Italy: Self-employment visa and freelancing step-by-step

Learn everything you need to know about freelancing in Italy, from getting your Italian self-employed visa to setting up your company and paying taxes.


9 minute read
Updated on 9 Oct 2023

Tired of dreaming about dolce vita? It's time to start living it! Freelancing in Italy can be a great way to savor all this country has to offer while expanding your network. You’ll have the chance to work wherever (and whenever) your heart pleases, be that a cozy cafe in Milan, or one of the many parks of sunny Rome.

But there are several things to keep in mind before you can begin your journey. From getting your Italian self-employment visa to setting up your company, this guide will explain all you need to know to freelance in Italy.

Benefits of freelancing in Italy

Maybe you’ve just finished your Italian internship or have been working in employment long enough. Or are you seeking an adventure abroad?

We get you. If freedom and a healthy work-life balance are what you’re after, starting your own business in Italy can help you achieve that.

Even though Italians are known for their laid-back culture, it’s easier to take advantage of it while being your own boss. You’ll be able to avoid the rigid hierarchy of the Italian workplace, choose projects to work on, collaborate with a variety of clients, from fellow expats to warm Italian locals. All on your own terms!

Overall Italians are a friendly bunch. And cities like Milan and Rome offer a wide range of networking events to help you navigate your new venture.

And have we mentioned the tax perks you get as a freelancer in Italy?

Read on to learn more about them in this guide!

Freelancing opportunities in Italy

Today, Italy has the second-highest level of self-employment across the European Union. The freelance lifestyle is particularly popular among millennials, who often choose to freelance to gain more freedom and independence in their work.

As a freelancer in Italy, you can expect to make an average of €20-€25 per hour. However, your earnings will vary depending on the freelance sector you work in, your experience, and location. Generally, Milan and Rome are known for the highest average salaries.

Some of the most popular English-speaking jobs in Italy for freelancers include:

  • graphic design
  • translation and interpretation
  • software engineering
  • creative writing and journalism

Getting started

If you're considering a freelance life in Italy, there're a few things you'll need to take care of beforehand. Here's a quick overview:

  • request your freelance visa
  • collect your residence permit
  • get your Italian fiscal code
  • register your company in Italy and get your VAT number
  • open an Italian bank account
  • understand the Italian tax system

There’s quite some homework to be done, so bear with us as we walk you through each step of the process!

1. Apply for an Italian self-employment visa

If you’re not an EU citizen, you’ll need a self-employment visa before you can legally freelance in Italy. This type of visa is valid for two years and can be renewed if necessary.

Let’s take a look into how you can apply for your self-employment visa.

Find out if your profession is regulated

Italy distinguishes between two categories of professions. Your type of profession defines the paperwork you'll require for the next steps.

  1. Non-regulated professions are freelance jobs that don’t require a degree or professional qualification.

For example, freelance writers and translators fall into this category.

This type of activity is more flexible when applying for a self-employment visa. The Chamber of Commerce in Italy will be responsible for providing you with the right documentation.

  1. Legally regulated professions are freelance jobs that are strictly regulated by law. This type of freelance job requires a degree or professional qualification in order to practice the activity.

For example, freelance architects, lawyers, and engineers fall into this category.

You'll need to coordinate with the local associations of your profession to get the right paperwork before you can get your security clearance.

Get a security clearance (Nulla Osta)

Note that Italy has an immigration policy called Decreto Flussi, which controls the number of incoming workers and sets quotas for different types of freelance jobs.

The Decreto Flussi opens only for a few months every year. Unfortunately, the opening times are completely random and hard to predict. So you'll have to stay tuned to the Italian press and government websites for announcements.

Once you find out when the next Decreto Flussi period is, you can request your security clearance.

This request must be submitted in person at the Police Headquarters in the region where you plan to perform your business activity.

Yeah, you heard it right, in person.

