After learning my story and seeing my life in Florence many ask me how they can move to Italy like me. How did I do it? What do they need to do? Unfortunately, my situation isn’t really common, and moving abroad isn’t at all as easy as it seems. Movies and Hollywood play into the idea that the decision to move to Paris for a few years is as easy as buying the plane ticket and figuring out what to put in your luggage, but it is so so much more difficult than that. I drafted a blog on the topic a while ago and want to keep it updated because I really feel that it’s important This isn’t researched ad nauseam so if anyone has additional questions, I’m happy to keep studying up on any options I didn’t fully know about or look into. The following is just the information I’ve collected on how to move to Italy based on people I’ve known that pass through the city.
Many Americans have a false sense of security when it comes to international affairs. Studying abroad seemed pretty simple – the paperwork was done for them or they were given step-by-step instructions so that many of us (myself included) never truly understood the legality of it. Until I had to be on the back-end collecting those documents and then trying to maneuver through the absolute labyrinth of Italian document submission.
Yes, had to submit my passport and take ugly pictures for a visa, but what does that really signify? There are rules that come with being an immigrant (the word I use for myself after realizing that I don’t really want to be associated with the word expat – stay tuned for another blog about that) Let’s face facts – the world is not as wide-open anymore. You can’t just pack up and settle down somewhere else. Those were the lives of our grandparents and great-grandparents – ‘we wanted a better life so we got on the boat to America’ they tell you – as did my great grandmother, but it just isn’t that simple anymore. Countries put up walls, world wars came and went, computer systems made things better but more complicated, and things just got more difficult. We now have to deal with them.
Rule Number One: Under the Tuscan Sun was a Bunch of Bullshit
I’m not going to censor myself. If you watched that movie or read that book and believe you can just hop off a tour bus and decide to stay, you are out of your damn mind. Becoming an expat – short for expatriate and defined as “to leave one’s native country to live elsewhere” or immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country (more me)– is difficult and it isn’t the fairytale (at least not all the time) that most believe it is. I may write about the beautiful scenes I have surrounded myself with, but I could also write about the struggles to fit in where I don’t “belong”, the bouts of homesickness that come and go, the paperwork, the paperwork, and the paperwork. Language learning and a thing as simple as going to the post office turns into a challenge that made me weak at the knees at first. Now, it is getting better, but I had a lot of people helping me out to get to where I am today. The question is – are you really ready for this type of life? Even if it is only for a year or two, that honestly makes it even more difficult – but it is still possible. Here are a few ways to do it:
If you want to stay in Italy (or Europe, really) for more than 90 days, you are going to have to work for it – like wicked hahhd. The current law states that: American citizens can be in Italy (and travel throughout the Schengen countries) for 90 days on what is called the VWP or Visa Waiver Program. This was first mandated from 1995-99 and has progressively advanced to the program and laws that are in place today. This means that Italian citizens can also go to the states without a visa for 90 days. Even before you hit the 91st day, you’re going to have some decisions to make.
What are the options after the 90-day tourist mark?
Getting dual citizenship through family ties:
Though this isn’t the easiest way to get abroad, it is the one that once it is completed, you won’t have to worry as much and won’t have to rely on anyone else for your life as an expat. This is the one-and-done way of getting overseas but that “one” thing you have to do may take a bit longer than you’re thinking – plus a little more paperwork and patience when dealing with the Italian system of things.
Warning: If you are going to take on the Italian government and their process of doing things, please remember that this is an animal that cannot be tamed. It’ll chew you up and spit you out multiple times. And throughout the entire process, you will think “how in the world does this country function” – don’t worry. This is normal and you get through it. By the end, you will be a champ at patience and discipline – especially when dealing with people you want to punch in the face.
At the end of this process, you will be gifted a shiny maroon passport that is your golden ticket to the EU – you can live, work, without problems. Now, the only thing you need to do is learn how to “be” Italian if you haven’t already. Start with the language. It is of utmost importance.
Obtaining a work visa if you already have a job lined up abroad
Though it will give you the biggest headache of your life, there is technically a way to get a work visa – but it’s going to cost you. Many people want to teach English abroad as income while they travel and live “the good life” but because of the popularity, the visa process is selective. If you are looking into teaching, you should select an English language school before heading to your destination. These companies can usually help you secure your visa. If you need more information about teaching English and visas, check out GoOverseas.com!
Getting a student visa to learn Italian, which allows you to work up to 20 hours a week.
If you’re still looking to study while you live your life abroad, you’re in luck –this is probably the easiest solution for short terms abroad. For example, when I enrolled in a language school here in Florence, they told me that they provide all the help necessary to obtain a student visa for an entire year. This is my favorite option. You pay for Italian lessons, which everyone should take if they want to move to Italy, you can travel the EU without issues, and work legally for up to 20 hours a week. If you get the right part-time job with those hours, you can be led to big things.
Find a US-based job with international positions
When I am referencing US jobs, Bus2alps does not count. I will get to them later. What I’m talking about here are companies or organizations that are technically based in the US but also have international offices have employees that can work in satellite offices or freelance opportunities.
From international oil companies to student travel companies that are more well known in the US, there are options for you there. Flight attendants, resort employees, study abroad programs and schools, and smaller international travel companies are all great ideas for you to get out into the travel lifestyle. If you want to go this route, ask your potential employers if there is an opportunity to travel or work remotely. You’d be surprised! I worked for GoOverseas.com from Italy as a senior columnist and I unfortunately never even visited their office or met my amazing coworkers and bosses. I swear this is one of the best companies to work for. Recommend them to anyone.
Most important: If the company you are applying to cannot guarantee you a visa for your work overseas and they are not based in the US, you should not work for them if you want to maintain a good international legal status. Of course, plenty of people use these smaller and less credited companies as a means to get abroad – which is fine for up to 90 days (kinda, but not really). Being with them long term can really mess up your passport situation, and possibly even your financial situation back at home if you ever returned. If anyone needs any more specific information, feel free to contact me.
Backpack and hope for the best – but those loans may bite you in the ass
Yes, of course, many simply save up, jump on a jet and backpack their way abroad doing small jobs to keep you going. In my personal experience, I have been offered room and board for painting or working in a hostel, as well as an under-the-table nannying job. Again, I don’t believe it is worth it to tamper with working illegally or trying to trick immigration. Either will put your stress levels through the roof if you do, I swear it.
Have love find you– (this really isn’t an option it’s just something that may happen)
Ok so once upon a time I told everyone I knew that I was just getting out of an office job in Lynn, MA and heading to Florence, Italy for the summer. “Don’t worrrryyy!” I told everyone, “I’ll be back before you know it!” In those three months, a temporary adventure turned a little more serious when I met Rami. Yes, this can happen. Even if at first I said I wasn’t going to allow it (ask Rami and he’ll happily explain all the details to you), but in the end, I knew that I would never ever find another person like him – so we moved in together, he proposed, and we got married.
And that is the power of love. Even though we were at each other’s throats through the entire paperwork process that took three months of our lives, I am now able to live and love legally in Italy as a resident and the spouse of an EU citizen. Warning – if you think you just found a loophole, I’m ahead of you. Do NOT think that you can just sham a marriage to get overseas. This is a terrible idea in all aspects. Honestly, if you were to try it in Italy, there would be a murder before you could make it to the wedding date because one of you would kill the other just over the documentation if there was no love involved.
This is just an overview of the ways I know about to move to Italy. I want to write more in detail on this at some point and get into additional FAQs, so please leave comments or email with questions!