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VISAS

Reader question: What happened to Italy’s planned digital nomad visa?

Italy's digital nomad visa was approved this March. Why haven't we heard any more about it since then, and when can we expect the permit to be finalised? Here's how things look.

What's going on with Italy's digital nomad visa?
What's going on with Italy's digital nomad visa? Photo by BARBARA GINDL / APA / AFP).

Question: ‘I am extremely interested in the (theoretical) digital nomad visa that was approved earlier this year. I’m wondering what the current status is and what you might know about how the new election will affect the eventual availability of this visa?’

After Italy’s digital nomad visa was enacted into law at the end of March, the implementing decree setting out how exactly it would work should have been released within the following 30 days.

But we’re now midway through October and no such decree has been passed, which means no digital nomad visa – yet. So what happened to it?

The Italian Foreign Ministry, Labour Ministry and Interior Ministry all have to weigh in and sign off on the implementing decree, and the fact that it wasn’t released within the 30-day deadline likely means they weren’t able to find common ground, notes Pietro Derossi, an immigration lawyer at Lexia Avvocati.

And they’re unlikely to do so any time in the near future, thanks to the unexpected collapse of the government over the summer and Italy’s subsequent snap elections in September.

READ ALSO: Remote workers: What are your visa options when moving to Italy?

While those elections did result in a clear winner in the hard-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, the new government is still being formed – a process which will take several more weeks at least.

Once the government is sworn in, it will have several urgent issues to focus on, including presenting next year’s draft budget to the EU for approval (in a normal year, the deadline for this is mid-October), and addressing Italy’s cost of living and energy crises.

All of this means the digital nomad visa is unlikely to be at the top of the new government’s agenda. 

Then there’s the question of what view the next executive will take of the planned permit. The visa was proposed by MPs from the populist Five Star Movement, which is no longer in power, and approved by a broadly centrist coalition government with a very different set of priorities to that of Italy’s incoming leaders.

The Five Star MP backing the visa scheme, Luca Carabetta, was not re-elected to Italy’s new parliament and it’s unclear if others will push the scheme forward on his behalf.

READ ALSO: The five biggest challenges facing Italy’s new hard-right government

On the one hand, incoming prime minister Giorgia Meloni is staunchly anti-immigration (though focuses almost all her anti-migrant rhetoric on ‘illegal immigrants’ and asylum seekers) and is an impassioned promoter of nativist policies, who has accused previous administrations of trying to “replace” the Italian population with foreigners.

While Meloni has not criticised the digital nomad visa specifically, it’s reasonable to suspect she might not be the biggest champion of a scheme promising to make it easier for non-Italians to move to the country.

But at the same time, any government has to reckon with the fact that Italy is suffering from a brain drain and a steady population decline, combined with an increasingly ageing populace that needs supporting by an active workforce. Those behind the digital nomad visa suggest it could be one answer to this problem.

Exactly when we can expect an update on the visa’s progress, and what it might look like when finalised, is still unclear at this stage. Based on the current political situation, it will likely take several more months to be resolved – at the very least.

As Derossi writes: “The number of people who are enchanted by the possibility of pursuing the Italian dream while keeping their job is probably big. A lot is at stake, and we can expect only a very united set of ministers to be capable of finding an agreement on how to give birth to this new revolutionary type of visa.”

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DRIVING

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

People trying to sit their driving tests in many parts of Italy are reporting long delays when booking their theory or practical exam. The Local looks at why this is happening.

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

Getting an Italian driving licence (or patente di guida) isn’t exactly a piece of cake, especially for foreign residents, who, besides familiarising themselves with the national Highway Code, must also achieve a high level of Italian language proficiency before taking the test.

But the process has become more of a challenge over the past few months for candidates experiencing long waiting times – up to five months in some cases – when booking their theory or practical tests.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

As many local licensing offices (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile, which are roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) fail to explain these delays, candidates are left wondering what the problem is. 

