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What are the Penalties for Overstaying a Visa to Work in Italy?

How Long Can I Work Under the Table in Italy without a Visa?

As you were offered this 5 month job in advance of your arrival in Italy and your employers obviously know that you do not have a proper visa, I must ask:

What does your employer recommend?

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How Long Can I Work Under the Table in Italy without a Visa?

As you were offered this 5 month job in advance of your arrival in Italy and your employers obviously knows that you do not have a proper visa, I must ask:

What does your employer recommend?

Working on the Road

If the people that you are going to be working for are legit, I would imagine that they have previously hired other people who are in the same visa-less situation as you. I would ask your employer for the contact info for other employees and find out what they have done/ are doing.

I am inclined to say that you will not have any problems overstaying your visa in Italy, they seem to be a little more lax about overstays that other countries on the region (as of Feb. 2010). I have known many people working in the black markets of Europe who have not had any problems with overstaying their visas. What you propose to do is very common . . . and it usually works out. But there is always the odd chance that it won’t for you and you will be banned from Italy or fined.

I say that the situation is greatly in your favor, just so you do not fly through Germany, Switzerland, or go to England after you exit the Schengen zone.

The world is big — if you get caught just travel somewhere else for a few years. Travel is about taking chances and doing things that you normally wouldn’t.

More information on overstaying visas and/ or working in Europe:

Overstaying Visa in Europe
Overstaying Visa in Germany

How to find work in Europe

Work Abroad and Travel Employment

Walk Slow,



Original question about working in Italy

I am working in Italy for 5 months but don’t have any sort of visa. I am a U.S. citizen and would like to travel after I’m done working. I know that this is illegal, but how serious is the offense and do they really check your stamp? I only have one stamp from entering Italy. Are there ways to get around this or should I cut my losses and leave when the 90 day period is up? I would love the chance to save up during this job so I can see the continent, but would hate to get banned/fined or any other punishment that goes along with this. I hear that Greece and the UK are the most strict. I would love some advice as I was given the chance for this job a week before I had to be here, so I am just now looking up all of the information on what I’m allowed to do. Thank you!


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Filed under: Europe, Italy, Travel Help

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

16 comments… add one

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  • Whitney June 2, 2009, 3:00 pm

    Thank you so much. I do have a few more questions, I’m sorry! I actually only had a week between getting the job and arriving in Italy, so I didn’t have time to research my options, I just grabbed the opportunity and ran. My employer seems to think it shouldn’t be a problem, but she’s European, so she doesn’t necessarily know and the consequences don’t affect her that much. You say not to fly through England. This is my main concern. After working, I want to travel around and would really like to spend most of my time in Ireland/the UK. I figured I would spend about a month traveling after I’m done in Italy. Spend a week or two going around the Schengen zone then spend the rest in Ireland/UK. Is this impossible? Is it mainly England that is the problem? Could I fly into Ireland and Scotland and perhaps avoid trouble? Do you have any advice? I really do appreciate it.

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    • admin June 3, 2009, 10:49 am

      Hello Whitney,

      I will reply to your questions in two parts:

      As far as working in Italy goes, I will answer in this reply below, but your question about traveling to the UK and Ireland after overstaying your Schengen visa I will respond to as a new question.

      Based on my experience — and I also include traveler hearsay, here — it is my impression that you would be fine taking the job in Italy, working out your term, and then traveling anywhere you want afterward. I think that it is a very astute observation on your part to realize that just because your employer is Italian does not mean that she necessarily knows about the visa restrictions for foreigners. It is true — she probably really does not know much about this. But, on the other hand, if she has hired foreigners before she probably knows if they have had any immigration problems (I can’t say whether she would care enough to tell you about it though haha).

      It is very common for foreigners to work under the table in Europe — it is the lifeblood of the economy in many regions — and it does not seem as if you would be taking a very huge risk by taking the job. I have worked in various trades illegally in a few European countries, and it was never a very clandestine sort of deal: everyone knows that certain professions hire foreigners without proper visas — it is pretty normal. So if your work is teaching English, working in a hostel, or some other similar profession, it is my guess that MANY people have blazed the trail in front of you, and I would not think that you should have any problems.

      It is often a difficult deal to get proper working visas in Europe, and businesses know that they cannot jump through the hoops that their governments set for them . . . and, luckily, the governments often know how to look the other way. Working on tourists visas is the norm for many foreign workers in Europe because it is often WAY too complicated to get the proper documents for short term employment. i.e. By the time you could receive a proper work visa to Italy, your term of employment would probably be over and you would be ready to leave the country anyway.

