New updates in sight for the Italian Investor VISA

1. Introduction
Law Decree No. 34 dated 19 May 2020 introduced an important amendment to the Immigration Consolidated Act(1), pursuant to which the capital amounts that foreign individuals are required to invest in the share capital of Italian companies or Italian innovative start-up companies to get access to the “Investor VISA for Italy” program are now halved.

Only a few months away from the introduction of this important amendment, a new one is already in sight with the draft of the Law that will convert Law Decree No. 76 dated 16 July 2020 (the “Draft Law”) which has already been approved by the Italian Senate and is only waiting to be published on the Official Gazette.

Indeed, the Draft Law provides that the investment in Italy (whether in bonds subscriptions, capital injection or philanthropic donation) that the applicant is required to make in order to apply for the Investor VISA program can be carried out not only by the individuals themselves, but also by foreign entities of which the individuals are legal representatives.

A number of different new scenarios could be opened with this new amendment as the investment needed to apply for the Investor VISA program could now be conveyed through foreign companies and foundations. To a certain extent, this could result in greater ease for the applicant to carry out the investment, for instance in terms of timing and procedure, as well as implying the possibility to optimize the investment from a tax perspective (when referring to capital investment in Italian companies).

In addition to the above, the Draft Law also provides for a further amendment according to which the individual who successfully obtained a permit of stay under the Investor VISA program, acquires the same rights of the holders of an Italian self-employment permit of stay. This implies that the individual would be able to work in Italy, not only as self-employed individual, but also as an ordinary employee (“lavoratore subordinato”).

2. The Investor VISA for Italy: general overview
The “Investor VISA for Italy” program was introduced by the 2017 Budget Law(2), as an incentive (and a reward) for non-EU/EEA nationals intending to carry out investment in strategic areas for the Italian economy.

It consists of a new type of VISA, issued to non-EU/EEA citizens independently of the annual quota for foreign immigration which grants a 2-years validity permit of stay – renewable for a further 3-years period – issued to investor visa holders after their arrival to Italy.

In brief, the VISA (and consequently the permit of stay) is granted provided that the individual commits to make, within three months from the arrival to Italy:

  • i. an investment of at least Euro 2M in government bonds issued by the Italian Republic(3);
  • ii. an investment of at least Euro 500,000 in securities representing the share capital of companies incorporated and operating in Italy or at least Euro 250,000 in case the company qualifies as innovative start-up;
  • iii. a philanthropic donation of at least Euro 1M supporting a public-interest project in the field of culture, education, management of immigration, scientific research, recovery of cultural and landscape heritage.

For the purposes of the “Investor VISA for Italy”, a company is considered to be operating if it is active and has already filed at least one annual financial statement at the date in which VISA application is filed. The fact that the company is listed or not listed on a public market is irrelevant.

As per the innovative start-up companies, these are companies operating in high technological value services that have to meet certain precise requirements provided by the law(4). The Italian Chamber of Commerce provides for a weekly updated list innovative startup companies publicly available online.

The investments as per points (i) and (ii) above shall be maintained for a period of at least 2 years.

Not only the Investor VISA for Italy program paves a new entrance path for non EU/EEA individuals. Significant benefits are also provided with respect to the timeline that individuals have to go through for obtaining the VISA, as the procedure is remarkably shortened compared to the ordinary one.

By way of example, whilst the ordinary procedure requires the foreign applicant to schedule an appointment with the Italian consulate of the residence, which then have 90 days to issue a clearance, pursuant to the Investor for Italy VISA procedure the application is filed online and cleared within the following 30 days.

Guidelines providing for the detailed phases of the procedures, from the first application to the final issuance of the VISA, have also been published by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3. The takeaway
This new feature that is likely to be added to the Investor VISA program confirms the importance that institutions are giving to these kinds of incentives, that are flanked by several tax incentive measures for foreign high net worth individuals willing to relocate to Italy.

The Investor VISA program is indeed designed to be complementary to other beneficial provisions, such as the successful Italian flat tax regime for new resident individuals, and to increase the attractivity of the Italian system not only from a tax standpoint, but also from an immigration law perspective.

It shall also be remarked that program could become interesting for UK citizens as a consequences of the forthcoming Brexit. Indeed, once the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK(5) will expire, on December 31, 2020, UK individuals will equalized in full to non-EU/EEA citizens for immigration purposes. Accordingly, the Investor VISA for Italy program may represent an option to consider in order to ensure a smooth immigration process.

We will follow up with new developments as soon as the Draft Law is finally published on the Official Gazette and becomes effective.

(1) Legislative Decree No. 285 of 25 July 1998.
(2) Law No. 232 of 11 December 2016.
(3) i.e., Treasury Bonds (CCT/CCTeu); Zero Coupon Treasury Bonds (CTZ); long-term Treasury Bonds (BTP); long-term Treasury Bonds index-linked to European inflation and BTP Italy with residual maturity period not exceeding two years.
(4) More specifically, by Article art. 25, par. 2, of Law Decree dated 18 October 2012, no. 178, converted with amendments by Law dated 17 December 2012, No. 221 and subsequent amendments.
(5) The withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK provides for a transition period during which EU law (including immigration law) will continue to apply

Source (available upon request):
Via Giuseppe Verdi 2
20121 Milano

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