If you’re a citizen of a non-EU country and you move to Italy, you’ll have to get a permesso di soggiorno. What is a permesso di soggiorno, exactly? It’s basically a residence permit that you’re required to get after you’ve been granted a visa and have entered the country. The type of permesso di soggiorno you’ll get depends on the type of visa you have.
How can you get a permesso di soggiorno? Like many things in Italy, it’s not easy to do. I’ve decided to outline the steps you’ll need to take in order to get your permesso di soggiorno. At the end of this post, you’ll find the story of my most recent renewal experience.
Many people are curious about how to get a permesso di soggiorno without having a visa. I don’t believe this is possible. It may be in cases of marriage or family reunification, but if you want to work or study here, you’ll have to get a visa first. This post is intended for people who are coming to Italy for work or study purposes and who have already secured a visa.
Table of Contents
How to get a permesso di soggiorno
Note: I’ll start by saying that I have a work visa. I’m currently in Italy on a “lavoro autonomo”, or self-employment visa, but the contract I was given from the university means I’m treated like an employee for tax purposes (as in, they deduct them from my payments, rather than me having to submit invoices and have a freelance tax account). If this doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry, because it doesn’t make sense to me either.
I also had a student visa once upon a time, but the application process for a student permesso has changed since then, so I’m not sure of the exact details, but I have a good idea of what you need since my bf went through the procedure not too long ago. If you are here on a student visa and are wondering how to get a permesso di soggiorno, this post will still come in handy. If you have specific questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help!
Before we start
As I said above, once you’ve gotten a visa and have arrived in Italy, you’ll have to apply for your permesso di soggiorno. If you’ve come here to work or study, there will probably be someone to help you out at your workplace or school, but it’s nice to know what to expect ahead of time in order to be prepared.
I’d recommend beginning the process as soon as possible, as it can take a while. Set aside some time in your first few weeks to get started.
Step one: Get a Codice Fiscale
One of the first things you’ll need to do is obtain a codice fiscale, which is like a social security number or tax identification number. It is requested constantly for identification purposes, so the sooner you get one, the better. You can get yours issued relatively easily at the Agenzia delle Entrate. Bring your passport (and a copy just in case) and you’ll walk out with it that day. You need it for your permesso application, so you should get your codice fiscale first.
Step two: Get your Kit
When you’ve gotten your codice fiscale, you’ll be ready to go to a post office and pick up your permesso application, which is called a “kit”. It consists of an envelope that contains two application forms, as well as the directions for filling them out. You’ll have to fill in your name and address, as well as your reason for being in Italy, and some other details. If there is someone at your workplace or school who can look over your application, I highly recommend asking them to do so. If something is filled out incorrectly, your already lengthy application process will become even lengthier.
Step three: Gather your documents and make copies of everything
Once you’ve completed your kit, you’ll have to make sure you have all of the relevant documents in order, which you’ll have to submit with your application. These documents vary depending on the type of visa you have. You can find the list of visa types and the required associated documents here: https://www.portaleimmigrazione.it/immigrazionenet/nuova_procedura.aspx. The English page is under construction (shocker), but you’ll get the gist of what you need if you copy and paste into Google translate.
Step four: Get your identity card-sized photos
Regardless of your visa type, you’ll need four identity card-sized photos of yourself, which you can usually get in photo booths around most cities. Check the metro/train stations and supermarkets as they often have them. Make sure you get the “documento d’identità” format, rather than passport ones. I just recently found out that they’re a different size!
Step five: Get a marca da bollo
You’ll also need a marca da bollo, the sticker I mentioned above, which is often requested for official documents. I honestly have no idea what it is or what purpose it serves, but you need one. For the application for your permesso di soggiorno, they cost about 16 euros and you can purchase them in a tabaccheria (a place to buy cigarettes, stamps, and other miscellany, as well as make photocopies or send faxes [sometimes] and marche da bollo).
