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VISAS

EXPLAINED: How to get an Italian work visa

If you're planning to move to Italy for employment, you'll need a work visa. Here's what you need to know about the main options available and the application process.

The Italian flag flies above a historic city centre.
You need paperwork and patience to get your Italian work visa. Photo by Daniel Sharp on Unsplash

The type of employment visa, your country of origin and your profession are all factors in deciding which route you need to take to working in Italy.

If you’re a citizen of a country covered by the European Union freedom of movement rules, visa requirements do not apply but you will need an Italian residence permit for stays longer than 90 days.

In fact, EU citizens and also nationals from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland don’t need a permit to work in Italy.

If you’re from another country though, you will need to apply for a work permit and a visa (visto) – a type of Long Stay visa valid for those staying in Italy longer than 90 days.

Since Britain left the EU, Brits are now counted as third country nationals, along with Americans and Canadians, for example. This means UK nationals no longer have the benefits of free movement to live and work throughout Europe, and so must follow the same steps.

Explained: What Brits need to know about visas for Italy after Brexit

So, as a non-EU citizen, there are three main documents you need to live and work in Italy:

  • a work permit
  • a work visa
  • a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) within 8 days of arriving in Italy.
Men discussing business.
The right work visa in Italy for you depends on your business goals. Photo by DocuSign on Unsplash

Whichever path you take, be that as an employee on the payroll, a freelancer or seasonal worker, you’ll need to keep an eye on the so-called Decreto Flussi (Flow Decree), an annual quota for how many people can enter the country from outside the EEA to work.

While this year’s cap has still not been set, reportedly causing concern for recruitment of seasonal workers, for 2020 the government decree set the limit at 30,850.

READ ALSO: 

Out of that figure, 18,000 permits were allocated to seasonal work and the rest assigned to non-seasonal or self-employment (including those converting an existing residency permit into a work permit).

It is important 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.

Salaried employees

Looking at the figures, getting a visa as an employee for an Italian company has the best statistical chance of success.

“You have a lower chance of being turned down as an employee,” accountant and tax expert Nicolò Bolla told The Local in April.

To get a work visa as an employee, you must find a job first. The good news is that your employer will then complete most of the visa application process for you and all you need to do is provide them with the relevant paperwork.

The employer would then need to obtain a permit for you, or Nulla Osta, from the Italian immigration office (Sportello Unico d’Immigrazione – SUI).

Once you get that from your employer, you can apply for the work visa in your home country at your consulate. From there, you may enter Italy, but still need to apply for an Italian residence permit within 8 days of arriving in Italy.

The permesso di soggiorno is the documentation that allows you to legally live and work in the country.

Businessman in suit.
Get on the Italian payroll? You’ll need an employment visa. Photo: Hunters Race on Unsplash

After that, there’s more administration to do in Italy, which changes according to the country you’re coming from and your specific circumstances.

How you do this if you’re not already in the country is by way of a proxy, who negotiates the procedure for you. You may be asked for various documentation, including signed work contracts, a nulla osta, diplomas and certificates, proof of accommodation in Italy and sufficient funds.

EXPLAINED: What type of visa will you need to move to Italy?

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an updated visa portal to check what you might need, depending on your country of origin – the Italian authorities could ask you for any documentation they deem necessary.

Aside from the work permit, you’ll need to complete your visa application form, which is in Italian, so you may need help with completing it if you don’t know the language well.

You’ll also need:

  • A recent passport-sized photo.
  • A valid passport or ID­ – the expiration date must be at least three months longer than that of the visa.
  • The work permit (with help form your employer).

You need to submit the application at least three months before you intend to move to Italy and processing it takes around 30 days, at a cost of €116.

The duration of your work visa is the same as your contract, which cannot be shorter than one year. If you have an unlimited contract, your work permit has a maximum length of two years. How long your residence permit lasts will also correspond to the length of your contract.

READ ALSO: Freelance or employee: Which is the best way to work in Italy?

‘Highly skilled’ workers

You have another shot at getting a work visa as an employee in Italy if you fall under the EU’s Blue Card remit.

Often referred to simply as ‘Article 27’, this section of European law provides an exemption for non-EU workers who fall outside of national quotas within the EU.

Managers, highly skilled executives, ICT workers, artists, journalists, university lecturers and professors, translators, interpreters and nurses are some of the occupations excluded from the annual cap permitted into Italy.

To be eligible for this scheme in Italy, you must have secured a work contract of at least one year, have a minimum gross annual salary of €24,789.93 and have documentation of your qualifications.

The processing time for getting one of these cards is up to 90 days and costs €100. 

Details of which category you might fall into are detailed on the EU’s immigration portal.

