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A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in Italy

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  • Brandon Le Clerk

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When you apply for a visa and residence permits in Italy, there are challenges to face. Even if you do your homework, you may find information about visas and permit application processes and official bodies inconsistent or non-existent.

Typically, the Italian visa application process is done in person while you are still in your country of residence. The visa fees for Italy are relatively inexpensive—116 EUR (140 USD) for most visas. Some fees for residence permits can go up to 200 EUR (240 USD).

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Work Permits and Employment-Based Visas

How do you obtain a work permit and employment visa in Italy? If you are a citizen of the European Union, the European Economic Area, or Switzerland, you will not need a visa to live and work in Italy. You are free to cross the border with only your valid national identity document or passport.

Citizens of non-EU countries, however, have to apply for a work visa and permit if they wish to work and live in Italy. Read on to know how you can start your life and career in Italian territory.

Work Visa Requirements in Italy

As a non-EU citizen, to work and live in Italy, you will need:

  • A visa and work permit;
  • A residence permit within eight days of entering Italy.

There are various work permit visa types in Italy:

  • Salaried employment;
  • Seasonal work (related to agriculture or tourism);
  • Long-term seasonal work (allows you to stay and work on seasonal activities for two years);
  • Sports activities;
  • Artistic work;
  • Working holiday;
  • Scientific research;
  • Other visas.

Bear in mind that you cannot work in Italy if you have a visa for medical care, tourism, religion, or judicial reasons.

What is the Decreto Flussi?

To hire a foreign worker in Italy, the employer needs to obtain a permit, or nulla osta, from the Italian immigration office (SUI). This means that to apply for a work visa in Italy, you must secure a job first.

However, there is a limit to how many foreign workers can come to Italy. The country’s quota on work visas known as Decreto Flussi (flow decree) is a quota for Non-EU workers. The decreto flussi allows entry for approximately 30,000 non-EU workers a year. Applications are open for most of the year, but quotas and application window are set at the beginning of each year.

The quota of salaried workers admitted in Italy differs for each country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation tells you which conditions apply to you depending on your country of origin, visa type, and length of your stay.

Italian Work Permit Application Form

Even though you will need a work permit, you won’t need to worry about filling in a work permit application form for Italy. The entire application process is carried out by your employer on the website of the Ministry of the Interior or at the corresponding prefect (Prefettura) of the province where you will be working. However, you will need to provide your employer with some information so they can process your work permit application.

Your employer will need:

  • A copy of your passport or ID document;
  • Proof of your accommodation in Italy;
  • The residence contract* in Italian;
  • Proof that you have sufficient means to return home;
  • All information concerning your future employment status.

*Besides a work contract, foreign workers sign a residence contractcontratto di soggiorno, with their Italian employer. In this contract, the employer guarantees that the worker has suitable accommodation available, and commits to paying for any travel expenses in case the worker is expelled from Italy. This document does not replace the work contract, but it is necessary for the issuing of the work permit. Once your work permit is approved, you can apply for a visa.

How to Apply for a Work Visa in Italy

Generally, you can only apply for a work visa if you are outside of Italian borders. If you are in Italy on a visitor’s visa, you will have to leave the country and apply at the Italian embassy of your country of residence.

Your visa application has to be done no later than three months before the date you intend to move to Italy. You may need to schedule an appointment with your local embassy, so it is a good idea to call in advance. When you apply at your local embassy, you will need to present the following documents:

  • Italian visa application form­—the application form is in Italian, so you may need help filling it in if you don’t know the language;
  • 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;
  • Work permit (nulla osta) from the SUI (Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione), the Italian immigration office.

How Long is the Wait After the Visa Application?

After you submit your application has been completed, you will usually wait no longer than 30 days. Once it is approved, your local consulate or diplomatic mission will notify you, and you then have six months to collect your visa.

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

How Much does an Italian Work Visa Cost?

A work visa in Italy costs 116 EUR (140 USD). Unless otherwise stated, this fee is paid in the currency of the country where the application is made.

