Below are some common questions I see regarding visas, living in Italy, and general questions about bureaucracy (you’re on your own with that one!). Only kidding, but does anyone actually have any consistent advice for how to navigate the Italian bureaucracy? Asking for a friend.
If you have a question that I haven’t answered, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll add it to the list.
Living in Italy
U.S. citizens can stay in Italy, and other Schengen Area countries, for 90 days without a visa. For every 90 days you are in Italy, you must spend 90 days outside of the Schengen Area, which includes the majority of European countries. In other words, visitors can stay 90 days in the Schengen Zone out of every 180 days. As you can see, this is not a great strategy for living and working in Italy.
In order to stay longer than 90 days, travelers will need a valid visa. Keep in mind that you get a free 90 days added onto the duration of your visa. For example, if your visa is valid for 9 months you can stay in Italy legally for one year.
You have 6 visa options, but really only 1 of these is feasible: the study visa. The six types of visas are: study, work, family, religious, self-employment, and residency. Study visas are somewhat easy to obtain. This is all relative because getting a visa in general is no walk in the park, but the documents necessary for getting a study visa can be reasonably obtained (read my Italy Visa Guide for more information on this). Work visas are not issued throughout the year like the other visas are. The decreto flussi, a system that allows non EU-citizens to obtain work permits in Italy, only happens once a year and you must find a company that is willing to sponsor you and fill out the necessary paperwork. Family visas are given to people who have spouses, children, or parents living in Italy. Religious visas are given for religious trips (obviously). Self-employment visas are given to people who perform work that is essential for Italy’s economy. I have seen people successfully obtain a self-employment visa, but you must some sort of skill or business already established. Lastly, we have the residency visa. This is given to people who are not working in Italy, but intend to stay there indefinitely. You will need to have a lease or deed for a place in Italy and sufficient income so this visa is perfect for retirees.
Bad things. Please do not overstay your visa. The laws are in place for a reason and it is important to respect the rules that Italy has put in place to stay there legally. If you are found overstaying your visa, you could receive a fine, be deported, and/or be banned from Italy for at least a year. And this all goes on your permanent record which could impact your ability to receive a visa in the future. Also, do you really want to be walking around town everyday with the threat of being deported always looming over you?
Living in Italy
Go to your nearest cellphone company store and ask, “Posso avere un SIM card?” Many people working in service industries speak English so do not worry if your Italian is not up to par. The process is fairly straightforward; the whole thing took about 10 minutes. I use TIM, but WIND and Vodafone are two other great options for cell service in Italy.
If you don’t have ridiculous fees for foreign transactions then opening a bank account is not entirely necessary. I use Ally Bank and they have a really low withdrawal fee (1%). I also recommend using your PayPal debit card abroad, if you have one. While the fees aren’t as cheap as Ally (€3 + 2.75%), it can be an easy way to deposit money you earn abroad if you are planning on working. To open a bank account in Italy you will need a codice fiscale (tax code), your passport, and proof of address.
A permesso di soggiorno (“permit of stay”) is an identity card that allows you to stay in Italy legally for longer than 90 days. This is different than your visa! Your visa allows you to enter the country legally and stay for a certain period of time, but your permesso di soggiorno makes you a legal residence in Italy for the duration of your visa. Read my article on How to Get Your Permesso Di Soggiorno for information on how to complete all of the necessary steps.
If you are covered by your private insurance already, Italian health insurance may not be necessary. However, Italian health insurance may be a cheaper option if you are planning on staying in Italy for the long-term. As a student, you can get a Tessera Sanitaria (medical card) from the Azienda Sanitaria Locale in your town for about €100.
A Codice Fiscale is your tax code which is the Italian equivalent of the U.S. Social Security Number (SSN). This tax code is essential if you are planning on working in Italy. You can obtain one by going to your local Agenzie delle Entrate and filling out an application. There is a way to determine your codice fiscale based on your name, city of residency, birthdate, and sex; however, this is not always 100% accurate so make sure you get a real codice fiscale card.
The bureaucracy in Italy is incredibly confusing and inconsistent. You will often have to visit multiple agencies just to accomplish one simple task. Figuring out which agency, building, and counter you need to go to can be exhausting. Here is a short list of the most frequently visited agencies by foreigners and what services they provide:
Poste Italiane – This is the Italian post office. Of course you can send letters and packages, but this is also a place where you can pay your bills and pick up and turn in your permesso di soggiorno.
Sportello Amico – A special counter located in some post offices in Italy. This is where you pick up and turn in your Permesso di Soggiorno kit.
Agenzie delle Entrate – This is your tax agency where you can pick up your codice fiscale.
Questura – The police (Polizia di Stato) headquarters. This is also the immigration office and the place where you will go to finish applying for your Permesso di Soggiorno.
Azienda Sanitaria – The agency that deals with health insurance and other health services. Go here to get your tessera sanitaria.
This used to be the way that many English teachers held jobs in Italy. However, it seems that companies have become more strict over the years and many now require teachers to be in the country legally. While you may be able to find a job working under the table in Italy, I do not recommend going to Italy without a visa. Many people have traveled abroad and spent weeks looking for work only to find that schools will not hire people without proper documentation.
I recommend getting an Italian study visa if you want to teach abroad. You must take classes for a minimum of 20 hours per week and you can only work part-time. If working only 20 hours per week is not enough for you, you can always post on websites like Bakeca and Kijiji and offer your private tutoring service.
Read my Italy Visa Guide for more information on how to get an Italian study visa.
There are many different teaching certifications out there for aspiring English teachers. The most common ones are TEFL, TESOL, TESL, and CELTA
TEFL – Teaching English as Foreign Language; allows you to teach English in countries where English is not the primary language.
TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages; lets you teach English to people whose native language is not English.
TESL –Teaching English as a Second Language; allows you to teach English to people who live in a country where English is one of the primary language.
CELTA – Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages; this is the official certificate of the University of Cambridge and is very widely recognized and respected. Some companies may only hire applicants with CELTA certifications in European countries and in China.
TEFL and TESOL certifications are essentially the same and allow you to teach English as a foreign language. A TESL certification is most useful if you are planning on teaching English in a country where English is the primary language, like America. CELTA is the preferred certification for people teaching in Europe, although a TEFL or TESOL certification is often an acceptable substitute.
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