A nurse swabbing a patient for Covid.
There are extra opportunities for ‘highly-skilled’ workers to enter Italy. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The self-employment visa

Out of the overall annual quota allowed into Italy from outside the EU, there was an allowance for just 500 self-employed workers in 2020. Competition is high, therefore, and gaining a self-employment visa – which allows you to come to Italy as a freelancer – has one of the highest rejection rates.

Getting a self-employment visa has a distinctive set of requirements and might be more complicated than the process for salaried workers.

To apply for the self-employment visa in Italy, you will need:

  • A work permit for self-employment.
  • A residence permit within eight days of entering the country.

The first thing you need to do is get hold of a self-employment work permit with the administrative authorities. For that, you need to find the administrative body that applies to you with the Italian Chamber of Commerce.

They will deem the necessary work permit for self-employment, based on the activity you plan to do in Italy.

To get your self-employment visa, again costing €116, you’ll need to apply at the Italian embassy of your country of residence, and just as with an employee work visa, no later than three months before you intend to move to Italy.

When applying at your local embassy, you will need:

  • Italian visa application form­ – select the self-employment option.
  • A passport-sized photo.
  • A valid passport or ID­ – the expiration date must be at least three months longer than that of the visa.
  • The self-employment work permit (nulla osta).

If your visa is approved, you have six months to collect it and enter Italy.

Business visas

Foreign investors planning to move to Italy to start or continue a business have a few options.

Italy offers an investor visa for those planning to back strategic assets in Italy. Both non-EU citizens and those from within the Schengen zone can apply.

The minimum investment is €500,000 and can run up to €2 million in certain companies, charities or government bonds. This visa entitles you two years’ residency, renewable for further three-year periods, and special tax benefits. Investors’ families are eligible to apply for dependent visas.

Read more about applying for the investor visa here.

READ ALSO: Doing business in Italy: The essential etiquette you need to know

Start-ups, on the other hand, would need to apply for a type of self-employment visa, but the application process is different.

For people currently in a non-EU country, applicants would need to apply for the Italia StartUp Visa.

You can submit your paperwork through a direct application form or through a certified incubator – which means you’ve already got backing for your business.

You’ll still need a nulla osta and also a copy of your passport, a completed application form and a forecast of your costs and revenues.

Note:

Whichever type of visa you go for, bear in mind that the process can take a while – it’s best to ask your embassy for an idea of the required timeframe and then start as early as you can.

Remember – after you enter Italy with a long-stay visa, you have 8 days to apply for a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno). The length of time this document will remain valid depends on the type of visa you have.

 Please note that The Local is unable to advise on specific cases. For more information about visa applications, see the Italian Foreign Ministry’s visa website, or contact your embassy or local Questura in Italy

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For members

ITALIAN LANGUAGE

TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

To become an Italian citizen, you may need to prove your language skills. Do yours make the grade?

TEST: Is your Italian good enough for citizenship?

From being able to confidently order a gelato to total fluency, there’s a huge variation in the levels of Italian attained by foreigners in Italy.

But there are certain bureaucratic processes that require formal qualifications. When applying for Italian citizenship through marriage or residence (but not via ancestry), you must prove proficiency in the Italian language at B1 level or higher.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Italy’s language test for citizenship

In most cases, getting a carta di soggiorno residency permit has no formal language requirement, though some non-EU nationals may need to sit a language test at the lower A2 level. Read more about that here.

This article relates solely to language ability for obtaining citizenship; the application process has several other requirements depending on which route you take. Read more about this here.

So what does B1 mean?

A B1 level certification is a ‘lower intermediate’ level and means you are proficient enough in the language to manage everyday interactions, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).

This level of proficiency allows you to “communicate in most situations that arise while travelling” and to understand topics “regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

So there’s no need to write with perfect grammar, have an extensive vocabulary, or be able to recite Dante’s Inferno in the original language – but people at this level should be able to make themselves understood in most everyday situations.

It should also be enough to follow most conversations and TV shows or get the gist of what’s in Italian newspapers.

If you’ve lived in Italy for a while, there’s a good chance you’re already at this level or close to it. After all, a decent grasp of Italian really is necessary for everyday life in the country outside of the main city centres and tourist hotspots.

If not, it might be time to sign up for Italian language classes – if you haven’t already. 

If you want to check, there are numerous Italian language level tests available online, such as this one.

What does the B1 language test involve?

The exact structure of the test varies between the four administered by educational institutions approved by the Italian Education Ministry or Foreign Ministry.

They are: The University of Siena for Foreigners (CILS); The University of Perugia for Foreigners (CELI); The Dante Alighieri Association (PLIDA); and The University of Rome 3 (CERT)

These tests can be taken at language schools around Italy and abroad. If your language school advertises B1 testing for citizenship, make sure they are accredited by one of the above institutions.

The structure of the test also differs depending on whether you’re taking the B1 cittadinanza exam or a regular B1 level Italian language certification.

