Update: The Italian Embassy in Pretoria has dismissed this programme as a scam. Chas Everitt has subsequently removed all references to it from its website, saying that its “introduction to the Italian elective residency program has been suspended pending the outcome of a pilot tour and the refining of certain checks and balances in connection with the offering”.
It is notoriously difficult – and expensive – for South Africans without ancestral ties to other countries to gain permanent residence anywhere else in the world, let alone citizenship.
However, a new programme created by the Italian Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) to encourage economically active people to immigrate to Italy now offers South Africans a relatively inexpensive way to gain residence, followed by citizenship and an Italian passport, in less than a year.
The benefits include visa-free travel throughout the European Union and to many other countries where they might wish to do business, work remotely, or send their children to university.
“This is not a ‘Golden Visa’ programme like those that have been offered since the global financial crisis of 2008 by countries such as Portugal, Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Grenada and even the US,” said Leana Nel, head of the Chas Everitt International Sales & Relocations division.
“It is also not one of those schemes one sees advertised on the Internet which offers people homes in remote Italian villages for $1 each and permanent residence if they are prepared to restore these properties and stay in them for a number of years.”
Instead, the new programme is being offered by the Italian government in conjunction with a local financial advice group and affiliate company.
It does not allow applicants to seek employment in Italy but is an elective residency programme available to people who are able to self-sustain financially or who wish to start a new business, she said.
“The minimum investment in any of the European ‘golden visa’ or visa-by-residency programmes is now €350,000 (R6 million), but the costs attached to the new Italian initiative are just €100,000 (R1.7 million) for the main applicant to obtain residency followed by citizenship and a passport – with family packages available for those with dependents – plus the cost of renting a property for 12 months.”
- First Applicant Residency €26,000, Citizenship €74,000: Total: €100,000
- Second Applicant Residency – €26,000, Citizenship – €49,000: Total: €75,000
Family/ Group packages
- Children 25 +Residency – €26,000, Citizenship – €49,000: Total: €75,000
- Children Between 14-24 Residency – €16,000, Citizenship – €44,000: Total: €60,000
- Children Between 0-13 Residency – €0, Citizenship – €40,000: Total: €40,000
Nel said the new programme is centred on Umbria, a region at the heart of Italy that is known for its scenery, art and excellent cuisine, and where applicants are required to obtain a 12-month lease on a rental property.
The monthly rentals for furnished apartments in this area start from around €350 (R6,000) a month.
“The first stage of the process is for the applicant to pass an official background check, get a local tax code and rent a property, and our role is to assist South African applicants with all of this and to oversee the paperwork on their behalf.
Nel said the group is working with a local financial group to get the rental contract approved and certified by the Chamber of Commerce in Umbria “so that applicants can be assured everything is above board.”
The next step is for applicants to receive an official government ‘invitation’ to visit Italy and obtain a Schengen Type D visa through the Italian consulate so that they can do so.
“We can assist with this and also ensure that when applicants arrive in Italy, they are met at the airport…and escorted to the local Questura, or office of the national police, to register their residency at their rental property.
“Once this is done, they will have the option to immediately take up residence, perhaps for the few weeks it takes to obtain their permanent residence documentation – or for the few months it takes to obtain their new passport.”
Alternatively, applicants whose residence has been registered are free to sublet their rental units for the remainder of their 12-month lease, return to South Africa until their documentation is ready and then go back and take up residence anywhere in Italy, Nel said.