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Italy - Expats

Since the late 1970s, Italy has been attracting foreign immigrants, because of its shrinking workforce. In the recent past, the country has become one of the favorite European destinations among people who are want to relocate for a couple of years. However, according to the HSBC’s Expat Explorer poll conducted in 2013, Italy was 23rd on the list of best countries for expats, ranking slightly lower than the UK (22nd), Spain (20th), France (17th), the US (12th), Canada (6th), and Germany (2nd). This survey included more than 7,000 expats, who were asked questions about the quality of life, finances and raising children in their country of residence.

While the number of people migrating to Italy each year is only about 350,000, the approximate foreign population presently residing in the country is close to 4.5 million people, which is 7.5% of the total Italian population. Some of the major immigrant communities are from the UK, US, Germany, France, Romania, Poland, Albania, The Philippines, China and Bangladesh.

A few of the main reasons why people choose to move to Italy include its culture, weather, food, beauty and lifestyle. Since healthcare facilities are quite advanced in the country, many senior citizens also decide to retire in Italy. Expats from other parts of Europe account for about 6% of the Italian population. This is because it is quite easy for people from the EU to live and work in Italy. Of course, citizens from non-EU countries can settle down in Italy too, but only after the required visas and work permits are approved. The easiest way to enter Italy as an expat is by getting a job here. This includes developing an existing business or setting up a new one.

One of the most common reasons for people from Europe, Asia and America to move to Italy is work. Finding a job in Italy is not difficult, especially in industries like automobiles, fashion, food, hospitality, tourism, energy and education. The northern part of Italy is more industrialized as compared to the south, which is still more focused on agriculture. Therefore, fewer expat communities are found in southern Italy. Many native English speakers from the US, UK and Canada also move to Italy and make decent living by teaching people English.

However, since the country has not completely recovered from the recession of 2009, foreigners may face a few challenges when it comes to getting a well-paying job. Employers too give preference to Italian citizens over foreigners. There are also other potential challenges that expats should consider carefully before moving to Italy. These include pollution, petty crime, strained transport infrastructure and rising rents.

Rome is perhaps the favorite destination for most expats, at least initially. However, many of them choose to move to other cities to cut costs and save money. Fairly large expat communities can be seen in Tuscany, Puglia, Marche, and Milan. Often, Western nationals opt for retirement in the rural areas of Italy, to enjoy a relaxed countryside lifestyle.

Americans and Canadians do not need a visa for entering Italy; they can stay in the country for up to 90 days if the purpose of their visit is tourism or business. A Schengen Visa is required by those who plan on staying longer than 90 days.

Non-EU nationals who are seeking employment need to apply for a work visa with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before taking up a job in Italy. Within 8 days of their arrival in the country, they should apply for a residence permit too. In most cases, the permit is granted within 120 days, especially if there is a job already in hand. However, at times, the residence permit may be rejected. After starting work in Italy, expats receive the same benefits that Italian citizens do. EU citizens and members of the Schengen countries don’t have to apply for any special work visa. However, after staying in the country for 3 months, EU citizens too need to become Italian residents.

Italian customs allows expats duty-free entry of household effects, but only if the import takes place within 6 months of them moving and registering as residents. An expat with resident status can also import a used motor vehicle (owned for a minimum of 1 year) without paying any duty. All imported vehicles should be registered in the country and Italian license plates must be obtained.

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Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.