Expat Essentials

Carla Bastos: Italy’s long-awaited Digital Nomad Visa is coming, but there are still lots of unknowns

I’m not sure if Italy gets the European Union’s bureaucratic labyrinth grand prize, but it’s certainly in the running. The soon-to-be enacted Digital Nomad visa may be a prime example of this country’s many notorious administrative quagmires. While I’ve been monitoring any and all news on the progress of the new visa in hopes of providing an update in this space, unfortunately, there’s still little to report.

The only big news came a few weeks ago when – at long last – the legislation proposing Italy’s Digital Nomad visa for non-EU citizens was finally voted into law as of March 2022. (This comes years after other European countries took the lead in offering the incentive to remote workers.) While Italy initially proposed this visa back in early 2020, it is only now becoming a reality. But, since that March announcement, we’ve pretty much been left hanging.

The law has not yet been officially enacted.

While it is widely believed that the particulars will be clearly delineated and finalized sometime in May, one can only hope that bureaucratic delays won’t rule the day.

A lot to be done

There is still lots to be done, or at least to be explained, before this visa is actually available and Italy begins accepting applications. For example, there are eligibility questions, since the law as currently written requires “highly qualified work activities, suitable accommodation, and adequate income,” among other conditions.

At this writing, these are still gray areas.

Specific definitions have yet to be provided, so no one knows what those requirements really mean. I’ve heard highly qualified work described as anything from a university professor to a circus performer, so long as it pays well.

And, as for a sufficient income, at this point one can only guess. For a frame of reference, I revisited the hoops I had to jump through for my newly-acquired Elective Residence visa, and its current minimum income requirement.

While Italy offers various types of long-term visas for stays of longer than 90 days, only the Elective Residence visa is specifically designed for retirees or those who do not plan to work while in Italy. In fact, working to earn the required income is forbidden under this visa. The applicant must be able to show a minimum annual income (currently just under 32,000 euros), but it must be autonomous income deriving from investments, pension, social security and savings.

It’s a strict and inflexible requirement, but understandable in that the country simply wants to ensure the new resident will be self-sufficient and not in any way dependent on the government. This will certainly be true in the case of the new Digital Nomad visa.

Speculation

Now, these are two different visas for two different categories of expats, so in some ways we may be talking apples and oranges here. But the basics are still the same. For my “retiree” visa, I had to prove that I would have a certain amount of income without working, while the Digital Nomad visa will require a minimum income from your work. One possibility to consider is that, because workers may be younger with more active lifestyles, their cost of living could be higher, thereby raising the minimum income requirement.

Of course, that’s all just speculation.

Without anything else to hang their hats on, speculation is all that wannabe digital nomads have right now. But, if you’ve been waiting for this visa to begin your remote work life in Italy, the waiting period may be nearing an end, so keep your eyes peeled. The best advice is to check government, travel and immigration attorneys’ websites regularly.

Italy is still in need of revitalization in so many respects, and very much wants to attract new skilled workers. There will most certainly be a big deal made of this new development once it actually happens, so the news won’t be hard to find.

Oh, Italian visa gods, won’t you please give us the skinny? Surely it can’t be that difficult – the rest of Europe has already done it, and you’ve had two extra years to figure it out.

A few early details:

• Five Star Movement MP Luca Carabetta – an advocate of the digital nomad visa – has indicated that it will be good for one year and it can be extended to close family members, according to Euronews. But it’s not clear if it can be extended.

• It seems likely there will be no limit on the number of permits issued annually.

• Italy’s Digital Nomad visa is specifically designed for non-EU residents “who carry out highly qualified work activities through the use of technological tools that allow them to work remotely, autonomously or for a company that is not resident in the territory of the Italian state.”

About the author:

Carla Bastos is a freelance writer and former journalist and newspaper editor. Having lived in developing countries and covered wars and natural disasters, she has written extensively on a variety of related topics.

Her many years of world travels and humanitarian work continue to inform her writing, which can be found at carla-bastos.com.

See more here about Italy’s various programs to repopulate villages.

See more in Dispatches’ Italy archives here.

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