What are the options for foreign citizens performing working activities in Italy?

23 March 2023

During these past few years, the percentage of Italian workers leaving their country of origin to pursue better career opportunities abroad has exponentially risen. However, even if based on different patterns, the opposite flow of people moving went through severe changes as well, so much so that the intervention of the lawgiver was necessary to provide more balanced regulations of the field.  

When foreign citizens – or, anyways, individuals who do not benefit from the freedom of movement within the European Member States need to enter Italian territory to carry out work activities, they are left with the only choice of resorting to other ways to enter the country, defined by dedicated Italian legislations.

Generally speaking, foreign workers accessing the Italian territory for professional purposes must do that through an entry visa for working reasons, which will later be converted into a work residency permit. Such guidelines must be followed even when the working period is supposed to last less than 90 days, a timeframe for which, on average, no visa is required to access the country.

Visa for working purposes is usually granted to applicants based on a ministerial decree (so-called “Migration Flow Decree”) which every year establishes the maximum number (the so-called “quotas”) of workers allowed to enter the country for labour purposes, depending on a first-come, first-served basis. As long as the quota is not reached, foreign workers can require to carry out their activities in Italy. Still, once the maximum number established gets hit, they will have to wait for the subsequent decree to be issued by the authorities.  

Alternatively, workers meeting specific requirements can also benefit from exceptional alternatives, thus not needing to fall within the quotas set in the annual decree.

For instance, if the duties that will be carried out in Italy require specific expertise, a special regime is provided for defined categories of high-qualified workers (e.g., managers), provided that they own a certificate attesting to their higher education qualification and that they hold all other conditions connected with the managing of regulated professions. In such cases, these workers can require a so-called EU-Blue Card, which acknowledges their high professionalism and allows them to enter the country on a preferential basis.

Moreover, if the workers are part of a secondment within a service agreement between the companies involved, they will not be required to be compliant with the ordinary path aimed at obtaining a working visa. In such cases, a dedicated regulation is applied under Legislative Decree no. 136/2016, which provides for specific informative and administrative obligations listed thereby.

Those mentioned above are merely some of the options for foreign workers who intend to carry out their activities within the Italian territory. However, before resorting to one of them rather than the existing others, a case-by-case analysis of the specific circumstances will have to be executed, taking into account many features, such as the worker’s origin country, the nature of the activity that will be performed, and the timeframe within which they plan on staying in the country for such purposes.  

cross