So you'll need a bit of help from an immigration lawyer or a trusted friend in Italy. And, really, it'll pay off to get assistance throughout all the steps of the process of getting your visa. This country is notorious for its bureaucracy that can be pretty stressful and confusing to deal with. Especially if you don't speak Italian.

The documents you need to request Nulla Osta are:

  • copy of your passport
  • proof of a suitable accommodation
  • written declaration of no impediments
  • certificate of no impediment, which is a clearance from the Chamber of Commerce (for unregulated professions) or clearance from a professional body that governs your freelance activity (for regulated professions)

Note: Don’t underestimate the time it takes to find your dream home in Italy. Make sure to start searching for accommodation in advance.

Request your visa

You need to start your freelance visa application within 3 months of receiving your Nulla Osta.

You‘ll need to provide:

  • a filled entry visa application form
  • 2 recent passport-sized photograph
  • valid travel document which expires at least 3 months after the visa
  • Nulla Osta (police clearance)
  • proof of suitable accommodation
  • statement of income from the last financial year that's above Italy's minimum allowance
  • proof of no criminal record
  • proof of health insurance coverage in Italy
  • certificate of no impediment (clearance from the Chamber of Commerce for unregulated professions or clearance from a professional body that governs your freelance activity for regulated professions)

Once you have all the required documentation, you’ll need to make an appointment at the Italian embassy or consulate in your country.

If everything goes smoothly, you should receive your Italian self-employed visa within a few weeks.

2. Apply for an Italian residence permit

You’ll have to apply for an Italian residence permit within 8 days after coming to Italy.

Registering in Italy as an EU citizen

As an EU citizen, you need to register in Italy only if you’re staying longer than 3 months. If your stay is shorter, you don’t need any permits.

To register, you’ll need to make an appointment for a cambia di residenza in Ufficio Anagrafe (Vital Records Office) of the municipality of your residence in Italy.

Make sure to prepare the following documents:

  • a valid passport (a copy and original)
  • proof of self-employment
  • proof of sufficient financial resources
  • health insurance

You’ll immediately receive the registration certificate (attestato d’iscrizione anagrafica) which will be valid for 5 years.

Registering as a non-EU citizen

To get your Italian residence permit, fill in the postal kit available at the nearby postal office with a Sportello Amico counter. At the counter, you have to present:

  • a valid passport (a copy and original)
  • four passport-sized pictures
  • the completed postal-kit
  • all the documents submitted for your self-employed visa application

Once you submit the postal kit with all your documents, Sportello Amico will make an appointment for you at the local police station (Questura). They’ll collect your fingerprints and soon you’ll be able to pick up your permit.

3. Get your Codice Fiscale

The first thing you'll need as an Italian resident is Codice Fiscale. This is a tax code that uniquely identifies you and your company in Italy. You can't do anything without it.

To request your codice fiscale you can grab your passport and newly-issued residence card and go to the Single Desk for Immigration or nearby police headquarters.

Learn more about codice fiscale with our guide.

4. Start a business in Italy as a foreigner and get your VAT number

Once you have your permit and fiscal code, the next step is to set up your business in Italy.

If you’re from the EU and you work in Italy for less than 183 days (6 months), you aren’t obliged to transfer your tax residence. But if you’re planning to stay longer you can:

  • transfer your tax residence to Italy
  • or pay your taxes both in Italy and the country in which you have your VAT number.

As a non-EU citizen, you’ll need to define your business structure before you can register your company in Italy for VAT.

Setting up your own company in Italy can be confusing because of Italy’s rather complicated tax system. It’s best to seek professional advice.

There are 2 types of business structures for self-employed workers in Italy, sole proprietorship and freelancing.

  1. Sole proprietorship (ditta individuale) is for self-employed traders and artisans such as plumbers, hairdressers, painters, shopkeepers, and wholesalers. This type of business allows for hiring employees.

If that applies to you, you'll have to digitally submit your application to the Single Business Communication (ComUnica). This is an online service that allows you to get your VAT number and register with:

  • the Italian Business Register at the Chamber of Commerce
  • the INPS (National Institute for Social Security)
  • the INAIL (National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work)

You’ll need these to pay for a pension, social security, and work insurance.

