How to Get a Work Visa to Teach English in Italy
Italy attracts English teachers from all over the world due to the wonderful lifestyle and widespread job market. While there are many positives to choosing Italy as a teaching destination, there are some legal requirements to take into consideration.
As Italy is part of the European Union, it means that EU citizens have legal working status, so they don’t need a visa to teach English in Italy. This is great news for EU citizens as it means one less thing to think about when preparing for your Italian adventure. However, it’s a different story if you are a non-EU citizen, where the legal requirements mean you will need a visa to teach English in Italy. This may seem a daunting task and will vary depending on where you’re from, but it isn’t impossible. You will, no doubt, hear many stories about how to ‘get around’ the legal system in Italy – it is highly advisable, and in your best interest, that you acquire the correct legal documentation to prevent any issues.
Residency is another aspect of Italian life that you will also need to get your head around. If you plan on being in Italy for longer than 3 months, you need to apply for residency. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens.
Types of Visas
We will look at 3 different types of visas that will allow non-EU citizens to legally teach English in Italy. We will look at each visa separately, the application process and documents required.
If you are a non-EU citizen, you can apply for an Italian work visa to teach English in Italy. This visa gives you permission to legally enter Italy for working purposes and must be obtained before going to Italy. You can only apply for an Italian work visa after you have secured a job. This is because your employer completes most of the work visa application process on your behalf and they need to prove that qualified Italian residents or EU citizens are not available for the position.
It is worth noting here that this is why EU citizens are more employable – employers don’t need to go through this laborious process. So if you’re up against EU citizens for a job, you may find the odds will be significantly in their favor.
For tips on finding a job teaching English in Italy, check out this post. Be prepared that it can be challenging to find a job before going to Italy as many schools typically employ their teachers in person in Italy. You will need to spend time and put the legwork into finding a job online. It isn’t impossible though, and there are Americans and other non-EU citizens who are successful in finding employment and securing working visas.
What is the process for obtaining a work visa?
The first step in the process of obtaining a work visa is to secure a job. Once you have secured employment, your employer will then complete most of the work application process on your behalf. The process is administered regionally, so the requirements may differ depending on which part of Italy you plan on working in. The employer starts by submitting an application for Nulla Osta (an official authorization document) from the local Immigration Office. This document gives you the authorization to work. The next step is waiting for the Nulla Osta application to be accepted. This will depend if the quotas for immigration haven’t already been reached (if they have been met, it means that at that point in time, Italy isn’t issuing non-EU citizens with visas for teaching English). If the application is successful, your employer will be given ‘authorization to work’. The Italian government will then notify your local Italian embassy (in your home country) and all the documents your employer submitted will be electronically sent over.
Your work visa should then be issued by your local embassy within 30 days – be prepared that it can sometimes take longer. You can then collect it. Remember, this whole process needs to happen before you go to Italy. As requirements may differ from region to region, it is worth speaking to your employer and your local Italian embassy before applying for a work visa. That way, they can offer further information on the process.
Documents you will need for a work visa
Your employer will ask for documents from you in order to apply for the work visa. These documents may vary from employer to employer and region to region, but typically be expected to provide the following:
- A valid passport
- A signed residence contract (in Italian)
- Proof you could fund your return journey
- Proof of qualifications and your resume.
Student Visa (study visa)
Another route into teaching English in Italy for non-EU citizens is a student visa. You need to prove you are going to do a valid course (this could be a TEFL if you aren’t already qualified or an Italian language course) and the hours you can work are limited to 20 hours a week. You don’t need to have secured a job before applying for the student visa, which gives you the opportunity to apply for work once in Italy, but you do need to have secured a place on a course. The course must be recognized by the Italian government.
Further down the line, if you wish to, you can convert a student visa to a work visa. Be prepared that the process of converting from a student visa to a work visa can be a gruelling task. This blog is written by an American expat who was successful within this route and breaks down the process she went through.
What is the process for obtaining a student visa?
The process of applying for a student visa can take up to a month and you will need to visit your local Italian embassy in your home country to submit the documents. Before applying, you need to enroll on the study program you intend to do. While it is generally a smooth process, be aware that student visa applications can be denied.
Documents you will need for a student visa
It is worth enquiring at your local Italian embassy about what documentation you need before applying as the required documents will vary from country to country. Typically, you can be expected to submit the following:
- Completed application form
- Valid passport (valid for a minimum of 6 months after your stay in Italy is completed)
- Passport photo
- Photocopy of passport
- Documentation on the course you will be doing in Italy
- Proof of finances (a bank statement showing access to $1000 a month during your stay or a document from a parent/guardian declaring responsibility to provide the funds)
- Health Insurance
- Proof of return flight
- Proof of accommodation during your stay
Italian Working Holiday Visa
Another option is the Italian Working Holiday Visa. This is only offered to citizens under the age of 30 from Australia, New Zealand and South Korea and citizens under the age of 35 from Canada. You must be able to prove that your primary intention is to holiday in Italy, with employment being an incidental, rather than a primary feature for the visit. There are a few other regulations too, such as not being accompanied by children, possessing a valid passport, possessing a return ticket and sufficient funds for maintenance during your stay in Italy. The process and requirements for the Italian Working Holiday Visa will vary from country to country. If you feel this may be an option for you, it is worth speaking to the Italian Embassy in your home country to get further information and check your eligibility for this visa.
Permesso di Soggiorno
If you are a non-EU citizen and are going to be in Italy for longer than 90 days (3 months) you need to apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno – a permit of stay. This is a small card that validates your presence in Italy and you must apply for it within the first 8 days of arriving in Italy. You can’t apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno without a visa – the visa allows you to enter Italy, and the Permesso di Soggiorno allows you to stay in Italy. You will then need this to apply for residency. This guide gives the complete low down on how to apply for your Permesso di Soggiorno.
No matter what nationality you are (EU or non-EU citizens) or what kind of visa you are traveling under, if you plan on staying in Italy for longer than 90 days (3 months) you must apply for residency. This legal document legitimizes your stay in the country and allows you to receive the same benefits as Italian residents, including access to their National Health Services (SSN – Servizio Sanitario Nazionale). The SSN provides low-cost health care to everyone registered.
What you need and where to apply for one will vary from city to city, so it is worth doing your research into the requirements for the city you plan on living in. This blog offers information for both EU and non-EU residents on how to go about obtaining residency in Italy.
If you are an EU citizen, your journey of becoming an English teacher in Italy is a much smoother one. Your legal working status gives you a clear advantage as employers don’t need to go through a lengthy visa application process on your behalf. Unfortunately for non-EU citizens, it is a bit more complicated. You shouldn’t throw in your towel just yet if you don’t have EU citizenship, but you will need to prepare yourself to put the legwork into the visa process. It is worth remembering that there are many other countries which don’t present so many obstacles for non-EU citizens, so it may be worth checking these out too.