If you’ve ever taken a trip to Rome or any other iconic cities and towns in Italy and experienced the rich culture, cuisine, and food the country offers, then you may be wondering how to retire in Italy from Canada.
Below, I’ll outline your Visa options, compare the cost of living in Canada and Italy, and outline the following steps to retire abroad in Italy:
- Apply For A Italian Visa
- Travel To Italy And Decide Where You Want To Live
- Plan Your Retirement Income
- Apply For Private Healthcare
- Pack And Move To Italy
Around 8.7% of Italy’s population are ex-pats, according to a 2021 report released by IStat (Italy’s federal statistic organization). Keep on reading if you’re ready to join their ranks!
Some countries like Thailand, for example, offer a special retirement Visa for retirees over age 50.
Italy doesn’t offer a retirement Visa. Instead, the country offers an Elective Resident Visa, which serves as a long-stay Visa for individuals who want to live or retire in the country.
Unlike other long-stay Visas, Italy’s Elective Resident Visa doesn’t have minimum income or age requirements. Instead, each Visa application is judged on a case-by-case basis. That being said, you should be prepared to show proof of adequate financial means.
Italy is home to some of the world’s best wine and food and has a culture that dates back thousands of years. It’s the home to automobile legends like Ferrari and Lamborghini. It’s home to the Vatican and has inspired many novels, movies, and artists.
If you’re ready to retire in one of the world’s most iconic countries, you’ll need to study the next steps closely.
As a foreigner retiring in Italy, you’ll want to start by applying for Italy’s Elective Resident Visa. Unlike work Visas, which require the applicant to be employed by an Italian company, this Visa doesn’t require the applicant to show proof of Italian employment.
However, the applicant’s finances will be taken into consideration. Based on my research, it’s recommended that retirees applying for the Elective Resident Visa show proof of at least 30,000 Euros (equivalent to just over $44,000 CAD) per year in retirement income or have a considerable amount of savings.
You must also show proof of residency or planned residency. Some examples of this could include:
- A signed 12-month lease agreement
- A letter of hospitality if you’ll be staying with somebody else
- A property title indicating that you’ve purchased a home in Italy (there are no restrictions for foreigners who want to purchase property in Italy)
This Visa lasts for one year and can be renewed annually. Once you obtain the Visa and arrive in Italy, you’ll need to visit the local police office to obtain a residency permit card.
After living in Italy for five consecutive years, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. Once you obtain permanent residency, you won’t have to renew your visa yearly.
Retiring overseas is a big leap. If you’ve never travelled extensively in Italy, I suggest taking a few weeks to explore the country. Make a list of the top cities and towns you want to visit and make it a point to get a feel for the local communities there.
While you’re travelling in Italy, it’s also a good idea to take note of the local real estate market and rental rates. This will give you a good idea of what to expect as far as rent payments go.
Italy offers a range of different living atmospheres that range from large cities like Rome to quaint villages with less than a hundred inhabitants nestled in the hills.
Real estate and rental rates are higher the closer you are to major cities. However, if you’re a retiree, you may want to live closer to a city where healthcare, shopping, and other activities are closer.
If you plan on retiring in Italy full-time, you’ll also need to create a retirement income plan.
Assuming that you’ve lived in Canada for at least 20 years, then you should be able to receive the full Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) payment amounts that you’re eligible for (based on your income level).
The Canada Pension Plan is a federal pension plan that all Canadians pay into throughout their careers. Every paycheque you receive will have a small amount deducted, which funds CPP.
OAS is similar and is a free payment from the government designed to provide financial support to lower and middle-income retirees.
If you’ve put off retirement past 65, CPP and OAS can be postponed, resulting in higher monthly payments.
CPP and OAS alone won’t be enough to fund overseas retirement or meet the minimum income requirements to obtain an Italian Elective Residence Visa. This means that you’ll also need to rely on other forms of income, such as:
- Regular withdrawals from your RRIF
- Dividends from holding stocks
- Profits from investing in ETFs
- Profits from GIC investments
- Real estate and business earnings
- Payments from a defined benefit pension plan (sponsored by your employer)
Italy, as a whole, is more affordable than Canada, which means that your retirement income will stretch further.
However, you’ll still need to have enough income to stay on top of rent, insurance premiums, transportation, daily living costs, Visa renewal, and the occasional flight back to Canada to see friends and family.
As a Canadian retiree in Italy, you must purchase private healthcare. As a retiree, you may receive partial coverage by the Italian public healthcare system (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale or SSN).
However, private healthcare can offer additional benefits and faster access to specialized treatments.
Purchasing private healthcare in Italy is a lot like purchasing private healthcare or dental insurance in Canada. You’ll be able to choose between a number of companies, deductible plans, and coverage options.
To make sure you get the best deal, I recommend using an online insurance broker that allows you to compare health insurance plans in Italy side by side.
Once you’ve applied for your Elective Residence Visa, purchased private healthcare, and set up living arrangements in Italy, then you’ll be ready to move. Before moving, make sure to arrange your affairs in Canada.
If you own a home in Canada, you may want to consider selling the home or hiring a property manager to rent the home out while you’re living overseas. This will provide you with a steady stream of retirement income or can be used to help purchase a new house in Italy.
You should also contact your bank and credit card account managers to inform them that you’ll be moving overseas. This will prevent any payment delays, and you may be given access to financial products, such as international credit cards, that can limit your foreign transaction fees.
One of the best reasons to consider retiring abroad (other than the prospect of exploring a new country) is that it’s often more affordable than retiring at home in Canada. What would only be a modest retirement in Canada could fund a luxurious retirement in other countries.
Let’s take a quick look and compare some of the living costs in Italy with Canada:
- Overall, rent is 39% lower in Italy than in Canada
- Consumer prices are around 6% lower in Italy than in Canada for things like food, transportation, eating out, clothing, etc.
Of course, this can vary depending on where in Italy you’re living. A condo in the middle of Rome will likely be similar to renting an apartment in Toronto. However, the overall cost of living in Italy will be lower than you’d pay in Canada.
Unlike other popular retirement destinations in Southeast Asia, Italy provides a modern lifestyle with access to affordable public transportation, top-tier healthcare facilities, high-speed internet and data, and high-end shopping.
Italy consistently ranks high for overall quality of life. However, the recent war in Ukraine and the refugee crisis in Europe have impacted ratings (and have made it more difficult to obtain a Visa).
Italian is the primary language spoken in Italy. Like other romance languages, it’s derived from old Latin. It’s very similar to Spanish, and you’ll find that many phrases, words, and vocabulary from Spanish also translate to Italian.
Overall, Italian isn’t a difficult language to learn. If you take some classes and apply yourself, you can easily become conversational in Italian within a few months.
Since you’ll be immersed in the culture and surrounded by the Italian language, your learning will be accelerated, compared to trying to learn a new language at home in Canada, where your native language is spoken more regularly.
One confusing aspect you might find is that around half of the population speaks a regional dialect of Italian. While travelling outside of major cities, you may encounter certain words and phrases that don’t make sense. This is all part of the fun of learning a new culture, though!
Overall, Italian culture tends to be very welcoming and friendly. There’s a strong focus on hospitality, which you’ll find especially true when it comes to dining out.
If you have at least $44,000 in retirement income, you can apply for an Italian Elective Resident Visa. This Visa can be renewed every year for as long as you wish to live in the country. Once you’ve lived in Italy uninterrupted for five years, you can apply for permanent residency.
There also aren’t any rules preventing foreigners from purchasing homes in Italy, meaning you can either rent or buy a home to retire in.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about the various pension and retirement income plans available to Canadians!