In my book, 9 Steps to Becoming a Digital Nomad in Italy, I talk about the permesso di soggiorno, which, after your visa, is the most important document you'll need to remain in Italy.
Here I'd like to answer a few questions to help you plan your move to Italy.
1. What IS a Permesso di Soggiorno?
Permesso di soggiorno translates to "permission to stay," and it's exactly that. Once you receive your visa (typically good for one year), you'll need to apply for this document to remain long-term in Italy.
2. What are the Types of Permesso di Soggiorno?
The type of permesso you apply for will depend on your reason for being here, and will likely tie to the type of visa you were approved for.
There's a permesso di soggiorno for:
Self-employment (what I got)
Family reasons (you're joining family who already lives here)
Religious reasons (like you are a minister or priest)
3. Where, When, and How Do I Get One?
Within eight days of arriving in Italy, you must go to the post office and ask for a kit postale permesso di soggiorno. It may take you a while to fill out, especially if you're not up on your bureaucratic Italian!
Here's a resource that explains in English what goes in each section. It's written for those applying for the subordinate workers permesso, so if that's not your situation, just modify it where needed.
4. What Documents Will I Need to Apply?
Get ready to do a little legwork. Though much of this you already gathered when you applied for your visa, so it shouldn't be too hard.
First, you'll need a copy of your passport (the page with photo) and your visa. Easy. You'll also need a copy of your rental or accommodation contract. I haven't found anything that specifies how long this needs to be, but when I arrived, I had a hostel reservation for a month, and that sufficed.
You'll need proof of health insurance, and since you likely won't have already applied for your tessera sanitaria (public health card in Italy), you'll need to get a traveler's policy. They're fairly inexpensive. I got a yearlong policy from AXA for $77.
Next, you'll need proof of income, at least if you're applying as self-employed like I did. For this, I probably brought more than I needed, but since they're rather vague about what you need to bring, I recommend:
Last year's tax return
Profit and loss statement
American bank account statement (if you have an Italian bank, bring a statement from that one too)
Now you'll need to prove yourself as a self-employed person. Again, it's a little nondescript how to do this. If you have a professional license, bring that. For me, my lawyer connected me to a professional organization called Associazione Italiana Sviluppa Marketing, which I joined so that I could get a letter stating I was a professional member. You might search to see if there's a professional organization for your industry.
The permesso also requires a letter or seal from the Camera di Commercio, or Chamber of Commerce. My lawyer got me a stamp when I applied for my visa, but this year, since I'm in Calabria, I asked the local Camera for help and they told me since I didn't have a physical business, they couldn't give me one. I told this to the questura and they didn't blink, so I guess it was okay.
I also printed out some information about me as a writer, including articles I've published, just in case! As I said, the more you bring, the better your odds are of not having to return with more documentation.
5. How Do I Get an Appointment?
Once you fill out your application, you'll also need to get a marca di bollo (revenue stamp) of €16. You can go to any tabaccheria that sells stamps to get it. (Why the post office, of all places, doesn't sell this stamp I will never understand!).
Return to the post office with your application, the stamp, and your passport, as well as four passport-sized photos, and the documents I mentioned above. You'll need to pay fees for your application. There's a fee of €30 that the post office charges, and then you'll pay based on the period of duration of your permesso:
€30.46 for minors 14 years or younger + €30.46 to add the permesso of a parent
€70.46 for a permesso di soggiorno for 3 months to 1 year
€80.46 for 1–2 years
€130.46 for an EU residence permit for long-term stays
Once the friendly poste employee processes your application, you'll be given a receipt. Guard this with your life, because it acts in place of the permesso until you get it.
This part changed from when I first applied and when I renewed last year: you will either be given an appointment when you file your application or be given a website where you can track the status of your application and see your appointment time. The latter happened when I went to renew, and though they told me I'd receive a call or text with my appointment time, I didn't, so I advise keeping an eye on this website for updates.
6. What Do I Do for My Appointment?
Once you get notified (or not) about your appointment, you'll go to the questura (police station) at your appointment time. Bring a copy of EVERYTHING you submitted with your application., along with your passport and receipt from the post office. Just in case!
If you checked the website I told you about, you may have a heads-up about any documents you still need to provide, but don't be surprised if they tell you about others that weren't listed. This happened to me.
They'll review your documents painstakingly slowly while sweat drips down your back. They'll leave you standing at the desk while they (presumably) go to the back to have coffee with colleagues.
When they come back, they'll take digital fingerprints and have you sign some things. And then...that's it for now. It will feel a bit anticlimactic after all that work you did trying to pull together all the necessary documents.
7. When Do I Pick Up my Permesso di Soggiorno?
Depending on where you're applying, your permesso could be ready in as little as a few weeks. Mine was the first time because I did it in Milan. For my renewal in Calabria, it's been two months and no word.
You can check the status of your application here.
But one day you will get a text that tells you that your permesso is ready! Hurrah! You'll be told the day and time you can pick it up, so block off your calendar!
8. How Long Before I Have to Do This All Over Again?
I can only speak for the self-employment permesso. This renews first after one year, then after two, after, five, and then you can apply for a permanent one.
Yes, the process can be a pain, especially right after going through all the hassle for your visa and, you know, actually moving to another country. But once you do it once, it's easier the subsequent times.