Long-term transfers


What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

Section 27 of the Immigration Law provides that the main immigration categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff are the following:

  • executives or highly specialised personnel employed by companies with headquarters or branch offices in Italy, or by the representative offices of foreign companies whose main sites of activity fall in the territory of one of the member nations of the World Trade Organization, or executives of a major Italian office of an Italian company or a company from another state of the European Union;
  • directors, highly specialised workers and trainees who will be assigned to a parent company in Italy: intra-company transfer (ICT) work permit; and
  • salaried employees who are regularly paid by employers (either individuals or organisations) that reside or are headquartered abroad, and from whom they received their salary directly and in cases where the employees are temporally transferred from foreign countries to work with individuals or organisations, be they Italian or foreign, residing in Italy, for the purposes of performing, in Italian territory, specific services stipulated under a contract executed between the aforementioned individuals or organisations residing abroad in accordance with the provisions of section 1655 of the Italian Civil Code and with Law No. 1369 of 23 October 1960 as well as international norms and those of the European Union.

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

If the foreign employer has a branch or subsidiary in Italy, the employees can work in Italy through an ‘intra-group assignment’ from the foreign company to the Italian entity.

To allow foreign employees to work in Italy, the Italian entity must apply for a work permit, via the internet, from the Italian immigration office of the municipality where the foreign employee will perform his or her activity or where the Italian entity has its legal office.

Having received the work permit, the foreign employee will be able to apply for the work visa at the competent Italian consulate in his or her country or city of residence (the procedures to be followed and the documents to be submitted vary in every single country and must be verified from time to time).

Having received the work visa, the foreign employee can enter Italy and, within eight days of arriving in Italy, must sign a contract of stay with the Italian entity, which makes his or her entry official and marks the start of his or her assignment to the entity. The assignee can start to work from the day in which he or she signs the contract of stay even if he or she has not yet received the permit of stay.

After signing the contract of stay, the foreign employee must apply for an official permit to stay for work reasons via the post office, addressed to the police office (the entity that will issue the permit to stay) of the municipality where he or she is going to carry out his or her work.

To be eligible to apply for an ICT work permit, it is mandatory that the employee has worked for the sending company for more than three months.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

Italian immigration law states that it is always necessary to obtain a visa and a permit to stay in order to work in Italy. The maximum period of stay in Italy for directors and highly specialised workers falling within the ICT category is three years. It is one year for trainees. Highly skilled employees, managers and directors can stay in Italy on assignment for a maximum period of five years.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

Italian immigration law provides that the work authorisation must be issued within 40 days of the initial request. This time frame is generally not strictly adhered to by the Italian Immigration Office.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

The main condition to obtaining a work permit is to have an Italian employer who sponsors the foreign citizen. To be a sponsor means to guarantee that the foreign worker has the same treatment as an Italian worker (in terms of insurance and remuneration). In addition, it is necessary to demonstrate that the worker has a place of residence in Italy. If the worker cannot demonstrate evidence of accommodation, the Italian Immigration Authority will reject the request for work authorisation.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

Immigration authorities usually follow objective criteria in issuing a work authorisation. This means that if a company cannot file all the mandatory documents, the sponsored workers will not able to enter Italy for work reasons. In principle, the Immigration Authority can exercise discretion, but it does not usually exercise this right.

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

High net worth individuals are permitted to enter Italy without completing the quota procedure.

They can directly ask for a visa called an ‘elected domicile visa’ from the competent Italian consulate. This type of visa is issued when a foreign national intends to establish residence in Italy without carrying out any kind of work activity.

In order to obtain an elected domicile visa, it is mandatory for the foreign national to demonstrate to the consulate that he or she can live in Italy without working. It is necessary for applicants to produce evidence of documented and detailed guarantees regarding their commercial and financial status. These financial resources must be regular and constantly generated from the activity of the applicant. The income can be generated from real estate properties, regular economic and commercial activities, pensions or trusts in which the applicant is the beneficiary, as well as any other legal sources. It is mandatory that these sources of income do not arise from an activity carried out in Italy. This type of visa is also issued for the family members.