Step six: Submit the kit at the sportello amico at the post office
Once you’ve gotten your codice fiscale and other documents, your marca da bollo and your passport photos, you’ll go back to the post office, but not just any post office! It has to be one with a “sportello amico.” You can find out where they are located by doing a Google search and clicking on the post offices in your area. You’ll go in, take a ticket for the sportello amico, and wait until your number is called. The person there will look over your documents and process your payment.
Costs vary, again, depending on what type of visa you’re getting. My initial application for my work visa cost around 200 euro (including postage for the kit, which is about 30 euros) but my renewal application for my second year only cost about 70 euros. The price is different for students. Unfortunately, I was a student here a long time ago, and I don’t remember what the cost was! Again, your school will probably be able to help you.
Sometimes, the person at the sportello amico isn’t sure what you owe. Unfortunately, this will delay the process, because they won’t tell you the exact amount until you go to the questura for your appointment. The questura will calculate the amount due, which you’ll have to pay by, yes, going back to the post office. You then have to bring the receipt back to the questura as proof of payment.
Step seven: Get your appointment paper and receipt and cling to them for dear life
You’ll be issued a piece of paper which says your appointment time on it, along with the receipts that proved you’ve paid for your application. The appointment paper has a list of the documents you’ll need to submit with your application, and the receipt has a tracking number so that you can check the status of your permesso di soggiorno online.
These papers are really important to hang onto, so make sure you put them in a safe place! You might want to make a copy to carry around with you as well. They actually are considered to be your permesso until you get your actual card, so if anyone were to ever ask to see your documents in Italy, producing a copy of your receipt would count as proof of identity and proof that you’re in the country legally.
Step eight: Go to the questura on the day of your appointment
When your appointment day comes, you should get to the questura as early as possible. Bring copies of your appointment and receipt paper, along with the originals, as well as copies of all of the documents you submitted with your application. Like I said above, you’ll need some additional documents too. These vary depending on what type of visa you have, including the sub-classes of work visas. When I go I bring copies of everything I think I could possibly need.
Here’s the list of what I bring:
– Work contract
– Housing information (I have a dichiarazione di ospitalità, but a lease or housing contract are also acceptable)
– Passport and visa
– Insurance policy
– Enrollment in INPS, for tax purposes (this is where your tax money will go if you’re working here)
– Recent pay stubs (for renewal of permesso di soggiorno. If it’s your first one, I’d bring a bank statement in case you have to prove that you can support yourself for a bit)
– Proof of insurance
I brought these documents for my initial application, and I brought them to my renewal appointment too. If you’re renewing your permesso, you’ll also need to show your tax return from the previous year if you have a work visa.
Note for student visa holders:
If you’re in a student visa, you’ll have to bring proof of enrollment in your school, as well as proof that you have finances to support yourself for the duration of your study. The daily amount needed should be available on the website of the Italian consulate in your jurisdiction. You’ll need to show that you have health insurance as well. Your school or university should be able to provide guidance on this.
At the appointment itself, an agent will look over everything to make sure it’s in order. You’ll also have to get fingerprinted.
Step nine: Wait for your text message (that may never come)
In some cities, you will receive a text message telling you when to pick your permesso up, and you can also track it online. In Rome, they instruct you to check their online tracking system 40 days after your appointment – no text message is sent.
After my initial application, I never received the text message. I went back to the questura after about six months to find out what was going on, and they told me to come back in a month. I had applied in November, had my appointment in December, went in June to find out what was up, and got my permesso di soggiorno officially in July (and had to renew it in October).
Like I said before, if you have any questions let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to see if I can help.
In bocca al lupo!
My most recent permesso di soggiorno story
I recently had to renew my permesso. To do this, or to get it issued in the first place, you must go to the immigration office at your local questura, or police station. I’m going to recount the story while it’s fresh in my mind, then give you some tips about how to get a permesso di soggiorno.
Let me start by saying that Italy does everything on paper. When I applied for my job at the university of Bologna, I had three options: deliver my application in person (impossible, as I was in the US), send it by registered email address, known as a “pec,” which I have no idea how to obtain, or…fax. Fax it was.
