While many Americans dream of living in Italy, only a brave few turn the dream into reality. Making the move requires more than an appetite for pasta and some language classes. In addition, you’ll need find a company to sponsor you and apply for a visa. The process is length but doable – so long as you’re determined enough to make Italy your new home.

Where to Begin

European Union citizens can move to Italy like Americans move from one state to another. Unfortunately, Americans have a much tougher road ahead of them. You’ll have to find a job first even before you get to live there, and even then, it’s not a simple matter of checking a job board. Italy has quotas for each industry, meaning only a certain number of people may be hired for certain types of jobs.

The limits are announced every year around January or February in a “Flow Decree.” The company sponsoring you must start processing your application as soon as the list is released, since the quotas often fill within days. Your company won’t be able to obtain approval at all if an application is incorrect or late. Certain industries are exempt from this quota requirement, such as professors or translators, so it’s important to know if your field falls under this exemption.

For the most part your paperwork will be handled by your sponsor. Once employers pass this initial stage, they will be the ones to apply to the nearest provincial employment office. They must state that you are the best candidate and no one in Italy could have filled their position. On occasion the employment office may even demand an employer consider EU citizens before Americans.

A temporary visa is granted when the employer receives the “no impediment” document from their local consular office. (This means your background cleared and nothing prevents you from living in the country.) The visa cannot become long-term until the recipient is also granted a residency permit. American candidates must apply for the residency visa within eight days of arriving in Italy to work. The entire visa process can take as little as 30 days or as many as 120 days.

Even freelancers and those working independently may face quota restrictions. They must also obtain their own visa while proving they have a minimum income and a place to stay.

work in italy as an american

A Daunting Process

Many Italian businesses don’t sponsor American expats because of the complicated and lengthy visa process. There is also a cost 116 Euros (or $135.82) per visa application.  Quota limitations are another factor detering companies from hiring Americans. On top of all this, if a sponsor offer falls through or the visa holder loses the job, this person must find another one within six months.

While it may be tempting to skip the visa and take the risk when you get there, don’t take the easy way out. Visa dodgers may regret breaking this law when they need assistance from the government for any reason. Additionally, candidates cannot complete the visa process while you are already in Italy with a tourist visa. In order to begin the process you must return to the United States and submit a visa application to their city’s Italian consular office.

While a tourist visa can’t become a work visa, you might have better luck by becoming a student. It’s easier to obtain a student visa and find a sponsor before you graduate. However you approach it, working in Italy is possible as long as you research thoroughly and don’t give up on your dream.