  1. Freelancers (libero professionista) are self-employed individuals that carry out purely intellectual business activities such as lawyers, consultants, journalists, etc.

To start working, freelancers have to:

  • apply for a Partita Iva (VAT number) at the Agenzia delle Entrate
  • unregulated professionals need to enroll in the INPS under the Gestione Separata category
  • regulated professionals are obliged to register with the social security funds associated with their activity

5. Open an Italian bank account

Congratulations! You are now self-employed in Italy!

The next and final step is to set up an Italian bank account to receive your hard-earned money.

There are plenty of established and trusted banks in Italy. The most popular ones include BNL, Banco Nazionale del Lavoro, ING, and Unicredit. But if you don’t speak Italian, it’s once again getting quite complicated. In most cases, the website is only available in Italian.

Instead, you might want to consider an international digital bank platform such as N26. It’s a free bank account that grants you an Italian IBAN just like a regular bank.

Generally, if you want to open a bank account in Italy you'll need:

  • valid ID or passport
  • Italian tax code (codice fiscale)
  • residence permit
  • filled and signed anti-money laundry (AML) compliance

6. Understand the Italian tax system

If paying taxes is your least favorite thing to do, you’re definitely not alone. After all, you worked really hard for each euro you’ve earned!

That’s why understanding the Italian tax system is so important if you’re going to freelance in Italy.

In case you’re determined to fill tax returns without the help of an accountant, we’ve put together the most important information on rules and the applicable tax schemes. We hope it helps you make the right decisions and reduce the amount you’ll pay in the end.

Ordinary tax regime

Italy is known for being a high-tax country.

The ordinary tax regime in Italy implies progressive rates starting from the minimum rate of 23% to the maximum rate of 43% on income over €75,000.

When it comes to social security payments, the normal rate of 25.72% is applied to your taxable income. Every Italian resident has to pay this contribution regardless of the tax scheme they use.

Freelancers taxation with flat tax scheme (Regime Forfettario)

In 2015 Italy introduced the Regime forfettario.

This tax scheme allows a 5% rate to apply to the taxable income for the first 5 years. After this period passes, a 15% rate is applied.

You’re eligible for Regime forfettario if you:

  • don’t earn more than €65,000
  • incurred expenses for a total amount not exceeding €20,000 gross

When to pay taxes

The Italian tax year is the same as the calendar year. It starts on the 1st of January and ends on the 31st of December.

As a freelancer, you must complete the Income Tax Declaration for Individuals (Modello Redditi Persone Fisiche) online before the 30th of November.

You’ll have to make two advance payments for the current year based on the previous year’s tax liability:

  • 40% of the tax is paid in June
  • 60% is paid in November

If you miss the deadline you’ll be subject to a minimum penalty of €250 which can go up to 240%.

Benefits for new tax residents in Italy

Foreign freelancers who are going to stay in Italy for at least 2 years will be happy to hear that there is a special tax regime they can use. Lavoratori impatriati or expatriate workers tax relief scheme is intended specially for foreigners transferring to Italy for work reasons.

You can benefit from a 70% tax-free income for 5 years if you:

  • are a citizen of an EU country or a non-EU state with a double taxation agreement
  • become an Italian tax resident for at least the following 2 years
  • haven’t been a tax resident in Italy for the last two years
  • are highly educated
  • have been working or studying for the last 24 months outside of Italy

Once you’ve figured out the basic formalities, it’s time to start preparing for your move! If you want to live in the North, definitely explore homes for rent in Milan-the fashion capital of Italy! But if your heart is after Italy's southern charm, search for Rome's houses for rent.

We wish you good luck in your new adventure as a freelancer in Italy!

Curious about other visas you can get as a non-EU citizen? Head to our guide for moving to Italy from the USA.

Please reach out to if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.

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