How can I apply for a work visa in Italy?

Obtaining work visa in Italy heavily depends on one thing: luck!

Before you throw in the towel and give up on this whole moving to Italy malarky, let me remind you of one little thing: when I first moved to Italy I didn’t have a work visa nor did my boss nor did half my American friends.

So even if there is a little bit of magic involved, it’s totally possible. Luck comes to those who persevere!

Many many many people ask me how they can go about applying for a work visa. It seems like the most logical way to move to Italy afterall – find a job, get a work visa and move to Italy. Unfortunately, work visas are limited. Otherwise, everyone would be moving to Italy!

Work Visa in Italy Explained

There are three main steps to applying for a work visa in Italy: decreto flussi, nulla osta, and permesso di soggiorno per lavoro.

Say whaaaaat? I know it sounds like a bunch of Italian mumbo jumbo. I thought that too when I had to go through the process. Let me break it down into normal people terms for you.

  • Decreto Flussi = Flow Decree. Immagine that the “decreto flussi” is a set of doors. When the doors are open, non-EU citizens can enter and submit an application for a work visa if they meet the requirements. When the doors are closed, Italy is not issuing work visas to non-EU citizens.The Decreto Flussi doors are usually for a few months every 1-2 years. When the doors are open, Italy has a quota for the number of work visas they can issue to each nationality. Once this quota is met, no more work visas will be issued to citizens coming from that country. This is why it is very important to apply early, as it is a first come first serve policy.To understand if the decreto flussi doors are open, please visit the Ministero dell’Interno website (in Italian). Furthermore, you can always visit the Prefettura’s Sportello unico per l’immigrazione office in your city to speak to someone in person (for example, this is Bologna’s Sportello Unico per l’immigrazione office)
  • Nulla Osta = Permission from the Italian government. Once you’ve determined that you’re eligible you must ask for a nulla osta. You must visit the Prefettura in order to start the application process (again, you want to go to the Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione office). Afterwards, the application is carried out online. Your employer will need to fill out some of the application and sign some documents.
  •  Permesso di Soggiorno = Permit of Stay. The last part is your permit of stay card. For more information on how to apply, please visit How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno for Work.

Naturally, you must be employed by an Italian employer (or have a contract to be employed in the future) before you can apply for any of this.

Long line waiting outside Bologna’s immigration office one early morning.

Long line waiting outside Bologna’s immigration office one early morning.

Please note that this process is for the majority of jobs in Italy, which are classified as “subordinate” work (this includes English teaching jobs). Highly specialized jobs are subject to different laws and regulations. You should speak to your employer/potential employer about your options.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that it is possible to convert a study visa to a work visa. This is what I did. For my first two years in Italy, I had a study visa (yes I was enrolled at University and various other study programs in Italy). When the decreto flussi doors opened in the spring of 2014, I went straight to the immigration office at the prefettura in Bologna and requested a conversion. After that, the process was relatively straightforward (although I had to wait in a lot of long lines) and my employer helped me carry out the application. Before that, there was nothing my employer could do to help me get a work visa because the decreto flussi was closed.


Movin_to_italy_faqMovin’ to Italy FAQ is weekly blog series. Every Friday, I post common questions from readers about movin’ to Italy. All answers are based on my personal experiences and knowledge. For previous Movin’ to Italy questions, please visit my Moving to Italy page.