Italy is a fabulous destination, offering stunning, varied landscapes, sumptuous cuisine, great weather, and attractive tax incentives. Unlike rivals Portugal and Spain, however, the country’s residency options have historically left much to be desired. But for the right person, Italy’s relatively unknown Representative Office Visa could be an excellent option.
Let’s get into the details below…
The Italian company formation residency you’ve never heard of…
The team at Sovereign Man continually scour the globe to unearth the most attractive alternative residency options for our readers and members. And if these programs can be situated in highly livable countries – so much the better.
Italy is one of our favorite destinations in continental Europe. But compared to Greece, Portugal and Spain, Italy’s residency options tend to be less accessible:
- The Elective Residency option – Italy’s answer to Portugal’s D7 Visa for retirees and passive income earners, and Spain’s Non-Lucrative Residency – requires applicants to show substantially more passive income. And in addition, we’ve received various reports of applicants being declined because they weren’t of retirement age.Plus, based on member and service provider feedback, it seems that the process and requirements can vary quite widely based on where you’re applying from, and where in the country you’ll be attending your biometrics appointment…So while this option exists, it’s by no means an easy residency option…
- The Italian Golden Visa Program has several disadvantages: First, the country doesn’t allow you to invest in real estate to get this visa. And second, the cheapest option – being a €250,000 investment in a tech startup – is so risky as to all but guarantee a total loss of capital.(Hence most applicants go for the €500,000 option, which involves investing in a larger, established business. But the program hasn’t gained much traction to date.)
Moreover, especially if you’re in the market for a flexible, Plan B type residency based on property investment, countries like Greece and Spain will likely make more sense.
So given the above challenges, we were pleased, recently, to uncover a relatively obscure Italian business formation residency known as the Italian Representative Office Visa…
Now whilst this program certainly won’t work for everyone, it could be a slam dunk, provided that you can tick a number of business-related boxes…
Introducing the Italian Representative Office Visa…
The Italian Representative Office Visa enables foreign companies to establish offices in Italy.
(A representative office is generally a foreign company’s non-commercial branch in a country, formed for marketing and promotional activities, market research, etc.)
Do note that the sponsoring foreign company must be an active trading company located in one of the World Trade Organization countries. It must also have limited liability status.
Once established, the representative office can then appoint a representative (e.g. a manager). This person would then be able to apply for Italian residency and move to Italy to perform the functions required of them.
In addition, the representative’s spouse and children can also join them in Italy under the same visa category.
But the deal gets even better…
There is no need to invest in Italy, and, importantly, the foreign company is exempt from Italian taxation.
All of the above-mentioned conditions are exceptionally favorable for a country known for its limited residency options (and restrictive residency requirements).
How does this program compare to Italy’s Golden Visa?
Additionally, some online resources we found mention that no physical presence requirements apply for the manager of the representative office to maintain their Italian residency.
This pretty much equates the Rep Office Visa category to the Italian Golden Visa (aka Investor Visa) which requires you to invest at least €250,000 in the country.
(All other Italian residency paths generally mandate you to spend at least some time on the ground.)
The same online resources also claim that this visa category is exempt from the annual quota limitations that apply to certain professional visas in Italy.
However, when something seems too good to be true, we seek expert confirmation.
According to our trusted legal service providers on the ground, there are essential conditions for someone to successfully qualify under the Representative Office Visa path.
For starters, managers of the representative office can apply for two distinct visa types.
First, they can apply for a “special” self-employed visa as per article 40/22 of Decree 394/1999.
This type of visa is indeed not subject to a quota. But to qualify for it, applicants must secure authorization from the Italian Labor office by doing the following:
- Proving that they are indeed employed by the foreign company, AND
- Proving that the company that hires them is affiliated with the company that registered the representative office in Italy, AND
- Submitting the foreign company’s financials.
This visa category is very beneficial, but as you can see, it involves a fair amount of paperwork. And importantly, you need to be hired by a foreign company with an appropriate work contract, etc.
The second visa type available to managers is the “ordinary” self-employment visa. While this option doesn’t require you to meet the three conditions above, it is subject to issuance quotas.
In 2023, only 500 permits for self-employed individuals can be issued, and these have to be distributed among entrepreneurs, startup founders, professionals, renowned artists, chairmen, CEOs, and several other categories.
In other words, the ordinary self-employed visa category is in high demand, and you’d be lucky to obtain one.
And importantly, any self-employed residency permit is subject to the physical presence requirement.
So does qualifying for the “special” self-employment track give you the same flexibility as with the Golden Visa?
According to our legal providers, the answer is no; only the Italian Investor Visa (aka their Golden Visa) is exempt from this requirement.
So while individual applicants’ experiences may differ from what the law states, you should work on the assumption that you cannot stay outside of Italy, consecutively, for more than half of the duration of your residency permit.
E.g.: On a one-year permit, you cannot stay outside of Italy for more than six consecutive months at a time – which would generally also see you becoming a tax resident there (and why it’s highly advisable to seek professional tax advice).
In summary, the Italian Representative Office Visa is not as much of a silver bullet as it might initially appear. But for the right individual, it can still be an excellent option for gaining Italian residency.
So if Italy interests you, we highly recommend consulting a professional to evaluate your eligibility for the various residency options and to guide you through the application process.
Sovereign Confidential members, feel free to reach out to us if you’d like our trust provider’s details.
Yours in Freedom.
Team Sovereign Man