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The Italian Golden Visa: The Ultimate Guide

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How do you even begin to explain the charm of Italy? 

Italy’s many attractions include its Mediterranean climate, cuisine, cultural history and beautiful surroundings. However, it’s also a place where people enjoy the small things in life. 

Life here is infused with the mindset of savouring each moment of the day with a grateful attitude – a gelato with a friend, a casual stroll to absorb the many sights on offer, a coffee, a relaxed lunch and perhaps a glass of wine. 

Italian life is a celebration of family and friends, of time spent well in a slow and mindful way among fun-loving and affectionate people living la dolce vita – the sweet life. 

Italy’s Golden Visa, otherwise known as La Dolce Visa, is an increasingly popular choice for those seeking residence in Europe. 

The Italian Golden Visa program grants a renewable residence permit to non-European Union (EU) citizens who invest in the country. And there are plenty of reasons to choose the boot-shaped peninsula that juts out of southern Europe. 

Italy has the third-largest economy in the Eurozone and the eighth-biggest economy in the world, not to mention its position as a gateway to Europe and North Africa. 

Italy provides a stable economic environment and is an EU member state that offers passport holders free travel throughout the Schengen area, which includes all 27 EU member states.  

Italian Golden Visa Program

Eligibility for the Italian Investor Visa
Italy Golden Visa guide.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the Golden Visa for Italy, let’s get on the same page as to what it is.

The Italian Investor Visa program was introduced in 2017 by the Government to promote foreign direct investment. The program grants a residence permit, in return for an investment, that is valid for two years and, after this, the permit can be extended for up to three years. 

The investment options range from a minimum outlay of €250,000 to €2,000,000 in an Italian government bond. This visa is valid for two years after it is first issued. It can be renewed for three more years and, after five years of temporary residency, applicants can become permanent residents in Italy. 

There aren’t any physical presence requirements to maintain the residence, so you are free to come and go as you please. 

Some other requirements to get a La Dolce Visa include, for example, proof of income from the previous financial year, proof of suitable accommodation in Italy for the principal applicant and any family members, proof of funds to support the investment and evidence of no criminal record. 

An investor visa holder can obtain residency for family members, spouses or children under the age of 18 by applying for a family visa at the Italian consulate or embassy in their country of residence. This allows them to obtain a residence permit upon arrival in Italy with the principal applicant.

So what exactly are the current Italian Golden Visa requirements?

Eligibility Requirements for Italy’s Golden Visa

While all non-EEA (European Economic Area) citizens can apply and receive the Golden visa for Italy and a subsequent residence permit, applicants must choose to make one of the following investments: 

  • A €250,000 investment in an already existing local start-up. You can find a complete list of start-ups you can invest in here.
  • A €500,000 investment in a local company that’s incorporated and operates in Italy, to be held for a minimum of two years.
  • A donation of €1 million to support a public interest project in education, culture, immigration management, scientific research, preservation of cultural and natural heritage, or similar.
  • A €2 million investment in Italian government bonds, to be held for a minimum of two years.

While the options are varied, several things are worth paying attention to. 

First, there is no real estate investment option. That can be a real pain point for those who just want to buy a seaside villa and forget about the visa application process.

Second, all the investments, except the government bond, are pretty high on the risk scale. Of course, that’s reflected in the highest required investment sum.

If you want to lower the investment and go with a start-up, the risk rises. Such companies are notorious for failing – approximately 90% of them shut down. If that happened, you would be unable to recoup your investment. 

Finally, a donation of €1 million is pretty straightforward, but it’s sunk costs. So, you need to determine if the cost of Italy’s Golden Visa – the cost of the Italian way of life – is worth that much money to you.

The Italian Visa Application Process

The Italian Visa Application Process
Italy Golden Visa applicants will have to complete some paperwork for the process.

If you’ve made up your mind and would like to pursue the Italy Investor Visa, a rundown of the application process is below.

For Italy’s Golden Visa program, the Ministry of Economic Development has created an online portal for investors to apply for a Nulla Osta (certificate of no impediment) which is necessary to apply for residency.

Applicants must provide documentary evidence of funds and a written declaration of plans to use those funds for investment. The investor then has six months to apply for the Golden Visa at the nearest consulate. This visa cannot be applied for in Italy.

The application is separated into two parts: 

  • An online application for a Nulla Osta
  • An application for a visa at the Italian Embassy or Consulate.

Applying for the Nulla Osta:

To apply for a Nulla Osta, follow these steps:

  • Start the online application on the official website
  • Submit the required documents electronically
  • Download, sign and electronically submit the ‘Final Declaration’.  

When all documents are in order, the Golden Visa committee, made up of government agencies, will assess the application and make a decision within 30 days. 

Applying for the Visa:

Once the Golden Visa committee reaches a decision, you have six months to apply for a visa at the nearest Italian embassy or consulate. You will need the Nulla Osta, as well as hard copies of all the documents you have submitted. Once the visa is granted, you have two years to use it to enter Italy. 

