Obtaining residence permit and Italian citizenship by the purchase of real estate

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Alexey Nosovsky

A representative of the Legal Department at iWorld. Author of articles on Migration Law.

Update: 19 April 2024 10 minutes read
Italian flag against the backdrop of the city where you can get a residence permit in Italy when buying real estate

Over the past decade, the number of people who move to Italy from abroad for study, work or other purposes has been steadily increasing. According to the Istat, on January 1, 2020 the number of foreigners residing in the country amounted to 5,039,637 people (8.4% of the population). The right to reside on Italian territory for foreigners is secured by a residence permit. A particularly pressing issue among immigrants is the question of obtaining a residence permit in Italy by purchasing property.

Purchase of real estate itself does not give the possibility of claiming residence permit, but the interest of foreigners to buy houses or apartments in Italy is only increasing. This is due to the fact that real estate in Italy is a bargain purchase, which subsequently gives the privileges of renewal of resident status and simplifies the process of citizenship.

Real estate in Italy for foreigners

According to Istat, in the first quarter of 2021 the price index for construction projects, purchased for housing or investment purposes, increased by 1.7% compared to the previous reporting period. Regions with the highest volume of transactions for the sale of real estate are Lombardy and Lazio, and the leading cities – Milan and Rome. The price of real estate in demand varies from 100 to 350,000 euros.

In accordance with the provisions of Italian legislation, there are three categories of foreigners who may register the ownership of real estate in Italy:

  • persons legally residing in Italy, who have a valid temporary or a permanent residence permit;
  • persons, who do not reside in Italy but are nationals of countries that have signed a bilateral international agreement with the Italian Republic, allowing them to buy property abroad;
  • citizens of EU or EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries, as well as stateless persons, who have been residing in Italy for more than 3 years.

Who buys Italian property and why

The real estate market in Italy attracts investors willing to invest large sums of money in construction projects. Against the backdrop of stable growth in housing prices, such an investment could increase capital by renting out purchased property or its resale after a few years. Another category of foreigners who are interested in a residence permit by the purchase of real estate is the middle class, whose members are willing to buy Italian housing at a relatively low cost, compared with other EU countries.

The advantages of real estate in Italy

Foreigners prefer to buy housing in Italy, based on the following factors:

  • a wide range of objects on the primary and secondary real estate markets;
  • the possibility of making a profit when renting out the property;
  • an additional place to relax with the whole family;
  • reliable investment and preservation of personal savings.

In addition, the purchase of a house in Italy precedes the issuance of a residence permit by the type of «residenza elettiva» (chosen place of residence). Legislation provides for the granting of a long-term residence permit in Italy to foreigners, who have permanent sources of passive income and rented or purchased real estate in the country. This type of residence permit does not give the right to employment and social benefits in the country, but after five years of residing in Italy, a foreigner can apply for permanent residence permit or citizenship.

Disadvantages of the purchase of property in Italy

Nevertheless, there are certain risks associated with the purchase of real estate for non-resident of Italy, the most acute of which is the financial aspect of the transaction. Not to mention:

  • the appraisal agent, appointed by the bank or government agencies, often sets the value of the property below the seller’s stated value, resulting in difficulties when applying for a mortgage;
  • the transaction may not take place due to non-compliance with the requirements of Italian legislation, when the buyer does not belong to any of the categories allowed to purchase Italian property;
  • the transaction and further use of real estate requires a visa or residence permit in Italy, in order to be able to inspect the object and conclude the contract of sale under the terms of the legislation.

Some foreign buyers rely on tax benefits when buying a first home in Italy («Prima Casa»), which provides for a reduction of registration fees from the cadastral value of the object from 9% to 2%. However, this privilege is enjoyed only by residents and citizens of Italy. In order to get a tax benefits at the time of the transaction, a foreigner must have a valid residence permit.

How a foreigner can buy real estate

Foreigners can search for real estate in Italy by themselves or with the help of agents. If you search for an object on your own, you can use electronic resources (e.g. Hello Italy, Gate-away), which collect information about the property for sale from several marketplaces at the same time.

The agent gives the keys to the investor after buying Italian real estate in order to obtain a residence permit in Italy

The benefits of residence permit in Italy

Obtaining a residence permit in Italy gives its owner a number of advantages, including:

  • the right of permanent residence in Italy;
  • no visa requirements when visiting other EU countries;
  • taking advantage of the health insurance system Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN) on equal terms with Italian citizens;
  • the opportunity to receive unemployment benefits (for holders of residence permit valid for at least 2 years and is not issued by the type of «residenza elettiva»);
  • a simplified procedure for obtaining a mortgage loan and purchase of real estate in Italy;
  • free access to kindergartens and schools for children, the opportunity to enter colleges and universities on a common basis;
  • the right to buy a car and get a European driver’s license.

