Question: I’m a Ghanaian. I came to Italy with a tourist visa valid for three months. It’s about to expire but I have a serious health problem. I was hospitalized and the doctor said that I must undergo an urgent operation which unfortunately cannot be performed in my home country. Can I convert my tourist visa into a Permit of Stay for medical treatment?
Answer: All who come to Italy with tourist visa are no longer issued the Permit of Stay. When they arrive and make a declaration of presence in the national territory, this declaration is valid for three months. The law allows the extension of this declaration of presence only for serious health problems requiring urgent medical treatment.
It is however important to note that authorities have discretionary powers to decide in such cases. This means that there is no guarantee that you’ll be allowed to prolong your stay in Italy.
But in your case, since you have the certificates proving your medical condition, you may have a chance of prolonging your stay. You must prove that your disease requires urgent medical treatment which you cannot receive in your home country.
The Italian hospital you went to should issue you all the documents showing the nature of your medical problem, and they must clearly state that you need to undergo urgent medical treatment which can only be carried out in Italy since there are no specialist hospitals in your home country capable of carrying out the same treatment.
Those coming to Italy for tourism don’t have the right of enrolling with the National Health Scheme. They are required to have a medical insurance which you must be having since it is one of the requirements for obtaining tourist visa. You must, however, check if your medical insurance covers also the type of operation you must undergo, and all other medical assistance you’ll require. If not, you’ll have to pay for the operation and the other medical assistance.
You may be exempted from paying for the operation if your home country has an agreement with Italy enabling its citizens to receive medical treatment in the country without payment. In this case you must present a letter from the competent authorities in your home country requesting Italian authorities to provide you the medical treatment you require.
Now, regarding the possibility of converting your declaration of presence (tourist visa) into a Permit of Stay for medical treatment, the answer is: It’s very difficult because the law requires those coming in for medical treatment to meet totally different conditions from those required for tourist visa applications.
Those who need to come in for medical treatment must first of all apply for visa for medical treatment which can only be issued after they’ve contacted and agreed with the Italian hospital to provide the required treatment. They must also make an advance payment of part of the costs of the treatments and prove to have sufficient money to cater for their travel expenses, food and accommodation.
It is therefore most likely that your application to convert the declaration of presence into a Permit of Stay for medical treatment will be rejected. However, you’ll be allowed to remain in Italy for the period you’ll be undergoing urgent medical treatment.
By Mariangela Lioy