The Italia Start-up Hub (ISH) streamlines procedures for non-EU immigrants already living in Italy to obtain a new residence permit for entrepreneurship. Applicants can obtain authorisation for the residence permit in less than 30 days and without the need to leave Italy at any time. ISH is an extension of Italia Startup Visa (ISV) policy, which makes it easier for non-EU entrepreneurs to move to Italy to establish an innovative start-up.
The Italian Startup Act of 2012 identified the need for policy action to boost the innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem, and led to the launch of the Startup Visa in June 2014. The ISH was launched in December 2014 because aspiring innovative entrepreneurs from non-EU countries had to undergo a long and uncertain process to obtain an entrepreneur visa, which often required them to return to their countries of origin. The ISH sought to address that disincentive and tap into the potential of aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs already in Italy (e.g. as students, trainees, employees, on family visas).
ISH fast-tracks and centralises the application process to convert residence permits into start-up entrepreneur status. The ISH functions as a one-stop shop for communication with administration authorities. Applicants are guided through a four-step process on a dedicated website. To apply, candidates must submit a business plan, a “pitch deck” as well as proof of resources (EUR 50 000 to be invested in the project). Templates for all documents (including cover letters) are provided. The documents are to be submitted online, either in Italian or in English. The business plan is examined and if approved, the candidate receives a clearance to continue the process, and an appointment is made in-person at the Desk for Immigration. The candidate needs to retrieve a kit at an authorised post office and the final visa is delivered at the local police station. Based on the Italia Startup Visa model, ISH co-ordinates communication between the Ministry of Economic Development and three other ministries (Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Labour) and waives the assessment of proposed business plans in cases where an Italian incubator has expressed “willingness to accommodate” the applicant.
The Italian Start-up Hub awarded 17 visas between December 2014 and the end of 2019, out of 21 applications. Applicants were young (34 years old on average) and two-thirds were men. All successful candidates held a tertiary degree and most were international students who decided to stay in Italy to become entrepreneurs after completing their degree. The ISH is much smaller in size than the Italian Start-up Visa programme which awarded 250 visas between its introduction and the end of 2019 (out of 481 applications). A 2019 assessment of the ISV recommended increasing communication around both the ISV and ISH programme. In particular, it called for enhanced promotion of the ISH programme to increase participation given the large pool of potential applicants and their high untapped potential. Nonetheless, the ISH programme successfully addresses a gap in the ISV coverage as the ISV focuses on attracting talent from abroad while the ISH focuses on retaining talent already in Italy. The operation of the ISH is also efficient as it meets its objectives of processing applications in 30 days.
- Guidi, F. (2015), Italian Minister of Economic Development’s Report to Parliament on the implementation of policies in support of innovative startups and SMEs , http://italiastartupvisa.mise.gov.it/media/documents/Relazione_Parlamento_startup_e_PMI_innovative_2015-ENG_01_03_2016.pdf)
- Italian Government (2021), Italian Startup Visa and Startup Hub webpage, http://italiastartupvisa.mise.gov.it/
- Italian Ministry of Economic Development (2020), #ISV survey 2019, Italia Startup Visa Report, www.mise.gov.it/images/stories/documenti/Programma_evento_ISV_10_febbraio_2020_ENG.PDF
- Italian Ministry of Economic Development (2019), Italia Startup Visa & Hub - Fourth quarterly report 2019, www.mise.gov.it/images/stories/documenti/ISVH-4th-quarterly-report-2019-29_01_2020.pdf.