How Long Can You Stay in Italy If You’re Not Italian?

If you are not an Italian citizen, you may wonder how long you are allowed to stay in the country and when a visa is required. We've got you covered.

Group of young people in Rome for the how long can you stay in Italy article
Pincio, Rome. Photo: Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash.

It is a dream for many to travel to Italy and live “la dolce vita”. However, if you are not an Italian citizen, you may wonder how long you are allowed to stay in the country and when a visa is required. This article will clarify how long non-Italian citizens can legally stay in the country and the difference between a tourist visa and a residence permit.

Visa vs Permit of Stay

First, it’s important to clarify the difference between a visa and a permit of stay, or permesso di soggiorno. The visa can also be thought of as an entry document, allowing you to enter the country, and it is issued by an Italian consulate abroad. On the other hand, a permit of stay is a document allowing you to legally reside in the country for a set period of time and needs to be renewed in order to extend your stay in the country.

Visas can be issued for a variety of purposes, for example, student, work, or religious reasons. Because it is used for entry, you would need to apply for one while outside of Italy, at an Italian consulate abroad. However, once in Italy, a visa can be converted into a permit of stay, such as a study permit, permesso di soggiorno per motivi di studio. After a period of established residence, generally five years, it can be converted into a permanent residency card, carta di soggiorno. Additionally, it’s important to note that if your permit of stay expires and you leave Italy without renewing it, you will need to apply for a new visa in order to reenter the country.

Tourist Visa

Often called a tourist visa, the 90-day Schengen Visa or Type C Visa is required for citizens of certain non-EU countries that are entering the Schengen area, of which Italy is a member country. The Schengen Area is comprised of 29 European countries that have a shared visa policy and removed border controls for international travel purposes, allowing freedom of movement throughout the member countries. The Schengen visa is issued for short stays of a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period. There are visa-exempt countries, such as the United States, whose citizens are not required to obtain a Schengen visa to enter Italy. However, they are still required to adhere to the 90-day stay restriction. Additionally, during this 90-day period, you are permitted to travel to any of the Schengen member countries, known as the Schengen Zone or Schengen Area. The Schengen visa calculates your entry using a 90/180 rule, which is calculated backward from the date of entry into the Schengen Area. Once you enter the Schengen Zone, you can stay for up to 90 days within a rolling 180-day period, meaning the 180-day period is always counted back from the entry or exit date in the Schengen Zone.

Citizens of EU countries, however, enjoy freedom of movement throughout the EU member countries, permitting them to work, study, and live visa-free in Italy. EU citizens residing in Italy for more than 90 days may be required to register their local residence with the anagrafe office in the municipality where they live.

It’s also important to note that owning a property in Italy does not automatically permit you to reside permanently in the country or longer than the 90 days allowed with the tourist visa or Schengen visa. Also, property ownership is not the same as established legal residency. However, owning a property may ease the ability to obtain some types of visas that require you to show proof of a residence in Italy when applying.

Long Stay Visas and Permits of Stay

While the 90-day tourist visa falls under the category of short-stay visas, there are also visas for stays longer than 90 days, called Type D visas. Types of long-stay visas for Italy include the Elective Residence Visa, Investor Visa, Digital Nomad Visa, and Family Reunification Visa. These visas also need to be applied for at an Italian consulate abroad. It’s important to remember, though, that this visa would allow entry to the country and then you would need to apply for a permit of stay for the specific purpose designated on your visa, generally within 8 days of arriving in Italy. This permit would allow you to remain in the country for the duration set by the visa’s validity, after which time you would need to apply for a renewal of the permit.

The Elective Residence Visa is intended for those with a high self-sustaining income who can support themselves without engaging in gainful employment. The validity of the Elective Residence Visa is one year and can be renewed if the conditions of the visa continue to be met. The Investor Visa, also known as the Golden Visa, is available for those who choose to contribute a significant investment to the Italian economy. Successful applicants are granted a visa that is valid for 2 years, which can subsequently be renewed for 3 years. Additionally, the Italian government has recently approved a Digital Nomad Visa. This is granted to highly-skilled remote workers who meet a set of requirements and successful applicants receive a one-year visa, renewable given all conditions continue to be met.

Applications for the permit of stay, or permesso di soggiorno, are submitted at the local post office, where you will then receive a receipt with an upcoming appointment date at the local police headquarters, or questura, to summit further documentation and finalize the application process. Alternatively, the permanent resident card, or carta di soggiorno, can be applied for directly at the questura.

A carta di soggiorno can be issued for an extended period of residency and also for those married to Italian citizens. If you’re applying based on residency, it is required to have been a legal resident in Italy for at least five years and registered at your local anagrafe office, evidenced by a valid rental agreement or housing contract. The application through marriage requires that the Italian spouse is a registered resident in Italy and the non-Italian spouse is living in Italy as well, shown through documentation that the couple is cohabitating, such as a rental contract or property deed.

Residence Permit for Citizenship Application

If you are applying for Italian citizenship by descent in an Italian municipality and remain longer than 90 days while the application is being processed, you can apply for a permesso di soggiorno in attessa di cittadinanza. Applications for this permit of stay require you to submit a copy of your declaration of presence, which proves your legal residence in the municipality, as well as a receipt from the comune confirming that you have applied for Italian citizenship and are waiting for it to be processed. The residence permit will be valid until Italian citizenship is granted.


In summary, non-EU citizens are allowed stays of up to 90 days in Italy. Citizens of non-Schengen countries are required to apply for a tourist visa before arrival, unless from a visa-exempt country such as the United States. For stays longer than 90 days, a residence permit is required, of which there are various types such as for study, work, family reunification, or elective residence.

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