While Italy is generally considered (quite accurately) an absolute nightmare when it comes to bureaucracy, declaring your residency of applying for a visa is a heavily standardized, straightforward process which shouldn’t cause you too many headaches.
In order to do essential tasks like leasing a flat, getting a phone contract and opening a bank account, you’ll need a tax number. This number, a codice fiscale, is similar to a social security number, and you will need one whether you come from within the EU or not. You also need your tax number to apply for your stay permit, so make it a priority and get one as soon as you get to Italy.
Fortunately, it’s both very simple and free to obtain. Visit the provincial tax office in your city with your passport, and request a codice fiscale form and take a number. Your number will be called, and you simply go up and hand over your form. Assuming there aren’t any mistakes (remember it’s in Italian!) you’ll receive a bit of paper with your number on it, but can get an official card later on to your Italian address.
If you have a valid EU passport or national identity card, you can move to Italy for up to 3 months without declaring your presence to the local authorities. However, the majority of exchange programs will last between 3-9 months, so this isn’t very helpful. If you are going to be in Florence for such a short time it is still recommended you fill in a Declaration of Presence Form, just so the authorities know you’re here.
As long as you have confirmation of a place from your university, you are entitled to hang around a good while longer without any kind of visa. You register at your Comune-Ufficio Anagrafe, the local authorities. You will need:
Your passport or national ID
Evidence of awarded place on your university course
Valid health insurance
Proof of means (i.e. enough money in the bank to survive)
Your Tax Number
€27.50, the registration fee
You will be immediately issued with a registration certificate valid for 5 years. You can also apply for una carta d'identità (Italian identity card) but if you’re only staying for a single year, that won’t be necessary.
The process is a bit different for those travelling from countries outside of the EU. To stay in Italy for more than 3 months, you will need a stay permit. The only exception is for Swiss nationals who are offered the same benefits as those in the EU. You must apply for a stay permit once you have landed in Italy, within 8 days.
A stay permit is not the same as a residence permit - in Italy, it is not necessary to have residency here, and the stay permit gives you access to all of the rights enjoyed by Italian citizens.
More specifically, if you are a student you will need a Permesso di Soggiorno per studio (student permit) and have 8 days after arriving in Italy to apply for it. If you are going to be completing an internship, you will need a Permesso di Soggiorno per lavorare, but the rest of the process is thankfully the same.
Processing this application can take a hefty 3 months, so you might be waiting a while! When you are required to submit your fingerprints, you’ll be informed by text or email. You'll be contacted the same way when it’s time to go collection your card. This card resembles a credit card, and has all of your personal details, your photograph and your fingerprints stored in it.
Once you have applied, you can check the status of your residency permit so you know that it is, however slowly, making its way through the Italian bureaucracy.
Opening a bank account in Italy is a pretty straightforward process. You’ll need the following documents with you:
Passport or national ID card
Proof of address (in Italy)
Residence card or proof of employment (in Italy)
Simply visit your bank of choice and request to open an account. If you have those documents with you there and then, you don’t have to hang around for an appointment later, which is a result. Your bank cards (and cheque books, if desired) will be issued by post within 2-3 weeks of opening your account.
With the tax number which you make a point of obtaining as soon as you land in Italy (...right??) you can get a mobile contract. Vodafone, TIM, Wind and Tre are all big players in the Italian cellular market, so do a thorough price comparison to find out where the best deals are. These companies are desperate to undercut one another, so there are always great deals available!