Italy’s investor visa and residency program during Covid-19 times

By Alessia Ajelli

Italy is one of the last EU countries to have introduced a visa and resident permit category in 2017 dedicated to foreign investors seeking to carry out an investment in the Italian market and get a resident permit.

Even though the purpose has always been to attract foreign capital to benefit the Italian economy, the characteristics and requirements of this program somehow were not comparable to the ones offered by other programs available in different EU countries (such as, for example, the Portuguese Golden Visa program or the Maltese visa and resident permit program) and that is the reason why only few applicants decided to give it a try during the first period of the program.

The Covid-19 pandemic did certainly also have a very strong impact on the Italian economy, travel and investment opportunities, as well as the visa and residence program itself. These circumstances led the Italian government to introduce changes to the program in 2020. The changes and innovations to the program aimed at reinforcing it and making it even more appealing to foreign investors in the hope to help the Italian economy, which was suffering from the consequences of Covid-19 and the restrictive measures that the Italian government had to apply to defeat the virus.

The main features of the program are the same as well as the available investment types which are still connected to Italian companies, innovative start-up companies, research/education and philanthropic activities and government bonds. Non-EU foreigners moving their fiscal residency to Italy will still be able to enjoy financial and tax benefits, having access to the “flat tax regime” that provides for the payment of an annual flat tax of 100,000 euro notwithstanding the amount of revenues generated in Italy and anywhere else in the world.

Investment categories and new amounts for Italy’s program

The types of investment needed to apply for the visa are still the four originally provided for when the program was launched, but the amount of the minimum investment has been cut in half for the most important categories of investments: the minimum investment in equity instruments of Italian companies or corporations is now 500,000 euros and the one in innovative start-up companies already incorporated and operating in Italy is 250,000 euros, while for investments in Italian government bonds and in philanthropic projects the original amounts still apply (respectively 2 million and 1 million euros each).

Other changes recently introduced in Italy

Due to a restrictive interpretation of the law that introduced the Investor visa and resident permit category by the Ministry of Economic Development – which is the main authority involved in the process for the issuance of the visa - until September 2020 the only applicants allowed to apply for the visa and consequently the resident permit were individuals making an investment on a personal basis.

With the new Law No. 120/2020, this limitation has been removed and it is now possible for the legal representative of a foreign company to obtain the visa through an investment performed by such company.

If the foreigner applies as a legal representative of a foreign company, the Investor Visa for Italy Committee, the organization in charge of the evaluation of visa applications, will request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation a preliminary review of the application to check the satisfaction of the reciprocity condition provided for by Article 16 of the Italian laws (“preleggi”). According to this law, a foreigner is allowed to enjoy the rights and freedoms granted to Italian citizens if the same rights and freedoms are granted to Italian citizens in the foreign country where the non-EU national comes from.

Another important change that has been introduced is the fact that the holder of the Investor Visa is no more required to spend a minimum amount of time in the Italian territory to be able to keep the visa and renew the resident permit.

If the other requirements for the renewal of the resident permit are matched - specifically the fact that the original investment made to obtain the visa and resident permit is kept and not dismissed in whole or in part - the holder of the Investor visa and resident permit will be able to apply for the renewal no matter the number of days actually spent in Italy during the validity of the visa and resident permit. This, above all, is a huge and substantial change, also taking in consideration the fact that other types of Italian visas and resident permits, to be kept and renewed, require the holder to not be away from Italy for more than a certain amount of time, usually more than the half of the duration of the resident permit.

Not forcing investors to be present in Italy for a specific number of days/months is certainly the best way to attract foreign capital and individuals who are willing to spend it to have a visa and resident permit, which may allow them to freely travel to the EU anytime they want and stay as long as they please.

Finally, the holder of an Investor visa and resident permit will be exempt from the “Integration Agreement” obligation, which basically requires the foreigner to learn Italian civics and language and satisfy the minimum knowledge requirements set forth by the law to keep the resident permit and be able to renew it upon its expiration. That requirement instead falls on all holders of long-term Italian resident permits. This obligation will apply to an Investor visa and resident permit holder only after 5 years of legal residence in the country should the foreigner be willing to convert the resident permit into a new one of a different type/category.

A boost for Italian economy and more benefits for the holders 

The Italian Investor visa and resident permit program was created to attract talent and draw high net worth individuals and their capital to Italy, pairing it up with the beneficial flat tax regime to make it more appealing to potential applicants. To make the Italian market even more attractive for foreign investments, especially during this times of general hardness and uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, important and material changes to the program have been introduced by the Italian government in the last months with the scope, and also the hope, that this will result in a more substantial access to the program by foreign investors who now will have even more reasons to choose Italy and the Italian Investor visa and residence program as a good and trustable option in the international and EU panorama of visa and residence programs.

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About the Author

Alessia Ajelli
Alessia Ajelli

Alessia Ajelli is an Italian immigration attorney. She is currently an attorney at LCA Studio Legale, based in Milan, Italy.

LCA practices a variety of legal fields, including corporate law, tax law, intellectual property, transportation and shipping law, as well as specialized fields for the energy, finance, food and beverage industries. It has locations throughout Italy in Milan, Genoa and Treviso, as well as a fourth office in the United Arab Emirates. Ajelli has been with LCA since 2011.

Her immigration law practice includes assisting clients with corporate immigration issues, citizenship matters, work permits and EU blue cards. In addition to immigration law, Ajelli has experience in mergers and acquisitions, investment transactions and corporate law.

Ajelli has also served as a mentor for H-Farm, which helps young people create business models, and Start-Up Chile, which seeks to bring foreign investment capital to the country of Chile.

Ajelli earned a law degree from the University of Milan in 2011. She has also studied at the University of Navarra in Spain and Tsinghua University in China. She is the co-author of the Italian chapter in the 2014 edition of “The Corporate Immigration Review.”

Ajelli speaks Italian, English and Spanish.

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