Obviously this article about obtaining a work permit in Italy is only applicable to non-EU nationals, as those within the EU are regulated much more loosely under inclusive EU directives.
For non-EU nationals, a work permit is necessary in order to work in Italy legally. The type of permit varies with the type of work you will be doing, your whereabouts in the country, and any relevant restrictions. It is highly recommended to get this sorted out with your Italian employer before you make the move to Italy. Your employer must apply for your permit as they act as your sponsor for the duration of your residence.
Each year the Italian government and authorities set a number of work permits to be granted and only this number of foreign nationals will be permitted into the country to work that year. As a result these spots are very competitive. However, the application process is based upon a “first-come first-served” basis and so is not discriminative. Once all the places have been filled, the authority is very inflexible, and there are absolutely no chances of appeal. Getting your application in as soon as possible therefore, is crucial for your obtaining the permit.
Italian work permits come in two main forms:
Autonomous permits apply to persons who are coming into Italy to practice a profession independently or to set up a commercial or industrial business.
Subordinate permits apply to persons who are coming to Italy to work under an employer for an annual salary.
Exemptions to the quota system
Although inflexible when full, the quota system does offer exemption. These are stated in Italian Immigration law and allow certain forms of work to be exempt from the quota. This allows persons in these professions to apply for a permit at any time.
The persons that are exempt from the quota system are as follows:
- Translators & Interpreters
- University and Research
- Highly specialized managers/staff
- University lecturers of foreign languages
- University professors who will hold an academic post in Italy
- Foreign persons with higher education qualifications that allow access to PhD Level programmes in their domicile country and are appropriately registered with the Ministry of Education
- Foreigners between the ages of 20 and 30 years old who are accepted in volunteer programs conducted by religious organizations and recognized by the State, NGO’s and associations for social advancement
- Family collaborators who have already been doing full-time domestic labour abroad for at least a year
- Italian or European Union citizens who were residing abroad and have moved to Italy
- Foreigners authorized to reside in Italy for professional training reasons, who were carrying out training periods with Italian Employees
- Workers who are employees of organizations or businesses that operate in the Italian territory
- Artistic/technical staff who work on lyrical, theatrical and film businesses, in radio and television businesses and by public organizations for cultural and folkloristic demonstrations
- Sporting professionals
- Journalists/correspondents who are officially accredited and employed by press agencies or broadcasters
- People who carry out research or occasional work in an exchange setting e.g. people working as “au pairs”
- Professional caregivers hired at public and private structures
- Maritime workers
- Workers employed by circuses or shows travelling abroad
Typically, work permits from the following persons are applied for outside of the quota system:
- Highly qualified or specialised workers who transfer to a company within Italy to carry out specific activities or tasks.
- Intra company transfers transferring specialised workers with at least 6 months experience from a foreign branch of a company, to the Italian branch. The worker can be based in Italy for up to 5 years and then can be taken on permanently by the Italian office.
- Contract workers transferred to an Italian company on a services agreement to carry out specific services in the Italian territory. The two companies involved are not in the same group as with intra company transfers, but share a business relationship.
As it is the employer’s responsibility to obtain the permit for you, they or a legal representative of the company must submit the work permit application to the Central Immigration Desk. Additional documentation such as personal and corporate papers may also be required.
The Central Immigration Desk assesses the application and grants the permit if all criteria is met and there are spaces left in the quota. The permission of a work permit is known as the Nulla Osta in Italy. During the application review the employee must stay in their domicile country outside of Italy. They must apply for the relevant entry visa at the Diplomatic Italian Authority in their country of residence. A visit to the Central Immigration Office is required to sign the job contract, and then the Permit of Stay application should be filed in person at the local Post Office. This is an important document and is handled by the police for its review.
These procedures, along with obtaining the relevant residence visa from the Italian Consulate or Diplomatic Representative in the domicile country, must be done within 120 days from the date the work permit is issued. The permit is valid for 2 years and may be extended for a further 2 years at its expiry.
Italian work permits are regulated and executed regionally and so it is important to be aware of the regional regulations and procedures before applying to ensure compliance with all necessary aspects of the process.