What primary and secondary legislation governs immigration in your jurisdiction?
Immigration law in Italy comprises the following laws:
- Law Decree No. 286 of 25 July 1998 (the Immigration Law);
- Law No. 189 of 30 July 2002 (Law Bossi-Fini); and
- Decree of the President of Italian Republic No. 30 of 6 February 2007.
Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?
Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers? Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?
Immigration processes are under the power of the Italian Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The former is responsible for issuing work permits following checks on individuals and employers, and the latter decides on whether or not to issue visas.
All their decisions can be appealed to Italian regional courts.Government policy
In broad terms what is your government’s policy towards business immigration?
The fast growth in business development of the past 40 years has transformed Italy from an ‘emigration’ country to a ‘destination’ country and immigration law is trying to follow this socio-economic trend; albeit, with some difficulties.
The Italian immigration system is based on the principle of ‘self-sufficiency’ allowing non-EU citizens to enter and stay in Italy only if they are able to maintain themselves.
Based on this principle, the Italian immigration system first makes a distinction between EU and non-EU citizens. The former can enter and work in Italy with few specific procedures; the latter are subject to a strict system of control.
The immigration system for non-EU citizens can be divided into two broad categories: quota and extra-quota.
Every year the Italian government issues a fixed number of work permits (quota) based on the nationality of the worker and work categories.
In contrast with the quota system, the extra-quota procedure allows specific categories of workers (specialised and non-specialised) to enter Italy for a limited period of time, but only if specific requirements are met.
The immigration procedures must be filed at the municipality of the city in which the employee will perform his or her work activity, and these offices can have different approaches to the same matters.
In what circumstances is a visa necessary for short-term travellers? How are short-term visas obtained?
Italian immigration law provides that it is always necessary to obtain a short-term visa to enter the country. The foreign national must apply for a Schengen visa to the competent Italian consulate in his or her residence country. Citizens of some countries listed by the Italian Ministry of the Interior can enter Italy without a visa for a period up to 90 days only for business or tourism reasons.
If non-EU citizens enter Italy for business reasons, even for a short-term period, they need a visa.Restrictions
What are the main restrictions on a business visitor?
Business visitors are allowed to stay in Italy for a maximum of 90 days within a period of 180 days. They must limit their activity to ‘economic or commercial reasons, making contacts or conducting negotiations, learning the use and operation of capital goods purchased or sold under industrial cooperation’, which normally includes attending business meetings and making sales calls to clients. It is not necessary that business visitors are remunerated for their business trip in Italy.
With this type of visa, business visitors are not allowed to work. If the visitors wish to perform an activity not mentioned above, it is necessary to obtain the corresponding visa.Short-term training
Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?
In Italy, it is always necessary to obtain a visa to enter the country and it is mandatory to obtain a permit to stay to perform an activity even for short-term training. If the short-term training is ‘on the job’, it will be necessary to apply for a training visa. If the training concerns the learning of the use and operation of capital goods purchased or sold under industrial cooperation, a Schengen visa can be used. For training exceeding a three-month period, a training visa will be necessary.Transit
Are transit visas required to travel through your country? How are these obtained? Are they only required for certain nationals?
Italian immigration law provides two types of transit visa: a transit visa and an airport transit visa.
The transit visa allows the passage through the territory of one or more states belonging to the Schengen area to reach the territory of a third state. It has a maximum validity of five days and allows a maximum of two entries. The individual must also be in possession of a visa to enter the country to which he or she is headed, and his or her licence is subject to verification of the possession of the same requirements for the granting of a tourist visa (valid passport, ticket or seat reservation, means of subsistence, etc).
The airport transit visa does not authorise entry into Italy, but allows the foreigner to enter the international transit area of an airport during a stop for international flights. Its validity depends on the time required to perform the exchange as it appears on the ticket (or the reservation) submitted by the applicant together with a passport or valid travel document and may be equipped with an entry visa for the country of final destination.