The short answer is that Italy’s licensing department is facing critical understaffing problems, which, by the look of things, aren’t going away anytime soon. 

“The problem is national,” Emilio Patella, national secretary of Italy’s main driving schools’ union UNASCA, tells The Local.

“The size of the [licensing department’s] current workforce is half of what it was ten years ago, or half of what it should be on a regular basis.”

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

Cars line up to cross the Italian-Swiss border

People taking their practical driving tests in Como face a waiting time of 140 days on average. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

This means that, presently, there simply aren’t enough employees around to meet the market’s demand – a situation which is the result of “over 20 years where few to no hirings were made”, according to Patella.

Not all local offices are currently registering gigantic delays, with waiting times varying from area to area based on demand and the number of staff available.

Regions in the north-west and north-east of the country – especially Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna – are bearing the brunt of the national crisis.

Como has the worst-affected office in the country, Patella says, with the average waiting time for candidates looking to take their practical test standing at 140 days (or well north of four months).

Other cities experiencing long delays include Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Turin, Vicenza, Verona, Piacenza, Parma, and Reggio Emilia.

Katherine Sahota, a British national living in Brescia, has been trying to book her theory test since September, but says there have been “little to no appointments available” in the area.

While being denied the opportunity to book a test is sufficiently frustrating in and of its own, the issue is particularly pressing for Britons in Italy at the moment.

READ ALSO: ‘So stressful’: How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple’s Tuscan dream

The 12-month grace period allowing British nationals to drive across Italy on UK licences is due to expire on December 31st and, with negotiations over a reciprocal agreement between Italy and the UK showing no sign of progress, many British nationals have chosen to get an Italian driving licence. 

But the delays affecting many licensing offices across Italy are already undermining their efforts and mean it’s unlikely some residents will be able to get their licence before the deadline.

Sahota might just be one of them. 

“It is a helpless situation not being able to plan anything,” she tells The Local.

“I don’t think they understand how this affects the lives of people who need to drive for work, for families, for their own freedom of movement.”

Sahota’s situation, and that of many others across the country, isn’t being helped by the inherent nature of the Italian licensing system, which is built on a series of tight, consecutive deadlines. 

Red Vespa motorcycle and vintage Fiat

The Italian licensing system is based on a series of tight deadlines, which make candidates susceptible to even the shortest delays. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

After submitting a request to take the test, candidates have six months to pass the theory exam, within a maximum of only two attempts. They then have 12 months and a total of three attempts to pass the practical exam. 

Also, those who have to resit either exam can only do so at least a month after the failed attempt.

As a result of this, even a waiting time as ‘short’ as two months might keep a candidate from being able to retake an exam within the set timeframe. If this happens, the candidate has no choice but to re-enrol and pay all the enrolment fees again.

Several reports of residents not being able to retake an exam through no fault of their own have emerged over the past few weeks. 

Stefano Galletti, president of Bologna’s UNASCA office, said last week that candidates in the city “can barely take an exam” in the given time span, with longer-than-usual waiting times often keeping people from retaking in case of failure.

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

While hiring more examiners looks like the solution to the problem, but increasing the Italian licensing department’s workforce might not be as straightforward as many would think. 

According to Patella, the Italian government will have to either implement a special hiring policy known as ‘piano straordinario’ – an option which, he says, hasn’t been considered so far – or delegate tasks to employees of other national agencies in order to fill the current gaps. 

But, even if one of the above measures were to be put into effect, Patella believes that “we would only manage to get back to a normal state of things in around three years” – that’s also because “being an examiner is not a very sought-after job and few people are still willing to do it”.

In the meantime, residents facing delays can get in touch with the Italian licensing department’s support centre to report their issue or ask for guidance. 

It’s also worth noting that residents are allowed to sit their driving tests in a province other than the one where they reside. 

However, if the province where they choose to take the test doesn’t border that in which they are resident, the licensing office can ask candidates to give a valid reason for the choice and to provide additional documentation.

For further information, contact your local licensing office (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile). Find details of your nearest office here

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