You must first determine whether your country of nationality requires a visa to enter Italy. EU nationals from countries within Schengen borders don’t require visas for visits to Italy but require a permit to stay (permesso di soggiorno) if they plan to remain longer than 90 days. Some countries, such as the UK and United States also do not require visas for visits of under 90 days, but require visas for visits of longer duration. Other countries may require visas for both long and short-term stays. If you are not sure whether you require a visa to enter Italy visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Types of visas
Applications should be made at an Italian consulate abroad at least 3 months before the intended date of travel. Visas can be issued to individuals or to groups, however group visas must A visa is in the form of an adhesive sticker (not a stamp) inserted in your passport, so make sure there are empty pages. In general, there are two main categories of visas:
- Short-stay visas - applicable for visits of up to 90 days. There are two short-stay categories of visas: Uniform Schengen Visas (USVs) and Limited Territorial Validity Visas (LTVs). USVs are more common and valid for all Schengen member states while LTVs are valid to some, but not all member states and are only issued in exceptional circumstances. These are “type C” visas.
- Long-stay visas - valid for more than 90 days. These are national visas (VN) which allow you to stay in the country of issue for long periods of time. VNs also allow you to travel within Schengen area for up to 90 days. These are “type D” visas.
Having obtained the necessary paperwork, an application for a visa must be made to your local Italian consulate with jurisdiction over your place of residence. It may be possible to make an application by post, but in other cases you’re required to attend in person. If you apply in person, bear in mind that there are invariably long queues at consulates in major cities (take a thick book). The documentation required for a visa application depends on the purpose of your visit to Italy. All applicants require:
- a passport valid for at least three months beyond the validity of the requested visa with a blank page to affix the visa sticker;
- a number of passport-size photographs on a white background.
Depending on the purpose of your visit, you may require some of the following (note that some consulates may require both originals and photocopies):
- Proof of residence in the country from which you’re applying;
- Proof or travel arrangements showing your name and exact dates of entry into and exit from Italy (if applicable);
- Proof of financial resources (see below);
- A health insurance certificate if you aren’t eligible for health treatment under Italian social security or through your employer;
- Employees require an authorisation to work in Italy issued by the Italian Department of Labour (see below);
- Students require proof of admission from an approved educational establishment (see below);
- A non-EU national married to an Italian citizen or to a foreigner who’s resident in Italy, requires a marriage certificate;
- Applicants under 18 need written authorisation from a parent or guardian.
Many of the above documents must be translated into Italian. All translations must be done by a translator approved by your local consulate, a list of whom (elenco di traduttori) is provided by Italian consulates on request. You may be required to provide additional documents depending on the type of visa you apply for. Contact your local Italian consulate to find out exactly which documents are required, and do not be afraid to ask for specific information on how each document can be obtained.
Many documents need tax stamps (marche da bollo), and requests for official documents usually must be made on special lined paper (carta da bollo), to which a tax stamp must be attached. The standard stamp (bollo) for administrative documents (atti civili) can be purchased from a tobacconist (tabacchi). When entering Italy, authorities are authorised to check the documentation you used to obtain the visa.
Proof of financial resources
Proof of financial resources or financial support can be in the form of bank statements, letters from banks confirming arrangements for the regular transfer of funds from abroad, or letters from family or friends guaranteeing regular support. Letters should be notarised. Students may submit a letter from an organisation or institution guaranteeing accommodation or evidence of a scholarship or grant. Retired people should take their pension book or copies of recent pension cheques. Proof of financial resources isn’t required by someone coming to Italy to take up paid employment.
Authorisation to work
A non-EU national wishing to work in Italy requires the local Department of Labour office (Ispettorato Provinciale del Lavoro) of where the employer is registered, to issue an authorisation to work. This must in turn be authorised by the local police headquarters who stamp it nulla osta (literally ‘nothing hinders’) on the back. This document must be obtained by your prospective employer in Italy and be sent to you in your country of residence for presentation at an Italian consulate with your other documents. Be warned, however, that for non-EU nationals, obtaining authorisation to work is a highly bureaucratic and time-consuming process. It can take a year or more, and unless you’re employed by an Italian company in your own country or are living in Italy already, it’s rare to find an employer in Italy who’s willing to go to the trouble involved.
Proof of admission
Students require proof of admission from an approved school or university in Italy indicating when their studies start and end. The letter must either have the seal of the school or be notarised. If your studies are sponsored by an educational institution in your home country (or country of residence), you should also have a letter from the institution concerned confirming this. This must also contain the seal of the school or be notarised.
The fees for entry visas in Italy can vary considerably. It can take up to a month to obtain a routine visa or up to 90 days in ‘difficult’ cases. A visa is usually valid for a first entry within 60 days.
If you require a visa to enter Italy and attempt to enter without one, you will be refused entry. If you’re still in doubt as to whether you require a visa to enter Italy, ask at your local Italian consulate at home before making travel plans.
If you required a visa to enter Italy and have entered the country and obtained a permit to stay, you may still require a re-entry visa to return to Italy after a trip abroad. This must be obtained from your local police headquarters before leaving Italy.
It is worth noting that Italian immigration law changes quite often, therefore you should double check any information before sending out your applications. Make sure to contact your local immigration office to make sure you are aware of ALL the necessary documents.