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Working in Italy

Are you being sent to Italy on an expat assignment, or have you decided to take a new direction in your career? Our InterNations guide covers all the essential information you need to know before working in Italy, from visas and work permits, to tips for the job hunt.
Italy is the 4th largest economy in Europe.

At a Glance:

  • Italy is the eighth largest economy globally, with a large service sector accounting for 75% of the national GDP.
  • Nationals of non-EU countries will need to apply for a work permit before starting work in Italy.
  • Women in Italy are entitled to five months maternity leave: two months before giving birth and three months after.
  • English is not as widely spoken all over Italy as in some other European countries, so learning some Italian prior to your move is a must.


For a number of years, Italy has been a popular destination for expats looking for a change of scene. While red tape can be a bit of a nuisance, the prospect of relocating your career Italy is an exciting one.

Challenging Times for the Italian Economy

Italy is the world’s eighth largest economy, with a 2.5% share of the world economy. It has a heavily service-based economy, with the tertiary sector accounting for around 75% of the GDP. Compared with other economies of a similar size, Italy has fewer large international businesses, but lots more small to medium-sized companies.

Among other things, Italy’s key industries are automotive production, chemicals, food, and fashion. The year 2016 saw record numbers of tourists visiting Italy — almost 50 million — making tourism one of the country’s most important industries.

Northern Italy is generally wealthier and more industrialized, offering more jobs in the service sector, while the more rural south is less wealthy, with higher unemployment rates. Agriculture plays a more important role in the southern regions.

However, even the more traditionally prosperous north has been affected by the general economic troubles. Though Italy’s economy seemed to slowly recover following the financial crisis of 2008/2009, this positive trend did not last long. Since 2012, the country has been going through a serious recession, forcing the government to introduce budget cuts to curb expenses. These cuts have, in turn, impacted on the domestic market and consumption. Unemployment rates have also increased, with youth unemployment being greatly affected — the current rate stands at 35.7%. However, in the second quarter of 2017, the Italian economy saw its best growth rate since 2011, demonstrating that things are gradually improving. While many industries continue to struggle, tourism appears to have stabilized, and visitor numbers are estimated to continue to grow over the next few years.

Become an Official Resident!

Before you can start working in Italy, you must make sure to get a social security number and health insurance. Applying for a social security card is a one-time-only affair, which you can do at the INPS (Instituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale), Italy’s National Social Security Institute.

While working in Italy, you will be automatically registered with social security by your employer. If you are self-employed, you must contact the INPS yourself. Ask for more information regarding the payment of social security contributions, as these figures vary based on income and type of work.

Tackling the Bureaucratic Obstacles

As an EU citizen or a member of the Schengen Agreement countries (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Switzerland, Monaco, or the Vatican City), you do not need to apply for a special work visa. The European Union allows you to work in any EU member state.

However, if you are not a national of the countries mentioned above, you must apply for a work visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the nearest Italian Embassy or Consulate. Remember to allow enough time for your application to be processed and take care of this long before entering the country to start your new job.

All non-EU nationals must apply for a residence permit within eight days of their arrival. This can be done by filling out a special application pack that is available at many (though not all) local post offices. The residence permit may or may not be granted within 120 days — although it’s rare that it will be rejected if you have a job lined up for you.

Finding work is generally more complicated for expats working in Italy outside a traditional foreign assignment. Preference in job openings is given to Italians. Therefore, it is very useful if you can offer a certain skill or expertise in a field that may be lacking qualified labor, such as bio technology. You will be treated like any other Italian employee and receive the same benefits once you have officially started working in Italy.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Brandon Le Clerk

"What I really love about InterNations? Making new business contacts and friends in real life. This is a unique plattform."

Li Wang

"At my first InterNations Rome Get-Together I met more expats then expected. InterNations made is so easy to settle in."

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