OPINION: Brits in Italy aren’t victims of a ‘hostile environment’ but of a bureaucratic system that wasn’t ready for Brexit

Brits living in Italy have found themselves facing pressing and sometimes serious problems after Brexit. They're not looking for loopholes, just workable solutions to a bureaucratic bind, says citizens' rights group Beyond Brexit.

OPINION: Brits in Italy aren't victims of a 'hostile environment' but of a bureaucratic system that wasn't ready for Brexit
Italy is bringing in changes to its tax system. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Thank you very much for giving prominence to the various post-Brexit issues. Sadly, the problem of being “required” to have a residency card for all manner of normal activities – but not having one yet – is still ongoing.

We are in the awkward position of being a new category of third country national. Some call it a special status, but we have another status… as guests in Italy, not special but with obligations just like all other citizens.


We are very conscious that implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement creates work, at a time when the country is still in the midst of the pandemic. 

We are not looking for “loopholes” or “sneaky” ways to play the system, just workable solutions to address immediate, sometimes serious problems. We do not feel we are victims of a “hostile environment” but of a highly devolved bureaucratic system, that wasn’t ready for us.

The new residency card is not in sight yet and there has been no clear across-the-board communication to indicate that our rights do not depend on it. This is tricky in a society which is used to documenting its residents! There will certainly be fewer headaches all round if we have it.

We understand the technical problems are being resolved and it should be a matter of weeks now before seeing the first cards. But that is for those who have already applied. The message needs to get out to everyone who hasn’t started the process yet.


In the meantime, we are grateful to the Ministero del Lavoro for providing a workaround (not, by the way, a “cheat” or a “hack” but a legitimate interim measure).

It is important to make it clear also that this is not a general panacea for the myriad of problems arising. It is specifically for registering work contracts, to work around systems requiring residency card details. And unfortunately, even then, it is not working in all cases. News of it is not always getting through or even being accepted.

Understanding of our rights remains patchy, and in our group we hear of new problems every day. They could be serious, such as one employer’s refusal to give a new work contract which may result in loss of residency for that individual. A circular to notaries on March 15th came too late for another who could not complete on a house purchase. Yet another person cannot proceed with her citizenship application.

Being asked to produce a residency document now pervades all aspects of our lives, practically everything that requires a contract and even things that don’t. At the end of transition, all eyes were just on getting in and out of Schengen and which piece of paper to carry. How little we knew.

We in Beyond Brexit, British in Italy, the Embassy, IOM are all working extremely hard to raise awareness, share information, provide support and get speedy solutions for UK nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. 

by Clarissa Killwick, Penelope Phillips McIntyre, Carole-Anne Richards
Co-founders/admins of Beyond Brexit – UK citizens in Italy

Further information on the new residency card for Brits in Italy can be found on the UK government’s website here, on the British in Italy website and Beyond Brexit page.

If you need help applying, you can contact the International Organisation for Migration by emailing [email protected] or calling 800 684 884.

Anyone who faces difficulties in accessing services in Italy is advised to contact the British Embassy via their Living in Italy website.

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OPINION: Why a ‘posto fisso’ work contract is still the Italian dream

What type of job do Italy's graduates dream of landing? For many, being employed by the state is the ultimate goal. Silvia Marchetti explains what's behind the intense competition for 'posto fisso' jobs in the public sector.

OPINION: Why a ‘posto fisso’ work contract is still the Italian dream

The dream of many Italians is to secure a permanent job contract either in the public or private sector – preferably in the public sector – and I know this fixation baffles many foreigners. 

There is a widespread belief, based on reality, that once you are a public employee hardly anything could cause you to lose your job.

The public sector is preferred to the private simply because it guarantees a more stable, secure life-long job that makes families confident about their future, and able to look ahead with optimism and make plans.

The state doesn’t usually fire employees (unless you do something extremely bad), and even the private sector decides layoffs only if there are very sound reasons, because contracts and trade unions protect employees.

There is an obsession in Italy with the so-called posto fisso, meaning a permanent job, even if the workforce has to migrate across the country.