When I decided to get my MA in Australia, I did everything online. My visa application took minutes. I made my payment (also online), and got my visa about 24 hours later. When I got to the airport in Sydney I pulled out a stack of documents I had brought with me, just in case, and the woman scanned my passport and said “Welcome to Australia!” with a twinkle in her eye and a big, sunny grin. I had to call immigration once to ask a question about working limits, and I was promptly connected to a human being who answered my question cheerfully and without hesitation. When I moved to Australia a second time, my visa was granted (online) 8 hours after I clicked “submit.” Easy.
When I moved to Senegal I had to get a visa too, and I also applied for that online. When I arrived at the airport in Dakar, I went into a small office and stumbled my way through a French conversation, and came out with a printed visa stuck into my passport which had my photo on it and everything. When the time came to renew it, I did another online application, and I got my long-term visa within a few weeks. Easy.
When I moved to Italy, I had to supply approximately 990,759 documents, including my Kindergarten report card, a map of my genome, and my mom’s meatball recipe. Each official document has to be stamped, usually in different offices, which are open from 8:20am to 9:34am on Tuesdays and every third Thursday of the month (unless it’s a public holiday). The offices then close for lunch from 9:35 until 4:13, and open again until 4:42. When the stamp is issued, you must also affix a marca da bollo to the document, which is a sticker that is some sort of tax. They range in price from 3 euros to 16 euros, and I have absolutely no idea what they are/do, but Italians really like ‘em.
It is a great fantasy of mine to purchase my own comedy stamp (perhaps one that says “TOP SECRET”) and to defiantly look whatever bureaucrat I’m dealing with in the eye and smash my stamp down next to their stamp, while insisting that the document isn’t legitimate unless it’s counter-stamped by the person submitting the document. This is (probably) not something I will ever do, mostly because I super don’t want to have to get whatever document I’m dealing with issued a second time.
Anyway, I digress. My permesso di soggiorno renewal fell on a work day this year, which means I missed my appuntamento. I made one trip to the questura to ask what to do in this case, because there is no information about this on their website (which is basically one giant 404:error:notfound:goodlucksucker/under construction), and I don’t even think they have phones. If they do, they definitely don’t answer them. I got there early, about 10 minutes before the office opens, along with every other poor schmuck in Padova who had to submit themselves to the soul-crushing reality of spending their day in a dark, dank waiting room. People pushed in, only to be stopped by an agent at the door who told us to stop acting “like animals.” Charming. He used his arm as a barrier to prevent us entering all together and from crowding around the desk where the dreaded tickets are issued. Double charming.
Tickets are a part of everyday life here. Growing up in America, the only place I ever took a ticket was at the deli in the supermarket. Italians get tickets at the bank, the post office, every bureaucratic office (social security, immigration, residency, etc.), the hospital, and yes, at the deli at the supermarket. Usually, the type of ticket you get depends on what you need to do, and they are color or number coded ostensibly for efficiency, but, spoiler alert: nothing here is very efficient.
Anyway, I waited my turn with the other animals and watched as one of the agents issuing said tickets screamed at a poor lady who did not speak Italian and had no idea what was going on.
“YOU CAN’T GO IN THAT DOOR!” he yelled. “AO! I SAID YOU CAN’T GO IN THAT DOOR! YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR YOUR NUMBER TO BE CALLED! SIGNORA, SIT DOWN, YOU’RE REALLY PISSING ME OFF NOW!”
Luckily, someone intervened before he punched her in the face.
Finally, my turn came, and I walked briskly to the desk, fighting my urge to run and get there first while yelling “suckers!” to everyone I left in my dust. I avoid doing this, because I hate being cut in line, and I try to abide by a strict “do unto others” policy.
