While visas are not always required to visit Italy, visitors from some countries are required to get a visa before traveling to Italy. In addition, most citizens of countries outside the European Union are required to have a visa if visiting Italy for longer than 90 days or if they're planning to work in Italy. Even if you don't need a visa, you will need a valid passport.
Since visa requirements may change, it is always advisable to check for the latest information from your government's state department before you travel.
What is the Schengen Area
As you research passport and visa requirements for Italy, you'll see the term "Schengen Zone" or "Schengen Area." The Schengen Area is comprised of the European Union (EU) countries that have abolished internal passport controls at borders.
Because these countries allow free transit of EU citizens and visitors, once a traveler enters into a Schengen Area country, they are free to travel from country to country. The caveat is that most visitors can stay for only a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen Area. Then, they must leave the Schengen Area for a minimum of 90 days before they are permitted to re-enter and travel again for another 90 days.
Citizens of the United States and Canada
If you are a citizen of the United States and Canada and wish to visit Italy for 90 days or fewer, you do not need a visa.
What do you need? Tourists are required to have a valid passport that expires more than 90 days after you leave the EU's Schengen Area. So, if you arrive June 1 and plan to stay 90 days until August 29th, you need a passport that is valid until at least 90 days after August 29.
At your point of entry into the Schengen Area— whether that's the airport in Rome, Paris or Barcelona, for example—you will be required to show proof of a return ticket to your country of origin or to a non-Schengen country. The customs agent may ask about the purpose of your trip, where you are staying, what other countries you are planning to visit. Even though you won't have a piece of paper marked "visa," you will essentially be in Italy on a tourist visa, which is good for 90 days.
It sounds complicated, but it's really pretty simple. You can travel within Italy and within the EU's Schengen Area countries for a total of 90 days, period. As a tourist, you can't legally stay in Italy or the Schengen Area for longer than 90 days. You can not come to Italy (or Schengen) with open-ended plans to try to stay longer, look for a job or decide if you want to move long-term.
Before 90 days have passed, you will need to leave Italy and the Schengen Area, and stay out for a minimum of 90 days before visiting again. It sounds rigid, but it is one of Italy and the EU's means of controlling illegal immigration.
How To Know If You Need a Visa
To find out if you need a visa, go to the Italian government's Visa for Italy website. There you will select your nationality and country of residence, how long you plan to stay (up to 90 days or more than 90 days), and the reason for your visit.
If you plan to travel as a tourist, select tourism. Click confirm to see if you need a visa. If you are traveling as a student for a period of longer than 90 days, your home institution or the school in Italy where you are registered to study will help you arrange to stay legally in Italy.
How to Get an Italian Visa
If you do need a visa, the Visa for Italy website will take you to a page that tells you what is required with links for the necessary forms, where to apply, and the cost. Submission of an application does not guarantee that you will get a visa so do not travel until you have the actual visa.
If you have more questions or need help with your visa application, you will also find an email address on that page. Please direct any visa questions you have to the email address given for the embassy or consulate in the country where you live.
Important visa and travel tips:
- Be sure to apply for your visa far enough in advance of when you plan to travel. Keep copies of all documents and forms you turn in and bring the supporting documents with you when you travel.
- If you don't have the proper documents in hand when you arrive in Italy (or the Schengen Area) you will be denied entry. If you are discovered in Italy on an expired tourist visa (meaning you've stayed longer than 90 days), you will be promptly sent out of Italy and the Schengen Area, at your own expense. It is not advised to stay past the allotted time allowed.