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VISAS

Q&A: What do we know so far about Italy’s digital nomad visa?

Italy has approved a special visa option aimed at freelancers and remote workers, but who can get it and how does it work? Here's what you should know if you're thinking of applying.

Q&A: What do we know so far about Italy's digital nomad visa?
The rise of remote work means more people can now live where they choose. And Italy may soon be an option for more people after the approval of a new visa. Photo by Dessidre Fleming on Unsplash

After The Local reported last month that a proposed Italian ‘digital nomad’ visa had been approved, we’ve received a large number of questions from readers around the world who are interested in taking advantage of the scheme.

The planned special visa allowing remote workers to move to Italy from outside the European Union is hoped to offer a far easier route than the current visa options available.

READ ALSO: Italy approves ‘digital nomad’ visa for remote workers

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

In response to the questions we’ve had, here’s a look at what we do – and don’t – know so far.

Has this really been approved? Wasn’t Italy’s digital nomad visa proposal thrown out?

Yes, Italian MPs and immigration lawyers confirmed last week that the proposal had been approved and signed into law after months of speculation and confusion.

Confusion arose as legal experts said the proposal appeared to be unexpectedly missing from the final text of a decree approved at the end of January.

Once that decree was converted into Italian law on March 28th, however, it became clear that the proposal had been approved after all – and the digital nomad visa was back on the table.

Who is this visa option for?

Anyone from outside the EU needs a visa to move to Italy if they’ll be working. There are no visa requirements for EU citizens moving to Italy for work purposes.

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

The current Italian work visa options available weren’t set up with freelancers and remote workers in mind, and immigration law experts say they can be difficult to obtain if you’re not an employee or investor.

But as working from anywhere becomes an option for more people, Italy and many other countries are looking at providing specific visa arrangements which would allow these mobile workers to stay legally for a short time.

READ ALSO: Remote workers: What are your visa options when moving to Italy?

Living the remote-working dream in Italy will involve some paperwork. Photo by David Espina on Unsplash

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the new digital nomad visa will be made easily available to anyone with a laptop, however.

While full details of eligible professions are yet to be published, we do know that workers applying for this visa will need to be able to show that they are “highly qualified” in their field.

The text of the bill stated that the digital nomad 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.”

Financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore suggests that the “highly qualified” worker description could include everyone “from university professors to circus employees, seafarers and professional nurses”.

How will this visa be different to the current options available?

Italy does already have a self-employment visa and other existing work visa options.

The main difference is likely to be that those who successfully apply for the digital nomad visa will be able to get a work permit outside of Italy’s limited quota system for foreign workers.

This is a big deal because the quota system only allows for 500 permits per year (for the last few years, including in 2022) to be issued to self-employed workers – and that’s if you can meet the requirements, including the definition of a ‘self-employed worker’, for the purposes of the self-employment visa or visto per lavoro autonomo.

This is the visa that most non-EU freelancers would probably expect to apply for when seeking to move to Italy for work. 

But successful applications are rare, and immigration lawyers describe the appliation process as “hard and uncertain” due to limited availability and stringent (and often unclear) application requirements.

READ ALSO: ‘Not just extra paperwork’: What it’s like moving to Italy after Brexit

The only other options that can sometimes work for certain types of non-EU self-employed workers are the intra-company visa or the EU Blue Card.

These options involve either setting up an Italian branch of a foreign company, or registering a company under Italian law. Minimum income requirements and strict checks apply. Find out more about those options here.

So hopefully not only will the requirements for obtaining the new digital nomad visa be easier for the average freelancer to meet, but more of these visas will be available.

How do I apply for an Italian digital nomad visa?

While the proposal has been approved, the visa itself does not yet exist and the application requirements have not been published.

Italian MP Luca Carabetta, one of the lawmakers who promoted the digital nomad visa, told The Local that “requirements for the remote worker are the availability of suitable accommodation, adequate income, health insurance, and a clean criminal record.”

READ ALSO:

The visa application is also expected to entail a minimum income requirement, though the amount is not yet known.

We’ll have the full details of the application process once the Italian government publishes a separate decree detailing the visa application process and requirements.

When will more details be known? 

The decree containing details of the requirements for the new digital nomad visa is expected to be ready within the next couple of months, though no firm date has been given.

Carabetta said the new visa is hoped to be available “by the summer”.

If you’re currently planning a move, it’s important to note that work visas must be applied for before you leave for Italy – that is, at the Italian embassy in your home country. You can’t apply for one once you’re already in Italy (although you may be able to convert other types of visa, such as a student visa).

Find out more about the general process of applying for an Italian work visa here.

See more information on the Italian Foreign Ministry’s visa website here.

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. For more information on visa applications, consult the Italian embassy or consulate in your country or an immigration law professional.

Member comments

  1. The nomad visa is a wonderful idea, but let’s hope it doesn’t include someone posting dog walking instructions to YouTube. The “highly qualified” term has been misused for decades by companies bringing workers to the EU who pay no tax to the host nation. It amounts to a corporate subsidy that Germany has cracked down on but which Italy still ignores.

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VISAS

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. 

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