Attracting investors to Italy
Article 1, paragraph 148 of the 2017 Budget Law introduced Article 26bis to the Consolidated Immigration Act with the purpose of attracting investors to Italy, specifically foreign individuals who are willing to invest significant resources in the Italian economy.
The investor visa grants entry and stay in Italy for periods exceeding 3 months, without being subject to annual quotas.
ILF Law Firm is well-equipped to assist foreigners who intend to invest or make donations in Italy. Our services range from assessing the requirements to applying for an entry visa and subsequently obtaining an investor residence permit.
What are the eligibility criteria for obtaining a Golden visa in Italy?
To apply for an investor visa, the foreigner must demonstrate the intention to make one of the following:
1/ Investing in Italian government securities
An investment of at least €2,000,000 in Italian government securities, to be held for a minimum of two years.
2/ Investing in the capital of a company
An investment of at least €500,000 in instruments representing the capital of a company incorporated and operating in Italy, which must be maintained for a minimum of two years.
3/ Investing in an innovative startup
Alternatively, an investment of at least €250,000 is acceptable if the company is an innovative start-up registered in the special section of the register of companies mentioned in Article 25, paragraph 8, of Decree-Law No. 179 of October 18, 2012, as amended by Law No. 221 of December 17, 2012.
4/ Embracing a public project with a donation
A philanthropic donation of at least €1,000,000 in support of a project in the public interest, specifically in the fields of culture, education, immigration management, scientific research, or restoration of cultural and scenic heritage. In this case, the applicant must:
- Demonstrate ownership and actual beneficiary status of at least €2,000,000 (for point 1).
- Or demonstrate ownership and actual beneficiary status of at least €1,000,000 (for point 2) and this letter). The funds must be available and transferable in Italy.
- Additionally, the applicant must provide a written statement committing to utilizing the funds referenced in point 1) for an investment or philanthropic donation that meets the criteria set forth in points 1), 2), and this letter within three months of entering Italy.
- Furthermore, they must demonstrate sufficient financial resources, in addition to the funds mentioned in point 1), to cover their own maintenance costs during their stay in Italy. This amount should exceed the minimum level required by law for exemption from participation in healthcare costs.
“Instruments representing capital” should be understood to include only those that confer shareholder status from the initial investment, such as shares in companies (ordinary, savings, preference) and non-shareholding companies.
It is worth clarifying that the rule does not limit the investment to that of shares, thus having to admit that the acquisition of membership may also concern companies whose capital is not composed of shares, such as personal companies and limited liability companies.
It is doubtful, on the other hand, whether the list of permissible corporations includes partnerships. The company, according to the best interpretation of the rule, can be either newly established or already in existence.
A decree of the Minister of Economic Development, in consultation with the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, dated July 21, 2017, identified the documents required to apply for an investor visa:
- Copy of a valid travel document with an expiration date at least three months longer than that of the visa applied for;
- Documentation by which the applicant proves that he/she is the actual owner and beneficiary of the amounts to be used for investment, and that these amounts are available and transferable in Italy;
- Certification attesting to the lawful origin of the funds consisting of:
A) a statement made by the applicant indicating the source from which the funds are derived;
B) certification of non-existence of final criminal convictions and pending charges issued by the competent authorities of the countries other than Italy in which, in the ten years preceding the submission of the application and following the applicant’s 18th birthday, the applicant has resided for a period of more than twelve consecutive months;
- Declaration in which the applicant undertakes to use the funds within three months of entering Italy to carry out the investment or donation and to maintain the investment for at least two years. The declaration shall be accompanied by a description of the characteristics and recipients of the investment or donation.”
How to apply for an Italian investor visa?
The 2017 ministerial decree also provided the required procedure to be able to apply for an investor visa.
Specifically, the foreigner who intends to obtain the issuance of an investor visa must submit the necessary documentation through a web platform dedicated to the program.
The Secretariat of the specially established Committee carries out the formal check on the completeness of the documentation.
The process must be concluded within 30 days of receipt of the application.
