The Difference between a Visa and Permesso di Soggiorno

Are you planning to travel or move to Italy? If yes, it is important to know the difference between a visa and a permesso di soggiorno. I have encountered many people who often think a visa is all you need to move to and live in Italy. Unfortunately, this is not exactly true. The visa is only the beginning and then starts the journey for the permesso di soggiorno.

Often if you talk to some of us ex-pats in Italy, you’ll hear us refer more to the permesso di soggiorno as this is what we most commonly use. To make things even more confusing -we should clear up that your permesso di soggiorno, though often referred to as a “residence permit” is not your residence. It is better to call it a permit to stay.


A visa is a document that permits you to enter Italy for a specific period of time. A visa is issued by the Italian embassy or consulate in your home country. Most often these visas are multiple entries, but it is important to check when applying.

There are several types of visas available for Italy, including tourist visas, study visas, work visas, and family visas. Each visa has its own documentation requirements and limitations regarding what you are allowed to do in Italy For example, a study visa allows you to stay for the duration of your course of study, but not work more than 20 hours a week.

Permesso di Soggiorno

A permesso di soggiorno, also known as a residence permit or permit to stay, is a document that permits you to remain in Italy. It is issued by the Italian police after you arrive in Italy. You must apply for this within 8 days of your arrival, it is another process, separate from the visa application. Yet, you need the visa to obtain your first PdS. When you renew, you will not need to renew your visa, just your permesso.

There are several types of permesso di soggiorno available in Italy, including work permits, student permits, family permits, and elective residence permits. Your first permesso di soggiorno will be the same type as your visa, but as time goes on you might renew for a different type. Like the visa, each permesso will have its own rules. For example, a work permit is granted for a specific job and employer, while a student permit is granted for the duration of your course of study.

The difference between a visa and permesso di soggiorno

As you can see a visa and a permesso di soggiorno are two different documents that serve different purposes. A visa allows you to enter Italy for a specific period of time while a permesso di soggiorno allows you to stay in Italy for a longer period of time. If you are in Italy for any other reason than tourism, you will need both.

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