A New Life in Italy Podcast

The Truth About Italy’s Elective Residency Visa

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Have you ever dreamt of retiring in Italy but got tangled in the Elective Residency Visa (ERV) web? Are you confused about comments you’ve read in Facebook groups? Worried that you don’t qualify?  Not sure if the ERV is right for you?

Well, today is your day my friend because in this episode I am going to cut through the confusion, lay out who’s suited for the ERV, and get to the nitty-gritty on the two biggest qualifications that have everyone buzzing, the residential address and the financial requirements.  

Trust me on this one, my friends, the ERV is my specialty and I have helped get countless people out of jackpots, and on the plane with their visa in hand.  Stay tuned to learn the truth about the elective residency visa. 

Hey there, welcome back! You’re listening to “A New Life in Italy,” and today, we’re getting into the thick of it with the Elective Residency Visa—yeah, that elusive ERV everyone’s buzzing about.

Here’s the thing, I’m sure you’ve heard many tales of woe and triumph about this visa, and like most things on the internet, you can’t believe everything you read.  This visa is illusive, it is discretionary and depends on where you apply and the particular clerk sitting across from you.  There are common reasons people fail to get this visa, and the stories you hear are only half-truths. I have done enough of these visas to tell you that the devil is in the details and that no two applications are alike.  

And let me tell you, it’s not always about not having enough in the bank. Sometimes, it’s just the way you tell your story to the consulate. So, stick around, because today, we’re going to make sure your ERV application sings the right tune to those who need to hear it.

The Elective Residency Visa is Italy’s way of saying, “If you can support yourself without working a day in our country, come, be one of us!” But here’s where it gets tricky. What does “support yourself” really mean, and how do you prove you’re the perfect candidate?

Retire to Italy and live in Tuscany

Who’s It For?

First up, let’s chat about who this visa is actually for. If you’ve been dreaming of moving to Italy to work or start a business, I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t your visa. The ERV is for those of you who don’t want or need to work.  You cannot work at all. Zero, zip, nada.. Not for your own company back in your home country, you can’t run a B&B in Italy or work remotely. You need to be fully retired and able to live off your passive income.

Breaking Down the Qualifications

Every consulate is different so you need to check their list of requirements before you start to prepare for the visa and again a few weeks from when you are applying to make sure nothing has changed.  Italian procedures are notoriously difficult and change often.

Most of the criteria are standard, like having a passport, an application, insurance, etc.  But the two pieces that get our folks confused and in trouble are:

  1. Having a residential address in Italy before applying and
  2. The financial requirements 

Let’s start with the residential address because you have flexibility on this one.  It is up to you where you will live, how much rent you will pay, or how much you will spend on a home.  Where we see problems are in timing and availability.

I am going to talk about renting because if you already own a home in Italy,  you have this part covered. But if you plan on renting, you have a little hill that can feel like a mountain to climb before you can even start your application.

You need to find a place to rent and an owner willing to rent to you. You need a residential lease that is registered with the tax office and an Airbnb will not work.

Renting in Italy is notoriously difficult for foreigners and it can take a very long time to find a property that you like, in the city or town you choose, and an owner that is willing to rent to you. Do not take it for granted that because you have money to pay rent, the owner will rent to you.

This is a country based on relationships, and unless you have someone vouching for you (an agent, or friend) it is going to be very hard to convince a stranger to trust that you will pay rent.

I strongly recommend that you use a rental agency to help you. It will cost you a little more, usually one month’s rent in commission, but it will be well worth the price to ensure the contract is correct for the visa, and property registered and the agent can “vouch” for you.  This goes a very long way.

Be sure to give yourself time, at least three months to find a property.  Timing will be difficult because it can take up to three months to find a property, and the consulate can then take three months to decide on your visa, so be prepared to pay a month or so in rent in advance. If you time it right, you can get away with paying just one month’s rent before you arrive. You shouldn’t start looking for a rental until 2-3 months from the time you want the lease to start. Any earlier, the owner will not want to talk to you.  He/she is not going to sign a lease for six months into the future.  If you need some help finding a rental, visit our website at smartmvoeitaly.com/rent 

The big thing to remember is that your rental will need to be for residential purposes, and it must be registered with the tax office. Without this, your application will be immediately denied.  

I also suggest you rent furnished. If you plan to bring your furniture with you, it can take many months to over a year to finish your residential process here, and you will need residency to avoid paying duty on your belongings.  

Also, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is not to forget it is just a rental. It is not your forever home.  I know that you have a vision of your new home in Italy and want to stick to that – but it may take some time to find. Once you are here and established it will become easier. You will meet people and learn more about the area you have chosen to live in.  If you hold out on choosing a rental because it is not perfect, you will end up in a never-ending loop. Think of your rental as the means to the ERV.  And it can be changed later.  Don’t get in your way. 

Italian Pizza and Caffe

Now, onto the big question—how much money do you need to qualify for the ERV?   “Substantial passive income” is the phrase, but it’s as clear as mud. I’ll let you in on what the consulates want to see in your bank account and how you can showcase your finances so they’re nodding along, thinking, “Yep, this person’s got it.”

