How I Got my Italian Work Visa per Lavoro Autonomo
How I Got my Italian Work Visa per Lavoro Autonomo
The coveted Italian work visa. Since this is a topic of frequent discussion, I would like to address this and explain how I got my visa per lavoro autonomo, then my permesso di soggiorno, and finally my carta di soggiorno illimitata. To find out how YOU can get your Italian work visa, keep reading!
How I Got my Italian Work Visa
Types of Italian Visas
First of all, let me say that there are many types of Italian visas which I will not be covering in this article. I will only be discussing long-term work visas, briefly about the student visa, and the entrepreneur or start-up visa.
- work visas
- student visa
- start-up visa
Also, as a disclaimer, I am not an immigration agent, an immigration lawyer, or even an expert on Italian immigration. I’m just a humble person who’s gone through the process of applying a visa myself, and have been successful with it, so I hope to help others with my experience. Also, keep in mind also that my results may not be typical.
Purpose of a visa
To start with, let’s first consider some basic concepts, for anyone who is not that familiar with the process of immigration to another country.
Generally speaking, the purpose of a visa is to just to enter a country for a specific purpose. You’ve met certain requirements in terms of documentation, you’ve passed a security check, and you’re okay to enter. That visa doesn’t necessarily need to cover the entire period you’re in the country. Let me explain how that works.
Once you’ve entered on a visa, you need to get a permesso di soggiorno, or permit of stay. Once you have a permit of stay, you can later apply for your Italian residence. Once you’ve had Italian residence for at least 5 years, you can apply for the carta di soggiorno.
A visa is just to ENTER a country
Nowadays it’s called the Permesso di Soggiorno EU di lungo periodo—therefore, long-term permit of stay—and it’s usually unlimited, or “illimitata,” meaning it has no expiration date. You only need to make certain updates, like change the photos, update your address, your marital status or any other information that has changed. In the past you had to do that every 5 years, and now you need to do the update every 10 years.
Meanwhile, your initial Visa will have expired, and it’s the permesso di soggiorno that takes over as the legal document that allows you to stay in Italy. So your takeaway is: a Visa is just to enter a country and because of this, you must obtain it outside of Italy, in the Embassy or Consulate of Italy in your home country. The good thing is that you only need to do this once, as long as you stay in the same category. If you change from a student visa to work visa, for example, then of course you’ll need to apply all over again.
A visa is just to ENTER a country! You must apply in your home country. You CANNOT get a visa in Italy!
Keep in mind that both types of work visas are very difficult to obtain, and one way to get your foot in the door to Italy is to come on a student visa. On a student visa, you can work for 20 hours a week, and during this period you can have a look around, maybe apply for full-time jobs, and hopefully get an offer to come back on a work visa. The good thing is you don’t have to sign up for a university course to get an Italian student visa. It can even be a cooking course or an Italian language course.
Tip: sign up for a course, and come on a student visa! On a student visa, you are allowed to work 20 hours a week.
Visa for seasonal work
There is also a seasonal work visa which I will not be covering in detail, but I wanted to mention it as an option for anyone who wants to come a short period of time initially. That visa is called “Visa per lavoro stagionale” = visa for seasonal work
Tip: In some cases, a permesso di soggiorno per studio or per lavoro stagionale can be converted into a permesso for work.
Long-term work visas
Now, about long-term work visas: there are two types of work visas in Italy:
Visa per Lavoro subordinato = visa for dependent work, employed by someone else.
Visa per Lavoro autonomo = visa for independent work, or self-employed.
Apply for your Italian Work Visa today!
Visa per lavoro subordinato
The visa per lavoro subordinato is for working full-time for one single employer. You’ll need to have a job with a set number of 40 hours per week in order to obtain this visa.
Visa per lavoro subordinato = full time for one employer, 40 hours a week
Visa per lavoro autonomo
The visa per lavoro autonomo is for independent work, or for people who may work for several companies or clients, like freelancers, consultants, professionals offering services, or if you want to open a business. I had the visa per lavoro autonomo.
Visa per lavoro autonomo = freelancers, consultants, professional services, your own business.
“Flusso” or annual quota
For both types of visas, you will first need to get a place in the “flusso” or annual quota. The flusso is the fixed number of work permits that the Italian government makes available to foreigners. The number is different according to visa type and nationality, and the numbers change from year to year. The flusso only stays open for a certain limited amount of time, and it’s kind of a big mystery. No one knows when the flusso’s going to open, until it’s open.
“flusso” = annual quota of work permits available to foreigners
“Decreto Flussi”, a set quota of how many work permits Italy will issue.
Your potential employer in Italy needs to apply for your spot in the flusso through the online portal of the Minstero dell’Interno, or Ministry of the Interior in the province where you will be working. Once you get a spot in the flusso, you’ll be given a stamp called a nulla osta. Guard this with your life! This is your work permit, and you will not be able to obtain a work visa without the nulla osta.
Online portal of the Ministero dell’Interno = SUI (Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione)
Nulla osta = your work permit & proof of your place in the flusso!
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Which Visa is Right for You?
Now let’s talk about the visa per lavoro subordinato. This type of visa is very difficult to obtain. You have to remember that the Italian job market is very challenging even for Italians. There’s a high rate of unemployment here, and companies would always prefer to hire an Italian rather than go through the long, difficult, and costly procedure of applying for visa for an expat.
