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How to create a startup in Italy if you are a non-EU innovator

Three Government programs help innovative entrepreneurs who want to create a startup in Italy or to invest in the local innovation ecosystem


What does it make an Italian startup... Italian? A newborn company must satisfy some specific prerequisites to be officially defined as an Italian "innovative startup", of course. But the "Italian" part describes where the company has been incorporated, not by whom. This means that anyone - and not just Italian entrepreneurs - can create an Italian startup. Italy is well known for its maddening bureaucracy, so creating a new company is perceived as a daunting process. Not anymore. In the last few years, the Italian Government launched some programs specifically aimed at helping innovators from abroad to work and innovate in Italy.

Italia Startup Visa and Italia Startup Hub

The most interesting program is Italia Startup Visa. Designed for non-EU innovators "who are in their home countries, and wish to join the Italian startup ecosystem to establish their innovative business", ISV introduces a new procedure for the authorization (nulla osta) for the issuance of visas for self-employment, lasting one year.

Italia Startup Visa can make a real difference for non-EU citizens because it turns a complex process into a (relatively) fast and easy one. Applications are evaluated and - if everything is ok - accepted in less than a month, the whole process is handled by a single entity (MiSE) and it is completely free. And if you are already backed by a certified incubator in Italy, they'll do it for you.

A second program - Italia Startup Hub - is designed for non-EU citizens who are already in Italy with a residence permit, and wish to prolong their stay to establish an innovative startup. Essentially, ISH converts the first permit in a new specific one, defined "permit for startup self-employment". Again, what this program adds is simplicity, in the same way ISV does.

Investors welcome

If you are not an innovator, but simply someone who wants to invest in Italian innovation, there's a program for you too. It's called Investor Visa for Italy and provides a so-called "investor residence permit", a two-year residence permit renewable for further three-year periods.

IVI is available for non-EU citizens "who choose to invest in strategic assets for Italy’s economy and society", says MiSE. That means: for who wants to make a large investment in government bonds issued by Italy, companies incorporated and operating in Italy, innovative startups. An investor visa can only be issued for a single investment, falling into only one of these types.

MiSE evaluates all potential investments to determine if they meet the requirements to grant an investor visa. For those who pass this selection, there still are two conditions to satisfy. The investment declared in the visa application must be finalized within three months and must be maintained for the entire permit's validity. Investors are welcome, but MiSE likes more, of course, committed ones.

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Francesco Pignatelli

Francesco Pignatelli began his love story with computers and technology at the age of 14, with his ZX81. This led to a career in software development and then in IT and tech journalism. He has spent more than 25 years covering a wide range of IT and tech topics - telecommunications, cyber security, software development, enterprise software, knowledge management - for many of the most important Italian business tech magazines. He is always looking for new digital stuff and still writes unreliable software.

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