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IMMIGRATION

How can American citizens work in Italy?

Americans have to fight through a quagmire of bureaucracy to get the right to work in Italy. The Local spoke to Paolo Zagami, an immigration lawyer at Zagamilaw in Rome, to find out how others can get through the process as painlessly as possible.

How can American citizens work in Italy?
Obtaining a work visa for Italy is lengthy, but possible. Photo: DepositPhotos

Americans – or anyone else from outside the European Union – are unable to just pack up and land in Italy for a slice of la dolce vita.

They require a work permit or visa, rules for which have grown tighter in recent years as the Italian authorities tighten restrictions to stem unemployment.

In fact, the difficulty of obtaining a visa, coupled with an impatience to fulfil their dream, drives many Americans to arrive in Italy without one.

READ ALSO: 'What I wish I'd known': An American's advice on getting residency in Italy


Photo: DepositPhotos

Zagami says that Americans often encounter “problems, misunderstandings and excessive delays” when applying to work in Italy.

But he warns that those who ignore the paperwork are not only breaking the law, but also putting themselves in a vulnerable position should they fall ill or need police assistance.

Know your quotas

Americans can only obtain a work permit in Italy through sponsorship from an Italian company or a foreign corporation doing business in Italy.

All paperwork must be filed by the employer. This starts with keeping an eye out for the publication of the Decreto flussi  or ‘Flow Decree’, which stipulates Italy’s entry quotas from any given country for the year and is usually published between January and April.

In 2019 Italy set a quota of 30,850 work permits for non-EU nationals, 18,000 of them for seasonal work in tourism or agriculture and 12,850 for non-seasonal or self-employment (including people converting an existing residency permit into a work permit).

READ ALSO: 

The total quota has remained stable since 2016, though the number of permits actually granted to non-EU workers has plummeted over the past decade. In 2017, the most recent year for which official data is available, Italy issued 2,802 permits to workers from the US, more than any other country.

Certain jobs are exempt from the quota system, including university professors, translators, interpreters and some roles in the performing arts. Therefore, Zagami says, it is important to check if and how you might be affected.

It is then crucial for the sponsor to begin the visa application procedure as soon as possible after the publication of the quota list, because most quotas are filled within a few days. Any applications arriving after the quota is filled, or which are completed incorrectly, are rejected with no chance of appeal.

What to do before you leave the US…

The Italian employer must then lodge an application for the work permit with the Central Immigration Office (Sportello Unico). If successful, the applicant will be issued with a no-impediment (nulla osta) document. This functions as a guarantee that the sponsor will enter into a contractual working relationship with the American employee-to-be.

In some professions, employers must also apply to the provincial employment office (Ufficio Provinciale del Lavoro e della Massima Occupazione) in their city by submitting evidence that there is nobody qualified for the position offered available in the local labour market. Although rare, it is possible for the authorities to suggest the employment of an EU citizen in their place, Zagami says.

He says one of the main reasons Americans experience difficulties is that “many employers are unwilling to go through the necessary procedure, maybe because of the slow and meticulous Italian bureaucracy, or also because of the set quotas”.

FOR MEMBERS: How to become Italian: A guide to getting citizenship


Photo: DepositPhotos

For freelancers or those hoping to work independently, the process is slightly different. Workers must apply for the visa independently and receive the no-impediment document from the local police headquarters (Questura).

There are further restrictions on the number of freelancers that may enter Italy from a certain country or nationality in any given year, and freelancers must also prove they have a proper income and adequate accommodation arranged in Italy.

Only once the no-impediment document is granted may an American apply for an entry visa (visto d'ingresso per motivi di lavoro) at an Italian consular office in their home city. This must be done before the American moves to Italy – Americans already in Italy have to return to the US to apply for their entry visa.

Zagami points out that while it could cause problems if Americans decide to enter the territory without a visa, it is possible to enter the country with a more easily obtainable student visa, for example, and convert this to a working one once they have found an employer in Italy – although tourist visas cannot be converted to working ones.

This procedure again involves applying to the Central Immigration Office for authorization.

… and once you get here

Within eight working days of arriving in Italy with their temporary work permit, all Americans must apply for a residency permit (permesso di soggiorno).

They also need to apply for a tax code (codice fiscale), one of the easier hurdles of Italian bureaucracy, at their local revenue agency (Agenzia delle Entrate).

READ ALSO:

The final step is to present the signed work contract to the local employment office (Centro per l’impiego), where the application will be approved.

With the temporary permit, the tax code and the approval of the employment office, the police headquarters will finally issue the long-term work permit.

How much does it cost?

Zagami says the visa itself costs around €116, while the process can take anywhere between 30 and 120 days. 


Photo: DepositPhotos

But what if the job offer falls through during the process, or an American loses their job in Italy?

Zagami advises that in these cases “it is important to look for another job immediately, because the legislation in force allows the employees to stay only six months after the loss of the former job”.

The process may be long-winded, but it is perfectly possible for Americans to come to Italy for work – as long as you've got the time, organization, patience and the necessary paperwork. 

This is an updated version of an article first published in 2013.

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POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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