Retiring to Italy after Brexit is still possible, it just requires more planning and paperwork. Here is what you need to be able to stop working and make that dream move to Italy.
After the Brexit transition period ended on 31st December 2020, many people have been left wondering if they have missed the boat. While the UK was part of the EU it was so easy to move freely to another EU country. Although you can still buy a property and enjoy holidays in Italy, a permanent move will require more planning and a visa.
Do I need a visa to retire to Italy?
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAECI) is also referred to as the Farnesina, after the name of its headquarters in Palazzo della Farnesina in Rome.
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Their website has a useful section, in five languages, relating to visas for Italy (Il visto per l’Italia). You simply answer four questions: Your nationality, country of residence; requested length of stay (Up to 90 days or more than 90 days), and pick a “reason for stay” from a drop-down list. These include elective residence, salaried employment, self-employment and study. You are then given basic information on what is required to make a visa application, and where to apply. Here is the link to the official page, Do I need a visa?
Holidays in Italy after Brexit
UK nationals, like those from the USA, Australia and many other countries, who want to take holidays in Italy for less than 90 days in any 180 day period, do not need a visa. You can enter Italy with your passport as long as it’s valid for at least three months (six months to be safer) after the intended date of your departure from the Schengen Area (which is 26 continental countries of the EU).
Italian border authorities can ask for documentation demonstrating the reason for your visit and its duration. When arriving from a non-Schengen country ensure you get a stamp in your passport. This stamp is considered the equivalent of the declaration of presence.
It’s recommended to take out travel insurance for short visits. However, for British citizens, your old EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is valid until it runs out, giving you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay. It will in time be replaced by the GHIC, the Global Health Insurance Card. Information on how to apply is available on the NHS website.
Retiring to Italy after Brexit
If you want to retire to Italy, then you are most likely to be seeking “Elective residence”. This is only for people who can support themselves without working. Although you can visit Italy for holidays and viewing trips without a visa, you must apply for and obtain a visa in the UK before your permanent move to Italy.
Speak to your Independent Financial Advisor for impartial advice on buying property in Italy.
Information currently available assumes that UK nationals will have to now follow the same procedures as other Non-EU nationals, so this is the information I have provided below. We can but hope that when our two countries begin their economic recovery after the pandemic, that other agreements and incentives will be introduced to encourage people to invest in property and retire to Italy.
Where to apply for a visa
According to Farnesina, if you currently live in England, Wales or its islands you need to apply to the Consulate general of Italy in London. If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can apply at the Consulate general of Italy in Edinburgh.
How to Apply for a visa
VFS Global are the official partner of the Embassy of Italy and through them you can make appointments at visa application centres in Edinburgh, London and Manchester. You can find guidance in English, and request an appointment at a Visa Centre, through the VFS Global website.
We can put you in touch with a trusted lawyer for advice about your move to Italy.
Full details of what you need to provide with your application are on the VFS Global website. Be aware that, you must personally attend an appointment at the Italian Consulate in the United Kingdom. If you are applying under “Elective Residency” status the main requirements are as follows:
- Visa application form for a long stay visa (National visa)
- Proof of UK residence
- A passport-size photograph on a white background.
- Valid passport whose expiry date is three months longer than that of the visa requested and has two free pages that are blank on both sides.
- Documented financial resources
- Documents relating to accommodation in Italy to be chosen as residence, owned or rented, with a registered lease or deed.
- A letter explaining your reason for moving to Italy
- A one way travel reservation.
- Marriage/birth certificates if applying with dependent spouse or children.
- Proof of health insurance.
Documented financial resources
You need to provide bank statements etc. that show you have enough money to support yourself now and in your future life in Italy. The source of your regular income cannot be paid employment, but can include property rental income, pensions, investment funds, royalties, shareholdings in a company etc.
For a single person the current minimum financial requirement is €31,000 (or equivalent home currency amount). For a married couple it is €38,000. It needs to be reasonably assumed that you will continue to have this money coming in, to support you in the coming years.
Cost of visa and processing time
Fees charged are for the administrative costs of processing the visa application. Fees for a “Long stay” D National visa for Italy currently have a fee of £105.20, plus a £13.16 VFS Global service fee. Applications can be made up to 6 months before travel dates. They also state that it can take up to 90 days for a national visa to be processed.
When you retire to Italy you can still claim your UK state pension. You will need to tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax that you are moving or retiring abroad. Refer to the UK government website for more information on pensions.
