As the euro zone's third largest economy, Italy has one of the highest inbound net migration rates in the European Union (ahead of both the U.K. and France). Historically, Italy has been particularly attractive to businesses and migrant workers in the automotive industry. That industry has suffered globally over the past few years, but the Italian market has been encouraged by the recent announcement that Italian car manufacturer, Fiat, might secure financing in May to complete its buyout of U.S. car manufacturer, Chrysler.

If your business employs any European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, then they will have the right to live and work in Italy and to bring their family with them without applying for a visa to enter the country. However, for non-EEA nationals, while Italy facilitates the assignment of workers to a local subsidiary (these permits are not subject to quotas) the direct hiring of non-EEA nationals is complex and is subject to the availability of government quotas. The direct hiring can however now be achieved through the new "EU Blue Card." Italy has implemented the EU Blue Card Directive, which allows highly specialised non-EEA nationals to be hired by Italian companies without being subject to government quotas.

So how does the EU Blue Card work?

The EU Blue Card is Europe's answer to the U.S. Green Card. All 27 EU member states, except the U.K., Denmark and Ireland, participate in the EU Blue Card scheme. If an applicant has held a blue card in any other EU jurisdiction for at least 18 months, then they will automatically qualify for an Italian Blue Card and will not need a visa to enter Italy. This is great news for multinational corporations with subsidiaries in one or more EU jurisdictions because it has the potential to allow non-EU nationals to move freely from one country to another within the EU, without applying for multiple domestic visas.

Applicants without the requisite previous 18-month Blue Card can still apply for a Blue Card in Italy, but they will need to apply for an entry visa and must have a valid work contract, or binding job offer from an Italian employer and possess a university degree relevant to the  proposed work.  

In both cases, a worker's family can come with them, and the Italian Blue Card will be valid for either the length of a fixed-term contract, plus three months or two years for indefinite contracts.

The EU Blue Card is a great way to increase the mobility of non-EU nationals into Italy and within the wider European Union.