What to do once you move to Italy – surviving bureaucracy

move to Italy

So you’ve gotten your Italian visa and you’re all set to move to Italy. Congratulations! I know that wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but now you need to think about the next steps.

Once you move to Italy, you will need to apply for a stay permit, ID card, tax number and health card.

I’ve put together a little guide to tell you the steps you need to take in order to get settled in Italy as a new resident.

Overview of what to do when you move to Italy

There are 4 documents you need to apply for when you move to Italy arrive as a new resident.

  • Permesso di soggiorno (PdS)
  • Residency at the comune to receive your carta d’identità
  • Codice Fiscale
  • Tessera Sanitaria
move to Italy

A word of warning. Italy is a very bureaucratic country and while these steps are roughly in the order for you to proceed, it will take some time to get through everything. For example, it will take a few months before your PdS is ready and until it’s ready you can’t register your home address and get a carta d’identità. And without registering your home address, you can’t apply for the national health insurance.

I will give you a general overview of what you need to do and will share with you my experience, but the procedures may vary from comune to comune and region to region based on who you’re dealing with. Often times, you may get someone who is having a bad day and doesn’t want to do much to help you and will tell you to come back another day and talk to someone else. Other times, you may get someone who is really easy going and does everything for you on the spot. My advice is to approach each task with the expectation that it will take a few tries before it gets done. That way, if things do go well, you’ll be so surprised that you’ll want to stop at the bar on your way home for a celebratory aperitivo.

Step 1: Go to the Questura in your region and apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno (PdS)

(If you are an EU citizen or a new dual Italian-American citizen (a big congrats) skip to step 2)

Within 8 days of arriving in Italy, you need to apply for the Permesso di Soggiorno (PdS) which is your permit to stay. The visa that you received through the consulate in your home country is only used as an entry visa into Italy. You will need to apply for the PdS which is your legal residency permit. The type of PdS that you apply for is based on the type of visa that you have – work, student, family reasons, elective residency, adoption, self-employment, etc.

You will need to apply for the PdS through the post office (unless you’re applying for a PdS as a spouse of an Italian citizen, some questure may let you show up without an appointment. See below in my experience). Ask for a kit at the counter and take it home and complete it there. Each kit will have multiple application forms (called moduli) and you will need to fill out the correct one that pertains to your PdS. Once you have filled out your form, bring it, the requested documents and payment to the post office. They will process your application and either 1) give you a receipt in which you will be contacted via post/text/email for your appointment with the questura or 2) they will give you an appointment on the spot.

Once you go for your appointment at the questura, they may give you a temporary paper PdS (a PdS in cartacea) or just tell you to wait until it’s ready.

My experiences:

My move to Italy was a long and drawn out process that you can read about here. Basically, I moved to Italy twice.

2009 – I applied for a PdS for elective residency (usually given to those who want to retire in Italy, but I was still studying and wanted to do a 6 month internship in Rome, so the consulate told me to apply for an elective residency visa and PdS) at a Roman post office and I waited 6 months before I received a text with my appointment. I went for my appointment and they told me I would receive a text when it was later. I picked it up a month later.

2010- I renewed my PdS in a post office in Napoli. They gave me an appointment at the Questura in Napoli 2 weeks later. I went to the appointment and they said I would receive a text when it would be ready for pick up. Soon after that time, I got a job and moved to London. (I never received a text that it was ready, but it didn’t matter because I was living and working in London by that time.)

2017 – I moved back to Italy with my Italian husband and applied for a PdS as a spouse of an Italian citizen. You can read all about it here and here. For this one, I didn’t apply through the post office, but I showed up to the Questura di Venezia without an appointment and they processed my PdS and gave me a temporary paper version PdS (a PdS in cartacea) until the official one was ready (6 months later). I had to keep going back every three months to renew the temporary PdS until the official one was ready. But in the meantime I was able to proceed to steps 2,3, and 4 with the paper version of the PdS.  

Step 2: Go to the comune, apply for residency and get a carta d’identità (ID card)

Every person living in Italy must have a registered home address. To register your address, you must go to the comune where you live and apply. You will need to show your PdS and rental contract or deed to home. They will then send an officer (called a vigile) to your home to check your address.

move to Italy

NOTE: When you are looking for a place to rent, make sure to tell the estate agent or landlord from the very beginning that you will need an official rental contract to apply for residency. Some landlords do not want to give a rental contract for various reasons (tax reasons, they have their own residency tied to that specific address, etc). If that is the case, then you will need to find another place to live.

If you live in a small town, it could only take a few days for the officer to come to your house. The comune could also tell you when they will come. However, if you live in a large city like Rome, it may take months for them to come and check your address. Once the officer checks your address to confirm your residency, you can go back to the comune and get your carta d’identità. You may have to make an appointment and they will tell you what to bring (photographs and a marca da bollo that you buy in the tobacco shop).