Blue Card: Europe’s “Green Card” for Highly Skilled Workers

If you are a highly skilled worker, you can apply for a European Blue Card. This work visa allows highly skilled non-EU workers to live and work in any European country with the exception of Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

A highly skilled worker is either:

  • A manager of highly qualified staff of large businesses or small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
  • A manager of highly qualified staff of business projects of the general interest;
  • A graduate or postgraduate from universities and prestigious business schools.

The process to apply for this type of visa is similar to that of regular workers. This visa, however, falls outside the Italian quota system. Find more information about the EU Blue Card to work in Italy.

Family Visas: How to Bring  your Family with You to Italy

When you are issued a work visa to Italy, your family members can also be granted one. This includes your spouse, minor children, adult children with disabilities, dependent parents, or parents over 65 years of age. Your own work permit must have a minimum duration of one year for your family members to be eligible.

To obtain this visa, the work visa holder in Italy must submit a request for family reunification with the SUI. You must show proof of sufficient income to support your family and adequate accommodation for the family unit.

How to obtain a Business Visa for Italy

There are a few types of visas for foreign investors who wish to relocate to Italy. The main ways to get a business visa in Italy are:

  • the new Investor visa program, which requires a minimum investment of 1 million EUR (1.2 million USD);
  • the self-employment visa**,** which we will discuss in detail below;
  • the StartUp visa program, applicable to those undertaking innovative ideas;
  • the Italian business permit, which you can obtain if you acquire an Italian company that has been running for three years.

Self-Employment Visas

Italy’s self-employment visa comes with its own requirements, and the application process may not be as straight-forward as the one for salaried workers.

Self-employment in Italy falls on the following categories:

  • Business owner
  • Corporate role
  • Start-up
  • Freelancer
  • Sports activity

Self-Employment Visa Requirements

To apply for a 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 step to apply for a self-employment visa is to obtain a self-employment work permit with the administrative authorities. For that, you need to find the right administrative body with the Italian Chamber of Commerce to grant you the work permit for self-employment, based on the professional activity you will carry out in the country.

The immigration office (SUI) and the Provincial Directorate of Labor verify that you are eligible and fit the quota, and can then grant you the work permit.

Self-Employment Visa: Application Form and Process

Applying for a self-employment visa follows the same procedure as the regular work visa. You apply at the Italian embassy of your country of residence, no later than three months before you intend to move to Italy. Check with your embassy or consulate if you need to make an appointment.

When applying at your local embassy, you will need to present the following documents:

  • Italian visa application form­—make sure you select the self-employment option;
  • 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 self-employment work permit (nulla osta) from the SUI.

After the embassy or consulate has notified you of the approval of your visa, you have six months (starting from the date your work permit is issued) to collect your visa and enter Italy.

The self-employment visa is also subject to the quota system. Be on top of the dates and quotas published for that year.

Self-Employment Visa: Start-Ups

Applying for a self-employment visa for start-ups follows a different procedure. You can apply for this type of visa through a direct application form or a certified incubator.

How Much do Self-Employment Visas Cost?

The fee for self-employment visas in Italy is 116 EUR (140 USD). This fee is paid in the currency of the country where you are applying unless otherwise stated.

Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

This section covers how to obtain permanent residency in Italy. To do this, you need to know how to apply for a temporary residence permit, which will eventually lead to you becoming a permanent resident. Your residence permit in Italy is not granted with your visa. When you first enter the country, you have eight days to apply for a residence permit to avoid being in Italy illegally.

Holders of a work and residence permit have the following rights:

  • Coverage by the Italian Healthcare System, the SSN (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale);
  • Access to public housing measures, lease, and subsidized credit for their first home;
  • Access to education, on equal grounds as Italian citizens;
  • Request family reunification, if their residence permit has a minimum duration of one year;
  • Freedom to perform work activities other than the one originally authorized, provided they sign a new residence contract for work;
  • Freedom to carry out self-employment activities, provided they have the necessary authorizations and meet all the requirements;
  • Access to patronage services.

How to Apply for an Italian Temporary Residence Permit

Citizens of the European Union who wish to stay longer than three months don’t need to apply for a residence permit. Instead, they must register at the Anagrafe (register office) of the Comune (town council) where they live. There, they will be given a receipt proving their registration.

