Work permits for employees in Italy: A complete guide for employers


Jul 20, 2023

If you plan to hire in Italy, it’s crucial to ensure that your employees are authorized to work there. The work permit options and processes in Italy vary—and sometimes new types of permits are made available. In 2022, the Italian government even approved a digital nomad visa allowing remote workers to stay for up to one year, which will be live soon.

As an employer, it's your responsibility to ensure the employee obtains the required documents, or your company could be held partially responsible and face fines, imprisonment, or even a ban on hiring foreign workers by the government and immigration office.

Fortunately, this guide covers all the bases on work permits—from who needs a work visa to how to apply for one, and answers frequently asked questions. 

What is a work permit in Italy?

A work permit (or work visa) is issued by the Italian authorities to permit foreign nationals to work legally in Italy for a specific period of time. The employer can only apply for a work permit once a job offer has been made. 

When obtaining a work visa in Italy, it is classified as a Long-Stay visa, commonly referred to as a D-Visa. In addition to the work permit, the individual must acquire a residence permit to stay in Italy.

The work permit's duration is linked to the employment contract, which cannot be less than one year. If the contract is unlimited, the work permit can last up to two years and may be renewed for a maximum of five years. 

As an employer, you must obtain a Nulla Osta, a written statement that permits you to apply for a work visa in Italy for non-EU nationals. 

Who needs a work visa in Italy?

Citizens of Italy and those from the European Union, EEA, and Switzerland don’t require a work visa. If an EU citizen plans to work in Italy for more than three months, they must obtain a residence permit from their local municipality, even if a work permit isn’t required.

Those candidates not from EU/EEA countries will need a work visa before they can begin working in the country. They'll also need to apply for a residence permit (Permesso di Soggiorno card) within eight days of entering Italy at the local post office (Portale Immigrazione).

When you send an offer letter to a new hire in Italy, include a clause stating that the offer depends on their legal eligibility to work in the country.

How long does it take to get a work permit in Italy?

The processing time for Italian work visa applications can vary greatly depending on the type of visa. A business visa can typically be processed within a month, while an extra-quota employment visa may take around 60 days. 

It's recommended to apply for the new hire's Italian work permit as early as possible to avoid any delays that could prevent them from joining your company. 

Types of work visas in Italy

There are several types of work permits available from the Italian government, including:

  • Salaried employment visa. As an employer, consider a salaried employment visa if your new full-time hire needs to live and work in Italy for up to a year. This visa type can be renewed for up to five years.
  • Self-employment visa. To get a self-employment visa in Italy, you must work for yourself via freelance. You must show a contract with an Italian client for at least EUR 8,500 (about USD 9,000) in income or earn that much in the past year. This visa allows you to work and live in Italy for 12 months, with an option to renew.
  • Scientific research visa. This type of visa is intended for individuals brought to Italy specifically to conduct research.
  • Seasonal work visa. This visa falls under the Decreto Flussi quotas and covers specific sectors such as construction, tourism, and agriculture. It is valid for up to nine months.
  • Extra-quota employment visa. If a profession doesn't qualify for a typical employment visa and isn't covered by the Decreto Flussi, there's an extra-quota employment visa. This visa is available for nurses, interpreters, artists, athletes, and journalists and allows them to live and work in Italy for up to two years with the option to renew.
  • Business Schengen visa. Individuals living in other Schengen member areas can enter Italy and work using a short-term Schengen visa. An employee holding this visa can stay in Italy for a maximum of 90 days every 180 days to conduct business.
  • EU Blue Card. A highly skilled non-EU worker can apply for a European Blue Card. This work visa enables them to reside and work in any EU country, except Ireland and Denmark. To apply, the Italian employer or legal entity must submit a request to the Prefettura of the appropriate province. If your application is successful, you'll be granted an entry visa.
  • Startup visa. The government sponsors the startup visa program for qualified non-EU citizens to grow their startups in Italy. You can apply through the Italian embassy. The visa has a validity period of one year, but it can be extended for up to five years. 
  • New investor visa. This specific type of visa requires a minimum investment of EUR 500,000 (USD 556,000) into an incorporated Italian company, EUR 250,000 (USD 278,000) into a startup, or a EUR 1 million (USD 1.2 million) philanthropic donation in Italy.

