Frequently Asked Question #60:
Q: What rules apply to non-EU citizens who start or buy a business in Italy?
A: If you don't have the right of abode in the EU and you want to start or buy a business in Italy, you need a visa. To get the visa, it may be necessary to obtain documentation from the local Camera di Commercio (Chamber of Commerce) in Italy - for which you might have to prove that you are qualified to run the business. Such qualification may simply be having the funds to buy the business, or it may be more than that. To initiate the process, it is wise to begin at your local Italian Embassy.
In practice, people who bring capital into Italy, and who are not a drain on the resources of the Italian state, are generally welcome. In many cases, not being a "drain on the resources of the state" may simply be a matter of taking out private health insurance and having adequate financial resources.
In theory it might be possible to run a business in Italy while being formally resident in another country. There are a couple of things to bear in mind if you are considering doing this, though:
- If you enter the EU on a visa waiver (US citizens qualify for this) then you are limited to a stay of 90 days in any 180 day period. Non-EU citizens should have their passports stamped when they enter the Schengen area, which includes Switzerland (as of November 2008) and most countries in the EU, including Italy. The Italian authorities may use this stamp to establish whether or not you have exceeded the time allowed.
- If you are not formally resident you can't apply for an Italian driving licence, buy an Italian-registered car, or send your children to Italian state schools, and both the cost of your electricity supply and your bank account charges will be a little greater than otherwise.
You might like to buy a book (there are a couple listed on our website here) that deals with this subject in more detail.
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