Acquiring a ‘golden visa’ to Italy: a complete guide

The Italian national economy is one of the largest economies in the world and Italian-based companies have easy access to huge EU markets and enjoy a great number of other benefits. It is not surprising for this reason to see immense interest towards Italy on the part of foreign investors and the interest is only growing. A 50% reduction of the price of the ‘golden visa’ to Italy has made a serious contribution to the growth.

Over the recent years, the Italian authorities have put a high priority on attracting foreign direct investments to the country, among other things. They have been implementing new stimulating legislative acts and simplifying the bureaucratic procedures for foreign investors wishing to do business in Italy.

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Without doubt, the Government of the country is going to continue to do its best to attract more wealthy individuals from abroad who would buy locally-made products and pay taxes to the national budget. The renovated ‘golden visa’ program is expected to yield fruit in the near future.

What benefits does the Italian ‘golden visa’ bring and how much does it cost?

A ‘golden visa’ to Italy is a two-year residence permit in the country, in effect. It is issued to qualified applicants from the countries lying outside the European Union. The foreign applicant shall have obtained the investment capital in a lawful way and he or she shall be prepared to contribute to the development of the Italian economy by bringing his/ her money and talent to the country.

What can you expect when investing into the Italian ‘golden visa’? What benefits can this move bring and what sort of lifestyle can you find in Italy? Below please find an incomplete list of advantages that you will gain when acquiring a ‘golden visa’ to Italy:

  • Beneficial taxation regime for new fiscal residents of Italy;
  • A safety net for you and your family in a highly reputable jurisdiction;
  • Numerous investment opportunities found in the country so well developed;
  • Access to the EU market that is one of the largest markets in the world;
  • Access to high quality medical services and education opportunities at comparatively low prices;
  • Easy travel across the Schengen zone: you can stay in any member country for 90 days within any 180-day period;
  • An unmatched cultural heritage;
  • An opportunity to become a full citizen of Italy (and thus, the EU) by naturalization after holding the legal residence permit for ten years.

Now let us find out how much an Italian ‘golden visa’ costs and what route you can take in order to acquire one. The following options are available to foreign investors:

  • An investment of 250,000 euros into a startup (was 500,000 euros);
  • An investment of 1,000,000 euros into a regular business company (a limited liability company);
  • A non-returnable donation of 1,000,000 euros to a charitable project or organization;
  • An investment of 2,000,000 euros into Government bonds.

As you can see, the minimum required investment amount used to be 500,000 euros but this was the case until the summer of 2020. Since that time, this investment option has become twice as affordable: now you can invest only 250,000 euros into a startup company to qualify for an Italian ‘golden visa’. (Please note that the price reduction does not apply to any other investment opportunity.) The reduced price of the Italian ‘golden visa’ puts it among the most affordable immigration options affordable in Western Europe.

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What should you do to acquire a ‘golden visa’ to Italy?

You have to realize that acquiring a legal residence permit in Italy does not happen instantly. The application process is rather time-consuming and it can be divided into three stages.

Stage 1: Acquiring an investor’s visa to Italy

Before you can apply for an investor’s visa to Italy, you have to obtain the Nulla Osta, which is a certificate confirming that you have ‘zero obstacles’ to coming to Italy. The Nulla Osta is issued by the Italian Investor Visa Committee (known as the IV4I Committee). Only when you have the Nulla Osta, can you apply for a two-year investor’s visa to the embassy or a consulate of Italy located in the country of your residence.

Application  Create a personal account at the official website of the IV4I Committee. Fill out the forms (supply your contact information, passport details, police clearance, confirmation of the legality of the sources of capital, your resume, and other required information). Indicate the chosen objects of investment. Complete the application by attaching an electronic signature to it and load it onto the IV4I Committee portal.
Preliminary application review  The Committee’s Administration Office can make one of the following three decisions when reviewing your application: Green Light – if the information that you have supplied is exhaustive and the Committee officials are satisfied with it, your application is submitted for appraisal. Additional Information Request — if the Committee requires more information from you, they will inform you about it within 30 days since the date of application. Substantiated Rejection – if the Committee has reasonable grounds for rejecting your application, they will state them.
Application assessment The Committee will take up to 30 days to assess your application. Again, three alternative decisions can be made: Application Approval – the Nulla Osta certificate will be issued and it will become downloadable from your personal page at the Committee’s portal. Additional Information Request — the Committee may request some additional information, proof, and/ or explanations. You will have a month to supply those. Substantiated Rejection – if the Committee deems your application for a visa unqualified.  
Visa issuance If the decision is positive, you will have 6 months to apply for an investor’s visa to Italy at the local consulate or embassy. You will have to supply your Nulla Osta certificate and all other documents required for obtaining the visa. You can enter Italy on the visa within the nearest two years.

