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Recognition of Professional Qualifications in Italy

In Italy, in line with the European Union Directive 2005/36/EC, the recognition of professional qualifications acquired abroad is exclusively entrusted to ministries, depending on the specific professional discipline. This centralised approach ensures that the evaluation process is uniform, transparent, and in compliance with the highest quality standards, while simultaneously safeguarding public protection and maintaining professional quality within the Italian labour market. Depending on the profession for which recognition is sought, the competent ministry varies: the Ministry of Education, University and Research for academic professions; the Ministry of Health for health professions; the Ministry of Justice for legal professions; and the Ministry of Economic Development for technical and commercial professions. These governmental bodies operate following detailed criteria and procedures to assess foreign qualifications, ensuring that professionals wishing to practise in Italy meet the specific standards and requirements set by Italian legislation and professional regulations.
The administrative procedure aimed at the recognition of qualifications and professional titles obtained abroad is a key aspect for those wishing to practise their profession in Italy. It is essential to understand the distinction between regulated and unregulated professions, as outlined by Italian legislation in accordance with Directive 2005/36/EC and Directive 2013/55/EU, which govern the recognition of professions.
Regulated professions are those for which access and practice are contingent upon possessing specific professional qualifications, as defined by the relevant sector legislation. This means that to practise such professions in Italy, the legal recognition of one’s educational qualifications and professional qualifications obtained abroad is indispensable.
Conversely, for unregulated professions, access and practice do not require passing a state exam, nor registration with a professional order or register. In these cases, there are no specific regulatory requirements for the use of foreign academic degrees or qualifications, leaving it to the employer’s discretion to evaluate the adequacy of the professional qualification obtained abroad.
This differentiation is crucial and acts as a guide to navigate the process of recognising professional qualifications in Italy, highlighting the importance of an informed and aware approach depending on the professional category of interest.
Italy was the first EU Member State to adopt Directive 2005/36/EC into its legal system, through Legislative Decree No. 206 of 9 November 2007, which largely replaced the previous national regulations concerning professional recognitions. The next step in regulatory evolution with the adoption of Directive 2013/55/EU, transposed into Italian law on 18 January 2016 by Legislative Decree No. 15 of 28 January 2016, brought significant changes to the original 2005 Directive, introducing new provisions to further facilitate the free movement of professionals within the European Union.
According to Article 2 of the decree, the scope of application concerns EU Member State citizens who wish to practise a regulated profession in Italy, using professional qualifications obtained in one of the Member States. These individuals can operate as employees or self-employed, including freelancers, provided their qualifications enable them to practise the profession in the Member State of origin. It is important to note that this legislation does not extend to EU citizens holding professional qualifications acquired outside the European Union.
This regulatory framework is crucial for facilitating worker mobility within the EU, allowing professionals to practise their profession in a Member State different from where they obtained their qualifications.

Right of Establishment and Freedom to Provide Services

The right of establishment gives professionals the opportunity to carry out their activity permanently in another Member State, after recognition of the professional qualifications acquired in the country of origin. This process requires interaction with the competent Italian authority to ensure that the qualifications comply with the standards required for the desired regulated profession.
Concurrently, the freedom to provide services allows professionals to offer their skills in Italy on a temporary and occasional basis, without the need for formal recognition of qualifications, provided they submit a prior declaration. This regime is particularly advantageous for those wishing to work across borders without permanently settling, maintaining their operational base in the country of origin.

Prior Declaration and Qualification Check

The prior declaration serves as a notification to the Italian authorities of the professional’s intention to practise their profession temporarily in Italy. This declaration, which must be renewed annually or every 18 months depending on the profession, includes information on professional liability insurance coverage and on the temporary and occasional nature of the activity.
For professions that involve risks to public health or safety, Italian authorities may perform a prior check of qualifications before allowing the professional activity to be carried out. This ensures that all professionals operate according to the required safety and competence standards.

