Visas, Permits and More

Can I Convert My ERV to a Work Permit?

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Tell me if this sounds like you.

You want to move to Italy, because – well, it’s ITALY!  You have worked hard all your life, saved, invested, and now are ready to retire and live la dolce vita in beautiful Italy. 

As you begin to research what is involved in moving your life across the world, you quickly realize that you need a Visa to stay more than 90 days.   This is fine because as you dive a little deeper down the google rabbit hole, you find out that there is a Visa called Elective Residency, or as some people refer to it as the “retirement visa” that seems to fit your needs.

The criteria?

Substantial passive income. 


A place to live?

Check, or will check once you find a place to live. Easy enough.

Health Insurance?

Check and done.

Cannot work?

Read it again.

Must not engage in any work whatsoever…..

Wait a minute….  What if you want to work, even just a little consulting or online work.  Surely this is not a problem?

Let me start by explaining what “work” means as with the new age of the digital nomad, it is often misunderstood from an immigration standpoint.  The rule is, if your butt is sitting in a chair in Italy, while you are doing the “work” whether this is making a sales call, writing an email, or offering a paid consultation, you are deemed working in Italy.  You are working + physically in Italy.

For those of you who traveled for work or conferences in the past, you are likely familiar with the cross Canada/US border problems if you told the immigration official you were attending a work seminar or had sales calls.  It is the same here. 

If you are physically in Italy and performing work for remuneration, you are deemed to be working in Italy, and for that, you need a work visa, not an ERV.

But wait, maybe you read somewhere that there is a way to convert the Elective Residency Visa (ERV) to a work permit?   Was it a post, an invitation to consultation, a misleading ad?

Hang on, because we are about to get very real and very clear.

Let me start by explaining that the Elective Residency Visa is the most popular visa for retired people.  If you have a pension or enough regular, reliable, and life-long passive income you may be able to qualify for a permit to stay and start living your new life in Italy.

However, there is a catch that can get in the way of your idea of a little side hustle.  And that is the condition that you will not be permitted to work while you are “retired” in Italy.  This is a very clear line in the sand, and unfortunately, the internet trolls and dishonest marketers like to lure people into thinking there’s a way around it.

I want to get to the heart of the truth over the ERV and clear up this muddy water once and for all.   It’s important that you have clarity when you are making such a big decision and that you focus your energy and resources on something that will help.

After helping countless people evaluate, apply, and get the ERV, I know what I’m talking about, as does our legal counsel, Avv. Marco Mazzeschi, from Mazzeschi Law , one of the top immigration lawyers in Italy.

There is only one exception to the rule that permits you to convert your ERV to a work visa, and that is if you also have an Italian pension.  If you want to get technical, here is the law if you want to read it. Otherwise, let me summarize:

See art. 1, paragraph 2

Sono convertibili in permesso di soggiorno  per  motivi di lavoro, ove ne ricorrano  i  requisiti,  i  seguenti  permessi  di soggiorno:

a)    ……………………..

b)    …………………….

c)    permesso  di  soggiorno  per  residenza  elettiva,   di   cui all’articolo  11,  comma  1,  lettera  c-quater),  del  decreto   del Presidente della Repubblica 31 agosto 1999, n. 394;

The yellow part that I have highlighted means “provided that the mandatory conditions are met” and the Decree below refers to art. 11, para 1, letter c-quater of Decree 394/1999, that set forth that the permit for ERV is granted to a foreigner who receives a pension in Italy:

 c-quater)  per  residenza  elettiva  a  favore  dello   straniero titolare di una pensione percepita in Italia;

So, how do you get an Italian pension?

Well, you would have had to pay into the Italian system at some time in the past, which means you have lived and worked in Italy before.  If you have this (unlikely for most foreigners), then you’re good to go.  If you don’t, then you cannot convert your ERV to a work permit.

I understand that this is not the greatest news and that it seems to be contrary to what others have advertised is possible, but I can tell you that when looking deeper, you will learn that you likely don’t qualify.  

Just to be sure, I asked Avv. Mazzeschi what he would tell his clients should they insist that it is possible.  And his reply,

“In my opinion, this can be read that without a pension in Italy the foreigner cannot obtain the conversion of a permit for ERV into work.

If a client would ask me, I would tell him that we can surely try but with no guarantee of success. It is possible that the conversion is denied, and the applicant could try to file a Court action, but this would take years and additional legal fees.”

So there you have it.

The truth.

If you have been following me for a while or are part of our community at Smart Move Italy, you know that I prefer clarity over hidden messages. I know that the move to Italy is a major decision and that you deserve to know the truth early so you can make the proper plans.

So, before you go spending money on promises that lure you into thinking that you can convert an ERV into a work permit, pause.  Because unless you have an Italian pension, you are destined to simply wander around, eating in delicious restaurants, sipping Aperol Spritz in the Piazza, and truly retire to Italy.

There are worse things I imagine.

Samantha Wilson

NEW: Elective Residency Visa Workshop. Learn the exact ways that we help our 1:1 clients so you can increase your chances of a successful application. Learn more here >>>

Are you applying for the Elective Residency Visa but want to be sure you’re application is complete and presented in the best possible way? Submit a request for an ERV review and apply with confidence.

Listen to Episode #5:   Five in Ten with Antonio Sardi, Italian Residency Expert answer five of our listener’s top questions in ten minutes or less.  He gives us his view of the biggest mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy.

Need 1:1 help?  We are happy to help guide you through all stages of your move to Italy all you need to do is ask.

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  1. Mark Hinshaw says:

    This is such a useful article. It needs to be posted on every expat group on facebook. I can’t tell you how many times people say they want to move to Italy and will on an Elective Residency Visa and then work remotely or for their own business. Nope. Not possible. Par tof the problem is the name of the visa itself, which implies that the applicant unilaterally “elects” to live in Italy — as if it were an entitlement.
    Nope again. Anothe rproblem is people from Australia or Canada advising other nonEU people to get Working Holiday visas. They ar eonly available to people from a handful of countries that have special agreements. Neither the US nor the UK have such agreements. So Nope again.
    Finally, there are the people who immigrated to Italy 10-15 years ago (or ebfore Brexit, who say “Oh its easy! I did it!” Well that was before the annual quota was reduced to 500 — globally. Nope again. People who are of working age and need to work are simply not going to be able to live and work in Italy. They will have to wait until they are truly, fully retired. Indeed, over the last 5-6 years, Italy has dramatically reduced all types of immigration. The number of foreigners living in Italy has remained almost constant at 5 million (or 8% of the total population) for years. Essentially, that means someone has to die before someone new can come in.

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