READ ALSO: 12 signs you’ve cracked the Italian language

Could you pass an Italian language test at B1 level? Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Both tests involve answering similar questions at the same level, but the B1 cittadinanza is essentially a shorter version which costs less to take. The downside is this certificate can only be used for your citizenship application and not for other purposes, such as for university applications.

And though it’s shorter, it may not actually be easier to pass; if you fail on one section you will have to retake the entire test (as opposed to just retaking that section under the standard B1 level tests listed above.)

If you’re fairly confident of passing and don’t need it for anything else, it may be the more convenient option.

In any case, the test will involve at least four sections; a written test, reading tests, listening test and an oral test where you have a conversation with an examiner.

Listening 

For this section you will have to listen to two recordings; one of a conversation, and another of a short monologue.

The format varies and each section will be played at least twice.

Here is a sample question from a past paper, after the candidates had listened to a short clip of someone talking about the southern region of Puglia – click here for the audio and transcription.

Ascolta il testo. Poi leggi le informazioni. Scegli le informazioni presenti nel testo (3 per testo).

A) Il programma radiofonico riguarda la cucina tradizionale italiana.
B) Gli ascoltatori partecipano a un quiz e possono vincere un viaggio.
C) La regione Puglia ha ricevuto un importante premio.
D) Questa estate in Puglia è diminuito il numero dei turisti.
E) In Puglia ci sono paesi tranquilli dove ci si può rilassare.
F) La Puglia offre un’ampia scelta di sistemazioni turistiche.

Reading and grammar

This section involves reading two pieces of text, testing your reading comprehension and grammatical knowledge.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, relating to a report about new public services from the regional government in Tuscany.

A) La Regione Toscana vuole migliorare i servizi online per i cittadini e i turisti.
B) Attraverso un numero verde i cittadini possono segnalare difficoltà, chiedere informazioni, dare consigli sui trasporti pubblici.
C) L’attivazione del numero verde ha lo scopo di limitare i danni ai viaggiatori nell’ambito del trasporto locale.
D) Il numero verde 800-570530 non è attivo il sabato e la domenica.
E) Se il numero verde riceve una telefonata di protesta su un servizio deve informare la ditta responsabile di quel servizio.

See the text and further questions here.

Writing

For the writing test, you’ll need to choose between two prompts and then write 80-120 words.

In this example, you’re asked to write to your landlord to tell them you’re moving out because you have problems with the neighbours.

You’re asked to explain the problem and ask what you need to do, and whether you need to pay rent for the next few months.

Hai dei problemi con i vicini e hai deciso di cambiare casa. Scrivi un messaggio al proprietario del tuo appartamento per chiedere cosa è necessario fare. Spiega perché vuoi trasferirti e chiedi se devi pagare l’affitto dei prossimi mesi.

Do you understand the prompt? Now you need to prove your ability to get the double letters and accents in the right place when writing.

Speaking

The speaking section is in two parts.

The examiner will ask you to begin by introducing yourself and talking about your work, family or hobbies – the examiner will then ask you some questions about yourself.

It should be a discussion, with the examiner asking questions and giving other responses which you are expected to understand. This part will last 6-7 minutes.

Then you’ll be given a choice of several topics to talk about for 7-8 minutes. These topics can be almost anything; you won’t see exactly what they are in advance, but the examiner should give you some time to read through the options and may help you decide which one to choose.

Your answer should include certain grammar points and involve giving your opinion. Again, the examiner will prompt you with questions and it should become a discussion.

Some examples of topics you may be asked to talk about:

    • Preferisci vivere in città o in campagna? Quali sono i vantaggi e gli svantaggi?
    • Quali sono gli aspetti della cultura italiana che senti più lontani rispetto alla tua cultura?
    • L’assistenza sanitaria in Italia e nel tuo Paese: somiglianze e differenze.
    • Quali documenti ti servono per ottenere la cittadinanza italiana? Quali sono le procedure?

Translation:

    • Do you prefer to live in the city or in the countryside? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
    • What are the aspects of Italian culture that you feel are most distant from your culture?
    • Healthcare in Italy and in your country: similarities and differences.
    • What documents do you need to obtain Italian citizenship? What are the procedures?

Could you keep a simple conversation going on these topics in Italian? Then you might be ready for the citizenship test. 

These sample questions are from the CILS B1 cittadinanza exam – see more details on the university’s website here. Exam questions will vary and the structure of exams from other institutions may differ.

READ ALSO: Which italian verb tenses are the most useful?

It usually costs €100 to sit the B1 cittadinanza exam, though some schools also add a default charge for a preparatory course.

Even if you already have a higher level of Italian, exam preparation courses could be useful as they explain the exam structure and likely content.

Find out more about taking the exam in a separate article here.

Speak to your local Questura or consulate, or see the Interior Ministry’s website (in Italian), for the latest information on the process and requirements when applying for citizenship.

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