Non-EU citizens who wish to perform an industrial or professional activity, set up a joint-stock company in Italy or be a member of a company board (to be exercised primarily in Italy), must demonstrate that they:

  • have adequate resources for the activity that will take place in Italy;
  • possess the requirements under Italian law for the exercise of individual activities;
  • are in possession of a certificate, of not more than three months old, from the competent authority stating that there are no impediments to the issuance of the authorisation or licence provided for the activity that he or she intends to perform;
  • have suitable lodgings; and
  • have an annual income from legitimate sources.

The Italian Budget Law 2017 introduced a new category of visa called the ‘investment visa’ for foreign investors who meet one of the following criteria:

  • invest at least €1 million in a company with a legal seat in Italy;
  • invest €2 million in Italian government bonds; or
  • donate €1 million to an immigration or research organisation.

These investments must all be granted for a minimum period of two years.

The investment visa will allow the foreign citizen to obtain an Italian resident permit for two years, with the possibility to extend it for an additional three years. The dependants will be allowed to join the investor in Italy and receive a family permit of stay.

The investors must file a list of specific documents to demonstrate the investments in Italy, after which the Italian immigration offices will evaluate them and if all the requirements are met they will issue the authorisation to obtain the proper visa.

A specific decree will establish the procedures to obtain the visa and it will also indicate all the required documents.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

Unfortunately, there is no special route in Italy. The only new possibility of entering and working in Italy is the EU Blue Card, which allows an Italian employer to hire a non-EU citizen in Italy without passing through the quota system.

Italy has recognised Directive 2009/50/EC, published in the Official Gazette on 8 August 2012 as Legislative Decree 108/2012, regarding the conditions of entry and residence in Italy for work reasons in favour of non-EU nationals who intend to perform skilled work. The Decree states that non-EU workers can enter Italy and perform high-level professional activities outside the system of quotas. This means that they can be employed by Italian employers during the whole year, provided that all the requirements laid down in the Decree are met. The Decree states that:

  • the scope of application is limited only to employment, and is not applicable to the self-employed or to positions in assignment;
  • non-EU workers are considered ‘skilled’ if they have completed a higher course of studies lasting at least three years in their home country. The educational institution must necessarily be recognised as a member of an institute of higher education in that specific country. For this reason, it will be necessary to provide the Immigration Authority with the ‘declaration of value’ issued by the competent Italian consulate;
  • the title of bachelor studies must give the worker a qualification included in categories one, two and three of the National Institute for Statistics classification of professions, namely business managers, engineers, computer specialists and workers belonging to the technical professions (the complete list of activities is available on www.istat.it); and
  • the employer shall provide a binding contract with a minimum wage of at least €25,500 per year.

Foreigners residing in Italy pursuant to permission under article 27 of the Italian Immigration Law cannot request the EU Blue Card (ie, seconded workers).

The operating procedure provides that an employer may send the employment request electronically to the unified immigration desk for immigration, attaching all the required documentation, including the title of studies translated and legalised by the competent Italian consulate.

The unified immigration desk must release the authorisation for employment within 90 days of the request. Having obtained the work authorisation, the foreign worker must apply for an entry visa at the Italian consulate, which will allow entry into Italy. Once in Italy, the worker is required to sign a residence contract and apply for a residence permit with local immigration authorities and these requirements must be completed in the presence of the employer.

The police administrative headquarters will issue a residence permit for two years if the employment contract is for an indefinite period or for the duration of the work contract plus three months in other cases.

The EU Blue Card holder may, for the first two years, apply exclusively to work in accordance with the conditions of admission on Italian territory; a change of employer during the first two years will have to be endorsed by the positive opinion of the competent territorial directorates labour authority.

Since this procedure was introduced relatively recently, it is not possible to provide a complete and comprehensive list of documents necessary to obtain authorisation; in any case, it has been established that the principal document for this purpose is the title of studies obtained in the country of origin. It is also a requirement to provide the Immigration Authority with documentation concerning the Italian employer company.

