Italy approves ‘digital nomad’ visa for remote workers

For 'highly qualified' remote workers planning to base themselves in Italy, a new visa option is soon expected to offer an easier route.

Italy approves ‘digital nomad’ visa for remote workers
With remote working more common than ever due to the pandemic, Italy is making special visa provisions. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

After weeks of speculation and doubt, the Italian ‘digital nomad visa’ was approved and signed into law this week according to lawmakers.

Italy now looks set to join EU countries including Germany and Portugal in offering a special visa allowing remote workers to move to Italy from outside the European Union.

READ ALSO: What do we know so far about Italy’s digital nomad visa?

A provision for a new digital nomad visa was included in Italy’s ‘decreto sostegni ter‘, a government decree which was approved in January and converted into law on March 28th.

It’s hoped that the new digital nomad visa will mean a far easier route to a new life in Italy than the current visa options available, which immigration experts say are not always viable for freelancers and remote workers.

While it is possible for many non-EU nationals to spend up to 90 days in Italy without a visa, anyone wishing to work legally while here must apply for a visa and work permit

However, with the details of the new visa still to be confirmed, it’s not yet clear how much easier the new route will be.

“We are happy to have approved the proposal but we are also aware of the next steps. The government has to work on a new bill to implement the law, defining all the procedures and details,” Five Star Movement MP Luca Carabetta, who promoted the digital nomad visa, told The Local.

“We worked all along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this and we are sure they will lead this process,” he added.

READ ALSO: How to get an Italian work visa

This means it could still be some time until the Italian government publishes full details of the visa application process and requirements.

The text of the bill stated that the visa will be for those “who carry out highly qualified work activities through the use of technological tools that allow them to work remotely, autonomously or for a company that is not resident in the territory of the Italian state.

As for who counts as a “highly qualified” worker, financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore writes that this category includes everyone “from university professors to circus employees, seafarers and professional nurses”.

Il Sole said that these professionals will not be subject to the restrictions on the number of work permits issued annually under Italy’s decreto flussi (the foreign workers’ quota), but that “their entry is in any case subject to the issue of a work permit which must be requested by their employer”.

Carabetta said the approval provides for “the establishment of a dedicated visa and permit lasting one year, which can be extended for a further year and can be extended to the family unit of the remote worker”.

Application looks set to entail a minimum income requirement, though the amount is not yet known.

According to Carabetta, “Requirements for the remote worker are the availability of suitable accommodation, adequate income, health insurance, and a clean criminal record.”

Existing visa options available to non-EU remote workers moving to Italy include the self-employment visa, intra-company visa, and the EU Blue Card. Find out more about those here.

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REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

Soon those non-EU nationals requested to have a Schengen visa to travel to European countries will no longer need to go to a consulate to submit the application and get a passport sticker, but will be able to apply online. 

REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

The European Commission has proposed to make the Schengen visa process completely digital.

The special visa, which allows to stay for tourism or business (but not work) in 26 European countries for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. 

Nationals of third countries such as South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka need the Schengen Visa to visit Europe, but they are not needed for other non-EU nationals such as Britons or Americans. You can see the full list of countries who need a Schengen visa here.

The proposal will have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, but is in line with an agreed strategy that EU governments are keen to accelerate in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Once agreed, the system will be used by the countries that are part of the border-free Schengen area. These include EU countries, excluding Ireland (which opted out), and Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus (which do not issue Schengen visas). Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, which are not EU members but have signed the Schengen Convention, will be part of the new system too.

Paper-based processes required applicants to travel to consulates to submit the application and collect their passports with the visa, a procedure that “proved problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Commission said.

Some EU countries have already started to switch to digital systems but not all accept online payments for the visa fees. 

When the new system will be in place, the Commission says, applicants will be able to check on the EU Visa Application platform whether they need a visa. If so, they will create an account, fill out the application form, upload the documents and pay. 

The platform will automatically determine which Schengen country will be responsible for the application and applicants will be able to check their status and receive notifications. Travellers will then be able to access the visa online, and if needed extend it too.

“Half of those coming to the EU with a Schengen visa consider the visa application burdensome, one-third have to travel long distance to ask for a visa. It is high time that the EU provides a quick, safe and web-based EU visa application platform for the citizens of the 102 third countries that require short term visa to travel to the EU,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

“With some member states already switching to digital, it is vital the Schengen area now moves forward as one,” said Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas.

However, first-time applicants, people with biometric data that are no longer valid or with a new travel document, will still have to go to a consulate to apply.

Family members of citizens from the EU and the European Economic Area, as well as people who need assistance, will also be able to continue to apply on paper. 

The EU Visa Application platform will be used from third countries whose nationals must be in possession of a visa to enter the EU and is different from the ETIAS (European Travel Information Authorisation), which is currently under development.

The ETIAS will be used by non-EU nationals who are exempt from visas but who will need to apply for a travel authorisation prior to their trip. This will cost 7 euros and will be free for people below the age of 18 and above 70. 

Based on the discussion between the European Parliament and Council, the Commission could start developing the platform in 2024 and make it operational in 2026. EU countries will then have five years to phase out national portals and switch to the common online system.