“Golden visas” and the Dolce Vita
After the “Brexit” proceedings have ended (hopefully not before 2018-2019), many UK citizens living or working in Italy may no longer meet the current visa requirements for non-EU citizens. Even though the European Union is likely to change the immigration requirements in this regard, it is interesting, in light of this new scenario, to analyze the current situation in Italy and to check whether the land of the “Dolce Vita” has a program for real estate investors – both for non-EU citizens at present and, if the case may be, also UK citizens in the near future.
In 2011-12, Ireland, Portugal and Spain each launched their own specific “Golden Visa” program, according to which an investor purchasing property of a certain amount (for Spain and Portugal, in the region of € 350,000 – 500,000) would automatically obtain a fully valid residence permit, generally for an initial period of one year and then renewable for subsequent periods of two years. This program was very successful in Portugal, where there is no requirement to reside and become tax resident, and the minimum stay is very short: seven days during the first year and fourteen days during each subsequent period of two years.
More than once, it seemed that Italy would have followed suit with its own program. Such project would indeed be much appreciated by the Italian public coffers if you consider that – as reported in the press – Portugal welcomed more than 2,000 applicants per year drawing an investment of 2 billion euro. This argument may of course convince the Government to follow this path. At any rate, Italy does not at present have any such program for real estate investors, but has instead focused, with varying degrees of success, on a special program to encourage the creation and development of innovative startups, in order to foster “sustainable growth, technological development and employment, especially for young people”, as well as to promote a new entrepreneurial culture.
The current Italian “residence scheme” is actually very different from the “Golden Visa” program: non-EU citizens need an entry visa in order to visit Italy. The applicant should go in person to their local diplomatic or consular office in order to be interviewed on the specific reasons and circumstances of the visit. The issuance of a Schengen visa generally takes 15 days, but may take up to 60 days in some specific cases: it is therefore advisable to apply three months before the planned departure date. Applications must be accompanied by a valid travel document, together with any supporting documents that may be required in order to give evidence of the purpose of the visit, means of transport and return, means of support during travel and sojourn, any accommodation arrangements, etc.
Unless you wish to elect domicile in Italy, as an investor you may apply for a business visa as a financial/commercial operator, i.e. a single/multiple-entry short-stay Schengen visa. This kind of visa entitles you to visit the Schengen countries for business up to 90 days within a 180 day period from the date of first entry (the stay may be either continuous or of several visits, depending on whether the visa is single or multiple entry: a single-entry visa allows uninterrupted stay, but once you leave the Schengen territory, you cannot enter again without obtaining a new visa; a multiple-entry visa allows multiple stays in the Schengen territory, as long as the total length of the stay does not exceed 90 days in a given 180 day period from the date of first entry).
Once you have purchased a property and you wish to return to Italy, you may either apply for a new short-term visa (either a business visa or, if you wish to come with your family, a tourist visa) or, alternatively, you may apply for a long-term national visa for elective residence. To obtain this, you must provide evidence of sufficient financial assets, regular income and documented evidence on: a) your accommodation in Italy; b) considerable financial resources to which you have permanent and perpetual access (retirement pay, investment paying a set yearly amount), real estate properties, permanent business activities or income from sources other than employment or dependent work. If the proof of income is adequate, a visa can also be requested by the applicant’s spouse, minor children, and also adult children (age 18) if they cannot earn a living. Of course, an application for permanent residence in Italy should be carefully evaluated in light of the possible fiscal consequences this may entail. We will examine this matter further in a future article. In any case, once elective residence is obtained, it is possible to live in Italy, without any limitation.
In the end, you might not get a Golden Visa, but you will be able to enjoy the Dolce Vita all the same.
© Antonio Zullo-Kate A. Taylor, Additaly Ltd. – all rights reserved
Additaly – Real Estate & Consulting
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