READ ALSO: What to know about getting an Italian work permit in 2023

The fact that this type of job is the dream of most freshly graduated young people has a lot to do with family education and mentality.

Many Italian parents educate their children on the life-mission of securing a posto fisso, a bit like marrying, buying a house and having kids. And so children grow up with this ultimate goal in their mind, and the belief that having a permanent job with all the benefits, the paid pension schemes, paid holidays, sickness days and severance pay would make their life perfect.

Historic post office building in Italy

A permanent job contract in the public sector is the dream of many Italian graduates. Photo by Sara Cudanov on Unsplash

It would give them total security, and is seen like stare in una botte di ferro (literally meaning “being in an iron barrel”).

Italy has one of the world’s highest rates of spending on social security (second only to France, according to the OECD), and each year more resources are earmarked. This has also impacted on the approach towards work. Everyone wants a slice of the (public) pie.

It still astonishes me listening to many young people chatting on the beach about securing that permanent job, even if it’s not what they like, but they have already calculated what they will be earning over the years, and what their pension would likely be.

Italians generally don’t have much of an entrepreneurial spirit of ‘let’s live life, and work, as an adventure’. There’s a bit of a negativity around going freelance or registering as self-employed, becoming a libero professionista, for it is seen as scary and yielding a highly unstable and insecure future solely based on what you earn, which is really never a fixed amount each month.

Unlike abroad, Italian parents don’t all support libera professione (self-employment) and most would rather see their kids settle down with a safe job contract. Remote workers and freelancers are often looked down upon compared to those with a posto fisso, as if there existed an intangible work hierarchy made of unreachable privileges.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will Italy follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?

Many friends of mine got the long-coveted posto fisso because their parents were retiring and managed to exchange their retirement with a permanent job for their kid within the same firm or public body.

Police, nurse, firefighter, teacher and public administration jobs are the most wanted, because they’re for life. To get kicked out you must do something very horrible because the type of contract secures your position.

It doesn’t matter what it takes to land a posto fisso. Many friends of mine had to relocate to other cities, either in the very north, or in the very south, to be able to later find a permanent job in Rome, for instance as a middle school teacher.

There was one lady who, in order to teach on her native island off Rome’s coast where she lived, had to go all the way to work in a Basilicata school to get the job she wanted 10 years later on her home island.

Sometimes freshly-hired young people have to commute for hundreds of kilometres per day just to work fuori sede (out of the area) for a few years before landing a position in their own province.

Train station in Rome, Italy

Young Italian graduates often have to commute for hundreds of kilometres every day just to work. Photo by Chad Greiter on Unsplash

A scuba diver friend of mine who works in the fire brigade toured nine northern cities in order to finally settle down in his native Sicily where he could put to use his diving skills in deep Sicilian waters, rather than climbing frozen trees in Treviso to rescue cats.

Public jobs come with huge ‘competitions’ (concorsi pubblici) with thousands of applicants for just a few hundred, or less, available places. The numbers are impressive because the state must allow everyone who meets the required criteria to participate – but then just the lucky ones make it through, and then they often end up on waiting lists anyway.

READ ALSO: The jobs in Italy that will be most in demand in 2023

Every time I pass a major Carabinieri military police station in Rome I see young people lined up for exams and they really have miserable faces, having traveled probably hundreds of miles that same day.

State exams for qualified professions such as lawyers are also massive in terms of applicants. The cost to the state is relatively low compared to the time and money applicants must waste on taking part, given that they often have to pay to access state exams.

But there’s also the other side of the coin: exploiting ‘geography’ can come in handy. Surprisingly, attending a state exam to become a lawyer in certain remote southern regions where there are few applicants, thus less competition and easier tests, increases the chances of passing those exams.

Many people I know who failed the state exam for law in Rome after three consecutive attempts eventually passed it in deepest Molise or Abruzzo. They then went back to Rome or Milan to work in some fancy attorney office.

I don’t think Italians will ever get over the posto fisso obsession – unless merit and entrepreneurship are more effectively supported with targeted policies.