This is only a summary of what you need to get a Permesso di Soggiorno. We are not experts in the field. If you need more info, check the website of the Foreign Ministry for the visa: http://vistoperitalia.esteri.it and of the Polizia di Stato for your Residence Permit : http://www.poliziadistato.it/articolo/10617/
Before you can think about residency in Italy, you will need a Permission to Stay, and before you can enter the country, you might need a Visa.
Report of presence (dichiarazione di presenza)
If you are planning to stay in Italy for longer than three months, you will need a Permesso di Soggiorno, permission to stay or Residence Permit. Depending on your intentions in Italy you need several official documents and a few Marca da Bollo (stamps) bought from the local Tabacchi (tobacco shop) prior to embarking on this treacherous process for getting a Permesso di Soggiorno.
If you are staying in Italy for less than 3 months, you don't need a Residence Permit, but you do have to report your presence in the country to the local Questura within 8 days of your arrival. The same if you stay for longer than 3 months.
If you come from a non-Schengen country, you must report your presence at the border and obtain a Schengen stamp on your travel document.
If you come from a Schengen country, you probably aren't even aware that you are being registered at the local police department. Usually any hotel proprietor, campsite owner or vacation rental will simply ask for your "documents" fill out the forms needed and then return your documents to you; please check that they also give you a copy of the presence document. This all seems fairly effortless to our naïve tourist eyes and at this level it is pretty easy.
The proprietors usually take the forms of all guests, avoiding the queues or lines because they are Italian citizens, and drop off those documents once a week or so to the Local Police. Not so bad. As tourists we go on our happy way enjoying the sites, the quaint shops, the tasty gelato and amicable Italian locals. We have no knowledge of the amount of bureaucratic paper shuffling and running back in forth the Italians and those who chose to live in Italy have to endure.
If you do not stay in a tourist accommodation, even though you are staying for a period less than 3 months, you are required to report your presence to the Questura. The Questura or Polizia di Stato, is the state police office in charge of immigration and foreigners. You can download the document you need to take to the Questura from here.
If you are a guest at someone's house, in most towns the host must declare that he/she is hosting you to the local authorities (comune) within 48 hours of your arrival. Check out with the local authorities.
Residence Permit (Permesso di Soggiorno)
To get a Permesso di Soggiorno first you need a visa. If you plan on being anything besides a tourist in Italy you must first get a non-tourist visa. This visa should be obtained in your home country where you will have to deal with your local Italian Consulate. I have heard some extraordinary stories of battles with local Italian Consulates. These consulates can sometimes be more disorganized and less cordial and cooperative than the Italian bureaucrats in Italy.
Once you have a visa you can then enter Italy and stay longer than the three months allowed with a tourist visit. Do not be mistaken by thinking once you have the visa and have entered Italy you are legal. The visa is only the 1st step the second is registering for the Permesso di Soggiorno at your local Questura (state police) once in Italy.
Reasons to stay (motivi del soggiorno) in Italy for other than tourism vary. The following are the main reasons one would be granted a visa, which gives you permission to enter and stay longer than 3 months.
I. Lavoro (work), is divided, into three options. You are asked to specify what kind of work in each case and often need an Italian employer willing to say they will grant you work.
1. Professionale (professional) asks what kind of work.
2. Autonomo (independent) asks what kind of work.
3. Subordinate (dependent) asks what firm or institution.
II. Studio (studies), which is split into five categories. In this case you need to have documentation of enrollment into a school, university or institution of education.
1. Universita`, facolta` e sede (University, faculty and place)
2. Accademia, nome sede (Academy, name and place)
3. Conservatorio, nome e sede (Conservatory, name and place)
4. Liceo, name and place (Highschool, name and place)
5. Altri, nome and place (Other, name and place)
III. Motivi Religiosi
(Religious purposes) asks what kind of religious purposes. I believe for this type of visa or permission you would have to have some document from your temple, church or order stating why you are staying in Italy. It may also require that you have evidence of financial means for staying. Evidence you are being hosted or are employed by your religious order.
IV. Residenza (residence).
This is for those who plan on living in Italy but not working in Italy. One must be able to demonstrate that their intentions are only to live here. One must have the independent financial means and already have a place to stay such as rented property or purchased a home. In order to demonstrate independent financial means one is required to have a statement from the bank of ones income or savings that displays they are affluent enough to not seek employment or fall into dire financial straits.
