continuous months, or for a period longer than half the duration of the permit. There are exceptions made for serious reasons.

Converting the residence permit in Italy

There's another scenario that you may find yourself in. Your stay in Italy is extended, but the reasons for your stay have changed. 

In this case, your residence permit will be converted. You will need to apply for clearance at the Single Desk for Immigration at the Prefecture - Territorial Government Office where you live, and then apply for the transfer at the police headquarters. Not all cases, however, are treated the same.

Converting from a study to work permit to stay 

This is the most common scenario. You may finish your studies and find work. Converting a study permit to a work permit to stay, however, is subject to a few rules:

  • General immigration entry quotas are determined by the so-called “flows decree.” Basically, there has to be a free spot for you.
  • The original permit to stay can’t be expired.
  • You must meet the work requirements for the type of work permit that you’re applying for. 

Conversion of the residence permit from seasonal to other work 

If your job in Italy is seasonal, it may become permanent either for a fixed-term or indefinite period. In this case, there are some requirements for converting your permit to stay:

  • If you are employed under a fixed-term contract, the contract has to be valid for at least one year.
  • You need to already have a permit to stay that hasn’t expired.
  • Alternatively, you must have come to Italy for a second consecutive year of seasonal work, or be at the end of the first period of seasonal work.

Conversion from a tourist visa to a residence permit

Turning a tourist visa to a permit to stay for other reasons (study, work, etc.) is a very special case. Converting a tourist visa to residence permit is not actually allowed by law. 

This is because the number of foreigners living in Italy for work purposes is regulated. Allowing tourist visas to be converted to work permits would be a way of getting around the law and bypassing those limitations. 

The only possible option is to convert a tourist visa into a residence permit for family reasons, since Legislative Decree 285/98 stipulates that this can be requested by any "legally residing" foreigner. Of course, you must meet the requirements for unification and the process you need to follow is the standard one with the postal kit.

Another possible scenario is to extend your tourist visa beyond 90 days, but this can only be done if there are serious reasons that prevent you from leaving the country—for example, if you contract an infectious disease such as Covid-19 and are legally required to stay in isolation in Italy. 

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You’ve just read an article that was compiled with the highest level of accuracy based on official sources, laws, and institutional sites. Despite this, however, it is not featured on an official government site. Given that regulations can change from one moment to the next, we encourage you to consult the relevant government sites before deciding to take tangible action. Take a look at the relevant law that we’ve cited, the aforementioned Consolidated Immigration Act, which you can find here. The Ministry of the Interior's website provides clear and concise information on the matter, while the Police Headquarters website explains the procedure in detail, as does the Immigration Portal.

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