      Just don’t tell immigration that you were working, and they more than likely will not ask. In truth, they probably will only ask you the general tourist questions, and if you give them normal tourist answers it will not sound off any alarms.

      If you want to look into things further, you could probably ask your employer for the email address or phone number of one of her foreign employees that you could consult.

      In all, the penalties for an American overstaying their visas in Europe are not, as of now, too great.

      Don’t worry and have a great time.

      I will answer your question about traveling in the UK and Ireland in another thread.

      Thank you for reading the Vagabond Journey Travel Magazine

      Walk Slow,


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  • Florence Italy Travel July 17, 2009, 10:24 am

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader.

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  • Pett August 15, 2009, 9:58 am

    Hi there,
    Thanks for article. Everytime like to read you.

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  • georgette jupe August 27, 2009, 8:43 am

    My advice is to not go through the UK if you overstay your visa. I had trouble there , they grilled me one time even though i was in my 90 day limit and another time refused to let me enter the UK when they saw that i had overstayed in Italy.. not fun..

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com September 1, 2009, 8:52 am

      Thank you for sharing this, Georgette,

      I tell people the same thing. If you overstay your Schengen visa you WILL BE CAUGHT IN THE UK and either denied entry or sent back to the country that you overstayed in to be processed.

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience.


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  • Paul April 3, 2010, 7:00 pm

    If you overstay your visa in a Schengen country and try to leave the Schengen area, won’t you have trouble with the non-Schengen country letting you enter? Not only the UK, but I can’t imagine Ukraine or other countries wanting to take a risk letting in someone who overstayed somewhere else. That means they have to take the risk that you will also overstay in their country and possibly work illegally to sustain yourself.

    I have a separate question though for those of you who overstayed: How did you pay for your health care in Europe? Do the hospitals check your passport to see if you are legally there or not? Do you have to pay in cash if you don’t have insurance? Can you be refused insurance if you arrive in Europe and overstay? A lot of countries don’t ask you if you have health insurance or the ability to finance your stay before letting you in.

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com April 18, 2010, 8:21 am

      The UK and Ireland are cooperative associates with Schengen Europe, which is why they try to assist with enforcing Schengen policy. The Ukraine and other such countries have no association with the Schengen region so do not enforce their laws. Though your point stands: an overstayed visa can come back to bite you farther down the road.

      About medical care, it is not my impression that passport checks are a part of receiving attention — doctors generally have nothing to do with immigration policy.

      I have never had a hospital anywhere in the world request my passport before providing care.



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  • Karrie September 14, 2010, 3:47 pm

    ** I am an American living in Italy. During the first (and hopefully only, knock on wood!) visit to a hospital here, the first thing the receptionist asked me for was my passport….

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  • Rebecca February 2, 2011, 8:02 am


    My question is: will I have issues re-entering the US?

    For example, if I stay in Italy illegally from June-December and then go back to the US for Christmas for a few weeks, then go back to Italy for a few more months, will I encounter issues at the border?

    Another example is if I stay in Italy illegally for a year, when I re-enter the US, will they give me any difficulties at the border about being away for so long?

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  • firegirl March 29, 2011, 11:27 pm


    I was gone for 2 years and when I came back they said- welcome home.

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  • brenda May 20, 2011, 12:04 pm

    thanks for the wonderful work

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  • brenda May 20, 2011, 11:41 am

    hi am kenyan and always travel alot but never have i tried to overstay my visa before my visa will expire in the next one week and its from the french embassy but i want to stay for another two months so that my boyfriend who is itallian can come back to kenya with me and gt married,will customs refuse me to be back here even when am married to their citizen??

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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com May 21, 2011, 7:09 am

      Yes, it is very possible that if you overstay your visa you could be banned from the entire Schengen region — most of Western Europe — for many years. Overstaying a visa — especially since you are from Africa — is not a good move if you ever want to return to Europe. Have your boyfriend meet you in Kenya when he is able to, or go stay in Albania or Croatia or Morocco and have him visit you there.

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  • ANN July 13, 2012, 4:19 am

    i am a nigerian but a resident in germany and now have a three years working visa. i came for holidays in nigeria and have stayed for a yr now. will i have problems at the airport when entering germany? if so , is it possible through Italy and connect by training? or what options do i have? i posted yesterday but no response so i decided to send it again. will be awaiting your response.
    thank you

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