The following three priorities should be taken into consideration if you are planning on moving to Italy with your family: 1) residency at the local anagrafe, the vital records office in the town/city where you have just moved; 2) enrolment with the healthcare system (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, SSN); and 3) choice of public or private schools, in advance, for your children.
To set up your formal domicile and residency wherever you are in Italy, you must be a EU citizen or hold a valid permit to stay that allows you to stay in the country for more than three months. Therefore, if you have just landed with your visa, don’t expect to be able to get your residency and Italian ID right away. First, you need to complete the process of obtaining your permit to stay (permesso di soggiorno) from the immigration office. Once you have the “plastic” card (about 6–7 months after your arrival in Italy), then you can file your residency application at the local anagrafe.
This process will be much faster than the permit to stay (normally it takes just a few weeks). You’ll have to provide a copy of your registered rental agreement, permit to stay, Italian tax code (codice fiscale) and evidence that you can support yourself. After the application, the municipal officers will buzz at your home within 30 days to check that you and your family actually live at the address that you provided, and from then on you will become an Italian resident. You can now request a carta di identità. This document has nothing to do with your permit to stay; they have entirely separate functions. The permit to stay proves that you can legally live in Italy and must be renewed over the first five years (then you can apply for your long-term permit). The carta di identità is a valid document of identification and proves where you have established your formal domicile. It’s also useful for many other things, such as opening a bank account, requesting the conversion of your driving license and enrolling within the Italian healthcare system.
The Italian healthcare system is available to all legal residents who are Italian taxpayers and on request if you hold an elective residency visa. File your registration at the local healthcare offices (ASL). Family members can choose their GP and a pediatrician for children under the age of 16. The GP is one of the pillars of the Italian healthcare system as many medical treatments (medications and specialized hospital checks) can only be provided if prescribed by your doctor. GP appointments are usually free of charge and the medical treatments prescribed are often co-paid by the government. The family pediatrician can provide the mandatory vaccinations for children, which are required by public and private schools. Every time a non-EU citizen renews his/her permit to stay, he/she must confirm his/her intention to maintain the residency, within 60 days, by filing a form called dichiarazione di rinnovo dimora abituale (declaration of renewal of habitual residence) at the vital records office where he/she resides. Failing to do so means that you will be deleted from the civil records and this might lead to your removal from the healthcare system.
Now you can start finding the right school for your children. Education in Italy is quite affordable, and with some exceptions, local public schools offer an excellent education to children of all ages, starting from nursery school (asilo nido, 3–6 months to 3 years) and pre-school (scuola materna, 3 to 5–6 years old). The costs of pre-elementary schools vary according to the number of hours children attend, but they are generally lower when facilities are run by the local council (comune). Places in these pre-elementary schools are in high demand and priority is usually given to parents who are unemployed or low-income families (applicants must complete a form at the town hall stating their family income). For this reason, it is recommended that you start looking for a school well in advance.
Italian (art. 30, Law 286/1998) and EU immigration law provide for the free movement of persons and family units. Every member state has similar rules authorizing the entry and residence of family members of a European Union citizen and non-EU citizens who are legally living in the EU with a valid permit to stay. In Italy, the Legislative Decree 30/200 expressly states that as long as an EU national has a job in the EU or has sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social welfare system of the member state host country, that person can sponsor the entry of their spouse; their children and children of their spouse; and in specific circumstances, first-degree relatives in the direct ascending line of the sponsor or their spouse. The EU “family unity” principles mean that foreign persons cannot be expatriated (apart from in the case of serious crimes expressly provided by the law).
Family members can retain their right to residence (carta di soggiorno) in the event of divorce from their Italian (or EU) spouses in the following instances: if the marriage has lasted more than 5 years; if the marriage has lasted less than 5 years but more than 3 years, the spouse can maintain the long-term permit if they prove they have sufficient means to support themselves; if the couple has a child, the non-EU spounse may preserve his/her carta di soggiorno if he/she has been granted custody (either exclusive custory or shared custody) of the minor who will keep on living in Italy.
If you’d like to get married in Italy, my advice is to ask your local municipality for information about the documents needed from your home country and the procedure to follow. If one of the spouses was born overseas, he/she will have to provide their birth certificate and a certificate (sometime replaced by a sworn self-declaration) that states that he/she is single and that there are no impediment to the marriage. If the documents come from another country, they must be legalized (usually with a special form of legalization known as apostille) and formally translated in Italy using a certified translator.