Employment of foreign workers (Free movement of persons)

EU and EEA Nationals

According to the principle of free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, EU (European Union) and EEA (European Economic Area) nationals can be employed in Italy without any authorization by the Italian authorities.

Should an EU national choose to work in Italy for a period exeeding 3 months, he/she should apply for a so called “Stay card” (“Carta di Soggiorno”), which is normally issued by the local State Police office (“Questura”) upon a simple request. This permit is renewable.

Swiss citizens have the same right of entry, residence and access to work applicable as EU countries nationals.

Non EU and EEA Nationals / The “Quota” system

The admission of non-EU foreign workers is subject to a mechanism of quantitative selectivity based on quotas for new entries on a yearly basis. They are meant to regulate the admission of third country nationals and their access to Italian labor market, by combining a purely quantitative selectivity with some elements of qualitative selectivity.

The determination of annual quotas of new inflows is established by the government, which sets the quota through a Prime Minister Decree (known as “Decreto Flussi”). The quota decree is published in the Official Journal and starts some days after the implementation phase.

The whole implementation process of the quota system is basically made up of three main steps:

  • Authorization requests presented by employers to the Immigration Single Desk (ISD);
  • VISA request by prospective migrants in their country of origin;
  • Request and delivery of the stay permit for working purposes.

Authorization (Nulla Osta) Request

  • Employers must request authorization to hire a foreign worker through the Immigration Single Desk;
  • In the application, the employer shall submit a so called “Stay contract” (“Contratto di soggiorno”) in which she/he commits him/herself to guarantee adequate lodging for the requested worker and to fund travel costs for his/her repatriation in case of expulsion before the expiry of the contract;
  • the contract must include the work contract’s details that must comply with existing collective contracts for the specific sector/occupation in which the requested worker will be employed;
  • Once all the checks have been made by both Labor authority (“Direzione Territoriale del Lavoro”) and local State Police office (“Questura”), the authorization (“nulla osta”), may be delivered to the applicant employer.

The whole procedure may take up to 40 days from the application.

VISA issuance

Once the nulla osta is delivered to the employer, he/she sends it on to the individual foreign worker to be recruited who must present him/herself at the Italian diplomatic representation in his/her country of origin, and requests a visa for working purposes. The nulla osta will have a 6 month validity, and during this period the visa may be issued.

 Stay Permit (Permesso di Soggiorno) issuance

Within eight days of his/her arrival, the foreign worker must sign the stay contract presented by the employer at the ISD and simultaneously apply for the stay permit (“Permesso di soggiorno”) for working purposes. The stay permit will be issued by the Questura. The stay permit has the same duration as the employment contract with a maximum of 2 years and it is renewable.

 Exemptions – Extra Quotas Admissions

The admission of some categories of workers is explicitly exempt from the quantitative limits set through the quota system. In particular, specific professional profiles can be admitted without any quantitative cap to regulate their inflow (for example: managers or highly skilled staff members of multinational/foreign companies, university lecturers and professors, translators and interpreters, professional nurses, etc.). Despite the lack of explicit quantitative limitations, the admission of workers in these categories is still subject to the authorization (“nulla osta”) granted by the territorial ISD, even if admission procedure has been further simplified for specific categories.

Stay permits have a maximum duration of two years, in case of fixed term contracts, or unlimited duration in case of open-ended contracts.

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