Promoting Professional Mobility

Directive 2005/36/EC and its national transposition actively promote professional mobility across Europe, encouraging professional associations and Member States to develop common platforms for the recognition of qualifications. These platforms aim to reduce substantial differences in training and qualification requirements between states, thereby facilitating broader mutual recognition of professional skills.
European citizens intending to permanently carry out their activity in Italy must therefore submit an application for the recognition of their professional qualification to the competent Italian authority for the subject matter, accompanied by a list of documents specified in a note.
The Italian Authority responsible for accepting the application must communicate to the applicant within 30 days of receipt that the application for recognition and any missing documents required to complete the investigative phase have been received. Within 120 days of receiving the request, the responsible administration must conclude the investigative phase of the procedure for the recognition of the professional qualification, issuing a duly motivated decision. In relation to the application for recognition, the responsible administration may take the following decisions:

  • Acceptance of the application;
  • Acceptance of the application subject to the passing of compensatory measures by the provider, in case substantial differences are identified between the applicant’s training and the analogous training provided by the Italian system, as well as between the professional activities carried out in the country of origin and those envisaged for the exercise of the same profession in Italy, which cannot be compensated through professional experience and/or supplementary training;
  • Rejection of the application in case the responsible administration finds a lack of correspondence between the profession practised in the country of origin and the one regulated in Italy, or in the absence of the requirements provided by the directive on recognition analysed in the preceding pages.

In the event the administrative procedure in question, aimed at obtaining a judgement of equivalence between professional qualifications, has a negative outcome, the competent administration will provide the professional with compensatory measures, such as an adaptation internship or an aptitude test necessary to fill the educational and professional gaps.
If, on the other hand, the judgement of equivalence has a positive outcome, the procedure concludes with the adoption of the administrative decision of recognition of the qualification issued by the Ministry competent for the professional area in question, with the consequent issuance of the authorisation to practise the professional activity, which may be carried out under the same conditions provided by the legislation of the host State for its own citizens. This decision will constitute a legally valid title for registration in registers, lists, or directories for the practice of regulated professions, in addition to offering its holder the benefit of practising the profession with the denomination of the professional title provided by the legislation of the State of establishment.
Among the possible outcomes of the application for recognition for permanent practice of the profession, the case of granting partial access must also be considered.
Partial access to the profession allows the provider to carry out their activity in the territory of the Italian State exclusively in the sector corresponding to that for which they are qualified in the Member State of origin or provenance, although such activity falls within the scope of a profession with a broader spectrum of action in Italy.
However, it should be noted that the mode of professional recognition of partial access does not apply to professionals who benefit from automatic recognition.
The competent Italian administration may grant partial access, after evaluating the particular case of the applicant, provided the following conditions are met:

  •  The differences between the professional activity legally carried out in the State of origin or provenance of the Union and the regulated profession in Italy must be such that the application of compensatory measures does not allow the applicant to complete the training programme required by Italian legislation for full access to the practice of the regulated profession;
  •  The professional activity can be objectively separated from other activities related to the regulated profession in Italy;
  •  The professional is fully qualified to practise the professional activity for which they request partial access in the State of origin or provenance.

In the event the responsible administration grants partial access, the professional will be authorised to practise the activity with the professional title of the Union State of provenance.
Similarly to what is provided for citizens of the Union States, the professional qualification obtained by a citizen coming from a third country, who temporarily or permanently intends to practise their profession in Italy, is subject to verification carried out from time to time by the administrations of the State, in order to establish the equivalence between the foreign and Italian titles.

Implications for EU Citizens and Third-Country Nationals

While the directive focuses primarily on EU citizens, its provisions also extend to professionals from third countries, provided their qualifications are recognised according to the principles established by the EU. This opens significant opportunities for global professional mobility, allowing qualified professionals to contribute to European economies and societies.
In summary, Directive 2005/36/EC and Legislative Decree No. 206/2007 constitute a fundamental basis for the recognition of professional qualifications within the European Union, facilitating worker mobility and promoting a more integrated and flexible labour market. These regulations strengthen the principle of free movement of professionals, essential for growth and innovation within the EU.