How to obtain a residence permit in Italy

The grounds and procedure for granting the Italian residence permit are regulated by the law «On Immigration» № 286/1998.

The following categories of foreign citizens can apply for a residence permit in Italy:

  • investors, who have made a contribution of 2 million EUR in government bonds, 1 million EUR in the share capital of Italian companies, 500 thousand EUR in the share capital of innovative start-ups or 1 million EUR in socially important projects;
  • financially independent persons, who have a permanent source of income of at least 31,000 EUR outside Italy and a registered place of residence in the country;
  • officially employed persons, who have a valid work permit.

The basis for obtaining a residence permit is also enrollment in an Italian university, subject to the completion of higher education in the country of origin. In addition, it is possible to obtain a residence permit in Italy by family reunification, to conduct business or for the need of long-term treatment in the medical institutions of the republic.

Is real estate a basis for obtaining a residence permit or not?

Buying a house in Italy does not entitle you to a residence permit. However, according to the law, owning or renting Italian property may be a prerequisite for obtaining a residence permit in some cases.

The required documents

Depending on the reason for issuing a residence permit in Italy, the list of required documents may differ. During the application process, the immigration authorities may also require additional evidence, confirming the right of the foreigner to obtain a residence permit in the country.

The main documents for a residence permit in Italy:

  • application for a temporary residence permit;
  • original and copy of the international passport;
  • 4 passport size photos;
  • receipt of payment of state duty;
  • health insurance.

The processing of residence permit

In order to enter the territory of the country legally, the applicant for a temporary residence permit shall apply for a D visa. The application for a residence permit, together with other documents, shall be submitted by the foreigner in person to Central Police Department, located in Italy. There, the applicant submits biometric data and receives a certificate with a blue stamp, which indicates the date of issuance of the temporary residence permit. With the certificate issued, the foreigner has the right to stay in Italy until they receive their plastic ID.

Italian citizenship

According to the provisions of Art. 9 of Law No. 91 of February 5, 1992, Italian citizenship can be granted by naturalization of a foreigner, legally residing in Italy. Citizenship is conferred by decree of the President of the Republic, after consultation with the Council of State, at the proposal of the Minister of the Interior. The corresponding application, addressed to the President of the Republic, must be submitted to the prefecture of the province where he/she resides.

Requirements for Italian citizenship applicants:

  • Italian residence permit;
  • knowledge of Italian at B1 level;
  • permanent income, sufficient for living in the country;
  • no criminal record and no problems with the law;
  • registered place of living.

The period of residence on Italian territory is a requirement, strictly regulated by law, for the approval of the application for citizenship by naturalization. To qualify for Italian citizenship, a foreigner must prove the fact of continuous legal residence on the territory of the state for 10 years.

Italian passport on the flag, which can be obtained after purchasing real estate and obtaining a residence permit in Italy

Since Italian citizenship by purchasing real estate, without complying with the conditions of permanent long-term residence in the country is impossible, wealthy foreigners are looking for other ways to immigrate to Europe.

In what countries one can get a residence permit by the purchase of real estate

Some European states offer a residence permit to foreigners who are willing to invest large sums in residential or commercial properties. Such a residence permit is also called the Golden Visa, whose holders may also benefit from a simplified procedure for obtaining citizenship by the purchase of real estate by a fast-track naturalization procedure in the country of choice.

Country Required amount of investment in real estate, €
Malta 220 000 – 275 000 (depends on a region)
Portugal 280 000 – 500 000 depends on a region)
Spain 500 000
Greece 250 000 – 500 000 (depends on a number of applicants)

In Italy, a residence permit by the purchase of real estate is not issued automatically, it must be issued on another legal basis. In addition, the purchase of the property does not provide the right to legal stay in Italy. However, registered residency in Italy gives a foreigner advantages when applying for a long term visa. The property owner, who has sufficient stable income, can obtain a residence permit «residenza elettiva».

The procedures of purchasing a property by a foreigner in Italy and the provision of residence permits are carried out in accordance with the law and are strictly controlled by the Italian authorities. In the process of moving it is important to correctly compile a package of documents to residence permit, as well as legally competent to draw up ownership of the property. That is why choosing a migration specialist is the initial stage of a successful relocation to Italy.

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