Upon travelling to Italy, you must visit the Questura or police headquarters to get a Golden Visa permit. Your investment must be made within three months of applying for the residence permit, or you risk having your visa revoked. 

The Documents You Will Need:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A current curriculum vitae 
  • Document that proves the financial resources you will invest
  • Confirmation that your resources are legitimate and transferable
  • A maximum 1000-word description of the nature of your investment or donation 
  • A declaration of your commitment to use the funds for the purpose you have specified. 

After you receive the Nulla Osta, you must prove you have accommodation in Italy and show you have the minimum income requirement (€8,500) for exemption from healthcare expenses. 

Italy’s government website can also be a valuable source for identifying projects of public interest in the fields of culture and preservation of cultural and natural heritage, which could be financed for a Golden Visa application. 

Its Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) register contains the pitch, sectors and business model of start-ups and innovative SMEs that have registered for investment under the program. The Italian Chambers of Commerce updates the list every week.

So, what happens after the two years of the permit’s validity are up? You’ll need to apply for a renewal but only if you’ve maintained your original investment in its entirety. If you haven’t, then your residence permit will be revoked and renewing it won’t be possible. You would have to go through the entire process again.

If you succeed in renewing your permit, then it will be valid for a further three years. After a total of five years have passed, you could obtain a permanent residence permit and, after ten years, you’d technically become eligible for citizenship by naturalisation.

The Pros and Cons of Italy’s Investor Visa

Pros and Cons of Italy Golden Visa
Every Golden Visa has its ups and downs.

As with everything in life, the Golden Visa for Italy has pros and cons to weigh up. In fact, there are some many considerations to take into account that we strongly advise clients against making such a big financial decision alone. Talk to our experienced team today to get an accurate picture of your options. 

Pros of the Italy Investor Visa

  • European residence. Since Italy is part of the Schengen area, you would get the freedom to live and travel in all of Europe. This is one of the biggest and most obvious pros of the Italy investor visa. While you won’t be able to settle or work just anywhere, having the whole of Europe at your fingertips, unrestricted, is a great perk. 
  • Considerable red tape cut. Sure, Italy is notorious for its bureaucracy, but it has really made the investor visa process as straightforward as it could be. The application process is fully online, relatively easy, and processing is quick. 
  • Flat tax option. All investors residing in Italy are able to take advantage of the flat tax option. All foreign-earned income is subject to a maximum annual tax cap of €100,000. You must first obtain residence and then apply for the lump-sum tax option.
  • Bring your family. You can get your spouse, children, and even dependent parents to come along and become residents of Italy. No additional investment is required. 
  • Subsequent Italian citizenship. Eventually, you would be able to apply for Italian citizenship, gaining access to live, work, study, and travel all over the European Union. There is no direct Italian citizenship by investment programmes.
  • That dolce vita. Italy offers a lifestyle like no other country in the world. Its gastronomy, landscapes, and climate really are one of the best on this planet. 

Cons of the Italian Golden Visa

  • High-risk for lowest investments. Even though the minimum investment sum is comparable to some of the other countries in Europe, the risk attached to the types of investments that you’re required to make is considerably higher, e.g. startups. 
  • No diversification options. The Italy investor visa program is very rigid. You need to choose just one investment route, and even then, only a single way forward is available. For example, you must invest in just one startup or one company. If investors were able to allocate capital across multiple companies or even allowed to mix financial assets (e.g. buying company stocks and government bonds), Italy would be a much more attractive option in the grand scheme of things. 
  • Unfavorable business environment. We’re not just talking about high tax rates here. Bureaucracy in Italy, just like in the entire region of southern Europe, is a beast, and many startups and companies are victims of the antiquated system. 
  • Wobbly economy. An Italian default isn’t unthinkable, and the country has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world. Investing in Italy is a riskier affair than it could be.

Is La Dolce Visa Becoming More Attractive?

Italian Investor Visa FAQs
The investor visa for Italy is sometimes called the ‘La Dolce Visa’.

One thing to be aware of is that, as of now, the Italian Golden Visa does not have a real estate option. Because many people prefer to invest in property than companies and bonds, Italy is often overlooked compared to similar schemes in Greece and Portugal. But all that may well be about to change as Golden Visa schemes in Greece and Portugal are currently undergoing significant changes.

Currently, Greece’s Golden Visa scheme requires a minimum investment of €250,000 or €500,000 in real estate, depending on the region where the property is located. However, in February 2024, the government announced plans to increase the minimum investment required to €800,000 in those in-demand areas.

Meanwhile, in response to pressure on housing, Portugal changed its Golden Visa scheme by removing the option to invest in real estate.

At the same time, while Italy doesn’t offer a real estate investment option, it does have one of the cheapest schemes at €250,000. The other upside to Italy is that the processing time is approximately 30 days, while the countries mentioned above can take up to a year to progress your application. That means that, even though it may take a while to collect all the documents needed for this process, the approval period is very short compared to some other countries. 

Another potential benefit, at least for those who wish to claim tax residence in Italy, is its flat-tax regime. This program allows new tax residents in Italy to apply to pay €100,000 per year as their entire tax obligation.

