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Legal Residence in Italy: Requirements Relaxed

Italy administers a golden visa program that allows foreigners from non-EU countries to acquire legal residence in the country in exchange for investments. Three important amendments to the program have been introduced recently. First, the personal presence requirement has been lifted; second, the minimum required investment amount has been lowered; and third, you can now invest in the Italian golden visa via a commercial company. We must note at the very beginning that only law-abiding citizens of foreign countries can qualify for Italian golden visas.

The launch of the Italian golden visa program was announced in 2017 and it officially started in 2018. In its initial form, the program failed to meet the expectations of the country’s authorities. The main reason why the golden visa program was unpopular with foreign investors is the high asking price. The minimum required investment amount was set at half a million euros.

Italy Golden Visa - image

An expensive golden visa to Italy and relatively high risks

Four investment options were originally available to foreigners seeking Italian residence:

  • An investment of 500,000 € in a local ‘innovational startup’;
  • An investment of 1,000,000 € in an Italian limited liability company;
  • A donation of 1,000,000 € to charity;
  • An investment of 2,000,000 € in Italian state bonds.

Any potential investor who is familiar with the situation in the European investment immigration market will notice that the required investment amounts are (were) comparatively high in Italy. There are countries in Europe that also administer golden visa programs but they do not charge so much. A golden visa to Greece, for example, will cost you only 250,000 euros.

The Italian program has one more disadvantage. Of the four investment options, only the most expensive one – an investment in state bonds – is low-risk. Then again, low-risk does not mean no-risk with the view of the recent economic ups and downs. Shortly speaking, the low demand for Italian golden visas is attributable to high prices and high risks.

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A two-fold reduction of the price of the Italian golden visa

In the midst of the COVID pandemic in the spring of 2020, the Italian Government passed a «Decreto Rilancio» (Revitalization Decree) that introduced several amendments to the national legislation. These amendments were aimed at stimulating investments in the domestic economy and creation of new jobs. The Decree also contained amendments concerning the Italian golden visa program.  

The financial requirements were cut by half for the first two investment options listed above: to 250,000 euros and to 500,000 euros, correspondingly. Experts found these changes important but insufficient. The competing European golden visa programs look more attractive anyway. A legal residence permit in Portugal, for instance, will cost you from 280,000 euros, which is only a bit higher than the price of a golden visa to Greece.

Nevertheless, the Italian program has become more attractive than it used to be. We hope that a greater number of foreign investors are going to consider this legal residence opportunity from now on.

An Italian golden visa without personal presence in the country

Unfortunately, you cannot obtain a legal residence permit in Italy in exchange for an investment in real estate in the country. (You can do so in Portugal and Greece, for example.) Anyway, the recent changes that went into effect in November 2020 are capable of increasing the popularity of the Italian golden visa program.

The «Decreto Semplificazioni» (Simplification Decree) from December 2020 releases the golden visa holders from the obligation to be personally present in Italy in order to retain the legal resident’s status. Please note that this obligation is still in force as far as the holders of other types of residence permits are concerned.

Previously, the Italian golden visa holder had to spend the best part of the year on the territory of the country. Essentially, this requirement meant that the foreign investor had to relocate to Italy if he or she wanted to have the residence permit.

If the investor had a two-year residence permit, he or she could be away from Italy for less than 12 months during the permit validity period. Only in some exceptional cases, permission could be granted to disobey this requirement. This certainly did not add to the popularity of the Italian golden visa program.

Since recently, however, this requirement is not applicable to golden visa holders in Italy. According to the new regulations, the foreign investor is not obliged to be personally present in Italy at all to qualify for a legal residence permit. Making an investment in the required amount will suffice.

Italians call their golden visa La Dolce Visa (the Sweet Visa). Well, the withdrawal of the personal presence requirement will certainly make the visa somewhat sweeter.

A possibility to invest in the Italian golden visa via a company

Another important change to the Italian golden visa program concerns the list of entities entitled to apply for golden visas. From now on, foreign investors can put their money in Italian assets via their business companies.

A company director, for instance, can file an application for an Italian golden visa on behalf of the company. Experts believe that this amendment to the program can increase its popularity as foreign investors can now put the company money at risk instead of their personal money.

Two more competitive advantages of the Italian golden visa program

  • Invest after your application has been approved: Unlike with some other European countries, you have to make the investment only after your application for a legal residence permit has been approved by the Italian immigration authorities. This means that you do not have to run any unnecessary financial risks when investing in an Italian golden visa. In Greece or Portugal, for example, you have to purchase property first and then apply for a residence permit.
  • Use available tax incentives: A foreign investor obtaining an Italian golden visa is entitled to use the possibility to pay a fixed income tax on his/ her global income regardless of its size. The fixed tax is 100,000 euros per year, which is a good deal for high net worth individuals. This is Italy’s competitive advantage over Spain but not over Portugal. You can acquire non-habitual tax residence in Portugal and this status will bring you some fiscal benefits too. Tax incentives are also available to foreign investors in Greece.

An important disadvantage of the Italian golden visa program

In Greece or Portugal, you can buy a house at a certain price and this will already make you qualified for a legal residence permit (that is, if the price of the house is high enough). In Italy, the foreign investor has to put money into business or state bonds and in addition to that, demonstrate having a place to stay in the country.

What is more, the accommodations have to be spacious enough. For instance, if you are applying for an Italian golden visa with a family of four and you have a one-bedroom apartment in the country, the immigration authorities are going to turn your application down.

Free consultation for those applying for Italian golden visas

€ 250,000 –minimum required investment amount30 day – Italian golden visa acquisition timeframe2 years – initial residence permit term of validity

The Italian La Dolce Visa has not had a long history thus far but the national immigration program has already seen quite a number of changes for the better. The local authorities are prepared to optimize the program requirements to make it more attractive for foreign investors. Today, the Italian golden visa can be instrumental in solving the following tasks:  

  • Improve your mobility in Europe;
  • Build a ‘safety net’ in a well-developed country;  
  • Acquire new tax planning instruments.

Would you like to obtain an Italian golden visa within thirty days only? Fantastic, if you would! Residence by investment in an EU country will certainly help you improve your lifestyle and feel better inside.

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Please consult International Wealth experts before applying for an Italian golden visa. Our consultations on the matter are free of charge and we can be reached by email, a messenger or our live chat (please click on the Contact us icon at the top of the page).

Can I obtain citizenship of Italy by investment?

Italy administers only a residence-by-investment program. An investor visa (also referred to as a ‘golden visa’) will make your stay in Italy legal. If you legally reside in the country for several years, you may become eligible to apply for citizenship by naturalization.

How much does an Italian golden visa cost?

The price of an Italian golden visa starts at 250k €. More expensive routes to legal residence in Italy are also available.

How can I acquire a permanent residence permit in Italy?

An Italian golden visa is a temporary residence permit that is valid for one or two years. The permit can be extended, however. You have to spend five years in Italy on a golden visa before you can qualify for permanent residence in the country.

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