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I’m sure that somewhere out there there’s a short answer to this question, but this is Italy we’re talking about so I don’t expect a clear answer to present itself any time soon… but in the mean time I’ve been exploring my options.

I suppose the easiest way would be to marry an Italian man. Since I already have a husband and (he’ll be pleased to know) I have no plans on trading him in, I have to pursue Plan B. Or C.

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A friend of mine recently bought herself a house in Umbria. Lovely place. She and her husband have a business here in Australia and are at the stage in their lives where their kids are all self-sufficient, and their business can look after itself for several months at a time as long as they have internet access. They’re young enough and fit enough, and are financially in a position to be able to do what they like. Since they loved Italy and have a daughter and grandchildren living in England they decided that it would be a great thing to buy a place where they could all holiday together, and their plan was to be able to spend several months at a time there, with the thought of renting their place out in between times to tourists and friends. The dream all sounded great… until they were told that they could only spend a maximum of 90 days in Italy at a time in any six month period. That’s three months, total, in the whole of the Schengen Zone. Say what?!?

We were astounded! While we wouldn’t expect that buying property would immediately give us the right to reside, we did think we’d be able to stay there a bit longer than that. After all, we’re not migrating there for work, we’re not taking anyone’s jobs, we have no intention of being a burden on the healthcare system… on the contrary… we’d be creating work for local people ~ after all, my friend hired a local agent to look after her Italian home, a cleaner, handyman, a laundry service and so on.

So I began doing a little digging, and discovered it’s true. It seems even New Zealanders can stay in Italy longer than we Aussies can.

I found there is a reciprocal agreement in place between Italy and Australia for people under 30 who want to spend a year abroad supplemented by short periods of work. Sadly I don’t fit into that category any more.

One website I read simply stated that for non-EU Citizens there are no extended residential visas for the Schengen Zone that allow a stay of longer than 90 days. I also read on another website that one may apply for an extended stay visa directly to the country’s embassy, as long as you can prove you have health insurance, a return ticket and sufficient funds and do not intend to work, a visa may be granted. It seems they approve people on a case-by-case basis, as there is no specific list of requirements. What, exactly, do they mean by ‘sufficient funds’? who knows.

My situation is a little different, in that I am married to a British national. My son also holds a British passport. They are both allowed to live, to work and travel freely anywhere within the European Union, and as the spouse and mother of two EU citizens I can live with either of them. If they are working in the UK they also have the right to use the state medical systems anywhere in the European Union ~ but do I?

If my husband chooses to live in Italy, I can live with him. However… (there’s always a catch isn’t there?) since he hasn’t been resident in the United Kingdom nor has he paid tax there for some years, he isn’t eligible to use Italy’s national health scheme. So therefore we both are required to have private health insurance to cover our stay. Fair enough. If he worked and paid taxes in the UK for one year before we decided to move to Italy, he’d be eligible to use the Italian national health system.

As a non EU citizen I must present myself (accompanied by my husband) to the much-dreaded Questura for a Carta di Soggiorno within the first 90 days (with various endless bits of paper of course!) ~ this ~ in theory ~ allows me to stay for a period of up to five years, and after five years of living in Italia I would automatically acquire ‘Il diritto al soggiorno permanente‘ or the right to reside permanently. Sounds easy. I know its not.

I have actually been through this proceedure once before, when I was 20, accompanied by my great uncle. As I recall, even back then, it took us two visits to the Questura to get the required bit of paper. I remember I folded it very carefully and cleverly to fit nicely in the back of my passport and carried around with me at all times while I travelled Italy for 6 months, thinking that it must be very important (and strangely enough, I still have stuffed away in a box of momentos somewhere)…  nobody but me ever looked at it again.

Anyway… That all sounded great ~ if I survive the Questura and the bureaucracy and actually manage to get it sorted, all will be good… until a friend told me that next year, the people of the United Kingdom will vote at the general election on whether to remain part of the European Union or not. If they decide not to remain part of the EU… then everything could change for us completely, and we’d be right back at Square One.

All the more reason to make the move sooner rather than later!!

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