Stage 2: Acquiring a legal residence permit for an investor in Italy

When you enter Italy on the investor’s visa, you will have 8 days to apply for a two-year residence permit in the country. You will have three months to make the intended investment or donation in order to retain the residence permit.

Application You have to apply for the residence permit to the local police department (Questura). Don’t forget to bring your passport and the investor’s visa. After that, log on to your personal page at the IV4I Committee website and enter the following data there: the date of your arrival to Italy, the date of your application for the permit, and the address of the Questura you applied to.
Proof of investment You have to upload the documents confirming that you have made the investment in the required amount to the IV4I Committee portal. Please consult an immigration agent for detailed information about the document types. Fill out the related forms and submit the final version of the application for Italian residence by investment to the IV4I Committee website by attaching an electronic signature to it.
Assessment The Committee will assess the proof of investment that you will have submitted. Three alternative decisions can be made: Application Approval – your residence permit (residence card) will be issued in the nearest future. Additional Information Request — you will have 30 days to supply additional information if it is requested. Please remember that you do not have more than three months to make the intended investment or donation. Substantiated Rejection — your application for Italian residence can be rejected.

Stage 3: Extension of the investor’s residence permit

If your investment project remains functional for 2 years (if your business company keeps going, for example), you will be entitled to request a three-year extension of your residence permit. Please mind that you have to file an application for the extension at least 60 days prior to the current permit expiry date. When filing the application, you will need a new Nulla Osta certificate that you will have to obtain from the IV4I Committee again.

Application Upload the document certifying the continuation of your investment project to the Committee’s website. Please consult an immigration agent for detailed information about the document types. Submit the final version of the application for the residence permit extension to the IV4I Committee portal by attaching an electronic signature to it.
Assessment The IV4I Committee will assess the application. Three possible decisions can be made, alternatively: Application Approval — the Nulla Osta will become downloadable from your personal page at the IV4I Committee portal. Additional Information Request — you will have 30 days to supply additional information if it is requested. The application assessment will be suspended until the information is received. Substantiated Rejection — your application for residence permit extension can be rejected. However, in this case you will remain eligible for filing an application for a new investor’s visa if you wish to do so.

If you keep your Italian investment project going for five years, you can then apply for a permanent residence permit. The procedures are going to be analogous to those described above.  

10 weighty reasons to invest in Italy and acquire legal residence there

The Italian Ministry of Economic Development gives ten compelling reasons why it makes good sense to invest into the Italian ‘golden visa’. The following incentives are given in their Guide for foreign investors:

  • Italy is one of the leading economies and one of the largest markets in the world: Italy is the third largest Eurozone economy and eighth largest economy in the world with the GDP of around 2.1 trillion US dollars (World Bank, 2018). The large population (over 60.3 million people, Eurostat, 2019) and the high consumer purchasing power (the GDP per capita is 34.4 thousand dollars in the country, World Bank, 2018) make Italy extremely attractive for launching a business venture there.
  • Italy is a strategically located logistic center connecting world markets: the country is a key gateway to the European market where around half a billion consumers live. It is also located not far away from Africa and the Middle East where another 270 million potential clients reside. At the same time, Italy is an ideal ‘bridge’ between Southern Europe and Central and Eastern European countries. The Italian transportation network is composed of seven thousand kilometers of highways and over a thousand kilometers of railways. Trains in the country run at the speed of 300 km/h. In addition, there are several strategic seaports in Italy used by thousands of cargo and passenger ships every year.  
  • Italy is a leading producer and exporter: For more than three decades, Italy was the second largest economy in Europe trailing only Germany. Today, the country is the seventh largest producer of goods in the world. A trade balance surplus is stably found in the country.
  • Competitive machinery manufacturing plants and a strong “Made in Italy” brand: Establishing presence in Italy means gaining access to various know-hows in machinery production, automation, fashion, design, food production, and so on. Companies operating from Italy can also count on an extensive network of partners and contractors in the small- and middle-size business sectors. Besides, they have access to large industrial clusters that produce high-quality goods.
  • Innovations, research and development: R&D and innovations are an integral part of the Italian production process. The country is famous for its achievements in sciences (in neuroscience, for instance), engineering (robotics technologies, for example), social sciences and humanities (hi-tech archeology), and so on. Italian researchers regularly publish groundbreaking articles in international journals that are frequently quoted by their fellow researchers from all around the globe. Italian scientists and scholars participate in multiple international research projects such as the CERN physics lab, for instance.
  • Highly qualified workforce: Italy boasts top-level higher education institutions. Twelve Italian universities are on the list of top 500 universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2019). Every year, over three hundred thousand people receive university degrees in Italy (Italian Ministry of Education). Nevertheless, the labor cost in the country (28.8 euros per hour, Eurostat) is lower than the average in Europe (31.4 euros per hour) let alone the cost of labor in France (36.6 euros per hour) or Germany (35.6 euros per hour).  
  • Unparalleled cultural heritage and the ‘artistic’ image of the country: Whichever Italian city you visit, you will find numerous cultural sites there as the Italian culture started to form more than 2.5 thousand years ago. The architecture, the paintings, the music, the fantastic Italian cuisine – all these factors provide for an unmatched lifestyle in the country. Italy ranks first for the number of UNESCO world heritage sites (55 or 4% of their total number) and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world visited by 60 million people annually (World Tourism Organization). The popularity of the country with foreign visitors promotes the goods made in Italy that are characterized by an exceptionally high quality.  
  • Effective policies and competitiveness stimulation: A system of tax incentives helps Italian-based companies increase their competitiveness. Tax cuts await those entrepreneurs who invest in R&D, personnel training, production means, and digitalization. Italy ranks high in the international ratings for investment attractiveness due to the well-developed digital economy in the country.
  • Reforms, business support, and economic growth: The country’s authorities are implementing a complex strategy of creating a more favorable business climate in Italy. They are simplifying the legislation and adapting it to the modern realities; they are reforming the education system and improving the system of justice in the country. The Government also supports hi-tech and innovation startups and modernizes the Labor Code. Over the recent years, tax agreements have become more flexible, new financial instruments have come into existence, and modern business centers for foreign investors have been constructed.