Here is the first big misunderstanding – what is passive income?  Let’s start by saying what it isn’t. It is not savings, 401k’s, RRSP’s, or income from remote work. 

Passive income is regular, reliable, guaranteed income from pensions, investments, rentals (depending on the source), and —basically, money that comes in without you lifting a finger in Italy.

The test I like to make is this:  If you can wake up in the morning, and hang out in your favorite Piazza all day. Never take a phone call, never reply to an email – with the money continue to arrive in your bank?  If you said yes – then you have passive income.

Let me clarify the amount you need.  In most cases, you will read €32,000 net euros per year, or €38,000 net euros per year for a couple, but I can tell you, after doing hundreds of ERVs for clients, in consulates around the world this is not enough.

The amount you see is the minimum and unless you have substantial savings, investments, property, and other assets to support your application, you will not likely be approved with just the minimum income.

You will need substantially more.  The reason is that you are not permitted to work and the Italian government wants to be sure that if something happens, and you suddenly need funds, you have a backup plan, or at least enough money to continue to live in Italy without the need for work.

So how much is enough?

This depends on the totality of your application.  You should show as much as you can,  and that is all that you can do. If you can exceed the minimum by adding an annuity then you should.  You should be shooting for over €45,000 net euro net per applicant to feel confident of approval.

So what if you don’t have that much, should you still apply?

Yes, if you at least meet the minimum, and you want to try I say do it! You could be denied, but if you want to apply in the future, and you fix the deficiency, then you can reapply.  They will look at the totality of the application and the source of the income. It must be passive, guaranteed, regular, reliable and for life. 

But please, if you are on the line, and just meet the minimum, do not sell your home and everything you own until you know you are approved.  This is good advice for anyone applying for any visa.  Do not take it for granted that you will be approved. This is a tricky visa and there are a lot of denials so make sure you have Plan B.

The Secret Sauce to a Successful Application

So how do you make your application stand out?  It’s not just about showing you’ve got the cash; it’s about painting a picture of your life in Italy. I’m talking about where you’ll live, how you’ll spend your days, and why Italy is the only place for your retirement dreams. 

Do not underestimate the importance of the cover letter. I have had clients tell me that the consulates specifically told them that our cover letters are the reason they quickly got a Yes.   

Be careful not to get too emotional in your letter.  Pepper it with your “why” but remember this is a visa office, they don’t care about your family history and the trip that you went on when you were eight years old picking olives with an old woman in Sicily.  They want to believe that you are prepared for the move, that you have thought about how your new life in Italy will unfold, what you have done to prepare, language lessons for example. Show them that you know your obligations to immigration and finally can support yourself.  More facts than feelings.

What Happens at The Appointment?

Once you have submitted your application, the wait starts.  This is probably the most uncomfortable part – the wait. 

It can take anywhere from a few days, to 90 days (or in some cases more) to receive your decision.  During this time, the consulate will have your passport so you will not be able to travel while you wait.  Make sure you plan for this.

There is nothing you can do to speed it up, you simply have to wait. If you do not hear back after 90 days you can email the consulate to ask for a status update,  but don’t bother them before this time has passed.

Three things will happen at the end of the waiting period:

  1. You will be denied and receive your passports back.
  2. You will be asked for further information and given 10 days to reply.
  3. You will get your passports and visa inside!

So what if you don’t qualify – what if you have a lot of cash, savings, 401k, or have sold your home and have equity but no passive income don’t pack up your dreams just yet. You should consider an Investor Visa as this visa has been the ticket to Italy for many people who couldn’t qualify for the ERV and are now living their best lives in Italy.  Check out my episode on the Investor Visa for more on that one.  

The leaning tower of Pisa is a perfect place to visit

So, what have we learned today? 

1. The ERV is a great choice to live and move to Italy if you do not want to or have to work.  

2. It requires some planning to get all of your paperwork completed. Plan on starting this application about six (6) months in advance of when you hope to arrive in Italy.

3. Do not underestimate the importance of a good cover letter. 

4. You must have substantial passive income, over €45,000 net euros per person is a safe amount.  Do not apply if you do not meet the minimum or have no passive income. 

I have helped hundreds of people get this visa, and although it can feel overwhelming to start, it is an excellent key to unlocking the door to Italy and retiring.  

If you’re feeling inspired and ready to take on the ERV challenge, I’m here cheering you on. And for those who hit a bump, remember, we have a lot of ways to help you from the ERV Lab and Community to application reviews and full service. The choice is yours. You can see more at www.smartmoveitaly.com/ervassistance 

Before I say ciao, let me leave you with this thought: “Life is about taking chances. Even though it may feel like a big step, and you may question whether you have enough to qualify, if you meet the minimum, €32,000 net euros net a year of passive income, and you build your application in the strongest way possible, you should try.

If you are denied you will know you gave it your best shot. But if you never try, you will never know.

Thanks for hanging out with me today. I’m looking forward to our next chat, where we’ll explore more pathways to your new life in Italy. Ciao for now!

Resources in today’s episode

Elective Residency Visa Assistance

Rental Assistance

Vendita FREE Newsletter

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