STEP 3: Go to your local Agenzia dell’entrata and get your codice fiscale

The codice fiscale is your tax number, similar to the social security number in the US or the national insurance number in the UK. You can go to the nearest agenzia dell’entrata and apply there.

NOTE: Italy taxes all its residents on their world-wide income regardless of whether you’re working in Italy or not. You are considered a fiscal (tax) resident if you reside more than 183 days a year. I would highly recommend talking to an Italian tax professional for advice if you plan to live in Italy full-time and have assets or income coming from abroad (pension payments, rental income, other investments, etc).

 Step 4: Register for the national health care system and receive your tessera sanitaria (optional)

If you are in Italy for work, family reasons, adoption or are pregnant, you are entitled to register for the national health care system (called SSN – Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) without having to pay. If you are a student or have elective residency, you can register and pay a yearly sum.

To register, you will need to go to your local ASL (azienda sanitaria locale) health office. They will tell you what documents you need and how much you will have to pay.

NOTE: Some expats/immigrants have private health insurance and choose not to sign up for the national health care while others do both. It is a requirement for some visas/PdS to have private health insurance.

 So that’s it! With the completion of these four steps, you will have all the documents you need that will show that you are a resident in Italy.



Residency and the Carta d’identita

Tessera Sanitaria

Codice Fiscale

This entire process is not easy and Italian bureaucracy can be quite painful. There will probably be moments where you’ll cry, you’ll probably think Italy is out to get you, and you may even question your decision to move to Italy, but it’s okay, this is all part of the process. It’s all part of being here. Consider the paperwork and bureaucracy is all part of the induction into Italy and Italian culture. I still lay out from time to time all my cards and documents, including my Italian driver’s license, and just look at them in wonder and can’t believe that I was able to accomplish all of it.

Once you get through it all, you’ll feel pretty amazed with yourself and you should! Go out with your friends and get yourself five thousand spritz because you deserve it.

A Spritz in Venice

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  1. Ciao Giovanna,
    Sempre molto interessanti i tuoi articoli. Io capisco un po’ l’inglese, anche se la mia lingua di lavoro è il tedesco. E mi pare che tu qui sia stata molto precisa

    Posted 5.31.19 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Grazie Laura! Apprezzo molto il tuo commento. Cerco di condividere le mie esperienze della burocrazia italiana perchè l’informazione non è abbastanza chiara, soppratutto in rete. Poi voglio essere onesta ma senza buttare giù il lettore con le lagnanze sulla difficoltà delle cose italiane.

      Posted 6.1.19 Reply
  2. Hi you have a greate site It was very easy to post I enjoyed your site

    Posted 6.1.19 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Thank you, Alan!

      Posted 6.1.19 Reply
  3. nicole barbieri wrote:

    Ciao Giovanna. Sono Nicole e trovo il tuo blog molto interessante e utile. Sono veneta ma vivo con il mio ragazzo (inglese) in Inghilterra, dove ho completato i miei studi. Vogliamo entrambi spostarci e vivere in Italia nel vicino futuro. Come gia’ saprai non e’ facile per via della mancanza di lavoro e lenta burocrazia..ma il tuo blog mi ha trasmesso positivita’ e gia’ ci vedo in Italia in una casa con un giardino grande e sicuramente piena di gatti come la tua! Speriamo bene e finger crossed!


    Posted 6.3.20 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Ciao Nicole, grazie per il tuo commento e sono molto contenta che tu trova il blog utile. Anche mio marito è veneto. Non è facile vivere in Italia pero pian piano stiamo costruendo una vita qui. In bocca a lupo per il vostro rimpatrio! xx

      Posted 6.6.20 Reply
  4. Brandy wrote:

    I’ve been lucky enough to have my husband’s help getting through the process of moving to Italy. He was born and raised in Italy and I swear that made all the difference for me as an American getting my citizenship and moving my residency to Italy. I ADORE the information you have provided here and would like to suggest it to my readers as a great resource if that would be okay with you Giovanna!

    Posted 9.7.20 Reply
  5. Elena wrote:

    Amazing content, thanks for sharing! We have just completed step 1, but we already had the spritz:)
    One question: on the Carta di soggiorno there’s a note containing the Codice fiscale, do we still have to get the actual card?

    Posted 7.11.22 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Hi Elena, congratulations on completing step 1! The codice fiscale on my carta di soggiorno is not even close to my real CF. I had already received my CF by the time I got my CdS and when I asked them at the questura they told me to ignore the number on my CdS. I got my CF in the mail when I signed up for the tessera sanitaria. If you haven’t received it yet, you can just go to your local agenezia dell’entrate office and get it. Unlike everything else in Italy, it’s pretty straightforward and easy to get. Afterwards you can celebrate with another spritz.

      Posted 7.12.22 Reply