I’ve been applying to jobs semi-regularly lately and after I get a rejection letter from a job I didn’t even really want in the first place/after an especially trying round of applications, I say “wait why don’t I just teach in Italy? What’s stopping me again?”
Then, I remember………….
The Visa (dun dun dun).
So while I am in no way an expert, I have spent hours scouring through the pages of the Consolato Generale d’Italia a New York (the Italian Consulate in New York) trying to scheme my way back (again — legally). I’ll give you a real brief rundown here of what I’ve found so far.
Before that though, just two quick things: 1. Just because I have been spending a lot of my time researching legal immigration to Italy does not mean I truly know the ins and outs or what I’m talking about in any meaningful way. Do not cite this post to the Carabiniere (paramilitary police officers very present in large Italian cities) if it doesn’t go well for you. Think of this as the Wikipedia version of Italian visas: use it to get your background information, and then find the important stuff yourself! And 2. I write about visas a lot, I know, but it’s because I love this country so much that if I was banned and felt like the country as a whole was mad at me, I don’t think my little heart could take it. It can hardly take the feeling that Italy is making it so hard for me to get there long term! That being said, I do know a few people personally who have gone without a visa/over-overstayed their visa and it seems to be going fine. I have read a lot about people who go without visas and work and they have said it’s fine. However, I highly recommend against this. Just my 2 cents. Well, it’s my blog; it’s all my 2 cents! 😉
Anyways, moving on!
If you are a citizen of the US (plus a few other countries), you don’t need a visa if you are going to be in Italy or the Schengen Area (a group of European countries that you can easily travel between once accepted into the group as a whole) for up to three months. So when I studied abroad in Florence, I applied for a student visa through my host school, Florence University of the Arts (FUA) because I was there for about three and a half months. Caryn, on the other hand, WWOOFed for just under three months because she wouldn’t have been able to get a visa. However, if you want to stay in the area for over three months, or you want to work, study, etc, you have to take another route.
There are three main visas that allow you access to Italy:
- Tourist Visa (as I just really simply outlined)
- Study Visa
- Work Visa
I recommend studying abroad for so, so many reasons, but one that I hugely overlooked while I was at FUA is how easy it is to get a study visa. This may be applicable for my school only, but I was given a very detailed list of the items I needed and even the order I should put them in. After I got all of the necessary paper work together I just needed to go to the consulate and my approved visa in my passport would be mailed back to be in a few weeks. Easy breezy beautiful! This is not an exhaustive list but some of the items needed are: an acceptance letter from your host institution, a copy of bank statements to prove you have enough money and won’t become dependent on the government, flights back to your home country, passport-style photos and international health insurance. But check the consulate website for full details. With a student visa, you are able to work up to 20 hours a week! So this can be a really good alternative to a work visa because…..
The work visa seems to be the often sought-after but hardly ever attained white whale of those wishing to move to and sustain themselves in Italy. It’s your classic catch 22: you need a work visa to get a job but you need a job to get a work visa. From what I’ve researched, in order to get a work visa you need to find a company that’s interested in you, have them sponsor you for the visa and then you need to go through the application process. However this process can be very expensive for employers so (as I’ve noticed with my Italian job search) they either expect/want you to already have a visa (how??) or they make no mention of a visa at all and are pretty evasive when you ask about it (I would try to avoid these companies; they’re probably a little shady since they don’t care about their employee’s legal status).
I’ve read stories about people applying for study visa after study visa and finally being able to convert it into a work visa. So I guess that’s a plausible route if you’ve got patience and enough money to survive on only working 20 hours a week for a bit.
And then after you finally get your visa and end up in Italy, you have to make it to the Poste Italiane (post office) to get a kit, fill it out and then head to the Questura (police headquarters) to finish the job. This is a very very long and annoying process but after this last step, you’re golden baby!
Good luck!!! Have any experience with visas in Italy? Share your story with us!