Application process for Italian work visas

Here are the steps to obtain a work visa and residence permit for an employee in Italy:

  • After extending a job offer, the employer must obtain a work permit (Nulla Osta) from SUI to hire the employee. The employer must collect supporting documents based on the employee's country of origin to apply for the work permit. These documents include the employee's passport, employment contract, and proof of qualifications.
  • Once the employer's application is approved, they will receive the Nulla Osta, which grants the employee permission to work in Italy. The employee must then apply for a visa at the Italian embassy or consulate in their home country.
  • The employer will send the work permit to the employee and inform the Italian consulate or embassy about the employee's work visa application. The employee is responsible for downloading and filling out the Italian Visa Application form, gathering all required documents, and submitting the application in person at the Italian embassy or consulate.
  • The employee will have six months to pick up the visa and enter Italy if the Italian authorities approve the application. 
  • The employee must apply for a residence permit or permesso di soggiorno at a local post office within eight days of entering the country. The work visa will remain valid for up to two years, depending on your employment contract, and it's possible to renew it for up to five years.

Keep in mind that work permit applications are only accepted a few months out of the year due to limited quotas, with highly skilled workers exempt from the quotas.

Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in Italy

What is a Nulla Osta?

To hire foreign workers, employers in Italy must obtain a Nulla Osta document from the Italian Ministry of Labor. This document confirms a shortage of Italian workers for the role in question and grants the employee permission to work in Italy. 

What is the Decreto Flussi?

The Decreto Flussi is a decree that the Italian government issues, establishing the quotas for the number of non-EU citizens who can enter Italy for work in a given year. The Italian government has a limited window for accepting work permit applications, typically only for a few months each year before the quotas run out. In 2023, there are 38,705 visas available for full-time employment, seasonal workers, and self-employment.

Keep in mind that a few thousand of those visas are reserved for seasonal workers in road transportation, construction, tourism, mechanics, telecom, and the food industry. About 500 visas go to self-employment, like startups. Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) are not eligible to apply for a work permit under this decree.

Do US citizens need a work permit to work in Italy?

Yes. Because US citizens are not members of the EU or EEA and are not typically holders of Italian citizenship, they will need a work permit to legally work in Italy.

Do European Union citizens need a residence permit to work in Italy?

If EU citizens plan to stay in Italy for more than three months, they must apply for a residence permit with their local municipality, even though they don't need a work permit. 

Once they register their residence, they will receive a residence certificate (Certificato di Residenza), which is essential for opening a bank account, registering for a driver’s license, or completing job-related paperwork.

What documents are required to apply for an Italian work permit?

When applying for an Italian work visa, applicants need the following documents:

  • A copy of a signed employment contract
  • The original Nulla Osta and an additional copy
  • A valid passport that has at least two blank pages and is valid for at least three months beyond the visa's expiration date
  • Passport pictures
  • A completed Italian Long-Stay Visa Application form
  • Proof of sufficient financial means, accommodation in Italy, and paid visa fee
  • Diplomas and other qualifying certificates

Always confirm the documents you need to submit as an employer, as regulations continue to change and any documents submitted to the government must be translated into Italian.

What’s the fastest way to get a work permit in Italy?

If you're looking for the easiest way to obtain a work permit in Italy, applying through the Decreto Flussi is the best option, as the process is one of the most streamlined and least complex.

However, applications are limited based on quota numbers and certain country relationships. With this option, the application must be submitted by an Italian legal entity, and it can take up to 60 days for non-EU citizens to obtain their work permits depending on paperwork.

How much does it cost to get an Italian work permit?

A work visa in Italy costs EUR 116 (USD 140).

Are family members included in work visa applications in Italy?

You must have a work permit with a minimum duration of one year for your family members and have proof that you have enough income to support them to qualify. Family members include your spouse, minor children, adult children with disabilities, dependent parents, or parents over 65. 

To apply for this visa, the work visa holder must submit a request for family reunification with the Sportello Unico dell'Immigrazione (SUI) in Italy.

How do you renew your Italian work permit?

An Italian work visa is typically valid for the length of your work contract. However, it cannot exceed two years. The employer can renew the visa for a maximum of five years.

Run your global workforce with Rippling

Rippling can connect you with immigration services to help you sponsor work visas around the world; inquire for more information.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: July 31, 2023

The Author

Muriel Vega

A freelance tech and B2B writer based in Atlanta, Muriel focuses her work on human resources and workplace trends and creating engaging content for SaaS companies. She has traveled the world, but her favorite place to work is Mexico City.