The Italian Government has approved the legislative decree implementing the European Directive 2009/50/EC.  As of August 8, 2012, the “European Blue Card” or “EU Blue Card” is now available to qualified foreign worker applications who are not citizens of member-European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.

What’s Changed?

As a follow up to our earlier alert, this new legislative decree has modified the existing Italian Immigration Law by introducing the new “Article 9-ter” and “Article 27-quarter” to grant  highly qualified non-EEA/Swiss workers the possibility to enter and work in Italy outside the annual quota mechanism (the “Decreto Flussi”).  Please note that under Italian law, the Blue Card does carry specific requirements and procedures.

Requirements and Procedures

While the Blue Card is to be implemented on an EU-wide basis, each EU-member country sets its own national regulations for card qualification.  For Italy, the Blue Card, unlike the ICT work permit (Article 27 “a”), is aimed at removing intra-company experience requirements and allowing highly-skilled non-EEA/Swiss nationals to work and reside in Italy as a new hire.

The new decree provides general guidelines as follows:

  • Non EEA/Swiss nationals must be localized to Italian payroll and execute a labor agreement or binding offer with an Italian sponsoring company.  The labor agreement/offer must be for a minimum of 12 months and specify the proposed work to be performed must be highly-specialized and performed under the supervision/coordination of the Italian company;
  • The annual gross salary must be at least three times the minimum salary required for  exemption from Italian social insurance;
  • Applicants are considered as “highly qualified” workers if they possess either at  least  a  three-year  post-secondary  degree which  certifies  that  they  have  acquired  a specialized  qualification  recognized  in  Italy, or the proposed position is considered as specialized occupation/critical need skill according to Legislative Decree  206/2007).

In general, the Italian company sponsors must submit the application to the competent   Immigration   Office   (the   “Prefettura”).   If a qualified application, the “Prefettura” must issue the “No Objection for Work”   (“Nulla Osta al Lavoro”) document within 90 days of application and issue the corresponding Blue Card work permit once the worker has entered Italy.  (Exceptions to this process may be available should the Italian company have special work permit arrangements with the Italian Ministry of Interior. )

Duration and Restrictions

The initial validity of the Blue Card is strictly linked to duration of the labor agreement, ranging from one year and three months for more temporary-duration labor agreements up to two years for more binding, long-term labor agreements.

During the first two years of status, Blue Card holders are fairly restricted in how they can work in Italy.  In essence, Blue Card holders cannot perform work that is not deemed as highly specialized to their skills and they may only change Italian employers if they receive prior authorization from the competent office of the Ministry of Labor (the Direzione Territoriale del Lavoro).

Rights and Benefits

Other than the restrictions mentioned above, Blue Card holders are granted the same rights as Italian citizens.

  • Specifically, regardless of  the duration of the worker’s Blue Card, his or her family members have the right to obtain a residence permit for family reasons pursuant to the general conditions set forth by Articles 29 and 30 of the Italian Immigration Law.
  • Workers  holding  an  EU  Blue  Card  issued  by  a different EU-member state, and after having resided with qualified work authorization for  at  least  18  months  in  said  Member State, may enter Italy to perform highly skilled work without having to apply for a visa. In this case, it is the new Italian employer’s duty to apply for the corresponding   “Nulla   Osta   al   Lavoro”   document within one month from the Blue Card holder entering Italy.
  • The new directed contemplates the possibility of a Blue Card holder applying for Italian permanent residence at the end of five continuous years of residence in the EU as a Blue Card holder and provided that the holder has maintained valid residence in Italy in the two years immediately prior to application for permanent residence.

Employers are encouraged to contact their Italian immigration supplier to further discuss a particular candidate’s qualification for the EU Blue Card.

Article written by Benedetto Lonato of LCA (Lega Colucci E Associati)  and Glenn Faulk, Senior Manager, Knowledge Management of Pro-Link GLOBAL.