You have a better chance of getting this kind of visa if you have a skill which is lacking among the Italian population. The professions that have the best chances of getting sponsored at the moment are:
- medical professionals
- IT careers like digital marketing
- cyber security
- cloud computing
- data mining
- data management
- and data engineering
If you are a doctor or nurse, you can contact Sanarix agency for information on jobs in Italy.
Now, a note for English teachers. Teaching English in Italy seems like it could be a good opportunity to get sponsored on a visa, right? Actually, it is extremely difficult, and almost unheard of, for English teachers to obtain a visa per lavoro subordinato.
Difficult for English teachers
It’s extremely difficult for English teachers to obtain a visa per lavoro subordinato.
It may be possible in some cases, for example working in an international school. In most cases, however, private language schools in Italy will not be able to get a visa per lavoro subordinato. The reason is simple: most private language schools cannot guarantee the 40 hours of work required for the visa, year round.
Teaching hours typically fluctuate throughout the year, and it’s very rare that you can get full-time work from one school. Normally, English teachers work with more than one school in order to fill up their plate with full-time work.
However, it’s an all-too-frequent situation that a hopeful English teacher gets an offer from a hopeful language school, but then that language school is not able to get the visa for the teacher. The fact is that most private language schools in Italy do not have the time, resources, or staff to obtain a work visa for a foreigner.
It’s just the way it is, so please don’t get fooled into coming to Italy under the assumption that they will eventually get you the visa—they usually won’t be able to. Believe me, this is exactly what happened to me in 2004, and 18 years later, I’m still hearing about similar stories with false promises.
You may qualify for a work visa if…
By the way, if you’re a professor or researcher, you may qualify for a work visa under Article 27 so be sure to check that one out.
Keep in mind, all the difficulties I’ve been talking about so far have to do with getting a visa per lavoro subordinato, where you work for one single employer, full-time. But thankfully, there IS another way!
I eventually went for the visa per lavoro autonomo. No regrets, and all these years later, I’m still here. I worked as a freelancer in the beginning, and later I opened my own business.
Now, before considering this as a possible route to Italy, just keep in mind one thing: this route requires a little bit of entrepreneurial spirit. You’ll have to seek out your own work, and keep on top of your own invoicing and taxes. But don’t worry—it’s not difficult, and even if you’ve never had a business before, it doesn’t mean you can’t go with this route to make your life and career in Italy.
It’s just that it requires a little but more independent effort and tenacity on your part.
How to do business in Italy as an EXPAT
Why visa per lavoro autonomo?
So why apply for this type of visa? First of all, it’s usually easier to obtain it. There are usually more available places in the flusso, because fewer people apply for this type of visa. Secondly, this visa has many advantages because then you are not tied to one employer; you can work for whoever you want.
On to the HOW of obtaining a visa per lavoro autonomo. I am going to explain the basic process in simple steps. However, I always recommend consulting with an immigration agency.
One such agency is Agenzia Nobiato, but they work mainly in Vicenza. It’s always better to go through an immigration agent that’s working in the area you want to move to in Italy, since they will have connections with the local immigration authorities.
Alright, so it went like this.
- Got an “offer” to work for a school on a freelance basis.
- That school’s accountant drew up a document stating their intention to engage my services.
- With that document and my passport they applied for a place in the flusso.
- Got a place in the flusso and the nulla osta. They sent those documents to me in the US.
- I took the nulla osta, my passport, and other documents to the Italian Embassy in my state.
- Picked up my visa, and after celebrating, headed to Italy!
Please note I got my visa in 2005, but the process is still mostly the same (some parts moved online).
Another word of advice about getting a visa per lavoro autonomo. If you get this visa, after you arrive in Italy you will also need to get a Partita Iva, which is a business tax ID number. Then you have to find a competent commercialista, or accountant, to help you file your taxes every year.
Partita Iva = business tax ID number
Commercialista = accountant
Work in Italy as a Freelancer
The good thing is, as a freelancer, you are not tied to one company, and have the freedom to work for different companies, and you have the potential to make more money. Then, if one company goes under, you can always find another one.
As a freelancer or consultant, you have control over your time and over your life. You can take vacations whenever you want. Of course you work a lot too, in many ways you even may work more while having your own business, but at least then you’re working for yourself and not someone else.
The last visa type is the Italian start-up visa. Nowadays the Italian government is trying to encourage innovation, and they want to attract entrepreneurs within certain fields, to come and do business on Italian soil. You can apply for this kind of visa in two ways:
The good thing is, the instructions are all in English. The investment required to qualify for this visa is 250,000 euros.
Digital Nomad Work Visa
One more visa option is the recently-introduced Digital Nomad Work Visa, which is not subject to the flusso, so if you work virtually, independently or through a company, be sure to check that one out!
As a final note, I would like to say that if you want to come and live and work in Italy, there are several things that you need to understand. First of all, this is a different country. Things work very differently here. You may not have procedures that are as clear or as straightforward as what you’re used to.
All things considered
There is a lot of bureaucracy in Italy and things take a really long time. You might find that sometimes it’s like a big black hole. You don’t know where your documents go and when you will get an answer.
You need to exercise a lot of patience and persistence and remember the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”
No matter what, be polite and respectful to the authorities, as that will get you a long way. Remember this is Italy, and the beauty of living here far outweighs any difficulties you may experience. If you can accept those differences and those uncertainties, you’ll be just fine here.
I hope this article was helpful for you and I wish you all the best of luck with reaching your dreams in Italy!
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