Elective Italian residence permit
Within eight days of travelling to Italy, you must apply for an Italian Residence Permit (Permesso di Soggiorno). The process for applying for an Italian residence permit is as follows:
- For stays for the purpose of elective residence, you must submit your application to an authorised Post Office (Sportello Amico), using the relevant kit available in the post office.
- There are authorized institutions and Municipal offices that will provide you with information and assistance free of charge. When the form is sent, the post office will issue a receipt bearing two personal identification codes (user id and password) which you can use to follow the state of the application on the Immigration Portal.
- You will be given an appointment to go to the Police Head Quarters (Questura). You should take all the originals of your documents and be prepared to have your finger prints taken.
- The Questura will notify you when your Residence Permit card will be issued.
The new Biometric residence card.
The Italian government has introduced a new biometric residence card only for UK nationals that were living in Italy before 1st January 2021. This is called a “Carta di Soggiorno” and should not be confused with the “Permesso di soggiorno” that you will be applying for. The local immigration office at the police headquarters (Questura) deal with the applications for the carta di soggiorno..
Register at your local Comune
All foreign nationals not belonging to the European Union, in possession of a valid residence permit, are obliged to request registration in the Municipality where they intend to establish their residence. Visit the Council Offices (Comune) in your nearest town for guidance.
Healthcare in Italy
At first you will need private healthcare cover. However, after you have registered your residency, you can register with the Italian National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN) through your local health authority (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – ASL). You can register for free with the SSN if you hold a UK social security form, such as an S1 form for pensioners or are an immediate family member of an Italian citizen. If you don’t qualify for free SSN registration, you may be able to pay an annual fee to register. Contact the ASL of the region you will be living in to check if they allow this.
Tax benefits in Italy
It’s worth speaking to an Italian tax accountant that has experience of dealing with the tax affairs of people moving from the UK. They should be up to date with the latest Italian tax incentives. Doing this before choosing the location for your Italian home could save you thousands in tax.
For example, British retirees have already benefited from an Italian Budget Law introduced in 2019. It offers a favourable tax regime specifically to retirees. The aim is to encourage retired people living in foreign countries to move their residence to the southern regions of Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, Sardinia or Sicily.
One condition is that you set up residence in a town with a population less than 20,000. According these new provisions, all income sourced outside Italy is subject to a 7% substitute tax, which applies for five years. However, after that time it will revert to the normal tax rate.
Anyone with a high net worth should also ask about Italy’s tax incentives for wealthy individuals choosing to relocate to Italy. You may be able to get a flat rate income tax charge of €100,000. Plus, for a further €25,000, the tax exemption could even be extended to a family member.
Tax related to property
Before purchasing your chosen property, inform the Estate agent and Notary that you intend becoming a resident in Italy. If you plan to make your Italian home your main residence you will only pay 2% stamp duty when you purchase the property, as opposed to 9% for a second home.
Once you are a registered resident you are usually exempt from council tax (IMU) on your main residence (except luxury homes) and only pay tax on any land that comes with the property. This could be less than €200 a year in some areas. A big difference from council tax bills in the UK. As a resident, you will also get a discounted rate on your electricity bill, so don’t forget to let them know it’s your main residence.
Waste collection tax (TARI) relates to the property size, number of occupants, and also the location. In general, taxes on countryside properties are less than in the cities. Northern cities and popular tourist areas are likely to charge more than in rural areas and villages.
Why retire to Italy?
People in Italy have a healthy zest for life, and yet the pace is very chilled and laid back. Food, family and friends always come before work. The strong family ties create a community atmosphere where young people respect the older generation. Of an evening, all ages can be seen out together, walking, dining and attending festivals and food sagres.
It’s easy to stay healthy when you’re eating fresh local produce and getting plenty of fresh air and exercise. Also, the mild climate allows you to spend more time outdoors. You could easily spend your whole retirement visiting all the historic towns and villages, UNESCO world heritage sites, art cities, national parks and beaches.
Low cost travel and properties
Travel throughout Italy is made easy by a good road and rail network, with low train fares and cheap internal flights. As many regions have an international airport, it couldn’t be easier to have family and friends come to visit. Low cost airlines fly to many Italian regions.
Property prices in the countryside and villages are very affordable compared to the UK. This is especially true in depopulated areas and more remote or mountainous locations. Many British retirees find they have money left over when selling a UK property to buy in Italy. It’s worth speaking to Smart currency exchange at an early stage to ensure you get the best possible exchange rate.