Italy Has Rejected Half of All Startup Visa Applicants (And 9 in 10 Pakistanis)

Though the Italian Ministry of Economic Development was once in the habit of publishing statistics on its Startup Visa program each quarter, the stream of data stopped in 2020; it’s now been over a year since we’ve had an update. We do, however, have complete data covering all years prior to 2020, which show startling rates of rejection.

Of the 481 applications received since the program’s opening, only 250 had been approved by January 1st, 2020. Of the remainder, 184 were rejected and 47 were withdrawn. The figures imply a remarkably high rejection/withdrawal rate of 48%.

The most common reason for rejection, the Ministry’s report explains, was “weakness of the business model”, which accounted for 45% of declines, while 38% of rejections resulted from “the lack of innovative value of the business project”.


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Such high rejection rates appear not to have discouraged a number of tenacious entrepreneurs:

“In some cases, the same candidate applied for a startup visa more than once, in most cases after an earlier rejection by the ISV Committee. For this reason and compared to the total amount of applications, the number of single applicants for Italia Startup Visa is 442.”

Perhaps even more astonishing is that a non-negligible proportion of those applicants that did receive approvals actually changed their minds about Italy altogether:

“Among the 250 successful applicants, 27 informed the Ministry that they changed their plans about moving to Italy.”

Though rejection rates were high across the board, there was considerable disparity between nationalities. Among the nationalities that submitted five or more applications, the highest rate of acceptance was observed among Brazilians, 83% of whom were granted visas, followed closely by Ukrainians (81%), and Japanese (80%). At the other end of the scale, only one in ten applicants from Pakistan and one in five from India received approvals.

The Ministry reported that startup visa holders have so far established 40 new companies, while others had joined one of 19 “existing innovative startups”. The remainder, said the report, were still in the process of establishing their companies, progress on which was “constantly monitored”.

As observed in previous reports on the program, the economic benefits of the entrepreneur influx skew heavily toward the country’s north, the part of Italy that needs it the least.

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