In the absence of the above, the traveller will be forced to interrupt his or her journey and return to his or her country of origin.
This visa is necessary for citizens of the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia and Sri Lanka.Visa waivers and fast-track entry
Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?
There is a visa waiver programme for citizens of Australia, Japan and the United States, but only for short trips of up to 90 days.
Italy has not yet implemented any fast track entry programmes.
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?
No.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.
Extensions and variationsShort-term to long-term status
Can a short-term visa be converted in-country into longer-term authorisations? If so, what is the process?
Italian immigration law does not allow the converting or extending of a tourist or business visa into a work permit. A business visitor can stay in Italy for a maximum of 90 days within a period of 180 days. Once he or she has spent this period of time in Italy, the visitor must stay outside the Schengen area for 90 days, and then, if required, he or she can apply for another Schengen visa.Long-term extension
Can long-term immigration permission be extended?
Long-term immigration permission issued under the quota system can be extended if the foreign worker continues to be employed by an Italian company. The Immigration Authority usually issues a permit to stay for employment or work reasons for a period of two years, so one month before the expiry date the non-EU citizen must apply for its renewal, demonstrating to the authorities that he or she still has work in Italy. The renewal can be made directly in Italy without having to leave the country, owing to the fact that it is mandatory to renew the immigration permission and not the visa.
In addition, it is possible to extend an immigration permission issued on the basis of an assignment according to the limitations provided in question 12. Also, in this case, it is not necessary to leave Italy to complete the procedure as the foreign national can apply for the renewal in Italy.Exit and re-entry
What are the rules on and implications of exit and re-entry for work permits?
If a worker has a valid permit to stay, he or she can exit and re-enter Italy without restriction.
Otherwise, for non-EU citizens already in possession of a valid visa who are still waiting for their first residence permit to be issued for work or family reasons, travel is permitted back to their home country and any other non-EU country, and it is important to travel with the postal receipts as evidence that the application was filed. For dependants in Italy, following the family cohesion residence permit procedure (which only requires a tourism visa and not a family visa in the passport), all travel is prohibited and the family members must await the issuance of the actual permit in order to leave Italy.
Non-EU citizens, during the renewal of their residence permit, can return to their home countries or other non-EU countries but are strictly forbidden from passing through any other Schengen countries, even if only a short airport transit. It is important to travel with the postal receipts as evidence that the application was filed.
In addition, an EU regulation permits travel throughout the Schengen area for certain visa holders. Before this regulation came into effect, those who entered Italy with a long-term (over three months) visa for work or family and applied for a residence permit at the post office were not able to go to other Schengen countries with the postal receipt. They had to wait until the residence permit was issued, which could take a long time. With the new EU rule, travel in the Schengen area is now permitted, relieving the problem of not being able to leave Italy and being without the legal possibility of travelling to nearby countries, or even being allowed to have a stopover in a Schengen country if a person wanted to go back to his or her home country. Now residence permit applicants can go to any other Schengen country for up to 90 days in each 180-day period. Family members who have entered Italy as tourists and are completing their immigration formalities in the country cannot leave Italy at all until the residence permit is issued.Permanent residency and citizenship
How can immigrants qualify for permanent residency or citizenship?
A foreign national can apply for a long-term permit to stay once he or she has held the permit to stay for at least five years.
If the foreign national has a permit to stay that grants an indeterminate number of renewals (employment, self-employment, family reasons), he or she can apply for a long-term permit to stay that will not expire but must be renewed after five years in order to verify that all the issuing conditions are still met.
In addition, foreign nationals can apply for Italian citizenship if they have legally resided in Italy for 10 years. At the end of this period, they have to file an application with the Italian Immigration Authority.End of employment
Must immigration permission be cancelled at the end of employment in your jurisdiction?
Italian immigration law states that foreign nationals, before leaving Italy, must deregister their family and themselves from the municipality of the city where they reside. In addition, they must give the immigration permit to the police at the Italian border from which they leave the country. The police will then remove them from the list of the people who live in Italy with a permit to stay.