In addition, non-EU workers are allowed to bring family members with them, regardless of the duration of their Blue Card.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

Usually, highly skilled individuals do not have a special route to enter and work in Italy. In some immigration law decrees, when the government establishes the annual quota, the Immigration Authority includes a limited number of quotas for highly skilled individuals, so in this case they could be hired by an Italian company if they fall within a quota. The quotas are decided every year and the number varies depending on market needs.

If highly skilled individuals need to enter Italy and work in an ‘assignment’ position and the criteria are met, they have a special route to obtain an extra-quota work authorisation. For the procedure to obtain extra-quota immigration permission, see question 11.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Yes, the annual Immigration Decree establishes a fixed entry quota for individuals based on ancestry or descent of Italian citizens. The number of quotas is different every year.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

Yes, there is a minimum salary requirement and it depends on the national contract applicable to the sponsor company and the role of the worker.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

Yes, the quota system applies for the employment of non-EU citizens. Usually, the quotas are issued on a yearly basis.

The main categories usually included in the quota system are:

  • workers of some specific countries that have signed an agreement with Italy;
  • workers coming from all other countries;
  • highly skilled workers and directors; and
  • foreign nationals wishing to convert a permit to stay for study or training purposes to a permit to stay for work reasons.

In addition to the above quotas, the Italian government issues specific quotas for seasonal employees working in the tourism and agriculture sectors.

The Italian government can decide to add or exclude the above categories from the yearly quotas at its discretion.

The Italian company must file an application online for the request of a quota through the completion of a specific form that contains information on the employer, the non-EU employee and the employment conditions.

Once the quota has been attributed, the non-EU citizen will be able to apply for the work visa at the competent Italian consulate in the country of his or her origin or residence.

Upon the receipt of the visa, he or she is allowed to enter Italy for work reasons. Within eight days of arriving, he or she is required to sign a contract of stay with the Italian employer and apply for the permit to stay.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?


Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

In order to apply for an ICT, it is necessary that the assignee has worked for the previous six months in the same economic area. This does not mean that he or she must be employed by a foreign company for more than six months. If the transfer is referred to a director it is necessary to file with the authority his or her degree certificate duly translated and legalised by the competent Italian consulate or via apostille.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

If a foreign supplier has signed a service agreement with an Italian company (client) with the object of providing services, the foreign employees can work in Italy through an assignment from the foreign supplier to the Italian client.

In order to allow an employee to work in Italy, the client has to apply for a work permit at the Italian immigration office of the municipality where the client has its legal office.

Having received the work permit, the foreign employee will be able to apply for the work visa at the competent Italian consulate in the country or city of residence (the procedures to be followed and the documents to be submitted vary in every single country and must be verified every so often).

Having received the work visa, the foreign employee can enter Italy and, within eight days of arriving in Italy, must sign a contract of stay with the client, which makes his or her entry official and marks the start of the assignment for the Italian entity.

Following Law Decree No. 10 of 15 February 2007, a new immigration provision was introduced into the Italian immigration system. This Decree states that in the case of a service agreement signed between two companies that are resident in two different countries of the EU, an extra-EU employee of the service provider, temporarily resident (with a resident permit) in the EU country of the employer, can be assigned to the client office located in Italy without applying for a work authorisation. Instead of work authorisation, the client and the employer must send a communication to the Immigration Authority concerning the labour contract applicable to the employee. These communications will be used in order to obtain a permit to stay for work reasons.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

The recognition of skills and qualifications could be required in the following cases:

  • for foreign highly specialised personnel; and
  • for a foreign national who applies for a self-employment immigration permission.

If a non-EU citizen intends to carry out an activity for which authorisation, a licence or signing special registers is required, it is necessary to request the recognition of these skills from the competent authority, which could be the Ministry of Justice for lawyers, accountants and engineers, or the Ministry of Health for healthcare professionals.