I would say the most common email I get from the website is from people asking me, “I want to move to Italy/I’m moving to Italy. I need help!” While everyone has an individual story, and I love hearing them, I find that I am responding with some common information each time.
You may have read a bit about my own move and how I did very little planning, but I don’t recommend that to anyone! There is so much information on the Internet that you’re bound to get some information that makes things a bit smoother!
My fellow Expats, or other people that have made the move, feel free to leave your comments and suggestions to help our friends get trained up!
Where to Start? I created a Italy & Milan links page a while back with some general links, and I’ll talk about several of those links here.
- How Can I Move to Italy?
- Where Should I Live in Italy?
- How Do I Find a Job in Italy?
- How Do I Learn/Improve my Italian?
- When Should I Move to Italy?
I suggest you immediately visit the Italian embassy/consulate (website if you can’t go in person) where you are a resident for more information on how to obtain the necessary paperwork. Each embassy/consulate may have a different procedure to follow.
If you’re American/Canadian/Australian, you’ll notice immediately that there are no agreements between the U.S. and Italy for work. To get a Work Visa, you have to do one of two things: apply for one from your home country and wait to receive one, or find a company willing to hire you and initiate the paperwork for you. This is a bit of a catch-22 because most companies will not hire you without a work permit and it’s almost impossible to get a work permit without a job! If you’re familiar with the green-card process in the U.S., it’s not much different, nor less difficult to obtain a work permit.
Some are able to work part-time jobs if they are in possession of a Study Visa (and therefore permit) but note that only a few educational programs entitle you to the student visa and they are time-consuming programs. You can also only work part-time with a student visa, not full-time, unless the company is willing to modify the permit into a full work visa (and do the paperwork for you).
The third most common option is becoming an Elective Resident, ideally for a pensioner with income to support themselves so they are not living off the Italian government. Many people coming here to retire will get this visa. Note two important things – you cannot work on this visa, and it takes a considerable amount of money (there is no set number, I’ve heard as much as 1 million in assets) to be qualified for this visa.
This is not to discourage you from your goal – if there is a will, there is a way. But, there is a legal way and a non-legal way, and the legal way is quite clear.
Quick Italian embassy links for English-speaking countries: Australia, Canada, Great Britain, United States. Here is a more complete list of the Italian embassies in in the world.
I also suggest reading “Living, Studying, and Working in Italy: Everything You Need to Know to Live La Dolce Vita” by Monica Larner, Travis Neighbor Ward – It’s still the most comprehensive book available on this subject. I had both editions heavily earmarked before I moved!!
Note: There are visa types listed that I did not discuss. A visa is only used for entry into Italy – upon entering Italy, you will have to convert your visa into a permit of stay (permesso di soggiorno) for your particular reason for being in Italy.
Get on living in Italy Forums
I really suggest you get onto www.ExpatsInItaly.com (or to the forum directly, www.expattalk.com) immediately because there are a ton of people on there who have made the move to Italy. Your question is sure to have been asked and answered from many different angles.
I suggest browsing the particular categories that interest you but REALLY use the “Find” function at the top of the forum page and do a search for your keywords “work visa” “living in Milan” etc. There is a lot of information on the site. Italy Magazine (UK) also has an extensive forum.
This is the $1 million question. The best way to answer this question is to ask yourself a lot of other questions:
- Why am I moving to Italy?
- Am I a city person? Country?
- Where are there the most jobs in my industry?
- What do I need for my family?
Did you fall in love with Under the Tuscan Sun, but deep down being far away from a mini-mall freaks you out? This may not go away. Luckily Italy has a type of city for every person. If you’re a city person, you may want to look at the big cities – Rome, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Florence. If you like wide-open, maybe more rural-minded answer is for you.
If you have the opportunity, I would come and travel around to a few different contenders while you’re deciding. Obviously, a few days will not be a perfect indicator, but it’s better than doing a cold-turkey move. I chose larger cities because to me diversity is an essential element of living as well as availability!
If you want to work in banking or software development or fashion, you’ll need to move where you can find a job. You’ll either have to choose your profession and see where you could work in Italy, or choose your preferred city and see how you can work there by investigating companies that have branches there.
If you are a complete novice to Italy, I suggest you start by reading as much as you can about it! The Eyewitness Italy guide has tons of pictures and historical information for the main towns, or read a memoir or fiction based in Italy, get a guide to Italy, or watch a movie based in Italy.
By far the most important part of living in Italy – how to support yourself here!
Of course, I shouldn’t have to emphasize the importance of networking – I wrote How to Network for Life (And Why You Should), and remember that true networking is based on relationships and not a generic email with your cv attached. Take the time to meet people and help them get to know you without sounding like a salesman.
