Does Italy have a golden visa program? How has it changed in 2021?
Since early 2017, Italy has launched two investment immigration programmes for people outside of the European Union. The one we’ll look at here concerns what is commonly called the “Golden Visa” which is essentially a visa for people looking to invest in Italy. Other countries like Spain, Portugal and Malta offer a similar track. The big difference between Italy and those countries is that Italy’s program requires investing into a start-up company, an LLC or purchasing government bonds while the other countries listed also allow for real estate investment. At this time, Italy does not allow visas for pure real estate investment.
A second program is sometimes called the Flat Tax or Substitute Tax Regime. This package includes a €100,000 lump-sum on all foreign income for individuals who become Italian residents after at least a 9-year period of residence outside of Italy. This flat tax is paid on an annual basis for a maximum of 15 years.
The last program is also fairly new. It comes in the form of a pensioner visa program for international retirees. It is a form of elective residence in which the resident is, by law, forbidden from working. They must live entirely on passive income. There are certain strict requirements that must be met, but that is the subject of another article.
Check out our elective residency visa guide for 2020 for more informations about this.
What exactly is the golden visa?
The golden visa is technically an Investor Visa. It is a 2-year visa given to non-EU citizens who choose to make large investments in Italy. Doing so will grant them the right to stay in Italy as long-term residents and eventually, if they choose, as citizens.
Compared to traditional immigration to a country, this way is simplified and fast. Once you have residency in one Member State of the European Union, you are afforded all the rights (and duties) of other citizens, including free movement within the Schengen area. It is an opportunity to gain access to Europe by investing in its future and the reward of residency reflects as much. If your long-term goal is to become an Italian citizen, this is simply another option.
Compared to other similar visa programs (like those of Portugal or Spain) or the citizenship by investment programmes of Malta and Cyprus, the Italian program still differentiates itself, though it has removed some “barriers” regarding how long one must reside in Italy. Also, Italy does not allow for pure real estate investments to gain residency while the other countries do.
Golden visa programs, so far, throughout the EU have generated about €25,000,000,000; not a bad start for a new idea.
Check out our video of last year about Elective Residency Visa or Golden Visa as it more known for.
How much would I need to invest?
It really depends on which of the investment options is most attractive to you. The “Relaunch Decree” last summer (2020) decreased the cost of the lowest two options by half while leaving the most expensive ones intact. The decree also changed some other aspects in order to make the investment more attractive to potential investors. You no longer have to spend one full year, out of the two years granted by the visa, in Italy if you don’t want to. This is the zero presence approach adopted by some of the other countries with similar investment programs. Additionally, it is not necessary to make the investment until you receive approval for the visa so this limits the risk involved for the investor: no longer buying a property but being denied a visa. Simply put, any of these options are viable:
● €2,000,000 purchase of government bonds;
● €1,000,000 as a philanthropic donation;
● €1,000,000 €500,000 in loans to an Italian limited company;
● €500,000 €250,000 invested into a start-up.
Does the visa grant residency as well?
The visa in its current form, as of 2021, grants a residence permit for a two-year period and is renewable, of course. Most visas for Italy last only one year, sometimes less. You can gain permanent residency in Italy as long as there is proof that you earn at least €100,000 per year. In theory, if you are looking for Italian citizenship, this can be granted after ten years, but in reality the process for citizenship can take longer. This permanent residency requirement is reduced to €35,000 if you are making a large investment in property.
Did Italy cut the investment requirements for its golden visa?
Yes, but only for the two lowest cost options. As we saw above, investing into an innovative start-up is the cheapest option now, only €250,000, which, as far as investing in a company goes, is a very reasonable and competitive choice. The second cheapest option is to loan an Italian limited company €500,000 which is down from €1,000,000. Some may consider this a small price to pay to live in Italy without going the traditional route moving to a country.
Are you planning to live in Italy? Check out our guide on how to write a proper cover letter for your visa, our guide to Italian residency or discover how to get paid to move to Italy.
After moving back to Italy from the United States in 2013, I realized how much an accounting and tax firm was needed to help expats living in Italy to comply with the local tax regulations.