In America, waiting in line is sacred. This is ingrained in us in school, where cutting is a valid reason for disinviting someone to your birthday party. If someone cuts you, even as an adult, it is taken as a personal affront. Everyone in the line is outraged, either because they were cut too, or because you were cut and they are outraged for you. People speak up. I think it is probably the only acceptable time to use the phrase “HOW DARE YOU.” This is a fascinating truth I’ve observed in my travels, but some cultures are liner-uppers, and others are I-will-cut-you-without-remorsers, at the airport, at the supermarket, and at the motherf*cking questura.
I waited my turn at the desk, silently praying that the screaming guy would not be who I had to deal with. Of course, he waved away the person in front of me and issued a flat but commanding “PREGO” in my direction. I approached with shaking hands and pulled my papers from my document holder (I have about nine of them that are full to bursting because I now hoard every document I’ve ever touched just in case someone needs it). I said hello, used the Lei form to show respect and explained my situation.
“No problem,” he said, with what might have been an attempt at a smile, but came off as someone who is very thirsty and can’t unstick their lips from their teeth. His smiling muscles are probably broken from working at the questura for so long. He told me to come the following day and get a senza appuntamento ticket, which loosely translates to, a “kiss your entire day goodbye and get ready for your ass to go numb from sitting on our unforgiving metal chairs” ticket. “There are only twenty,” he said. “Come early.” I thanked him and skedaddled out and then treated myself to breakfast out with my sweetheart because spending less than an hour at the questura is cause for celebration.
Senza appuntamento day was December 13th. I got up at 7, made myself a tea to go, got dressed, and put my game face on (which is my normal face without makeup). I was approaching the questura by 7:45, and as I rounded the corner I realized that there were already about 50 people waiting in line ahead of me. I lined up in the cold with them, swearing under my breath at two people who cut the line ahead of me. My ears perked up and I noticed a North American accent coming from one of them. MONSTER! Clearly, she has been in Italy for a really long time if she’s completely forgotten her roots and is slithering around cutting strangers in line. “Traitor,” I grumbled to myself as I prepared to be insulted by the gatekeeper (he called us ‘cows’ this time, just to spice things up).
I waited at the arm barrier as patiently as I could, while a girl behind me called up to a friend of hers that she saw at the head of the pack. I felt her press against me, but luckily the guy next to me and I seemed to telepathically communicate that there was no way that this chick was cutting us, so we silently moved closer together to block her from pushing past. Not today.
I got to the ticket desk at 8, and I got ticket number 218. Out of 220. Which meant there were 17 people ahead of me who had mystery problems. I hunkered down on the steps (all the chairs were taken) and corrected papers, glancing up at the number board every time it beeped, as if somehow they would fly through numbers 201 – 217 and I wouldn’t lose my entire day.
I do quite enjoy people watching at the questura, because it’s an interesting mix of characters, including exhausted, lifeless bureaucrats, students, migrants, refugees, foreign workers, and Italians renewing passports and whatnot. If you can get past the smell (a cross between roadkill and hot dog water) you’ll notice that there’s an unpredictability about the place, as if anything could happen. It’s kind of like riding a really old, rickety roller coaster – mostly scary but a tiny bit amusing. There are also usually cute babies there and I like making faces at them.
Two young guys sat down next to me, laughing and joking around. I moved a bit to make room for them, and one of them switched his position to take up the room I had vacated. A puff of BO-laden air escaped his coat as he moved, and it somehow blasted directly into my face. I shook it off, wondering how someone could have such serious body odor in a winter coat when it’s 4 degrees outside, only to be hit again, this time, by the unmistakable odor of feet. The two scents mingled, fought for dominance, and wavered in and out, getting stronger with each movement he made. I stayed put, breathing into my scarf, because, as I said before, there were no other seats.
I sat next to him for nearly three hours.
At about 12:30, they were up to number 206. TWO OH SIX. AFTER FOUR AND A HALF HOURS. I was desperate to pee and also desperate to know if they were going to call my number at any point in the next millennium, so I stood up, went to the bathroom where I surely contracted some kind of disease, and then went to talk to the pinhead at the desk. He assured me that yes, all numbers would be called before quitting time, which apparently varies depending on what number they’re up to by 1 o’clock.
