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Finding an English teacher in Italy is now virtually impossible
Author: EnglishTeacher    2021-10-15


As the UK left the EU at the end of 2020, the freedom of movement of British citizens ended and instead required obtaining a visa or permit to live and work in Italy.

For hundreds of language schools across the country, the complex and protracted paperwork currently applied poses recruitment challenges.

For example, the requirements for British citizens to work in Italy are the same as for Americans and Australians. All of these are on the same list of “third countries” that do not belong to the EU or EEA.


And this removal of easy access to a huge pool of native English speakers from within Europe has affected Italian language schools that are currently struggling to attract new educational staff.

“”Brexit has had a major impact on our recruitment policy, “said Laura Shearer, director of Inside English, a language school in southern Puglia.

“Currently, it is virtually impossible to hire a UK teacher without dual citizenship and therefore an EU passport,” she added.


Looking at job ads for Italian English teachers, everyone says that of the dozens of reviews, EU passports are essential or prioritized. Many schools require candidates to have the right to live and work in Italy.

Fortunately for these language schools, Ireland is part of the EU, forming another source of English-speaking sources nearby, so Irish candidates are struggling with the shortage.


However, the shortage of educational staff after Brexit cannot be completely filled.

“British teachers made up the majority of Italian teachers. It was a benefit of freedom of movement. They didn’t need a visa, which means people could come and go very easily.” Shearer told us.

The job market was once very fast, but language schools are now finding themselves stuck in a complex process that effectively locks out UK job seekers.

So can a language school help get those rights for British citizens?

“”We are happy to assist you in the paperwork of your applicant, but the long time frame associated with the Italian bureaucracy means that you are looking for a job elsewhere. Or, unless you have a specific reason to come to Italy, you are very unlikely to wait. I told us.


Work visas prevent hiring

To get a work visa in Italy “Nuraosta”, Italian employers must apply at the local immigration office (Sportello Unico d’Immigrazione – SUI).

After running a language school for 15 years, Shearer said it could take up to two years, if any, for one to be awarded.

“”How many EFL teachers are willing to wait two years for a job teaching English in Italy? She asked.

In the past, British people had the opportunity to travel and live in Italy for a year, but now it’s not that simple and has had a huge impact on these businesses, benefiting from the ease of travel they used to have. I’m giving up.

It’s not impossible to finally get the paperwork needed to move to Italy for work, but the waiting time and effort to jump over bureaucratic hoops can postpone many candidates. 


Brexit’s impact on flexible teachers

Jessica Wynne-Susella is the Human Resources Manager for Laborsitters, an English language school for children with offices in Florence and Milan.

For their business, Brexit was “an absolute disaster and still exists,” she said, adding that “it’s terrible, terrible shame.”

Their school relies on part-time workers, which was not a problem before Britain left the EU. Many of the teachers were either enrolled in college or spent a year in Italy wanting to learn a language and live in a different culture.

Since Brexit, their flexible British teachers have been cut off, causing major problems for the company.

“Many clients are not native to English, they are especially looking for English teachers rather than American teachers. We can’t offer that right now,” said Wynne-Susella.

Because it’s a flexible arrangement, their positions aren’t full-time, so they can’t afford to invest in sponsors to get a work visa.

Shearer pointed out the same problem. To obtain a work permit, you need to apply to that particular person and indicate why you need to hire a non-EU citizen.

“It’s not easy. We want to hire them, but we can’t,” she said.

Combined effects of Covid and Brexit

Covid’s restrictions were already straining the company as she pointed out that fewer people were attending the course and parents were hesitant about the possibilities of further online learning.

“We tried to do our best through Covid, which affected recruitment and our business. We spent the whole summer recruiting instead of the usual month.” She said.

“Now, a system that hires staff as a result of Brexit may ruin us,” Shearer added.

In the case of Laborsitters, on the other hand, the move to an online platform has saved the business. This is because they have connected with children across the country and have access to a wider pool of teachers, including British teachers who were already in Italy before Brexit.

“We have grown our business online through a pandemic. It was good for us. This aspect really took off and we are very grateful. Now we are children far away. We continue to find new ways to engage with, “she told us.

Alternative education solutions for staff shortages

This year, Shearer turned to non-native English teachers with EU passports to survive bureaucratic formalism and waiting times.

The language school currently employs three Irish teachers. One is a British teacher who already lived in Italy before Brexit, and the other is a British teacher who has an EU passport because he has a Portuguese parent.

They must be at C2 English level. This is not a native, but a skilled, extraordinary level of language skill, 6th and final stages of English Common European Framework of Reference for References (CEFR)..

The lack of a native speaker can pose a real problem for Shearer’s business, as she pointed out that clients and parents always seek native speakers as a top priority.

However, she said she was cornered and could not move forward with applicants who were too complex to work in the EU.

From recent job listings, she received 100 applications, but even if she had the experience and qualifications she wanted, she wasn’t qualified and only took three interviews.

Both schools said they were looking for teachers from Ireland with EU passports, American students, or teachers with post-Brexit residence cards, the ‘carta di soggiorno‘ that proves the post-Brexit rights of UK nationals..

This biometric ID card shows your residency status and is available to British citizens who were lawfully living in Italy before January 1st 2021.

So it won’t necessarily attract new talent, unless the British nationals already in Italy fancy changing jobs.

Wynne-Susella has noted similar problems too, saying “everyone is trying to think of different ways to get in to Italy now”, adding, “the rules are still not clear post-Brexit”.

Even though she receives applications from exceptional English speakers, clients don’t want someone who is Dutch teaching their children, for instance.

“The key to our business is having mother tongue speakers, as parents want the full immersion with exposure to the accent and pronunciation,” she said.

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