business in Italy

How can a Foreigner start a business in italy? For non-EU citizens

We explained in our previous article the alternatives and modalities for opening a business in Italy. In particular, how to set up a company and the various fiscal and accounting procedures involved. In this article we expand on the formalities for opening a business in Italy for someone who is not residing in the European Community.

First steps – business license in Italy

A non-EU citizen who plans to start a business and settle in Italy but does not have a residence permit must first apply for Nulla-osta. This declaration states that there are no obstacles to start a business. Null-osta is issued by the competent body, which can be either the Comune or Chamber of Commerce depending on the circumstances. Foreigners must also provide a Certification of financial and economic parameters (with a minimum of € 17,667). The Chamber of Commerce issues this statement and does not have to verify that the aforementioned amount is actually held by the applicants. A non-EU citizen must have this minimum amount for any type of business, according to the Foreign Office Decree of 11 May 2011.

If you want to start a sole proprietorship business, become partner in a new general partnership, manager of a new limited company, legal representative of a foreign company, or manager of an existing company, and you are already a resident in Italy or plan to live in Italy, the conditions of reciprocity must be checked beforehand and you must obtain a valid residence permit (Permesso di soggiorno per lavoro autonomo).

Business in Italy: principle of reciprocity

The principle of reciprocity means that in the foreign citizen’s home country an Italian citizen is granted the same rights as those the foreign citizen is applying for. Reciprocity conditions can be verified by anyone at the Italian Embassy in the home country. These conditions are checked by the public official/public body receiving the request. For example, the notary when a company is established, or the Chamber of Commerce when a manager is appointed.

In Europe, there is also a Permesso unico di lavoro (in accordance with Leg. Decree 40/2014), which allows you to work in Europe in the country that issues this. It lasts one or two years and allows a person to work (as in the case of a residence permit for family reasons), but it is not valid for working in other EU countries because it is not an EC long-term residence permit. Non-EU citizens having a long-term residence permit can carry out any economic activity in Italy (Leg. Decree 3/2007).

Obtaining a permit to stay is one of the most important aspects that a prospective foreign investor should consider.

In order to remain in Italy to manage a company, the investor must have a permit to stay. Setting up a company does not provide sufficient grounds for permission to live in Italy for more than 90 consecutive days. Investors are usually advised about the “reciprocity rule” but fail to receive specific information on the consequences of not having a valid permit to stay.

Migration and residence permits

Once all the necessary conditions have been met, the company/sole proprietorship must be registered in the Italian Business Register within 30 days of the business starting date. The following documents are needed, depending on the circumstances:

  • Citizens with a valid residence permit (or with an EU long-term residence permit) must submit a photocopy of the permit;
  • Individuals waiting for a residence permit to be issued must submit the receipt of the registered letter that they sent to the Centro Servizi Amministrativi in Rome when they applied for the permit, as well as a photocopy of their passport with a valid type “D” visa (allowing one to stay in Italy for more than 90 days);
  • Citizens waiting for a residence permit to be renewed must submit a photocopy of the expired permit and the receipt of the registered letter that they sent to Centro Servizi Amministrativi in Rome when they applied for the renewal.

While the residence permit is being issued or renewed, citizens are given a temporary receipt with the following note: “A residence permit has been requested and has not yet been issued/renewed”.

Non-EU citizens who want to start a self-employment activity in Italy – such as being partners or managers of a partnership, legal representatives of a foreign company, or family workers of a sole proprietorship – can no longer apply for a self-employment entry visa. Therefore, they must already have their residence permits before starting the chosen activity. When renewing the permits, they can request to change these into self-employment residence permits.

business in italy


Citizens from EFTA Member States (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the Republic of San Marino) and from Vatical City do not need a visa or a residence permit.

The Italian National Police is the competent authority for issuing or renewing any kind of residence permit.

This article was originally published in Tuscany’s Grapevine Magazine  with the title “Opening a Business in Italy for non-EU citizens”. 

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