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Immigration Italy: what the current immigration law says about entering and staying in Italy

Overview of all the steps to follow in order to legally immigrate to Italy and obtain a residence permit or visa.

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With this guide, we would like to help you understand the conditions of immigration to Italy, in line with the active Italian immigration laws. By the end, you will know more about the state of immigration in Italy, conditions of legal entry to the Italian territory and how you can stay in the Country by registering your presence to the Authorities.

State of the Immigration in Italy

According to Istat, the Italian National Institute of Statistics, at the beginning of 2021 foreign nationals made up 8,7% of the population in Italy. The majority of them lived in the centre-north of the country. The four regions with the highest number of foreign nationals in descending order are Emilia-Romagna, Lombardia, Toscana, and Lazio.

Is Italy hard to immigrate to?

In order to assess the complexity of an immigration case to Italy, it is important to take into account the different procedures in place for EU and non-EU citizens.

First of all, Italy is part of the Schengen area, a border-free area among all of its State Members. The Schengen Area, in fact, allows free movement to anyone that is legally present in the European Union. Most European Countries are part of the Schengen Area.

The latest State to join the agreement was Croatia, which officially entered Schengen on January 1st, 2023.

Furthermore, there are also non-EU countries that are part of the convention, such as Norway and Switzerland.

Some countries that are not part of the Schengen Area have signed Visa waiver agreements with Italy. The goal is to facilitate citizens entering the Country without a Visa, but only for specific purposes.

Based on your nationality and purpose of your visit, you may be granted access to Italy without a Visa. You can check if you qualify directly on the official website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Travellers that do not fall within the above categories need to apply for an Italian Visa. Applying for an Italian Visa will make the whole immigration process longer and more complex.

It is not possible to give the exact timeline or required documents to immigrate to Italy without first knowing your case.

As a matter of fact, Consulates worldwide may request different documents to obtain different visas. This makes it difficult to give the exact timeline or requirements without first knowing the specific case of the applicant.

What are the immigration laws in Italy?

Based on Italian immigration laws, the most important aspects to consider when planning to enter Italy are:

  • whether travellers need to apply for an Italian Visa;
  • whether the quota system is relevant to the applicant’s case;
  • how long it is possible to stay in Italy;
  • obtainment procedure of the Italian residence permit.

Who does not need an Italian visa?

All citizens of Schengen countries can enter Italy without a visa.

Non-EU citizens and nationals of countries that signed visa waiver agreements can stay in Italy without a visa for 90 days. The 90-days period applies exclusively within a timeframe of 180 days.

Please note that the European Commission is expected to launch the new ETIAS authorisation system in November 2023. ETIAS is aimed at identifying security, irregular migration or high epidemic risks posed by visa-exempt visitors travelling to the Schengen States. Non-EU nationals who do not need a visa to travel to the Schengen area will have to apply for ETIAS prior to the trip.

What happens if you stay in Italy for more than 90 days?

Overstaying in Italy equals expulsion from the country. However, the Italian immigration law also establishes that the following categories are exempt from expulsion even after the 90 days period:

  • foreign nationals under the age of 18;
  • foreign citizens who have obtained the residence permit;
  • foreign nationals who cohabitate with relatives within the second degree of kinship or with the Italian spouse;
  • pregnant women or women who have given birth within the last 6 months.

Who does need an Italian visa?

All non-EU citizens, whose Countries have not yet signed visa waiver agreements, need a visa to enter Italy.

Depending on the necessity, applicants can opt for a short-term or long-term Italian Visa.

How many immigrants does Italy accept each year?

The yearly quota for non-EU nationals allowed to enter the country to work is established by the Italian Government through the Flow decree (Decreto flussi). Furthermore, the decree also establishes the maximum number of residence permits that had been granted for the purpose of studying that can be converted into residence permits for the purpose of working.

Residence permits for the purpose of working can be obtained for different types of work. In the decree there is also a quota for the conversion of residence permits for the purpose of working as a seasonal employee into one for non-seasonal employees.

Learn more about the Decreto Flussi and its quota system in our analysis of the Flow decree for 2023.

The Italian residence permit

The Italian residence permit is a document issued to non-EU citizens that meet the necessary requirements (authorization and/or visa). The permit is for those who intend to stay in Italy for longer than 90 days.

The Italian residence permit is usually issued in 3-6 months and must be applied for within 8 days from the arrival in Italy.

Based on the purpose of your stay, you might need a specific type of residence permit. For instance, there are Italian permits to work, study and more.

In Italy there are different types of residence permits based on the purpose of the stay in the country. For instance, there are permits for non-EU nationals that are in Italy to work, study, etc.

How can I get the residency in Italy?

The Italian immigration law requires EU and non-EU citizens to obtain a residency registration for a permanent stay in Italy.

Foreigners can apply for the Italian residence only in case of:

  • possession of Italian residence permit valid for more than 3 months;
  • long-term housing in Italy.

For EU citizens, obtaining the residency registration means acquiring a stay permit that will allow them to legally stay in Italy.

The application for the Italian residency registration is available online. Documents to include with the application may vary based on factors like applicant’s nationality and work status.

It is possible to request simultaneously the residency registration for a main applicant along with dependant family members. In this case, it is necessary to attach to the application certificates that can prove the family relations.

How long does it take to have the Italian residency?

After filing the request, applicants receive a “Comunicazione di avvio del procedimento anagrafico”: a confirmation that the registration process has correctly begun.

For the procedure to be officially complete, the police will go to the address notified in the application to check that the applicant actually lives there.

The police will check the notified address in the application within 45 days from the receipt of the confirmation.

Once the Authorities successfully check the address, the residency registration will be complete.

Become an Italian citizen with the Italian Citizenship

With the Italian Citizenship, you will have more rights than with an Italian residence permit. As a matter of fact, the Italian citizenship grants the same rights as if you were born and raised in Italy.

You can get the Italian citizenship through marriage, by descent, through legal residence and many other cases. And yes, in case you were wondering, Italy recognizes dual citizenship.

Regulatory Framework

Legislative Decree of the 25th of July 1998, n°286

Reference (Italian only)

Schengen acquis, Article 1(2) of Council Decision 1999/435/EC of the 20th of May 1999


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