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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.

  2. This is definitely interesting for people in my position, which is a professional who has licensure in my home country, remotely works for a company here, could easily afford to live in Italy, is not particularly interested in becoming a permanent resident, but may want to stay longer than 90 days.

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STUDYING IN ITALY

Rome vs Milan: Which is the best Italian city for students?

Both Italian cities are home to excellent universities but they're different in many ways. So which one is best to live in as a student?

Rome vs Milan: Which is the best Italian city for students?

Italy is a great country for students, with accessible universities and some of the top schools in the world. Milan’s Politecnico and the Sapienza University of Rome, for example, are ranked among the top 100 in Europe.

A recent QS Best Student Cities ranking meanwhile named Milan and Rome as the best cities in Italy for students to live in.

But which is better, really, and why?

Of course, it depends on what you’re looking for. “Milan is a more organised city regarding the services, cleaner and open-minded, but Rome is pure magic. So it depends on your opportunities in both cities and your personality and what you can tolerate”, Sammer Salah, a 30-year-old Egyptian citizen who has lived in several Italian cities over the last four years, tells The Local.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome

The dichotomy between the organised city versus the “city with soul” is similar to known feuds between New York versus LA, Sao Paulo versus Rio de Janeiro or, as a Brit might jokingly say, “London versus anywhere Northern”, comes up often in conversations with immigrants in Italy.

What sets Milan apart?

Milan is known for being Italy’s central financial hub and the home of the Italian high fashion industry. Located in the north of the country, it’s also very well connected (by plane, train, or road) to other European countries.

Italy’s best rated university, the Politecnico di Milano.

It can also be a fun and friendly city, with many international residents, lots of cultural events and busy city life.

It’s home to Italy’s best university, the Politecnico di Milano, and surrounded by lovely towns, lakes and close to the mountains.

REVEALED: What studying in Italy is really like and what you should expect

“Milan is generally a younger city. Both have a lot of universities, but Milan has a few large universities that also cater internationally. You also have a lot more young professionals in Milan because it’s where all the industry is”, says Carlos Diaz, who is from the United States and has lived in both Italian cities.

What sets Rome apart?

Rome is, of course, Italy’s capital and one of the most historical cities in the world. Some students say it has a more relaxed atmosphere when compared to busy Milano and the Italian city also gets praise for its cultural importance and beauty.

The capital is also well connected to other Italian cities and you can easily find cheap flights to many European destinations. Even though it doesn’t near other countries like Milan (Rome is located almost in the middle of Italy), it is closer to the sea – and to the famous Italian beach destinations in the south.

READ ALSO: Five things to know before you apply for an Italian student visa

“Milan is more organised when it comes to offices, traffic, people in general, but Rome has so much more soul, the people, sunsets, the eternal city, the vibe”, writes fashion editor Margherita, who added: “In my 20s, I would have chosen Milan for sure, in my 30s, Rome”.

What about the cost of living?

When it comes to the cost of living, Milan is, in general, more expensive than Rome. It has a reputation for being pricey, especially compared to other Italian cities – including the capital.

Rent can also set you back quite a bit.

A one-bedroom apartment in Milan’s city centre costs, according to Numbeo’s cost of living database, an average of around €1,240, which is 29 percent higher than Rome.

But on the other hand the infrastructure is fantastic, and Milan has one of the best public transport systems in Italy.

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

Overall you’d need a monthly income of €3,442 in Milan to maintain the same standard of living that you’d have on €3,000 in Rome, according to Numbeo.

While most things are more expensive in Milan, as salaries tend to be higher, local purchasing power in the northern city is also higher than in Rome.

The QS Ranking

The QS ranking uses the opinions of current international students in cities with more than 250,000 people and home to at least two universities featured in the QS World ranking.

They evaluate a series of indicators relating to university rankings, student mix, “desirability”, which includes questions like what are the pollution levels and how safe is the city, employer activity, affordability and “student voice”, with questions like what proportion of students continue to live in the city after graduation.

Milan and Rome did well in the survey, but Milan ranked higher in the top 50 best student cities while the Italian capital was among the top 100.

See more in The Local’s studying in Italy section.

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