My wife and I made a decision to move overseas. One of the countries we were interested in was Italy. I mentioned “Italy” and my wife responded “Orvieto.”

We’d been to Orvieto over 30 years ago on our first trip to Italy and now we were excited about going back.

In spring of 2023, we spent five weeks getting reacquainted with the city. I found a realtor in Orvieto who spoke English. When I said that we were thinking of moving here, she said we needed a Codice Fiscales, a tax ID number.

She worked with an attorney and we managed to get our Codice Fiscales in about 20 minutes. It wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it.

The realtor showed us several properties, but my wife wasn’t fond of any of them. They were not on the ground floor, and they didn’t have air conditioning, a rarity in Orvieto.

I decided to reach out to the owner of the apartment we were renting through VRBO since it did have air conditioning. After a few days, the owner agreed to a one-year lease including utilities and internet. To give ourselves some time, we agreed to November 1, 2023, as the start date.

I’d heard that the Italian visa process could take up to 90 days to complete so this was giving us about a safe six-month window.

Italy Elective Residency Visa

Passport with Italian visa.
Passport with Italian visa. Photo by Deposit Photos.

Where to start?

I did an internet search and found a link to the Italian Consulate. The link led me to the Italian Consulate in Chicago. I was directed to go there based on where I lived. I was informed I needed an Elective Residency (Long Term/National) Visa for a stay up to 365 days.

I printed the checklist of items needed for the Visa application. As I read through it however, I had questions as to what I specifically needed.

The application stated that I needed a confirmed flight reservation. Did I need a round-trip or one-way reservation? It also highlighted that I needed health insurance to cover “100%” of all medical expenses. Would travel insurance work?

I emailed the consulate about flight reservations. Their response was that I “would receive a response if one was available,” or I would find it on the website. Well, I never did receive the answer.

As part of the process, the visa application must be signed by the Italian Consul in Chicago. There is a website for it called Prenot – but it wasn’t working for a few days, and I couldn’t log in. I emailed the consulate, but received no response.

After submitting a second email, the consulate responded with an answer indicating that the visa application could be notarized by a notary public or the Vice Consul.

I decided to try the Prenot website again and this time it worked. I was able to schedule appointments for my wife and me. The appointment was scheduled for October 12, 2023, which was a problem if I expected to be in Orvieto by November 1, 2023.  

In any case, I began to prepare the documentation for the visa application. I downloaded bank statements, financial statements, travel insurance and medical evacuation policies. I was told that everything I submitted to the consulate should also be translated into Italian.

I searched for a translation company and settled on the middle choice in pricing since they would also certify the translation work. It would take approximately 30 days and ended up costing around $5,000. This seems high, but when you’re looking at financial statements and medical policies that are 30-plus pages long, the price adds up.

Next, I decided to reach out to an immigration attorney in Italy that had offices in New York City. Through the website, there was a link to contact them. I emailed, but received no answer.

The search also began for overseas health insurance since I wasn’t sure if travel insurance would work. I decided on a plan, took the highest deductible, and decided to pay quarterly since I got a three percent discount to get the lowest premium. Based on the time window of this process, the farthest start date that I could get was September 1, 2023. I went with this date since I wanted to get the visa application process started.

Searching for the Vice Consul

Oriveto, Italy historic center.
Oriveto, Italy historic center. Photo by Deposit Photos.

Since I had the October visa application date, I decided to search for a Vice Consul. After some internet research, I found a list of Honorary Vice Consuls associated with each Consulate. The problem was that the website indicated that the Honorary Vice Consul could only notarize a Student Visa application.

There was a vice consul near me, but his phone number and email did not work. I found another about a three-hour drive from me, so I reached out to him.

The Vice Consul responded that he could not notarize an Elective Residency Visa application. It would take a special dispensation from the Italian Consul for that to happen. By now, my frustrated thought on that was “FAT CHANCE!”               

Two weeks later, the Vice Consul emailed me stating that he could notarize our Visa applications and advised we set up a date and time with his secretary. The secretary emailed us a copy of the Elective Residency Visa application and the checklist of required items, both of which I had.

