It is only in recent years that Italy developed a plan, which already existed in several European countries, to attract foreign investors. The plan was named “Destinazione Italia” (Destination Italy) and was approved by the former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta in 2013.

A specific chapter of the plan regards “visas as an instrument to attract investments”; the plan is, however, still waiting for its definitive implementation. This objective is nonetheless reached through elective residency visas. This visa issuing method was not developed with foreign investments in mind, but it represents an important economic opportunity for the Italian State and it is proving to be effective, at least in the current phase. Further improvements and amendments are nonetheless to be implemented.

Elective residency visa” implies the authorization for foreign investor to enter the country for the “D” type duration of time (namely more than 90 days), as provided by article 18 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement in regards to national visa.

A growing number of foreign individuals are, along with investing in Italy through the purchasing of real estate, willing to seize the chance to have a fresh start far away from their country of origin. The aforementioned visa is issued in the case the applicant is willing to settle in Italy  and is in possession of the economic means that allow them to support themselves autonomously, that is to say without the need of being employed. Should this economic minimum requirement be met, as provided by article 13 of the inter-ministerial decree MAE 850/2011, the visa can be issued.

In the case in point, the minimum required income is € 31,000.00 per year per single applicant. Should the applicant decide to move to Italy along with their family, and extend the visa for their family members, the minimum required income is increased by 20% for their spouse and by 5% for every son (both minors and adults). The required income has to come from significant annuities and legal sources and not from subordinate employment. With this kind of visa, applicants are not eligible for employment in Italy.

Economic requirements can be met in the case the applicant submits documents proving income coming from pensions and annuities, the possession of real estate and the ownership of stable commercial/economic activities.

Another essential requirement, which excludes the economic situation, is the signature, on the part of the applicant, of a declaration of their intention to move to Italy that includes the details of the residence that has been chosen.

Applicant must therefore provide evidence of the purchasing real estate (to be used as residence) in Italy by submitting, for instance, the notarial deed, or the factual intention to purchase the estate by submitting the preliminary purchasing contract (the compromise has to be authored by an attorney or a notary) along with a copy of the documents proving the payment of the deposit.

Should the visa be issued under these conditions, the formal issuing of the permit is bound to the final purchasing contract, that is to say the notary has to produce the notarial deed in order to prove the applicant has moved into the new property.

Finally, applicant must arrange the International Health Insurance (which is valid in every Schengen country) with a minimum duration of 30 days and with a minimum cover of €30.000 for urgent hospitalization and repatriation expenses.

The visa is valid for one year, which can be renewed at the Police headquarters of the municipality where the visa-holder reside, should the requirements still be met.

The elective residency visa cannot be renewed or extended in the case the holder  has interrupted their residency in Italy for a continuous period of over six months, unless the interruption can be ascribed to the fulfillment of military duties or other proven and serious reasons (as provided by article 13 of the presidential decree 394/1999).

Moreover, as normally required in the cases of long term visas, the holder is required, within 8 days from their arrival in Italy to submit the request to convert the entry visa into a residency permit. The visa-holder is also required to attach the documents submitted at the time of the visa application.

In the aim of providing better protection to the visa holder, it is possible, after five years, to request the permanent EC-residency permit, which implies that the permit-holder is substantially treated equally to EU citizens.

In the case the visa applicant is yet to choose a residency in Italy, they are entitled to request a normal tourist-visa. The applicant is also required to attach a letter where they explain the reasons for their visit in Italy along with the regularly registered invitation from the real estate agency. Should these documents be provided, a tourist-visa will be issued. The visa is valid for six months and allows the holder to visit Italy for periods of 90 days.

For those who only intend to invest in real estate in Italy, the issuing procedure has been simplified, should the applicant not need to spend more than 90 days in Italy every six months. In this case, it will be possible to request a Schengen tourist-visa for long-term tourism stay (5 years). It will be necessary to prove the purchasing of real estate in Italy and a previous stay within the Schengen area.

The aim of the Italian legislator is to promote this new development possibility for real estate investment in Italy.   
Avv. Giorgio Bianco
Studio Internazionale Giambrone Law