Once you’ve decided where to move, find international networking groups and/or special interest groups to join and meet people. I have listed several networking groups in Italy on my Italy-Milan links page. Facebook is starting to get really popular in Italy and there are micronetworks for everything. Find blogs in your desired country/city – expat-blog.com blogs in Italy or Expats in Italy’s blog and story list, as well as all the Expat blogs listed on my sidebar.
Most Italian newspapers have a good job section – Corriere della Sera’s Lavoro – MioJob from La Repubblica and Monster Italy also has job listings. For temporary work, Manpower has a presence in Italy as well as Kelly Services – Adecco – Metis – and many other temporary work agencies, but most deal in just that: temporary work.
If you are a native speaker of English, don’t discount teaching English in Italy! These jobs are usually the most widely-available jobs for a madrelingua inglese and can be a flexible solution to get to know the city you live in, provide you with opportunities to network and get to know the companies in the area! Email the schools of your interest, but I recommend visiting these schools in person with cv in hand when you arrive – often they will not encourage/enter into an agreement with you until they know you’re in the country, for good! Tefl.com is a good starting point.
Here’s a list of Italian companies from Wikipedia and a slideshow from Forbes about the biggest companies in Italy – this is not including international companies with seats in Italy. For EU citizens, there is European Job Mobility Portal with a job database that covers all of Europe. You can also read this article from Emma at How To Italy about Networking for Jobs in Italy.
Note that many companies, even if they are internationally-owned, will speak Italian and use Italian on internal communications. You will need to speak Italian well!
Maybe you never studied Italian, and now you want to move. Should you let your lack of language stop you?
My advice is to get a tiny dictionary and carry it with you everywhere (and I mean everywhere!) I carried this mini LaRousse Italian-English dictionary everywhere in my pocket (even when I went out!) for the first six months in Italy. Prego was my university textbook that I still use today – it made the move over to Italy with me, and I still use it as a reference from time to time. I would advise speaking as much as possible, even if you are making a ton of mistakes.
Something I learned through teaching – train your brain to speak/think quickly in Italian (even bad Italian) by speaking as much as possible and then you can correct your mistakes as time goes on. Use the most basic vocabulary you know to quickly communicate, then build up your vocabulary. If you try to prepare the perfect sentence using complex vocabulary before you open your mouth, you’ll find that you’ll be left behind in the conversation every time. Speak!!
Ask people to speak with you in Italian. And to correct you. If Italians will see you struggling with Italian and they may decide to speak with you in English so you can express yourself better, and they can practice English. Insist on speaking Italian, and ask for corrections! Consider finding a language exchange to practice your Italian with someone willing to speak with you and give back some conversation in English!
There are private language schools in every town. Check with the big names first – Berlitz, Inlingua, Scuola Leonardo or ILM for programs available. You may be able to join an intensive group course and save money! Note that many Comune (city governments) offer courses of “italiano per straniere” – Italian for foreigners classes through the city government and can often be economical or free. For example, this is the italiano per straniere course list for the Comune di Milano.
There are two times of year I don’t advise moving to Italy. The worst is end-of-July/August. Italian cities will be empty unless they are on the sea, but even then many things will be closed. Your chances to build a network/find work/set up house will be greatly reduced. Come in September.
The other period of time is Christmastime. Though Christmas in Italy is beautiful, it’s not a very good time to look for work – many companies are already thinking of the holiday closure and are probably not hiring-interviewing much, or won’t have time to follow up until after the holidays. If you can, come in November so you can make progress and enjoy the holiday, or come directly in January.
Don’t try to organize the perfect situation. Things will go wrong, no matter what. At a certain point, just say, “I’ve done 80%, the 20% I am willing to wing it!”
Don’t gather every bit of information about living in Italy before your move. Sometimes other people’s reality is too honest, too depressing, and not at all how your experience will be!
Don’t try to learn all you can about Italy before moving. This is the best part about living here…discovering things for yourself and experiencing Italy for you.
In the end, what do you really have to lose? It’s so much harder for us to leave something that is known for the unknown – but the best part about it is, if you don’t like where you are, you can always go back. This motivated me to go to university in Texas where I didn’t know a single soul, move back to California after most of my ties were broken there, and then move to Italy alone.
You can always go back. It’s important that you go in the first place.
Please note: I am not an immigration lawyer or official – this information is not intended to be legal advice nor supplant/contradict any official government communication. Please consult the rules/regulations that pertain to you and your particular situation. I am not encouraging or advising your participation in illegal activity.