On a Monday, the secretary emailed and asked if we could be there the next day. I had to decline since we needed a bit more preparation time. We did make an appointment for Thursday of that same week. I had my notebook (almost 300 pages) ready for the meeting. I also had two more copies of the same material – one for the local police for the Permesso di Sorggiorno (permit to stay) and an extra copy for our files.

We arrived a day before the meeting so we wouldn’t feel rushed. The secretary set out all the documents for the Vice Consul to review and made copies of our passports and driver’s licenses, even though I already had copies in hand. Her copies were in color however, and she also notarized them, which hopefully would help in the process.

The Vice Consul came in and reviewed the documentation. He looked at the financial statements and pulled out all the pages with detail. He stated that only the page showing the totals was needed. The consulate didn’t need to know how the money was invested.

Now the requirements however clearly state “documented and detailed guarantee of substantial and steady economic resources.”

If I had known that information, it would have saved me a lot of stress, time, and money, since I wouldn’t have needed all that material translated. My notebook went from 300 pages to 100 pages and the Vice Consul suggested I use Federal Express to send the material to the Italian Consulate in Chicago rather than the US Postal Service. We agreed on that point!

The Federal Express Experience

I now had to create another file for the new Consulate notebook and create a total of four files which included the consulate version, the Permesso di Soggiorno for the local police, a copy for a relative living in the states and a personal one.

The Federal Express label for the Consulate version was for Overnight Next day delivery and insured to the maximum since I was also including our passports and money orders for the visa processing payment. This, however, was the easy part.

Since we were mailing it in, we had to also include a return Federal Express envelope for the passports with the visa attached. Because it had a return label on it for the Italian Consulate and for it to be charged and tracked, I had to open a Federal Express account. Since I also wanted to insure the envelope, this was the only way to do it.

At the time of this writing (October 9, 2023), we are still waiting for the passports with the visas to be returned.

Attending the International Living Overseas Bootcamp

Orvieto beautiful medieval historic center with its characteristic ancient buildings made of tuff stone.
Orvieto beautiful medieval historic center with its characteristic ancient buildings made of tuff stone. Photos by Deposit Photos.

I had already booked this how-to conference about living overseas held in Denver before our trip to Orvieto, so I decided to go. I would either find out that I had everything under control or that I had completely missed the target.

The positive: I found out a lot of great specific information on Italy, plus new contacts.

The negative: I found out about U.S. and Italian taxes.

Italy has a 7% income tax if you live in certain areas and/or cities. Orvieto doesn’t fit the criteria, so I’ll be paying “normal” Italian taxes.

Because I live in a domicile state in the U.S., this means I’ll have to pay state taxes even when living in another country. To avoid this, you must have residency in a state that doesn’t have a state tax, like Texas.

Best Way to Apply for Italy Elective Residency Visa

Lessons learned along the way that would have helped me tremendously:

Doing more research into the requirements

Finding an immigration attorney who knows the Italian requirements

Going to an International Living conference before having a signed lease agreement

More Advice on Planning an Overseas Move

Plan to do it and do it. There is plenty of information out there. Get involved with the experts at International Living since they provide good information and tools to make the move overseas. They are the experts. Rely on that experience.

Do a boots-on-the-ground trip to the country/area that you want to live in to get a feel for the people and lifestyle.

Learn the language and the culture. I’m currently using an app to learn Italian.  

Understand the tax situation that fits you. Are you retired or soon to be retired? Are you a Digital Nomad? This will help you decide on the type of visa to get and possibly where to retire to get the best tax situation for you.

Housing – rent or buy? Both have pros and cons. Take time to investigate.

Medical coverage – will travel insurance work or will you need to purchase international coverage for the area you will be living in? If you need to purchase international coverage, consider using an insurance broker with international experience.

If you have Medicare, you may need to keep it while overseas so that you have coverage when you return to the U.S. You may need to consult with an insurance broker with Medicare and international experience to learn all the ins and outs of the Medicare process.

Finally, good luck with whatever you decide to do.

For us, it’s still Orvieto, here we come.

What do you think?

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  • Sabrina Metzger
    October 9, 2023

    Thank you Bruce for sharing your experience. Very informative and useful.

    • Noreen Kompanik
      January 4, 2024

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Sabrina.