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Reader question: Will Italy follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?

A growing number of European countries are introducing new visas which allow remote workers to move from overseas. But will Italy join them? Here's how the situation looks at the moment.

Reader question: Will Italy follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?
Several countries in southern Europe now have a special 'digital nomad' visa but Italy is not among them - yet. Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Question: “Is there any news on whether Italy’s government intends to introduce special visas for digital nomads? I note that Spain has just done this and Portugal has something similar.”

There was a piece of good news in January for remote workers hoping to move to southern Europe, as Spain finally brought in its much-anticipated ‘digital nomad’ visa.

Known in Spain as the visado para teletrabajadores de carácter internacional or visa for remote workers, it will allow non-EU freelancers and remote workers entry and residency rights (our sister site The Local Spain has the details about how it works HERE.)

Portugal too has a digital nomad visa available, allowing remote workers to live in the country for up to one year.

As a growing number of European countries recognise the benefits of allowing remote workers to move from overseas, will Italy be joining them?

In fact, Italy was widely expected to have created its own digital nomad visa by now. It’s almost one year since the country’s government approved a law allowing for the creation of a visa similar to that introduced in Spain.

This news was greeted with enthusiasm by many of The Local’s readers who hope to live and work in Italy short-term but currently have no good options for visas allowing remote work.

What's going on with Italy's digital nomad visa?

Italy was expected to introduce a digital nomad visa in 2022. Photo by BARBARA GINDL / APA / AFP).

So what happened to the plan? A year is a long time in Italian politics: the government that passed this law collapsed the following July, and a new administration with an entirely different set of priorities took over in October. 

During this transition it was unclear what would happen with the digital nomad visa. In our last update on the topic in October, we wrote that the plan seemed to have fallen through the cracks and was likely to be forgotten about, not least because the party which pushed the law through, the Five Star Movement, was no longer in government.

READ ALSO: What happened to Italy’s planned digital nomad visa?

Since then, not much has changed: none of the parties in the new ruling coalition have mentioned the digital nomad visa during their first months in office, nor given any indication that they intend to draw up the inter-ministerial plans necessary for making the visa scheme a reality. 

Perhaps this apparent lack of interest isn’t too surprising from a government with a staunchly anti-immigration stance – Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is an impassioned promoter of nativist policies who has accused previous administrations of trying to “replace” the Italian population with foreigners.

However, as readers point out, allowing more international workers to move to Italy would no doubt be a positive move for a country known for its flagging economy and suffering ‘brain drain’ as large numbers of Italian university graduates seek work elsewhere. There’s also a steady population decline, combined with an ageing populace which needs to be supported by an active workforce. 

The Italian MPs who promoted the digital nomad visa law suggested it could be one part of the answer to these complex and long-standing problems.

The increasing digitisation of the economy means that the number of digital nomads in Europe is expected to increase again in 2023. There are an estimated 37 million remote workers around the globe currently, of which 10 million are from the United States alone.

Between them, these usually affluent mobile workers contribute some 780 billion euros a year to the countries they choose to call home: it’s little wonder that more countries are now seeking to make it easier for them to move in.

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

While the current Italian government hasn’t given any indication as to whether or how it intends to move ahead with the plan to introduce a digital nomad visa, it hasn’t actually ruled out doing so, either. Which means there is some hope.

The law approved last March still stands and, even if this government doesn’t use it, a future one could – which is something to bear in mind given the highly changeable nature of Italian politics.

In the meantime, The Local will continue to publish any updates related to the digital nomad visa.

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For members


OPINION: Why a ‘posto fisso’ work contract is still the Italian dream

What type of job do Italy's graduates dream of landing? For many, being employed by the state is the ultimate goal. Silvia Marchetti explains what's behind the intense competition for 'posto fisso' jobs in the public sector.

OPINION: Why a ‘posto fisso’ work contract is still the Italian dream

The dream of many Italians is to secure a permanent job contract either in the public or private sector – preferably in the public sector – and I know this fixation baffles many foreigners. 

There is a widespread belief, based on reality, that once you are a public employee hardly anything could cause you to lose your job.

The public sector is preferred to the private simply because it guarantees a more stable, secure life-long job that makes families confident about their future, and able to look ahead with optimism and make plans.

