Welcome to our first instalment of Moving to Italy! Throughout this series we will discuss the process and paperwork necessary to reside in Italy legally as well as some helpful tips for moving with a pet, finding housing and other insights we learned along the way.
This first part applies predominantly to non-EU citizens...obtaining a visa. This is the first step in the moving process. Now we have a unique situation because we needed to apply for a student visa as well as navigate the process for family cohesion. We spent HOURS, days even scouring the web, translating the immigration website and making countless calls to immigration lawyers trying to figure out this process. In full disclosure, we still don't really know how it works and frankly we don't think the immigration officials in Italy know either but somehow we made it through the process!
We will try to lay this out as easily as possible but depending upon your country of origin the rules and procedures could vary...
Visit the website of the Italian consulate in your city/country.
In the United States, for example, there are a few consulates spread throughout the country that handle several states within their vicinity. If you reside in a state without a consulate you will have to determine which consulate handles visas for your state. You may even have to travel to that consulate to finalize the visa so it is extra important you pay attention to the details when gathering the necessary paperwork.
Once you are on the correct consulate's website, find the link for visa applications. There will be several types of visas listed and their individual requirements. The student visa is pretty straightforward, albeit LOTS of paperwork.
TIP: Many language schools will provide the necessary paperwork to obtain a student visa. If, for example, you work remotely/independently but don't qualify for a self-employment visa, sign up for 6 months of Italian lessons (you will want them anyway if you don't already speak Italian :)). Once you have a foot hold in the country it is much easier to navigate the bureaucratic waters and learn the best way to extend your stay...
Gather all the necessary visa application paperwork AND make LOTS of copies of everything. You will need it once you arrive in Italy!
After all of our research, we decided that we only needed to apply for the student visa. Since we are married the other person legally has the right to reside in the country as well. We decided to apply for family cohesion once we had entered Italy. There is a way to apply for a family visa while still residing the in the US but it required one of us stay behind for a period of time, which wasn't possible. Again the family cohesion process is VERY unclear but essentially comes into play when applying for the Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay).
A few things that threw us for a loop while gathering the paperwork:
1. The infamous 'Dichiarazione di Valore' - everyone told us we needed it but no one could tell us what for (it turns out the post-graduate program required a copy). Essentially it is the Italian certification for a non-Italian degree. Here is how the process works...
- Gather your high school diploma AND grade records and if you are applying for a post-graduate degree your university diploma AND grade records. The records must come with a notarized letter from the institution stating the records are in fact yours.
- After you have all the documents, you must have EVERYTHING translated into Italian.
- You must also take/send your diploma certificate to the Secretary of State office in the state where the degree was obtained for an Apostille. The Apostille is the international means of showing legal proof a document is valid in another country.
- Once you have the translations and Apostille (s) (note: the Apostille doesn't have to be translated, only the records), you must send/take them to the Italian consulate for your state with the application for the 'Dichiarazione di Valore.'
2. The amount of money required that you have in cash in savings. The Italian government requires that you or a parent/guardian have enough money to support you for length of your intended stay in Italy. Regardless of whether you have money coming in each month at the time of the visa application you must prove you have a minimum of $800 for each month of your visa duration already in a bank account (this is more if you are married and/or have dependents).
3. Housing - with your visa application you have to show proof of housing in the form of a contract. If you are like us you won't have time or money to travel to Italy to scout apartments and sign a contract before you have to apply for the visa. In a future post I will share some helpful tips for finding apartments remotely.
NOTE: Once you arrive in Italy, you must apply for a residency permit called a Permesso di Soggiorno. When we arrived in Italy, we both applied for the Permesso di Soggiorno. The one with the visa applied for the Permesso di Soggiorno Studio while the other one applied simultaneously for the Permesso di Soggiorno Motivi Familiari.
Submit the visa application and necessary paperwork to your respective consulate. This cannot be done more than 90 days before you plan to move. HOWEVER, you will need to make an appointment to submit the paperwork. Do this as soon as you know you are going to be applying as the appointments are usually booked several weeks out!
NOTE: If you live in a different state from the consulate you may be able to send your application. In order to do so you will have to locate the consulate representative in your state and have them sign off on your visa application BEFORE sending the documents.
STEP 4 - If you are moving with a spouse
If like us you need to go through the family cohesion process it is important that you have your marriage certificate validated by your respective consulate. You will need this certification when applying for your Permesso di Soggiorno.
1. Obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate
2. Take/send the certificate to the Secretary of State of the state where it was issued for an Apostille.
3. Have the certificate (not Apostille) translated to Italian
4. Take all the documents (original certificate, translation and Apostille) to the Italian consulate to have it certified
BREATHE...do not panic! Yes it is tedious and time consuming but we promise living in Italy is worth it! :)