Non-EU citizens must apply for a residence permit within eight days after they enter Italy. Applications for a residence permit for work or family reasons must be done with the SUI. You can apply at a Post Office with the symbol of the Sportello Amico, at your municipality (commune), or with Patronati (benevolent institutions).

The Residence Permit “Kit”

You will need the residence permit “kit” available at Italian post offices. This kit consists of an envelope with two application forms—the first is mandatory for everyone, while the second must be filled out by citizens who have a work permit.

Here are the requirements to apply for a resident permit for Italy:

  • The application form or forms;
  • Your passport or travel documents with the appropriate visa, and a copy;
  • Four recent and identical passport-size photographs;
  • The residence contract you signed with your Italian employer.

After submitting your application, you will be given a slip with the date at which you have to report to a police station (Questura) with the photographs. If this is your first time in Italy, you are also asked for your fingerprints.

What is the Duration of a Residence Permit in Italy?

The general rule is that your residence permit has the duration of your work contract or permit. Residence permits for employment, self-employment, or family reunification cannot be longer than two years.

The renewal of these residence permits is requested at the police station of your province of residence. To renew your residence permit, you must do so at least:

  • 90 days before the expiration date if your residence permit is valid for two years;
  • 60 days before the expiration date if your residence permit is valid for one year;
  • 30 days before the expiration date in all other cases.

Temporary Residence Permit: Fees

To request a residence permit in Italy, you will need to attach a 15 EUR (20 USD) electronic revenue stamp to your application form. You will also have to pay an additional 30 EUR (33 USD) to post the registered letter.

In the case of residence permits valid for more than 90 days, you also need to pay for the electronic residence permit. This consists of a readable magnetic card containing your personal details, photograph, and fingerprints, and costs 27.50 EUR (32 USD). The issuing of this card has an additional fee, which can range from 80 to 200 EUR (95 to 240 USD).

Family Residence Permit in Italy

You can have your family join you in Italy by applying for a residence permit for family reunification. You must do so with the SUI at the Prefettura of the province you will be living, by sending your application form and attached documents to the SUI by registered mail.

The family members that may be included on your visa are:

  • Spouses;
  • Minor children (under 18 years of age) born to you or your spouse;
  • Adult children, if they are financially dependent or have a disability;
  • Financially dependent parents, under certain conditions.

When your minor children reach the age of 14, they can apply for a separate residence permit for family reasons, which is valid until they reach 18, or a permanent residence card.

How to Obtain Permanent Residency in Italy

Permanent residence in Italy, or EC Long-Term Residence Permit, can be obtained after living in Italy for five years with a valid residence permit. This permit allows you to stay in Italy indefinitely. However, the card itself is only valid as a personal identification document for five years, after which you would have to renew it with up-to-date photographs.

EU citizens have it easier when it comes to obtaining permanent residence in another EU country. In general, you will only need to live in that country for five years, after which you automatically have the right to stay permanently without the need to take out any registrations or permits. However, it is always recommended that you have documentation proving your status in the country, to help deal with the authorities.

Permanent Residence Application Process

To apply for a permanent residence permit, you need to get your application form from the post office, along with these required documents:

  • The application form, duly completed and signed;
  • A full copy of your passport;
  • A photocopy of your income tax return (Unico/CUD form);
  • Police records;
  • Registration certificates;
  • Copies of the pay slips of the current year;
  • Proof that you have sufficient income:
    • If you have no dependent family, your salary must be equal to or higher than the annual social security level;
    • If you have one or two family members, you need to have an income equal to the annual social security level, plus half of that amount for each family member;
    • If you have two or more children below the ages of 14, your income must be at least double the annual social security level;
  • Certificate of residence and family situation;
  • Italian language test;
  • Postal slip that certifies the payment of the electronic residence permit fee (27.50 EUR or 32 USD);
  • Revenue stamp fee (15 EUR or 20 USD).

What Are the Benefits of Permanent Residence in Italy?

Besides the rights you already have on a temporary work and residence permit in Italy, holding an EC Long-Term Residence Permit allows you to:

  • Enter Italy without a visa;
  • Enter another EU country freely without a tourist visa, and stay for up to 90 days;
  • Work in countries that follow European labor laws.

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