Let’s Talk About Visas: Bring your Business to Italy

How to request and obtain the Self-Employment Visa and move to Italy in a few months

By Avv. Michele Capecchi, LL.M.

While we are all struggling with the consequence of COVID, and the uncertainty that this situation has caused to our lives, our law firm keeps on receiving countless requests from people who want to move their life (and business) to ITALY, as soon as possible. 

Keep in mind that, while traveling to Italy is still restricted by the current COVID regulations, it is definitely possible to enter for WORK REASONS.

It is, therefore, possible to obtain a work visa from our Italian Consulates.

This article will cover some of the key points of the procedure, for a non-EU citizen, to bring and start a new business in Italy

Over the past 6 months, many people were forced to learn how to “work remotely” and therefore they realized that they can actually work from “wherever they want” .

A client of mine recently wrote me: 

“All I need, for my business, it is a good internet connection. Therefore why not moving my business to Italy and enjoying the countless benefits that living overseas can offer? And if I ever need to fly to my home country once a month, the money that I save in food, transportation, and healthcare system, will cover the costs of the airline tickets”

Indeed, many foreigners with brilliant business plans are willing to invest time and money in lucrative ideas in Italy. Some would like to start an import/export business in food, fashion or another of Italy’s signature sectors. Others hope that a self-employment permit is an easier solution than applying for a subordinated work visa and that they might avoid the complex rules of the annual quota limits. Foreign real estate agents, graphic designers, architects, chiropractors, and the like often seek to start a business here or move one from their home country. Other foreigners seek to convert a student visa into a self-employment permit.

Who can apply for a self-employment work visa as a non-EU citizen?

How can you apply for a self-employment visa?

And when is it possible to convert a STUDENT PERMIT TO DATY in a WORK PERMIT?


Self-employment work visas are intended for entrepreneurs; freelancers; consultants, craft worker; people that aim to incorporate a company in Italy (or to hold any executive positions in an already existing company); people with an independent job and who are not subject to the direct control of a boss.

Aside from a few exceptions discussed below, the self-employment visa is regulated by the same quota limits established by the Decreto Flussi (Flow Decree) for subordinate work visas. Therefore, unless you are among the exceptions (that we will discuss in a separate article), whether you apply for the conversion of your student visa or you apply for a visa from your home country, you will need to abide by the Flow Decree in order to obtain this type of visa. 

Pursuant to the rules provided by the “decreto flussi” self-employment visas are mainly granted to: 1. Officers and administrators of Italian companies (restrictions apply), 2. Entrepreneurs that make an investment and create a company with an investment plan of at least 500,000 euro, 3. Freelance workers, 4. Founders of start-up companies

Recently the government enacted also specific rules to incentivize foreign investors, easing the process of the Visa, outside the Quota scheme. We will spend some words on this new self-employment visa at the end of the post.

A) IN CASE OF CONVERSION from Study to WORK Permit to Stay

What is the conversion procedure?

If you are already in Italy and you have a student permit, you CAN CONVERT IT in a WORK PERMIT TO STAY,

The conversion is normally subject  – with a few exceptions hereinafter provided (*) – to the limits of the quotas established by the Italian government through the Flow Decree. This means that a student who wants to convert his/her permit to stay in a work permit to stay, can do it ONLY if the decreto flussi for that year has been issued, and if the study permit to stay is still valid.
Given that “time is of the essence” in this application, WE ALWAYS recommend the students who want to convert their permit to GET IN TOUCH WITH US way before the termination of the study abroad program and when their student permit to stay is STILL VALID and not expired yet. If the permit is already expired the student cannot convert anymore the permit. However, it is possible to apply for the conversion if the student is in the process of renewing the permit to stay (providing copy of the renewal application).

The application is completely digitalized and the documents must be submitted using the dedicated website of the Ministry of the Internal Affair (Ministero degli Interni). 

The list of documents to be included in the application depends on the type of business that you are planning to start. For business activities that are not regulated by a specific law and do not require a specific authorization, the required documents include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Proof of an adequate place to live in Italy (e.g., a rental agreement signed by the landlord, or a declaration of hospitality signed by the person who will host you once in Italy);
  2. Proof of sufficient financial resources to start a business. An income tax report from the previous year may also be requested;
  3. A current, and still valid, permit of stay in Italy;
  4. In Italy (pursuant art. 2229 of the Civil Code), many jobs can be practiced only after providing evidence of an appropriate academic or professional title or enrolment in a professional register. Therefore, depending on the type of job, it will be necessary to include a formal declaration from the Chamber of Commerce (or the authority governing the profession/trade in the country where the applicant intends to settle), in which it is stated that there are no reasons to prevent the start of the business and that the applicant has the requirements to start that specific type of activity. (See the note on the application regarding the recognition of foreign titles.)
  5. Only with the approval of the Chamber of Commerce or the organization that overviews that specific profession is it possible to continue with the application. Note also that the declaration issued by the Chamber of Commerce is valid for only three months; therefore, it needs to be requested only when you are ready to apply. Because not all types of work require this type of declaration, it is important to know what you will need before you start the application.
  6. Even if the profession is not regulated by specific laws, and if you do not need the declaration from the Chamber of Commerce, it is still useful (and sometimes mandatory) to provide evidence of the highest level of professional or school education, along with any other documents that show that you have experience or standing in your sector (a résumé, contracts, recommendation letters, tax returns from the last two to three years, and so forth).
  7. If you want to use the professional qualification received in your home country, it will also be necessary to follow the procedure for the recognition of foreign titles (see below).


What else do I need to do?

