Italy, or more correctly the sovereign state of the Italian Republic, is the fourth most populated country in the European Union with approximately 60 million inhabitants. Bounded on the east and west by the Mediterranean Sea and Adriatic Sea, Italy has a pleasant temperate climate almost the entire year round which has made the country an extremely popular destination for tourists.
Apart from the pleasant climate, Italy is also home to many of the world’s most famous and historic locations such as the Vatican City and all that Rome has to offer.
The country first signed up to the Schengen Agreement in 1990 but it was not until 1997 that Italy first began to implement the necessity for a Schengen Visa to visit. This applies to all foreign nationals with the exception of those born in a fellow European Union or Schengen country as well as citizens of a number of countries that are part of a reciprocal visa-exempt travel arrangement.
Short-Stay Schengen Visas
With more than 50 million tourists visiting annually, tourism is a major source of income for Italy. The vast majority of visitors are short-stay tourists who are holidaying in the country or students and business people who are visiting for educational or business-related purposes. Intending visitors who do not qualify for visa-exempt entry into the country are deemed to be “world travellers” and, as such, will require a suitable form of visa. Which type of visa is required will depend on the principal reason for visiting Italy.
The most commonly sought visa types for world travellers are:
Using an Italian airport in order to make an onward connection requires the traveller to have an Airport Transit Visa. This may not always be required but it is advisable to check before making any assumptions. World travellers on an Airport Transit Visa should also possess a valid visa for the destination country (if one is required) as well as the airline tickets for the onward leg of the trip.
A Transit Visa normally only applies to seafarers using an Italian port to change to another vessel or awaiting departure. As with the Airport Transit Visa, travellers should also possess a valid visa for the final destination and proof of the onward journey as well as a copy of the holder’s Seaman’s Book and letter of employment (if applicable).
All Schengen Visas allow the holder to remain within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period. The ninety days can be continuous or broken up into smaller stays as long as the 90 day limit is not exceeded. Many visitors to Italy are in the country for a vacation and a Tourist Visa is the one that is required. The most important documentation required when applying for a Tourist Visa are:
- Bank statements covering the preceding six months
- Day by day planned travel while in Italy
- Proof of adequate finances to cover all expenses while in the country
- As with all short-stay visas an applicant must also have adequate health insurance to cover any medical emergencies while in Italy.
When visiting Italy at the request of a family member or friend residing in Italy it is best to have a Visitor Visa. As well as the documentation required for a Tourist Visa (bank statements, travel itinerary, proof of funds and health insurance) applicants should also supply a letter of invitation from the friend or relative as well as proof of the relationship (if any) with the host resident in Italy.
Visitors wishing to travel to Italy for business-related purposes are advised to secure a Business Visa. This is specifically targeted at business people wanting to attend meetings, seminars, conferences and conduct other business matters. Applications should be accompanied by:
- Letter of invitation giving details of the travel dates, duration of trip, purpose of the visit and any sponsorship
- Copy of the Registration Certificate of the company in Italy
- Employer’s letter outlining the purpose of the trip
- Proof of sufficient funding for the visit including accommodation and expenses
Students wishing to attend an educational establishment in Italy for courses of less than ninety days duration should be in possession of a Study Visa. The application process includes providing the following documentation:
- No Objection Letter or Certificate from the institution providing the course which states the student will leave the country on completion of the course
- Proof of enrolment giving details of the course and relevant dates
- If the student is taking part in an internship then an Internship Agreement between the student and relevant authority will be required.
World travellers visiting an Italian hospital or medical centre for treatment require a Schengen Medical Visa. In order to acquire this type of visa an applicant must provide:
- Medical report from the applicant’s doctor, medical centre or hospital
- Confirmation of treatment in Italy from the relevant Italian medical authority including dates and description of treatment
- Proof of adequate funding or payment made for treatment
Official Visit Visa
Exclusively for the use of members of a visiting official delegation, this visa does not apply to the general public but is a requirement for officials wishing to attend meetings, negotiations or consultations in Italy. In order to qualify for an Official Visit Visa it is necessary to provide a copy of the official invitation and documented proof regarding the purpose of the visit.
It should be noted that there are two microstates located within the Italian borders, namely San Marino and Vatican City. Although not officially Schengen members both are considered to be part of Schengen and an Italian Schengen Visa is also valid for the two states.
Acquiring an Italian Schengen Visa
An Italian Schengen Visa is required by world travellers if:
- Italy is the only Schengen state being visited
- Italy is the Schengen country in which most time will be spent
- Equal time will be spent in more than one Schengen country but arrival is through Italy
Once the appropriate form of visa is selected there are a number of standard steps to be taken:
- Locate the nearest Italian embassy, consulate or visa processing centre
- Complete the visa application form carefully and correctly
- Collect any required documentation
- Arrange for a personal interview
Allow time for processing the visa
Although processing time may be as little as fourteen days it is wise to allow thirty days to play it safe. This is a more likely time frame so applications should be lodged at least a month before any planned trip to Italy. Applications may be lodged sooner than this but should never be submitted any more than three months before the date of travel in order to avoid confusion and possible delays.