Italy grants fewer and fewer foreign workers residency

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected]
Italy grants fewer and fewer foreign workers residency
Italy grants fewer and fewer new residency permits on employment grounds. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Compared to its resident population, Italy gives the lowest number of residency permits to non-European workers of any country in the EU, new research says.


The number of non-Europeans allowed to move to Italy for work plummeted from more than 350,000 in 2010 to just under 14,000 in 2018, according to a study by the Leone Moressa Foundation, an Italian think tank that focuses on the economic impact of immigration.

Italy granted just 13,877 permessi di soggiorno (residency permits) for employment reasons last year, the foundation says, and 40.5 percent of those went to seasonal workers. Just 10.6 percent went to highly qualified workers.

In contrast, Germany issued 68,000 work permits, the UK gave 108,000 and Poland granted nearly 600,000.

READ ALSO: Foreign business owners in Italy have increased by a third since 2010

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Comparing the number of incoming foreign workers to the total population, in fact, Italy comes out below any other EU country. It issued barely 0.23 permits for every 1,000 existing residents in 2018, well below the EU average of 2.24 and far behind the smaller nations of Cyprus (11.31), Poland (15.72) and Malta (21.40).

The drop in foreign workers allowed to move to Italy "is hardly compatible with an economic growth scenario", wrote the Leone Moressa Foundation, cited in Repubblica.

Until 2010 employment was non-Europeans' best chance of getting permission to move to Italy, with more permessi granted for work reasons than any other factor, according to official data from national statistics office Istat: 358,870 out of a total of 598,567 that year.


Yet in 2011 work permits slipped behind permits issued for family reasons and have declined almost every year since. They now make up the smallest number of permessi di soggiorno issued, behind family reunification, asylum and humanitarian reasons, study, elective residency and religious or health factors: just 12,200 out of 262,770 in 2017, the most recent year for which Istat data is available.

Of the work permits Italy issued that year, most went to US nationals (2,802), followed by Indians (1,617) and Albanians (1,269). 

While the number of non-EU citizens permitted to move to Italy has been shrinking ever since its peak in 2010, the percentage of them allowed to join family members or live in Italy for humanitarian reasons has increased over the same period, with more than 80 percent of new permessi now issued on one of these two grounds. 

READ ALSO: 'How I got an elective residency visa to retire in Italy'



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