How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno per Lavoro

Two years ago, if you had asked me what I wanted for Christmas I would have sat on Santa’s lap and gleefully shouted out, “A permesso di soggiorno per lavoro please— er I mean — per favore!”

And Santa would have looked at me like I was nuts and he would have said that he would do his best. Unless it was an Italian Santa – he would have just laughed in my face and told me to “HAH, I’ll give you your permesso di soggiorno per lavoro when Berlusconi goes to jail!” Which in normal people terms means “over my dead body”.


Although Santa Claus didn’t bring me that permesso di soggiorno per lavoro (a permit of stay card for work motives) that year, he did bring me some good luck. For the past two years I have survived as legally as possible in Italy with a series of permesso di soggiorno per studio – a permit of stay card for academic motives. I attended a TEFL course at Via Lingua in Florence (read more about my experience here), I greatly improved my Italian with ARCA Scuola Italiana in Bologna (read my review of ARCA here), and I was even enrolled at the University of Bologna for a year as a Communication Science (one the oldest universities in the world- yeah! check that off the bucket list! You can also read about my first day as an Italian university student here). Needless to say, I’m now highly educated in a variety of subjects, particularly in the art of obtaining a permesso di soggiorno per studio (check out my post on How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno).

Why did I do all this? Well, in part because I really did need to get a TEFL certification and I really did need to improve my Italian language skills. But I also did it because in order to work in Italy as a foreign language teacher you need two things: a visa and a permesso di soggiorno. The only way to obtain these documents is to have a “legitimate reason” for your long-term stay in Italy. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the Italian government, teaching English is not one of them.

A few months ago things changed. The Ministero dell’Interno (the Italian immigration department) provided a window of opportunity to those immigrants in possession of a permesso di soggiorno for study or for family reasons to convert their old permesso di soggiorno into a permesso di soggiorno per lavoro. In other words, if you already had a permit of stay card for study/family reasons and you had an employer that was willing to hire you and sponsor you, you could convert your old permit of stay into a permit of stay for work reasons. For a limited time only.

So guess what? Santa Claus came early this year! This little immigrant has got her a bonafide permesso di soggiorno per lavoro. Merry Christmas to me! Which means no. more. studying. At least for a little awhile…

I don’t really understand why I couldn’t apply for this permesso di soggiorno per lavoro right off the bat when I was hired by an English school two years ago, but that’s just the way it is in Italy. Some friends have tried to explain to me that immigration in Italy comes in waves. Every couple of years, the Italian government opens up its doors and allows a certain number of immigrants to start working in Italy – but they have to meet all the right requirements, which isn’t always so easy.

I was lucky. And perseverant.

So if you’re someong looking to move to Italy and start working, you’re probably thinkng, “Well that’s all well and good for you, but how does your story of christmas joy help me?

I cannot control the law nor can I guarantee that you will be able to do the same exact thing I did. What I can tell you is that you have to do some research, you have to ask a lot of questions, but above all, you have to persevere. Two years ago, I had no idea how I was going to A) Find a job in Italy, B) Obtain the legal documents I needed to work in Italy as a non-EU citizen, and C) Maintain all of that. But I kept at it.

I took baby steps. Those baby steps looked kind of like this:

1) Get TEFL certified

2) Enroll in a course and get a study visa from the Italian consulate

3) Apply for a permesso di soggiorno for study

4) Find a teaching job

5) Ask my employer about work visa opportunities

6) Ask the Italian immigration office about work visa opportunities

7) Follow the decreto flussi  (“flow decree” aka the Italian immigration quota) news on the Ministero dell’Interno website.

8) Continue to do steps 5,6,7 until finally the decreto flussi opens up and your employer agrees to sponsor you for a permesso di soggiorno per lavoro

9) Apply for a work permit at the Prefettura in your city and follow the instructions of the Prefettura. Your employer will have to complete an application on your behalf.

10) Once your request has been approved by the prefettura, apply for your permesso di soggiorno at the questura.

11) Wait several months

12) Jump up and down when your permesso di soggiorno per lavoro finally arrives and shout MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME!

What will the next immigration step be? I have no idea but for now I am content that I don’t have to apply for permesso di soggiorno for awhile.

If you have questions about applying for a permesso di soggiorno per lavoro (for other topics, please visit my Moving to Italy page as I have written about other immigration procedures there), please leave a comment below. You might have the same questions as others and I’d like to be able to share this information with everyone. Otherwise, feel free to contact me via my contact page and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

*This information is based solely on my experience. The laws and procedures of the Italian government change constantly, so your path might be different.

5 comments on “How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno per Lavoro

  1. Hi Sarah! I have a question about step 10 in your list. How were you notified of the approval of your permesso conversion? Did you receive a letter to your home, or work? My boss was told by email that my application was approved two months ago, but we have not yet received any official letter. Wondering if it is lost in the mail. Thank you, and I love your blog! :)

    • Hi Kirsten! If I remember correctly, I got a letter in the mail from the Prefettura telling me that my application had been approved, along with instructions on how to apply for the permesso di soggiorno per lavoro card. Keep in mind these things could differ from city to city.

  2. I worked for an English school with a permesso di soggiorno per studio. Do you know if that is legal? I understood I could teach as much as 20 hours per week while enrolled in school but they seemed to always pay in cash anyways. So this time, if I come back, I am coming armed with a TEFL job from home and an MBA so I have some form of income when ferragusta comes along. My question really is if is legal to work on your permesso even though it is for school and I wonder if they would give you a permesso if you have a bonifide work from home opportunity. I was hired by a Chinese company and it pays over the Italian minimum wage.

    • Hi Danielle, From my knowledge working 20 hours/week with a permesso di soggiorno per studio is 100% legal. I worked for an English school that was very strict about their teachers having all the legal documents. I had a legitimate work contract, paid taxes and was paid by direct deposit every month. Some schools prefer to pay in cash so they can avoid paying taxes. Do your research and due diligence when looking for a teaching position and you’ll be fine. I personally wouldn’t work for any school paying me under the table. Good luck xx