The state doesn’t usually fire employees (unless you do something extremely bad), and even the private sector decides layoffs only if there are very sound reasons, because contracts and trade unions protect employees.

There is an obsession in Italy with the so-called posto fisso, meaning a permanent job, even if the workforce has to migrate across the country.

READ ALSO: What to know about getting an Italian work permit in 2023

The fact that this type of job is the dream of most freshly graduated young people has a lot to do with family education and mentality.

Many Italian parents educate their children on the life-mission of securing a posto fisso, a bit like marrying, buying a house and having kids. And so children grow up with this ultimate goal in their mind, and the belief that having a permanent job with all the benefits, the paid pension schemes, paid holidays, sickness days and severance pay would make their life perfect.

Historic post office building in Italy

A permanent job contract in the public sector is the dream of many Italian graduates. Photo by Sara Cudanov on Unsplash

It would give them total security, and is seen like stare in una botte di ferro (literally meaning “being in an iron barrel”).

Italy has one of the world’s highest rates of spending on social security (second only to France, according to the OECD), and each year more resources are earmarked. This has also impacted on the approach towards work. Everyone wants a slice of the (public) pie.

It still astonishes me listening to many young people chatting on the beach about securing that permanent job, even if it’s not what they like, but they have already calculated what they will be earning over the years, and what their pension would likely be.

Italians generally don’t have much of an entrepreneurial spirit of ‘let’s live life, and work, as an adventure’. There’s a bit of a negativity around going freelance or registering as self-employed, becoming a libero professionista, for it is seen as scary and yielding a highly unstable and insecure future solely based on what you earn, which is really never a fixed amount each month.

Unlike abroad, Italian parents don’t all support libera professione (self-employment) and most would rather see their kids settle down with a safe job contract. Remote workers and freelancers are often looked down upon compared to those with a posto fisso, as if there existed an intangible work hierarchy made of unreachable privileges.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will Italy follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?

Many friends of mine got the long-coveted posto fisso because their parents were retiring and managed to exchange their retirement with a permanent job for their kid within the same firm or public body.

Police, nurse, firefighter, teacher and public administration jobs are the most wanted, because they’re for life. To get kicked out you must do something very horrible because the type of contract secures your position.

It doesn’t matter what it takes to land a posto fisso. Many friends of mine had to relocate to other cities, either in the very north, or in the very south, to be able to later find a permanent job in Rome, for instance as a middle school teacher.

There was one lady who, in order to teach on her native island off Rome’s coast where she lived, had to go all the way to work in a Basilicata school to get the job she wanted 10 years later on her home island.

Sometimes freshly-hired young people have to commute for hundreds of kilometres per day just to work fuori sede (out of the area) for a few years before landing a position in their own province.

Train station in Rome, Italy

Young Italian graduates often have to commute for hundreds of kilometres every day just to work. Photo by Chad Greiter on Unsplash

A scuba diver friend of mine who works in the fire brigade toured nine northern cities in order to finally settle down in his native Sicily where he could put to use his diving skills in deep Sicilian waters, rather than climbing frozen trees in Treviso to rescue cats.

Public jobs come with huge ‘competitions’ (concorsi pubblici) with thousands of applicants for just a few hundred, or less, available places. The numbers are impressive because the state must allow everyone who meets the required criteria to participate – but then just the lucky ones make it through, and then they often end up on waiting lists anyway.

READ ALSO: The jobs in Italy that will be most in demand in 2023

Every time I pass a major Carabinieri military police station in Rome I see young people lined up for exams and they really have miserable faces, having traveled probably hundreds of miles that same day.

State exams for qualified professions such as lawyers are also massive in terms of applicants. The cost to the state is relatively low compared to the time and money applicants must waste on taking part, given that they often have to pay to access state exams.

But there’s also the other side of the coin: exploiting ‘geography’ can come in handy. Surprisingly, attending a state exam to become a lawyer in certain remote southern regions where there are few applicants, thus less competition and easier tests, increases the chances of passing those exams.

Many people I know who failed the state exam for law in Rome after three consecutive attempts eventually passed it in deepest Molise or Abruzzo. They then went back to Rome or Milan to work in some fancy attorney office.

I don’t think Italians will ever get over the posto fisso obsession – unless merit and entrepreneurship are more effectively supported with targeted policies.