There are a wide variety of work visas (visti di lavoro) and each has their own specific provisions and requirements. With work visas, keep in mind that:
1.) they must fall within the available posts under the yearly “Decreto Flussi” . Basically, the Italian government gives a time frame within which people can apply for the in-quota visas. If there is no Decreto Flussi, then there are no in-quota visas issued that year. Even the Decreto Flussi is specific to the kind of work being applied for. So, there could be a Decreto Flussi for care-taker workers but no Decreto Flussi for general subordinate work.
2.) alternatively, they must fall within one of the “fuori-quota” visas listed by the Italian immigration law (EU Blue Card or the other jobs that the law refers to as “particular cases”). Certain specialized work visas, such as those issued to CEOs or specialized independent contractor workers, are “fuori quota” meaning an unlimited number of people can apply and be approved. You can also apply for these visas where there is no Decreto Flussi.
3.) occasionally, the Italian government allows foreign illegal workers to “legalize” their status within an exceptional window (the so-called “sanatoria”), provided that the foreigner’s employer formally applies (declaring that the foreigner has been working for them) and shows some requirements (sufficient income, lack of criminal record etc.).
It should also be noted that, due to the effects of the Lehman Brothers financial crisis, the Italian government has not enacted a Decreto Flussi for “employed work” since 2007 (with the exception of seasonal work, in order to support the demand of workers from tourism and agriculture sectors). The unemployment rate in Italy is too high for the Italian government to justify offering too great a number of work visas to foreigners. That being said, there are still a few ways to obtain a working visa.
Here, I will review the main kinds of work visas, both those that are “in quota” (within the yearly available posts of the “Decreto Flussi” system) and “fuori quota” (the posts not falling within the “Decreto Flussi” system). Be advised that all these visas require a great deal of paper work. Also, proper consultation from a professional who is specialized in immigration matters is highly recommended.
Student residence permits (Permesso di soggiorno per motivi di studio) converted into employment residence permits (permesso di soggiorno per lavoro subordinato):
Even after the outburst of the economic crisis, All “Decreti Flussi” have allowed foreign students to convert, under certain conditions, their study permit into a working permit. Students can opt to convert their study visa into a working visa. However, in order to do this, you need to have the following:
1.) A valid Permesso di Soggiorno as a student. Often, students who are studying short-term (up to a 3-month course) are not issued a PdS. In order to apply for a student to worker permit conversion, you must have a valid PdS when you submit the application.
2.) The government must have approved a Decreto Flussi that year which expressly states the possibility for students to convert their permesso di soggiorno into a permesso for work (either employment or self-employment work).
If you have a Permesso di Soggiorno and there is a Decreto Flussi for conversion that year, you can apply. However, should you go for the employment permesso, you must show the availability of an employer who is willing to hire you and has adequate financial means to pay you the minimum salary set by the Italian labour law for that specific job.
The process takes two subsequent and distinct procedures – the first one before the competent “Immigration Desk” (Sportello Unico Immigrazione). The second one – which should be activated upon positively completing the first one (that is to say, after getting the preliminary authorization or “nulla osta” from Sportello Unico Immigrazione) takes place before the immigration office of Questura through the sending of the “postal kit”.
A particularly tricky requirement to show in order to obtain the preliminary authorization from Sportello Unico is the lodging requirement, as the Italian authorities not only ask for the availability of a house, but also for a certificate issued by the competent town hall office, stating that the house in question is eligible according to the Italian health code. This often results in a long, costly and unpredictable sub-procedure. Additionally, some landlords might not permit you to apply for a house certificate on their behalf, most often because they did illegal renovation and do not want to get in trouble with local police.
Lavoro Autonomo Visa (or Permit, from an existing PdS):
A “Self-employed work” visa is for those who want to work as independent contractors/entrepreneurs/freelance professionals/shareholder of an existing Italian company, so in plain words such visa is designed for any kind of work which does not fall within the category of employment. The law expressly states that the “Lavoro Autonomo” visa must be pre-authorized by the competent immigration office of Questura (that is in Italy), at a time where the applicant is (presumably) not resident in Italy yet.
This means that the applicant should give power of attorney to a professional in Italy in order for them to take care of the application (unfortunately such procedure is not digitalized, so the paperwork must be physically handed in to the immigration office).
Once the authorization is obtained, the foreign applicant needs to apply for the visa before the competent Italian Consulate/Embassy and submit such authorization in original copy the day of the appointment. The law prescribes that the applicant, in order to be eligible for the visa, must also obtain all the other authorizations that would be required for an Italian citizen to start a specific kind of business. Also, such self-employed business has to be available for foreigners by law (that is to say, not reserved to Italians or to EU citizens). That being said, the possibility to enter Italy as entrepreneurs has been made possible – according to the latest “Decreti Flussi” – exclusively to innovative start-ups or major investors. Freelance professionals (so those figures not fitting the definition of entrepreneurs) are, as a rule, allowed to enter Italy only provided that they are eligible for enrolling themselves into the Italian registry of a given regulated profession (lawyers, doctors, engineers etc.) or, anyhow, to start a business within a non-regulated whose registry is kept by an Italian public administration. That being said, some Consulates apply the “public registry rule” in an inconsistent way, granting “Lavoro Autonomo” visa even in favor of professional figures which are not listed in any Italian public registry (such as private English teachers).
Alternatively, the holder of a valid residence permit as a student can apply in Italy for conversion of such permit into a “lavoro autonomo” residence permit. In that case, the pre-authorization (or nulla osta) must be obtained from the competent “Sportello Unico Immigrazione” (the Immigration Desk, same as with the study to employment conversion procedure). Once the nulla osta is obtained, the residence permit must be obtained from the competent immigration office of Questura through the sending of a “postal kit”.
Should you apply for the “lavoro autonomo” visa or should you aim to convert an existing student permit into a “lavoro automomo” permit, be aware that the paperwork is not easy to handle without the assistance of a professional immigration consultant. In any case, proof of an adequate financial availability is required to start the business, which shall not be inferior to three times the yearly amount of the Italian security check (currently, 17.474 Euro).
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