If the online application is successful, the Questura will contact you (or your legal proxy), inviting you to the Sportello Unico Immigrazione to present the paper versions of the documents that were included in the online application. If all the fees and taxes requested are fully paid, and all documents are complete, the new permesso per lavoro autonomo will be granted.

Can I apply for a self-employment visa from my home country, as a non-EU citizen not residing in Italy?

If you are applying from your home country, the procedure to obtain a self-employment visa is bit more complex and time consuming.

Again, the quota limits may apply.

Generally speaking, the documents to enclose to this type of application are similar to the ones described under #A) , but because the applicants, at this stage, are not in Italy yet, they often need to appoint a legal proxy in Italy (and we do provide this service!) to collect some of the most important documents required by the law, for each type of self-employment job.

For Instance, if, AS WE OFTEN SUGGEST, you plan to start a business activity, as a freelancer, that is “not regulated” (which means that is free from specific authorizations and does not need specific permissions to be started, such as marketing strategist, wedding planner, graphic designer etc….) in most of the cases it is necessary to obtain specific certifications from the Chamber of Commerce to determine the expected economic resources that the applicant must provide, and whether the activity is regulated or not. and from the Immigration Desk, that will issue a “non-impedement declaration” (nulla osta provvisorio).

Once all the documents are finally collected the applicant will get in touch with the Italian Consulate in the home country and will submit the application with all the requested documentation. The Italian authorities can ask for further documents.

If the documents provided are fine and if the slots of the inflow quotas are still available, the visa will be released within a few months. Once the visa for self-employment is granted as a non-EU-applicant, you have 180 days to use the visa to enter Italy.

Once you have entered Italy, you have eight days to go to the post office, request a ‘permit of stay kit,’ complete all of the documents, pay the fees at the post office and wait to be called by the local police department to be fingerprinted.

After you obtain the self-employment permit, you have the freedom to change jobs as often as you want or to be hired and stop working independently. If you are hired, once the permit expires, however, you will have to declare that you are now employed externally and ask for the proper visa.

Entering outside the Quota System

Within the Consolidated Law on Immigration relating to foreign nationals who enter and stay for work-related reasons, art. 27 and following articles foresee a number of categories of workers for whom entry in Italy is possible outside the flow decree quota system.These are the so-called “entries outside the quota system” defined as entries for work-related reasons, which are possible all year round and for which there is no definite number (with the exception of entries connected to education, sport, and voluntary work).  Among the workers that can enjoy these visas procedures, we can mention seconded managers, university professors, skilled workers seconded in Italy, maritime workers, trainees, and journalists

One of the most important exceptions to the quota limits involves the STUDENTS THAT ARE ALREADY IN ITALY  attending from an Italian university with at least a three-year diploma or a postgraduate diploma such as a PhD or master’s degree. In this case, graduate students do not need to worry about the quotas: they can apply for work permit whenever they want. But for all other types of diplomas (granted by private institutions, such as language, art, and fashion institutes), the students are subject to quotas established by the flow decree. Note: you must apply for the conversion of a student visa before the original visa expires; if the visa has already expired, this procedure is not feasible.

Another route of entering outside the Quota System – THE EU BLUE CARD –

Also in this case YOU CAN APPLY FOR THIS VISA at any moment, without worrying about the quota limitations. 

This visa, called EU BLUE CARD, was introduced in Italy by the Legislative Decree n. 108/2012, implementing the European Directive 2009/50/CE.  It is reserved only for highly qualified workers who are planning to work for or under the direction of a person or company in Italy, with a minimum gross salary of 25,000 euro per year (approx). To obtain this new type of visa, regulated by art. 9ter and 27quater of the Unified Immigration Text, the immigrant has to provide evidence of his or her high level of professional or university education and training, together with other specific requirements. The procedure to obtain this type of visa is described in the Letter from the Minister of Internal Affairs, n.7591/2012.


Over the past 2 years, Italy developed a new VISA program for “big investors”, based on which, you and your family can gain a 2-year visa (that you could also use for working) if you choose to invest in strategic assets for Italy’s economy and society.What you gain is a two-year residence permit, renewable for further five-year periods.
The conditions for issue and maintenance of the permit are:
 the execution of the investment or donation declared in the visa application within three months of the date of entry into Italy;
 the maintenance of the original investment for the entire period of validity of the permit.

Ready to begin? Then call us NOW!.

If you believe that you have all the necessary documentation to start your own business in Italy, or if you are just confused by the amount of information you can find online, GET IN TOUCH WITH US NOW! While this process seems overwhelming and quite confusing, our lawfirm has over 16 years of experience in making your dream come true and we can offer very thorough support during every stage of this process, making it much less complex and much more exciting! 

We will be happy to set up a preliminary VIDEO CALL (zoom, google meet, skype, facetime…whatever you like) with you to tell you the best way to make your dream come true and bring your life, family, and business to Italy as soon as possible. 

Additionally, even if the quotas are not available at that specific moment, we will keep you informed when the “flow decree” will be enacted and we will be there to help you with the submission of the documents smoothly. We will help you not only with the paperwork required for to obtain the Visa that fits best your needs and qualification, but we will introduce you to our network of English-speaking accountants or tax advisors that will help you to figure out the best TAX REGIME and whether you will need a Partita Iva or enrollment in a pension fund, and to discuss any tax-related aspects of the business.

For more information and to set up a preliminary video call with our legal team, don’t hesitate to contact us at INFO@CapecchiLegal.com



Avv. Michele Capecchi
Attorney At Law

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and should not substitute for counsel. The information is based on the opinion of an independent expert and does not claim to be complete or definitive.