Conditions for the Recognition of Professional Qualification

Under and for the effects falling within the scope of application provided in paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the cited Legislative Decree 206/2007, for access to or the practice of a regulated profession, such as that of a doctor, architect, nurse, and all other professions not included in Chapters III and IV of the present title, “professional qualifications prescribed by another Member State to access and practise the corresponding profession are admitted to professional recognition”. The professional competence certificates or training titles admitted to recognition must meet the following condition, namely, they must be issued by a competent authority in another Member State, designated pursuant to the legislative, regulatory, or administrative provisions of that State.
Furthermore, paragraph 2 of Art. 21 of Legislative Decree 206/2007 provides that “access to and practice of the regulated profession are also allowed to professionals who have practised their activity full-time for a year or, if part-time, for a total duration equivalent, in the course of the previous ten, in another Member State that does not regulate it and have one or more competence certificates or one or more training titles” that attest to issuance by a competent authority in another Member State confirming the preparation for the practice of the profession.
Moreover, the year of professional experience is not necessary if the training titles possessed by the applicant sanction a regulated training and education.

Training in a Foreign State outside the European Union for Professions with a Special Structure and for Equivalent Titles

European citizens in possession of a qualification obtained in a non-EU State who have obtained recognition of the qualification by the competent Italian administrative authority, – for example, in the healthcare sector -, must, according to the current legislation for the healthcare professions sector, register with the relevant professional register, where provided, within two years from the date of issuance of the decree recognising the professional qualification enabling the practice of the profession. After this period, the decree of recognition will lose its effectiveness.
Regarding professions not organised in orders or colleges, the decree of recognition will lose its effectiveness, should the professional not have used it for the purposes of practising the profession, for a period of two years from the date of issuance.
For professions defined as “with a special structure” which include those included in the former Annex II of Directive 2005/36/EC, abolished by the new Directive 2013/55/EU, European citizens who intend to practise their profession in Italy, must be in possession of a certification from the EU State of origin or provenance that attests the equivalence of the training pathway and the experience gained with the level of qualification required by current legislation, in line with post-secondary education lasting at least one year or an equivalent part-time duration.
Interested parties may also submit an application for recognition for equivalent titles, where by equivalent title is meant each training title or set of titles issued by a Competent Authority in the State of provenance that attests the conclusion of a training pathway acquired in a European Union State within or outside institutional programmes, which is recognised by the aforementioned State as equivalent in level and which confers on the holder the same rights of access or practice of the profession for which recognition is requested in Italy.

In Italy, the process of recognising professional qualifications acquired abroad involves various ministries, depending on the specific profession for which recognition is requested. These entities are tasked with evaluating recognition applications in accordance with the European Union Directive 2005/36/EC and national regulations. Below is an overview of the activities carried out by the ministries involved in this process:
The ministries involved in the process of recognising professional qualifications perform several key activities, including:

  • Reception and Evaluation of Applications: They receive recognition applications and evaluate the conformity of foreign qualifications with Italian standards and professional requirements.
  • Guidance and Support to Applicants: They provide information and assistance to applicants on the procedures to follow, the necessary documents, and the evaluation criteria.
  • Verification and Evaluation Proceedings: They conduct thorough checks of the qualifications presented, which may include document analysis, interviews, exams, or internship periods.
  • Issuance of Decisions: They issue official decisions on the recognition of qualifications, which may result in full recognition, conditional (with additional requirements such as training or supplementary exams), or refusal of the application.
  • Coordination with Professional Bodies: They collaborate with professional orders and colleges to ensure that recognised professionals are adequately integrated into the Italian professional system.

The process of recognising professional qualifications in Italy is therefore a complex activity that requires collaboration between various ministries and entities, to ensure that professionals qualified abroad can practise their profession in Italy in compliance with national standards and requirements.