Schengen Shuffle

Ligurian coast

I have to admit I spend a good bit of time reading the Facebook groups that are set up for immigrants to Italy — Retired in Italy, Americans Living in Italy, Ultimate Italy, Affordable Italy, etc. I answer a lot of questions. There are a lot of people who want to move here. I think there are a combination of reasons. The Baby Boomers are all retiring right now. People are tired of the strife in US politics, the anger that seems to permeate society now. Prices are high in the U.S.. There are many descendants of the Italian immigrants who migrated to other countries over the last hundred years who are eligible for Italian citizenship.

I actually enjoy helping people with this…most of the time. Thing is, so many people don’t do the slightest bit of research before asking a very basic question. So many young people want to come and that can be very difficult. There are very few Visas for them. For retirees, it is easier. There is a Visa called the Elective Residency Visa. It is for people with enough passive income to qualify, who don’t need to work…i.e., retirees. Or smart young people who made their pile early and can qualify. But no work allowed.

Night view

Some facts about coming to live here. If you are not an EU citizen, you will need a Visa to come. Buying property is easy but it doesn’t confer permission to stay past the normal 90 day tourist visa. After you receive the Visa, you must apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay) within a week of arrival. Then you apply for residency. (Fact – you can’t buy a car unless a resident). Also, one of the biggest hurdles to living in Italy is obtaining your driving license. Test in Italian. Must be taken within a year of residency. Once you become a resident you will be liable to pay Italy taxes on your worldwide income and investments.

It is this last bit that seems to make people balk at moving full-time to Italy. It is a pet peeve of mine that so many people try to find a way to get out of paying taxes here but still want to be able to live here and enjoy all the things that the taxes pay for. Enter the Schengen Shuffle. Americans, Canadians and many other non-EU countries have an automatic 90 day tourist visa to come to any Schengen country — most of Europe is in The Schengen Zone. So a person can come to Italy (for example) and stay 90 days, then they must exit the Schengen zone for 90 days. They can repeat as often as they want. They never become residents. They never pay taxes. They use things taxes pay for, like museums, monuments, parks, historical sites, beaches, schools, universities, libraries, hospitals, public transportation.

Historical site… Paestum Greek temples

To exit the Schengen zone and stay in Europe there are only a few possibilities. The United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Albania. Turkey. Or you can go back to your home country.

Now, from my personal perspective, the taxes are not all that bad. The tax rates are higher, yes. There is a tax treaty between the U.S. and Italy to protect against double taxation. We pay no tax in the U.S. now. We don’t pay any property taxes on our home here — we used to pay $10K+ a year in the U.S., a big savings. We don’t pay state tax, another ~$8K saved. Now that we have become permanent residents our health care is free in Umbria. [Other regions may vary.] You can apply for the long term residency at the five year mark. The cost to enroll in the system before you become a permanent resident is capped at €2,700 a person annually, but could be less. It is income based. €2K minimum cost. This is cheap by US standards. Cost of living here in Umbria is less than half what people pay in the U.S. and for some of the best, safest and most tasty food anywhere. To me, it is about a wash. Not all that much more in taxes and so worth it to us to live in this beautiful and tranquil country. 🇮🇹

La Dolce Vita 💕

Living here is not perfect by a long shot. There are a lot of hurdles people must leap. The bureaucracy is horrible. One must negotiate everyday life in a foreign language. One must abide by their rules. It is nothing like the U.S. One will get homesick. One will miss things from home. For us, the challenges are part of the draw. It keeps your mind working overtime. All normal, everyday things are now a challenge, or an adventure, depending on how you look at it. We are happy to be living here. Frankly, after ten years here, it is now our home. 🙂

20 thoughts on “Schengen Shuffle

  1. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Carlo. We must protect these things and pay for the lifestyle.

  2. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Cynthia, I am so glad you feel the way I do. There is so much to protect here. Its important people help pay for it.

