Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)
U.S. military members, government civilian employees, contractors, and their dependents in Italy live here pursuant to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). U.S. military members on orders do not need a passport or a visa to enter and remain in Italy. However, U.S. Government civilian employees and all dependents who are not European Union citizens are required to have a Missione Visa and Soggiorno Permit. The Italian government gives these documents to those individuals who are here solely for the purpose of the U.S. military mission and, therefore, have “SOFA protected” status.
With a Missione Visa and Missione Soggiorno Permit, you are eligible for employment on base with the U.S. Forces. To be employed in Italy by someone other than the U.S. Forces (U.S. Forces would include GS, NAF, and U.S. Government contracted positions) requires an Italian Work Visa and Work Permit. This is true for both Italian businesses and American-based corporations as well. If you choose to obtain an Italian Work Visa and Work Permit, you are declaring to the Italian government that you desire to be considered an ordinary resident of Italy. You cannot have both ordinary resident and “SOFA protected” status at the same time, regardless of whether you are a military member, civilian employee, or a dependent.
If you get a job on the Italian economy as an ordinary resident, you will no longer be entitled to any “SOFA protected” privileges, including shopping in the BX and commissary, sending mail through the Military Postal System, driving SETAF registered vehicles, and purchasing gas coupons. Per the SOFA, you are also responsible for all of the additional expenses that ordinary Italian residents incur, such as Italian income taxes, contributions to the Italian social security system, and the Italian television tax to name a few. Perhaps most importantly, ordinary residents cannot avail themselves of foreign criminal jurisdictional assertion or waiver rights under Article VII of the NATO SOFA – this means that if you are accused of committing a crime in Italy, you’re on your own within the Italian legal system.
It is important to note that any payment for your time, labor, or expertise would be considered profit and would require a valid Italian Work Visa and permit. Activities such as baking cakes or coloring hair would not be considered a "profitable enterprise" so long as any reimbursement is limited to the cost of supplies. Italian law mandates that you have a valid Italian Work Visa and permit if you generate profit from home-based businesses (e.g. MaryKay, Scentsy, Pampered Chef, etc.), from working for U.S. corporations or other entities, or even working on your computer. Furthermore, using the APO for homebased businesses is not allowed. If you have questions, learn more from your Legal Assistance Office.