This special tax incentive applies to non-Italian foreign-source income, with any income from within the country still taxed. In 2024, Italy’s top income tax rate is 43% on earnings above €50,000. The lump-sum regime can be extended to your family for an additional amount of €25,000 per family member.

Tax Benefits for Italian Residents

Once you obtain residence in Italy, you can apply for one of two tax benefits. The first is Italy’s flat tax option, which is ideal for those seeking a high standard of living and a tax residency.

If you’re a high-net-worth individual, then the Italy flat tax option (also known as a lump-sum tax regime) could be a great idea. If you move your tax residency to Italy, your tax on worldwide income would be capped at €100,000. Meanwhile, any income made in Italy will be taxed progressively, as per Italian law. 

This option is valid for 15 years and applies to people of any nationality. You can also include family members for €25,000 extra per person per year.

The second tax benefit you can take advantage of in Italy is the special Italian tax regime for Impatriati – ideal for employees, the self-employed and retirees.

If you haven’t been a tax resident in Italy for the last two years, you can move to Italy and apply to pay taxes on just 30% of your income. The maximum tax rate for personal income is approximately 13%. 

Investors are further incentivised if they move to one of the southern Italian regions such as Abruzzo, Campania, Puglia or Sicily, where income tax is only applied to 10% of your income. You can take advantage of this special tax regime for a total of five years. 

The Italian Golden Visa: The Ultimate Guide – FAQs

Italy's La Dolce Visa – FAQs
The Italy Golden Visa program opens the door to residence.
How long is the Italian investor visa valid?

The Italy investor visa is valid for two years. You can use the visa to legally enter Italy and get a temporary residence permit during this time. 

How can I renew my Italian residence permit?

If you used the investor visa to enter and start living in Italy, your initial Italian residence permit will be valid for two years. After it expires, you can easily renew it for another three years. 

Can I get Italian citizenship as an investor?

There is no direct citizenship-by-investment program in Italy. If you wish to become an Italian citizen, you’ll have to spend at least ten years as a resident. Then, you’ll have to apply to get Italian citizenship by naturalisation. As an Italian citizen, you can travel, live and work freely in any EU country, vote in elections and pass this European citizenship on to your children. 

Can I apply for an Italian investor visa as a legal entity?

No, only private individuals can obtain an investor visa in Italy. In other words, you can only apply as a person and not via a business of any kind. 

Can people of all nationalities apply for an Italian investor visa? 

Yes. Generally, all non-EEA citizens can apply for and potentially receive an Italian investor visa. However, Russian and Belarusian citizens are currently suspended from applying for the Italian Golden Visa program.  

What types of investments can I make to get the Italian Investor Visa?

You can invest in government bonds or company stocks, make a donation or invest in a start-up. The type of investment must be chosen at the time of submitting your visa application and cannot be changed.

What sort of companies can I invest in?

The company has to be a limited company that’s incorporated and resident in Italy. It doesn’t need to be listed but it can be if you wish. The company must have been working for at least one year and be currently active. One option would be to establish a staffing company that would employ your team. This would present some complications with employee visas and transfer pricing but there are ways to make it work. Best of all, your entire company would not need to move to Italy to use this option.

Can my family come to Italy with me if I’m an investor?

Yes, spouses and dependent children can accompany you and legally reside in Italy for as long as your residence permit is valid. Dependent children over the age of 18 can also join in special cases (for example, if they’re disabled), as well as parents over the age of 65 who are financially dependent on the main applicant. 

Can I work in Italy while I live there under an investor visa? 

Yes, you’re free to hold any employment status in Italy during your time there as an investor. You can be employed or self-employed without any problem. 

Is the Italian Golden Visa Worth It?

Is the Italian Golden Visa Worth It
The investor Visa for Italy is a great opportunity for anyone in-love with Italy’s romantic charm.

The Nomad Capitalist lifestyle is all about ‘going where you’re treated best’ and planting flags in the countries that serve you better than others.

Italy, a stunning, fascinating and truly welcoming country, certainly fits that bill. Its pleasant climate, high-quality health system and the opportunity to avail of tax benefits and investment opportunities are all good reasons to consider living there. 

It’s not for everyone and, certainly, getting there can be a frustrating experience. Italy has been set in its bureaucratic ways forever and it certainly doesn’t have a stellar reputation for investors and entrepreneurship in general. Plus, its investment options are high-risk.

However, sometimes, being successful means taking calculated risks. You’ll need to plan this carefully, and that’s where Nomad Capitalist comes in.

We help seven- and eight-figure entrepreneurs and investors create bespoke strategies using our uniquely successful methods. These strategies allow you to keep more of your own money, create new wealth faster and be protected from whatever happens in just three steps. 

At Nomad Capitalist, we have a worldwide network of lawyers, estate agents, accountants, along with tax and company formation specialists. All that expertise and real-world experience come together when we advise on your holistic, bespoke action plan. Discover how we do things here.

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