What follows are details of what you need to do to obtain a permesso di soggiorno, or permit to stay in Italy. However, you will not necessarily be asked for all of the documents listed, and you may be asked for something else entirely. To be on the safe side it’s a good idea to have photocopies of every document that could possibly be required.

All foreigners in Italy fall into one of two categories: EU or non-EU citizen. EU citizens need a permesso only if they are staying for more than three months. Non-EU citizens need one even if they are here for less than three months, and they are required to register with the ufficio stranieri (foreigners’ office) of their nearest central police station (questura) within eight working days of arriving in Italy.

Anyone providing non-EU citizens with accommodation, be it private or public, must go to their nearest commissariato (police station) to register them within 48 hours of their arrival. Otherwise they could be fined. Non-EU citizens should take this declaration along when applying for their permesso.

RESIDENTS

A resident is anyone wanting to stay in Italy for more than three months to work, to enrol at a school or university, or simply to live here. You will need a permesso whether you are an EU citizen or not.

If you are an EU citizen you will need to present:

• A valid passport or ID card and photocopy

• Four passport photos

• Proof of health insurance

Depending on your status during your stay in Italy you may also be asked to provide the following:

• If you are an EMPLOYEE, you may need a declaration of employment from your employer

• If you are SELF-EMPLOYED, you may need your VAT number (or IVA registration number), and registration on the trade register or evidence of membership of a professional or trade body

• If you are a JOB-SEEKER, you will be asked to declare that you have sufficient means to support yourself while in Italy

• If you are a STUDENT, you may need proof of enrolment at your school or university, including the duration of the course

If you are a non-EU citizen you will need to obtain an entrance visa for study or work before coming to Italy. This means you must secure a job or a place at a school or university before arriving, plus all the necessary documentation. This is likely to take some time. Once in Italy you must register yourself at a police station within eight days of arriving. If you are here for work or study reasons you will need the same documents as an EU citizen, along with the work or study visa and a marca da bollo or duty stamp, costing €10.33.

SHORT-STAY VISITORS

A short-stay visitor is anyone in Italy for less than three months, for pleasure, study or business purposes. EU-citizens do not need a permesso di soggiorno, but if you are a non-EU citizen, it is obligatory and you need to present:

• Your passport and a photocopy of it

• Four passport photos

• Proof of health insurance

• A €10.33 duty stamp

• If you are a tourist, you need proof that you have sufficient funds for your stay and the means to return to your home country (your return ticket will usually suffice)

• If on business, you need a declaration from your company giving the duration and purpose of your stay

• If studying, you need a signed and stamped document relating to your course

This permesso is valid for up to three months and can’t be renewed.

Where to go

In Rome, if you need your permesso urgently go to the ufficio stranieri at the central questura on Via Genova, just off Via Nazionale. This also applies to any non-EU citizen applying for a permesso for up to three months.

If you need a permesso as a resident, you can go to your nearest commissariato. It may take three or four months to process your application.

How to apply

If you apply at the central questura, the key is to get there early; this means not later than 07.00. You will be given a number and allowed into the general confusion of the courtyard. Here you can fill in your application form (modulo) while waiting for your number to come up on the display. When your turn arrives make sure you give the staff your application, passport photos, a photocopy of your passport and proof of your health insurance, and a duty stamp (bollo) if you’re a non-EU citizen. You will then be given an appointment, probably a week later, and told to return.

Collecting your permesso

Make sure you arrive by your assigned time, as this is when they start calling out names. If your name isn’t among the lucky few, you will have to go to the office next door for another appointment.

When you are given your permesso – little more than a flimsy piece of paper with your passport photo stamped and stapled to it – make sure you don’t lose it, as obtaining another one could be even harder than getting it in the first place. Have plenty of photocopies of it on file. When leaving Italy for the last time, you should hand over your permesso at the border or at passport control, or you could have problems if you ever need to apply for another one.

A new edition of Survival Books’ “Living and Working in Italy” provides even more detailed information on how to get a permesso di soggiorno, among other things. The book tackles the main issues facing anyone moving to Italy, such as finding a job, filing tax returns, understanding Italians’ passion for sports and figuring out shopping hours.

As with any publication that tries to provide exhaustive information about Italy, old-timers will undoubtedly disagree with some of the statements. But on the whole the book provides a balanced view and accurate information in a chatty, accessible style.

“Living and Working in Italy” is edited by Graeme Chesters, with illustrations by Jim Watson. 470 pages, 14.95 + 2 postage and packing. Survival Books is offering readers of Wanted in Rome a 2 discount. Send orders to Survival Books, PO Box 146, Wetherby, West Yorks, LS23 6XZ, tel. / fax 0044 (0)1937 843523, e-mail: readeroffer@survivalbooks.net.