Italy is open for foreign investments: Multinational companies are an important part of the Italian economy of today. They create multiple jobs increasing both domestic turnover and export. According to the 2020 Kearney Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index, Italy ranks 9th for investment attractiveness leaving behind such countries as Singapore, Switzerland, and Spain (AT Kearney, 2020).

Italian ‘golden visa’ and a special tax regime for new fiscal residents of the country

A ‘golden visa’ to Italy provides for an opportunity to make use of a special tax regime for new fiscal residents of the country. In 2017, new legislative acts were passed that made Italy even more attractive for foreign investors.  

One of the legislative initiatives is of especial interest to those who are considering applying for an investor’s visa to Italy. It applies to those foreign investors who have large sources of income in countries other than Italy.

Article 2 of the Italian Tax Code (Testo Unico delle Imposte sui Redditi) provides for an opportunity to apply for a special tax incentive (it is optional, however). A new fiscal resident of Italy can avoid paying regular taxes on the incomes obtained abroad if he or she pays a flat sum of 100,000 euros per year.

The status of a tax resident of Italy that defines the personal taxation regime is obtained on standard conditions. A natural person is considered a tax resident of the country if he or she physically resides there for more than 183 days per year.

The flat sum of 100,000 euros is payable once a year before July 30. The payer’s family members can also make use of this scheme if an additional 25,000 euros is paid per each dependent family member.

The tax incentive for new fiscal residents of Italy is going to remain available for 15 years. The taxpayer is free to withdraw from the scheme at any time. The tax incentive will be foregone if the flat payment is not made in full before the specified date.

Other tax incentives related to the inheritance tax and asset transfer tax are also available in Italy. Every tax resident of the country is free to decide if he or she wants to use the special taxation regime or pay the taxes at the normal rates. The use of a beneficial tax regime does not bar the user from engaging in economic activities in Italy. The incomes derived from these activities will be taxed at usual rates.

Would you like to learn more about the Italian ‘golden visa’ opportunity? Please contact our experts to find out about the required application documents and most attractive investment options found in the country. Do not hesitate to write us an email (see the address at the top of the page) or use our live chat. We always reply promptly!

What is a ‘golden visa’ to Italy?

An Italian ‘golden visa’ is an opportunity to acquire a legal residence permit in the country in exchange for an investment. The visa holder gets access to attractive tax incentives, apart from all other benefits that Italy can offer. Recently, the ‘golden visa’ program has become even more attractive as the required investment amount has been reduced by half, as far as investing in a startup is concerned. It is only 250,000 euros at the moment.

How long does it take to acquire the right of abode in Italy in exchange for an investment?

Before you can apply for an investor’s visa to Italy, you have to go through the security check procedure. In particular, you have to obtain the Nulla Osta (zero obstacles) certificate from the Investor Visa Committee in Italy. The procedure is performed online and it takes about six month. When you have the certificate, you can apply for an investor’s visa to Italy to the Italian embassy or consulate in your home country. This application is processed within one month. The visa is valid for two years and it can be extended for three more years later. After you have resided in Italy for five consecutive years, you are eligible to apply for a permanent residence. After spending ten years in the country, you can become an Italian citizen by naturalization.

Who can help me acquire a ‘golden visa’ to Italy?

Offshore Pro Group will be happy to assist you in obtaining an Italian ‘golden visa’ and guide you through the application process. Our experienced legal advisers will help you choose the optimal tax regime when you start a business in Italy.

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