VICENZA, Italy -- You are now living in Italy and looking for ways to earn some extra cash and keep your business skills sharp. Before you take that job on the economy or start your own business, you need to know that doing so may be illegal in Italy.

Following are some questions and answers about working here.

Can I accept an off-post job working for an Italian or American business?
United States military personnel, 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 Missione 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.

To be employed in Italy by someone other than the U.S. Forces (this includes GS, NAF, and government contracted positions) requires an Italian work visa and work permit. This is true for both Italian businesses and American-based corporations. If a person chooses to obtain these documents, he or she is declaring to the Italian government that they desire to be considered an ordinary resident of Italy. One cannot have both ordinary resident and "SOFA protected" status at the same time, no matter his position here.

Those who get a job on the Italian economy as an ordinary resident are not entitled to any "SOFA protected" privileges, including shopping in the post exchange and commissary, sending mail through the Military Postal System, driving SETAF-registered vehicles, and purchasing gas coupons. You are also responsible for all additional expenses that ordinary Italian residents incur, such as paying Italian income tax and making contributions into the Italian social security system.

I am an EU citizen married to a service member. Where can I work?
If you are command sponsored and listed on your service member spouse's orders, you are here under "SOFA protected status." As such, you must follow the guidance above for becoming an ordinary resident and give up "SOFA protected" status. Working as an ordinary resident, however, may disqualify a person from future U.S. government jobs in Italy.

Can I maintain skills by providing my service for free but be reimbursed for supplies - like baking cakes or coloring hair?
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. It is important to note, though, that any "donations" or other payments for your time, labor or expertise would be considered profit and would require a valid Italian work visa and permit.

Can I operate a home-based business (e.g., Mary Kay, Scentsy)?
If you are generating profit by work performed while living in Italy, Italian law mandates that you have a valid work visa and permit. Furthermore, using the American post office for home-based businesses is not allowed. Those who choose to obtain an Italian work visa and permit are declaring to the Italian government that you desire to be considered an ordinary resident of Italy. One cannot have both ordinary resident and "SOFA protected" status at the same time.

Can I telework for my prior employer in the United States?

Unfortunately, SOFA employment restrictions apply equally to Italian-based businesses and American-based businesses. Thus, if you are generating profit by work performed while living in Italy, even on your computer for a U.S.-based corporation, Italian law mandates that you have a valid work visa and permit.

For more information or for specific advice, contact the Vicenza Legal Assistance Office in Building 166 on Caserma Ederle. Or call at DSN 637-8834, comm. 0444-61-8834.

(Client Services, OSJA)