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.
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.
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.
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.”
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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.