Once the clearance is issued, the applicant submits the visa application to the relevant consular office.
As is the norm, within eight days of entering Italy, the investor visa recipient applies to the locally competent Police Department for the issuance of an investor residence permit, the duration of which is two years.
It is important to specify that within three months from the date of entry into Italy, the investor visa recipient is required to submit to the Secretariat of the Committee the documentation proving the making of the investment or donation, for the full amount provided.
If the communication referred to in the first period is not made or is otherwise not supported by appropriate documentary evidence, the Secretariat shall inform the competent police headquarters, which shall reject the application for a residence permit or revoke the permit already issued.
In addition, as specified by the Decree of July 21, 2017 mentioned above, “The revocation of the residence permit may take place at any time, if, in light of the findings made by the Committee Secretariat, the investment is found to have been divested or if the holder of the residence permit is found to be untraceable at the declared address.
The holder of a residence permit for investors that is expiring may apply for its renewal for an additional period of three years, if there is a clearance from the Committee, attesting to the maintenance of the investment.”
Definition of “Italian Innovative Start Up”
The innovative startup is a young, high-tech enterprise with strong growth potential and is therefore one of the key points of Italian industrial policy.
In 2012, Decree Law 179/2012 introduced some specific measures to support this type of enterprise to support them during their life cycle (birth, growth, maturity). With this package, in addition to developing a dynamic and competitive innovation ecosystem, creating new opportunities for doing business and encouraging employment, the aim is to promote a sustainable growth strategy.
Companies that meet the requirements can access the status of innovative startup by self-certification signed by the legal representative and enjoy the benefits by registering in the dedicated special section of the Business Register at the Chamber of Commerce in their province.
Italian Innovative startups can enjoy the benefits provided within 5 years of their establishment; after that time they have the option to transform into innovative SMEs, without losing the available benefits.
The requirements of an innovative startup
For a more in-depth look at the Regulations section.
According to the relevant legislation (DL 179/2012, Art. 25, paragraph 2) an innovative startup is a corporation, also established as a cooperative, that meets the following objective requirements:
1. it is a new company or has been established for no more than 5 years
2. It has its residence in Italy, or in another country of the European Economic Area but with its production site or branch in Italy
3. It has an annual turnover of less than 5 million euros
4. It is not listed on a regulated market or multilateral trading platform
5. It does not and has not distributed profits
6. It has as its exclusive or main corporate purpose the development, production and marketing of a product or service with high technological value
7. It is not the result of a merger, demerger or sale of a business unit
Finally, a startup is innovative if it meets at least 1 of the following 3 subjective requirements:
1. it incurs R&D expenditures of at least 15% of the greater of cost and total value of production;
2. employs highly qualified personnel (at least 1/3 PhD, PhD students or researchers, or at least 2/3 with master’s degrees);
3. owns, files or licenses at least one patent or owns registered software.
Facilities dedicated to innovative startups
For an in-depth discussion, see presentation “Startup facilitations” (pdf)
The measures apply to innovative startups from the date of registration in the special section and for a maximum of five years from their date of incorporation.
In addition, with Decree-Law No. 34 of May 19, 2020 (the so-called “Relaunch” Decree), measures were introduced to strengthen and support the ecosystem of innovative startups.
The list of facilities dedicated to innovative startups is presented below.
- Tax incentives for investment in the capital of innovative startups
- Free and simplified access to the Guarantee Fund for SMEs
- Smart & start Italia (subsidized financing for innovative startups located in the national territory)
- Seamless transformation into innovative SMEs
- Exemption from chamber fees and stamp duties
- Capital raising through equity crowdfunding campaigns
- Internationalization services to companies (ICE)
- Exemptions from ordinary corporate regulations
- Discipline of flexible work
- Extension of the deadline for covering losses
- Derogation from the discipline on shell companies and companies with systematic losses
- Remuneration through equity instruments
- Exemption from the requirement of compliance endorsement for offsetting VAT credits
- Fail Fast (simplified procedures in case of failure of one’s business)