Usually, foreign citizens keep the permit to stay with them without giving it to the police and there is no penalty if the above regulation has not been observed.Employee restrictions
Are there any specific restrictions on a holder of employment permission?
A holder of employment permission is allowed to carry out work in Italy. He or she can also study, and if his or her work conditions (including salary) change, he or she must inform the Italian Immigration Authority about these changes.
He or she can also change the employer or work for an additional employer if he or she has obtained an employment permission on the basis of a quota. In this case the procedure is the same as described above.
If he or she has employment permission on the basis of an assignment, he or she cannot change the employer or sponsor. In this situation, if he or she has to change the employer or sponsor, he or she must leave Italy and the new sponsor has to apply for a new work authorisation.
Who qualifies as a dependant?
Italian immigration law states that the following persons qualify as dependants:
- a spouse who is not legally separated;
- unmarried minor children (under 18 years of age);
- adult dependent children, when, for objective reasons, they cannot provide for their essential life needs because of their health status; and
- dependent parents, if they have no other children in their country of origin or residence, or if they are over 65, and their other children are unable to support them for health reasons.
Are dependants automatically allowed to work or attend school?
If dependants have obtained a visa and an Italian permit to stay for family reasons, they are allowed to perform any kind of work activity. It is not necessary to obtain a visa and a permit to stay for work reasons. They can also attend school.Access to social benefits
What social benefits are dependants entitled to?
Dependants, once in Italy and if they have a regular permit to stay, are allowed to register themselves with the municipality and benefit from any social relief benefits applicable to Italian citizens.
Other requirements, restrictions and penaltiesCriminal convictions
Are prior criminal convictions a barrier to obtaining immigration permission?
Yes, prior criminal convictions are a barrier to obtaining immigration permission in Italy.
When a work permit application has been filed, all of the worker’s data will be sent to the Italian Central Police Office to check whether the foreign national has any criminal convictions and, if a negative opinion is given to the Immigration Authority, it will deny the work permit.
If the Immigration Authority denies the permit to stay, the foreign national will be expelled from Italy.Penalties for non-compliance
What are the penalties for companies and individuals for non-compliance with immigration law? How are these applied in practice?
If companies hire or have employees who do not have a permit to stay, or who entered Italy illegally, their legal representative may have to pay a sanction of €5,000 per employee and may face imprisonment for a period of from three months to five years. The workers in question will be expelled from Italy.Language requirements
Are there any minimum language requirements for migrants?
Italian immigration law does not require any particular language proficiency for immigrants.
In December 2010, the Italian Immigration Authority introduced a new regulation for non-EU nationals who want to obtain a long-term residence permit. In order to obtain this type of immigration permission, they must pass a test in Italian. The applicant must complete a test with 80 per cent success in order to pass. The test will be quite basic and should not pose any difficulties to those who take it, considering the applicant must already have five years of legal residency in Italy.
The following are exempt from taking the test:
- children under 14;
- non-EU citizens with a doctor’s certificate declaring it is not possible to pass the test because of medically diagnosed linguistic problems;
- holders of an A2 certificate of language sufficiency;
- anyone who obtained a diploma in middle or high school in Italy or is enrolled in an Italian university; and
- managers, university professors, translators, interpreters and journalists who entered Italy with a work clearance.
Is medical screening required to obtain immigration permission?
Medical screening is not required for obtaining immigration permission to enter Italy and work or stay in the country.Secondment
Is there a specific procedure for employees on secondment to a client site in your jurisdiction?
See question 24.
In addition, it is possible to second an employee to a client site if it can be shown that the home company and the client have signed a joint venture agreement. This agreement must be translated into Italian and be legalised by the competent Italian consulate abroad in order to prove this relationship to the Italian Immigration Authority.
Update and trendsKey developments of the past year
Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?Key developments of the past year40 Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?