I stood for a while, made a baby friend, and walked around the office a little bit. The clock ticked on. 12:45. 1:00. 1:15. 207. 208. 209! They were flying! Somebody wanted to get to lunch! Finally, I heard the beep and saw the 218. I flew up the steps and into the office. A guy yelled out to me, “218?” “YES!” I screamed, feeling like I had won the lottery. “I’M 218! I AM HERE! I AM HERE! I AM HEEEEERRREEEEE!”
“Wait outside,” he replied.
I took a deep breath and waited for about five more minutes, until he came out into the hallway and asked to see my documents. There were no available desks, so he made me spread everything out on top of a filing cabinet in the hallway. I would have done cartwheels and a tap dance had he asked me to at that point.
“Where’s your work contract?” he barked. “Here!” I said.
“Where’s your tax return?” he barked. “Here!” I said.
“Where are your passport photos?” he barked. “Here!” I said.
“Where’s your housing contract?” he barked. “I don’t have one. I have a dichiarazione di ospitalità.” (This is a form that a family member/partner/someone else can fill out that says you live with them).
“This way!” he barked. I followed him into an office. He slapped the documents down on a woman’s desk and careened out of the room, hollering out a number as he left. The woman smiled at me and started asking me for my finger prints, my old permesso di soggiorno, my passport, my tax forms, my work contract, my dichiarazione di ospitalità. She paused when I gave it to her. “No.” she said. “No.”
“No?” I whispered. “No what?”
“This is expired.” she said. “It has to be renewed every year.”
I squeezed my eyes together hard, willing myself not to fly into a rage and swipe everything off her desk and then stomp on it in a pile like a goblin. All of a sudden, another agent came flying in. “EVERYBODY OUT!” she called. “Get up! FIRE DRILL!”
I stared at her in disbelief. I finally get to the desk, after nearly six hours of waiting, and there’s a fire drill.
The gatekeeper came in. “EVERYONE HAS TO GO OUTSIDE!” he screamed. “EVEN THE FOREIGNERS.”
Even the foreigners cannot be left for dead in the imaginary fire.
The first agent who swept in realized I wasn’t moving and spoke very slowly to me. “DO YOU SPEAK ITALIAN?” she said. “Sì.” I replied. “OK THEN MOVE!”
I grabbed my documents, terrified that I would lose something or that the imaginary fire would actually be real and all of my stamps and stickers would go up in flames.
We went outside into a courtyard in the back of the building, where, come to think of it, there was no exit. I noticed that lots of people were moving slowly, and some of the agents had just started yelling “FIRE! FIRE!” rather than “FIRE DRILL! FIRE DRILL!” Surely the “drill” part was a key bit of information? Apparently not.
We stood in the cold for a few minutes, until one of the women declared the fire drill over. “THE FIRE HAS BEEN EXTINGUISHED!” she yelled. One of the other agents started to applaud. “BRAVO TO THE FIREMEN! BRAVO TO THE BRAVE FIREMEN WHO PUT OUT THE FIRE!”
Luckily, at this point, I was amused, and nearly joined in with the real applause for the fake firemen who were not there to put out the pretend fire, but then the gatekeeper started yelling at all of us to go back inside.
I swooped in and made a beeline for the lady I had been speaking to when the “fire” broke out. She told me in solemn tones that I had to come back with a new copy of my dichiarazione di ospitalià because, you guessed it, it has to be stamped for renewal. After that, she would process my application for my permesso di soggiorno. “Don’t take a ticket,” she said. “You come in on Friday morning, and ask directly for Gianna, and I’ll help you right away.”
I thanked her profusely and wandered down the corridor, feeling a burst of affection for her for being so kind after such a long and trying day.
I then realized that the affection I was feeling probably qualifies as Stockholm Syndrome, but at least I made it out alive.