In Italy, visitors are are classed as 'Tourists', if their stay is less than three months, or 'Residents', if their stay is longer than three months.
Following recent EU directives concerning the free movement and residence rights of EU nationals and their families, 'Permesso di Soggiorno' and 'Residency' documents are no longer required for EU nationals wishing to stay in Italy.
EU nationals are entitled to stay in Italy for up to three months as long as they are in possession of a valid, photo-identity, travel document such as a passport.
A visa is not required but they need to report their presence to the local Police station (Questura) and fill out a form for which they will receive a stamped receipt. This receipt should be kept to show to police if requested.
EU nationals who wish to remain in Italy for longer than three months are required to register with their local Anagrafe office, usually found in the Comune building. To do so, they need to provide the following documents:
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plus a family member
If someone has lived legally in an EU country for a period of five years continuously - as an employee posted abroad, a pensioner or self-employed person - they automatically acquire the right of permanent residence in that country.
After three months in Italy, EU nationals are required to register with the Italian Health Service if:
Non-EU nationals from a number of countries including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not require a visa for visits up to a maximum of 90 days for tourist purposes. See full list here
However, they are required to register with a local Police station (Questura) in the province in which they are staying within eight days of arrival and apply for a Permit to Stay (Permesso di Soggiorno). Applicants are required to be fingerprinted.
A stay of longer than three months requires a 'Non-Tourist' visa. This needs to be applied for in the country of origin. Once in Italy, the same visit to the Questura is required in order to apply for a 'Permesso di Soggiorno' for the extended stay. There are several reasons for which this would be granted:
The permit is renewable and non-EU nationals who wish to live in Italy permanently need to renew the permit for five years until permanent residency can be applied for.
All non-EU residents need to have private health insurance until they are eligible for a 'Permanent Residence Certificate'.