  3. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Louann, i dint mind helping but people should do som research too

  4. Carlo

    That is how I felt about Venezuela, too. I grew up there and it was home. When I returned to the U. S. to attend university, I was going to a foreign country. However, as to bureaucracy, the U. S. has its fair share. As natural born citizens we don’t notice it but foreigners do. I have stories about of friends from South America that would astound you. But, I agree, Italian bureaucracy sounds pretty bad! Believe it or not, I think now, Venezuela is worse.

  5. Cynthia M

    I feel the same way about taxes as you do, especially since I’ll soon be living in Italy (and benefiting from those public assets) without having paid into the system during my working years. I don’t mind paying now.

    I know exactly what you mean about the people who parachute into the Expat/Immigrant FB groups – I’m in some of them and roll my eyes frequently. It’s not just that some people don’t do any initial research, some of them seem to expect the group members to do the work for them! Otherwise, these groups have been invaluable to me. The people who post & comment are usually so helpful and kind. I’m meeting up with some of them during my trip to Italy next week/week after.

    I’m curious about your saying you pay no US tax now. How is that so, if you don’t mind me asking – Foreign Tax Credit? I’m mulling over my tax situation and how to organize my finances once I move. I’m a dual citizen so at least I don’t have to deal with visas 🎉 and due to a vision condition I won’t be taking that driving test. 😁

  6. Louann Chapman

    Thanks Nancy! Much needed information. You are so correct about so many questions folks bring up about moving to Italy. It’s obvious they haven’t done any research on their own first, and all the questions become so redundant. You are spot-on about Italy. You forgot to mention how many Italians also try to not pay their taxes!

  7. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi MRT, (didn’t know your name!) you are lucky with citizenship. The patente test is tough. I just read something that someone posted about applying for the BE Patente right after passing the test will allow you to be exempt from the Neopatente rules. You might want to ask your autoscuola.

  8. My Rat Terriers

    Hi Nancy,
    Your post summed up beautifully our feelings about expat life in Italy. We moved here for the lifestyle, seeing it as an adventure. Fortunately for us, we have dual citizenship so it makes our route here very easy. I, too, often shake my head at the questions some people post in those very same FB groups that you mentioned — seriously, do some research before asking questions that are easily answered with a simple and quick Google search. I’m hoping to pass my license tests by early next year and then I can look forward to driving what I call a “baby” car for three years — at least they increased the power a bit!

  9. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Lynn, you just register to vote at your last U.S. address. You can vote in national elections only. It is pretty simple. You need to vote early so the ballot gets there in time. Depending on your last state of residence it can be electronic or must be sent via post.
    We do have a drop box which gives us a U.S. address.
    Social security uses our Italian address with no problems. We are only in Medicare part A. We don’t use it since we have health care here.

  10. Lynn Brown

    Great post! My question is how do you vote in the US elections from Italy?Don’t you have to have a US address even for an absentee ballot? We moved full time to the Bahamas and are residents here which meant buying a house.That means we are fine with not having to leave for 90 days etc .We will not apply for permanent residency as it is too expensive. We have a US post box address for our credit cards, mail etc as there are no mailboxes here in the Bahamas.Very short flight to Florida tho’…How does Medicare etc get mail to you in Italy?

  11. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Julie, 😏 this emoji is what I do when I read one of the clueless posts. It is a life altering move so really! Do some research!
    I do hope you visit Albania it was interesting. I learned alot and that is the point of travel right? 💚

  12. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Frances! You’re very nice to say, I do try to answer as helpfully as possible. Sometimes hard to keep quiet about tax avoidance though! 🙄 in boca al lupo on the citizenship!

  13. Julie

    Well said Nancy! It’s amazing people want to move to a foreign country, foreign language and all the bureaucracy attached and do zero research, I just scroll by. Love your insight and I will put Albania on my list of places to see as well.

  14. nonnafd

    I am in some of those same groups to learn about the options. When I see one of your replies, I know that the information is correct and up-to-date!
    My husband has a court date in July for his 1948 case. I am preparing now to take the B1 language test this fall. Life is good!

Feel the need to comment? You can do it here!