I have heard that the bank statement doesn't only mean a copy of ones savings and checking account statement but also means a written letter from a bank employee saying that you are financially stable. Ones financial means is not only asked for with a visa in residence but also for many other visas and is a big concern to the Italian Government whether you can support yourself once in Italy and not be a financial dependent on their system. I believe one also must obtain copies of their fingerprints from the FBI proving they have no previous record as criminals or serial killers.
V. Motivi di Familiari (Family Motive)
This visa is granted to those who have family purposes to stay in Italy whether one has a parent, relative, spouse or even love interest. This love interest or family member has to be willing to support and vouch for you. This often involves letters from the Italian family member stating they will host or take responsibility for you. Documents required are the letter from family member, your financial statements of independence and fingerprints proving you are not a criminal or serial killer.
There are several other reasons (motivi) for a visa that will allow you to get a Permesso di Soggiorno but these are the main ones that the majority of immigrants from English speaking countries will use. Though visas should be obtained from ones country of origin at their local Italian Consulate before entry to Italy, exceptions do occur. However, considering the complicated process of getting ones documents in order, it is best to do it by the book. To get specific details about paper work needed one should check your local Italian embassy or consulate for information on Visa. Here is the complete list, updated by the MAE (Ministry of Foreign Affairs): http://www.esteri.it/mae/en/ministero/servizi/italiani/rappresentanze/.
My experience has been that most consulates are better reached through email for information and usually have good descriptions of the visa process on line.
Once you have tackled the chore of getting a visa and have arrived in Italy you can then begin the thrilling process of getting your Permesso di Soggiorno. As previously stated, you must register for a Permesso di Soggiorno with in 8 business days of arrival in Italy.
The first thing you want to establish is the location of your local Questura. Once you find out which Questura you need to go to for processing your Permesso di Soggiorno you should find out the following information: the hours of processing and what your particular Questura requires for your particular Permesso di Soggiorno. Unfortunately the requirements for a Permesso are not standardized throughout Italy. This information should be provided on-line or at your local Comune or tourist information.
Here is a site that provides the links to all Questuras or Polizia di Stato http://questure.poliziadistato.it/
Many communities often have individuals who will aid you with receiving the correct paper work for filing you particular Permesso di Soggiorno. Often the local Comune or tourist information office will know ways of contacting these individuals. Three things you will need for sure are:
1. 4 passport style photographs of yourself, which can be obtained at almost any photography store.
2. A Marca da Bollo worth 14.62 Euro. You can purchase this at almost any Tabacchi store. Remember prices for stamps do change rapidly so check the value of the Marco di Bollo needed first.
3. You will need a photocopy of your passport front pages, the page that has the date stamped of your entry to Italy and the page that has your visa for a stay longer than tourism.
A word of warning for those living in big cities or near big cities that tend to have a large immigrant population…the wait to present your documentation to be processed can take up to 4 to 5 hours. Fortunately most of these Questuras will have you line up for numbers. These lines can begin growing at ungodly hours of the morning such as 5 am or 6 am. The numbers are then passed out with 2 copies of the form modulo 210, which is the generic form needed to be filled out for all types of Permesso di Soggiornos.
Fortunately for us English speakers it is in both Italian and English. Once you have your number, do not trade it with some one else, lose it or leave it where it could easily be swiped by another desperate immigrant. This number is the only way you will be able to present your paper work to the teller. Chances are you will be waiting in great anticipation for that number in your hot little hands to show up, so keep it dear to you. Considering you will be waiting for up to 4 or 5 hours, make sure to bring some sort of activity such as a good book to read, cross word puzzle or some sort of amusement to pass the time. You could always leave and come back but be wise about timing. The Carabinieri (state police) are not sympathetic to those who either missed their number because they were not there or failed to notice it was called.
After you have given the lovely Carabinieri official your documents and they have handed back a stamped and filled out copy of Modulo 210 with one photo of your self, you have the pleasure of returning in probably 2 months to wait again in line to get your finger prints and the official Permesso di Soggiorno. Be aware that often the Questura has different days for pick up, for the Permesso di Soggiorno then drop off of documents. The returned form should have a date posted on it stating when your official Permesso di Soggiorno will be ready. Also the site for your particular Questura should post when your Permesso di Soggiorno is ready for pick up. There are tracking numbers in the top right hand corner of Modulo 210 that will be posted online when ready for pick up.
Good luck with the Permesso di Soggiorno. It is annoying and tedious but a required duty to remain in Italy with out the threat of being stopped by the Cabinieri and deported back to your country with the potential penalty of not being able to return for sometime, if ever.
By Adrien Franzese