A visa is a permit issued to citizens of another country so that they can enter the territory of the Italian Republic or of other Schengen countries. They can enter on a “transit” or “stay” basis. The visa takes the form of a sticker applied to their passport or another valid travel document.
Before we issue a visa, we carry out checks to make sure the applicant meets certain requirements and conditions. In some cases these conditions are set out in detail in the law. In other cases they are less clearly defined and the official in the visa office evaluates the application at his or her discretion.
To find out if, as a foreign national, you need a visa to enter Italy, you can consult the visa database on this website. Click on the question “Do you need a visa?” and then complete the fields for Nationality, Residence, Duration of Stay and Reason for Visit. This will take you to a page with information on whether you need a visa to enter Italy and information on the application requirements. Please note, this information is not exhaustive and is intended as guidance only.
In general terms, there are two main categories of visa, depending on the duration of the visa:
Uniform Schengen visas are type C visas and national visas are type D visas.
Short-stay visas can be issued for: business, medical treatment, sporting events, by invitation, self-employment, dependent employment, missions, religious grounds, study, transport and tourism.
Long-stay visas can only be issued for: adoption, medical treatment, diplomatic work, accompanying family members, self-employment, dependent employment, religious grounds, re-entry, elective residence, family reunification, study, working holidays.
Type A visas (which are also short-stay) are visas for airport transit. Only the citizens of certain countries are required to apply for these.
The organisation responsible for issuing visas issued by Italy is the Italian diplomatic-consular post in your place of habitual residence or origin. This is the only organisation authorised to evaluate and verify that you, as a foreign national, meet the requirements to obtain a visa.
Uniform Schengen Visas. For Uniform Schengen Visas (both for transit and for short stays), if Italy is not your only or principal destination, you should submit your visa application to the diplomatic-consular post of the Schengen country that is your main destination.
If it is not possible to establish which country is your main destination (for example if you are making a journey with stays in different Schengen countries), the diplomatic-consular post of the first Schengen country you plan to enter will be responsible for issuing the visa.
If your destination Schengen country does not have a diplomatic-consular post in your country of residence, the Schengen visa can be issued by the diplomatic-consular post of another Schengen country that represents your destination country.
National visas. It is the diplomatic-consular post of the Schengen state that will be your long-stay destination that is responsible for issuing your national visa.
For national visas, there are no agreements in place for one country to represent, and issue visas on behalf of, another country in a foreign national’s country of residence.
You must submit your visa application in person to the appropriate consular office, usually by appointment.
You can connect to the visa database on this website to obtain general information on the documents you need to include with your visa application. The information will depend on the type of visa applied for, and your nationality and place of residence. You need to click on the question “Do you need a visa?” and then complete the fields for Nationality, Residence, Duration of Stay and Reason for Visit.
The list of documents and requirements shown on the visa database pages is for guidance only. The visa office of each Embassy or Consulate responsible for issuing visas may, with just a few exceptions, ask you for additional documents.
The administration fees for visa applications (in euros) are:
Visa offices collect these fees in the currency of the country in which you submit your visa application. Visas for study, for diplomatic or service passport holders, and for family members of EU citizens are free.
Within 15 calendar days of the date the application is submitted, the visa office will decide whether a Uniform Schengen Visa can be issued. You need to make sure that you complete each part of the application, and you must submit it within the correct timescale (three months at most from the start of your journey). You must also have paid your visa fees.
The time taken to process and decide on your application can be extended by up to 60 calendar days if necessary, for example if the visa office needs to examine your application in more detail or if additional documentation is needed.
The maximum time envisaged to issue a national visa (or to notify applicants that their application has been rejected) is 90 days from the date of application, as established by the Italian laws on immigration.
The time taken to process an application for a national visa varies. It can be:
- 30 days for visas for: dependent employment, accompanying family members and family reunification.
- 120 days for self-employment visas.
If the visa office cannot be certain that the documents submitted with an application are authentic, then the office must carry out all the controls and checks it thinks are necessary. This could take longer than the timescale established by law. In such cases, the visa office concerned can “pause” the count of the days and then resume counting once the result of the checks is known. The office must inform the applicant if this happens.
Each entry visa must include two time values:
The validity of a visa is generally longer than its duration. The validity establishes the date from which the visa can be used and the last day on which it can be used. The visa expires on the last day of its validity. As a foreign national, you must leave the Schengen area by that date.
A Schengen visa may be issued for one, two of several entries. A national visa is always issued for multiple entries.
The number of entries is shown on the visa: 01 or 02 for one or two entries respectively, and MULT for visas where more than two entries are authorised.
For visas with more than one authorised entry, you, as visa holder, are authorised to stay for one or more periods of time. The total duration of those periods must not exceed the total period of stay allowed by the visa, starting from the date you first entered the Schengen area.
For the uniform Schengen visa only, and only in exceptional cases, it is possible to issue a visa for multiple entries with a period of validity of between six months and 5 years. In such cases, the conditions set out at article 24.2 of the Visa Code must be satisfied.
Uniform Schengen Visas. As a foreign national holding a short-stay visa (Uniform Schengen Visa), you may not extend your visa for any longer than the duration of stay envisaged by your visa. The only exception is for cases where it is absolutely and demonstrably impossible for you to leave the country.
These cases may be the result of:
In such cases, the authority responsible for evaluating the situation and deciding whether or not to extend your stay on Italian territory is the local Questura.
National visas. A national visa is an authorisation to enter Italian territory. One you have crossed the border and entered Italy your visa no longer has a function. To demonstrate that you are legally entitled to stay on Italian territory you should obtain a residence permit. This will be issued for the reason and duration indicated on your visa.
Foreign nationals do not have any right to obtain a visa. There are some exceptions to this, for example family cohesion, which is considered a constitutional and subjective right. Foreign nationals may at most have a legitimate interest in obtaining a visa.
This is why holding a visa is not sufficient in itself to guarantee automatic entry to Italy or to the Schengen Area for foreign nationals, who may be refused entry by the border authorities.
Once the assessment procedures have been completed, all admissible visa applications must have one of two outcomes: a decision to issue the visa or a decision to refuse the visa.
The decision to refuse the visa must be communicated to the applicant in writing, and a reason must be given. The notification must be written in Italian and in a language that the foreign national understands.
The decision to refuse a Schengen visa and the reasons for the refusal are notified to the applicant using a standard form, in accordance with Annex VI of the Visa Code.
The decision to refuse the visa must include references to the laws and other rules on which the refusal was based, and the arrangements and timescale for submitting an appeal.
Foreign visa applicants whose application has been refused may submit their appeal, through a lawyer, to the Lazio Regional Administrative Court (Italian initials TAR).
Only in cases where a national visa for family reunification or for accompanying family members has been refused, the foreign national may appeal to the Ordinary Courts. In such cases there is no time limit for the appeal.
Refusal of a visa does not automatically mean that a new application will be refused. The new application will be assessed on the basis of all the information available when it is submitted.
Latest update: 18/10/2013