How many people does Italy grant work permits to every year?

If you’re planning to move to Italy for work from outside Europe, you’ll need to consider whether you qualify for a work permit under Italy’s ‘decreto flussi’, or foreign workers quota. Here's how many people are eligible.

Italy has released its annual quota for foreign workers permitted to enter the country for 2022.
Italy has released its annual quota for foreign workers permitted to enter the country for 2022. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

One piece of good news for those planning a move is that the Italian government has increased the number of foreign workers allowed into the country this year

The government this week approved the latest annual decreto flussi (which translates as ‘flows decree’), the annual limit on the number of permits issued to those coming from outside the EEA to work.

READ ALSO: Freelance or employee: Which is the best way to work in Italy?

Up to 69,700 workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will be able to enter Italy for work purposes in 2022 under the quota.

This number is up significantly from 2021, when just over 30,000 non-EEA citizens were legally allowed to move to Italy for work.

Which types of workers can apply for a permit?

This year, the majority of permits (42,000) are for temporary seasonal workers, according to Italy’s Ministry of Labour and Social Policies has confirmed. Of these, 14,000 are for agricultural workers.

Another 27,000 permits are available for those on “non-seasonal contracts” (employees) and self-employed workers. Of these, 20,000 spots are for people employed in road transport, construction and the tourism (hotel) sector.

Up to 100 places are specifically for workers from Venezuela of Italian origin “on the part of at least one of their parents up to the third degree of direct ancestry”, according to the labour ministry.

Italy will allow another 100 admissions for foreign workers who have completed training and education in their country of origin, the ministry stated.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

A total of 500 places are reserved for self-employed workers again in 2022, as has been the case in previous years – and there are strict criteria for those applying. 

Eligible categories include “entrepreneurs carrying out activities of interest to the Italian economy that involve the use of their own resources of no less than €500,000 and coming from lawful sources,” and resulting in “the creation of at least three new jobs”.

Other categories include “artists of clear fame or of high and well-known professional qualification”.

The remaining 7,000 places provided for under the decree are reserved for those who need to convert a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) held for other reasons, such as study, into a residence permit for work.

How do you apply?

The process begins with applying for the permit (nulla osta). You can access the application form here.

Applications open at 9am on January 27th for self-employed workers, employers of non-seasonal workers, and those converting an existing residency permit. Seasonal workers can apply from 9am on February 1st.

For seasonal and non-seasonal employment it is the employers who must apply, while for the self-employed and conversions, the applicant must complete the process themselves.

The application can only be filed online via the Interior Ministry’s website. You will need an Italian SPID electronic ID to do so – find out more about getting these credentials here.

On the application form, you will need to include details of where you’ll live in Italy as well as documents necessary for carrying out the work, such as a copy of the employment contract or any relevant licences.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

Applications close on March 17th 2022 and will be processed by the Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione (immigration office) in the chronological order in which they are received.

This means it’s important to begin the visa application procedure as soon as possible after the publication of the quota list – most quotas are filled within a few days. 

Any applications arriving after the quota is filled, or which are completed incorrectly, are rejected, and you can’t apply twice in the same year.

What happens next?

Getting one of these permits is just the start. As a non-EEA citizen, there are three main documents you’ll need to live and work in Italy: a work permit (nulla osta), a work visa (visto) and a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno).

If your permit application is successful, you can then apply for your visa. This must be done before you leave for Italy, at the Italian embassy or consulate in your country of origin.

From there, you may enter Italy, but still need to apply for an Italian residence permit within 8 days of arriving in Italy. The permesso di soggiorno is the documentation that allows you to legally stay in the country.

Note: The nulla osta is valid for six months. This means that you must enter Italy and apply for the residence permit within that six-month period.

Useful links:

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases or assist with job applications.

For more information about visa and residency permit applications, see the Italian Foreign Ministry’s visa website, or contact your embassy or local Questura (police headquarters) in Italy.

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Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

People trying to sit their driving tests in many parts of Italy are reporting long delays when booking their theory or practical exam. The Local looks at why this is happening.

Why is it taking so long to book a driving test in Italy?

Getting an Italian driving licence (or patente di guida) isn’t exactly a piece of cake, especially for foreign residents, who, besides familiarising themselves with the national Highway Code, must also achieve a high level of Italian language proficiency before taking the test.

But the process has become more of a challenge over the past few months for candidates experiencing long waiting times – up to five months in some cases – when booking their theory or practical tests.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

As many local licensing offices (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile, which are roughly equivalent to the UK’s DVLA or the US DMV) fail to explain these delays, candidates are left wondering what the problem is. 

The short answer is that Italy’s licensing department is facing critical understaffing problems, which, by the look of things, aren’t going away anytime soon. 

“The problem is national,” Emilio Patella, national secretary of Italy’s main driving schools’ union UNASCA, tells The Local.

“The size of the [licensing department’s] current workforce is half of what it was ten years ago, or half of what it should be on a regular basis.”

READ ALSO: Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

Cars line up to cross the Italian-Swiss border

People taking their practical driving tests in Como face a waiting time of 140 days on average. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

This means that, presently, there simply aren’t enough employees around to meet the market’s demand – a situation which is the result of “over 20 years where few to no hirings were made”, according to Patella.

Not all local offices are currently registering gigantic delays, with waiting times varying from area to area based on demand and the number of staff available.

Regions in the north-west and north-east of the country – especially Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna – are bearing the brunt of the national crisis.

Como has the worst-affected office in the country, Patella says, with the average waiting time for candidates looking to take their practical test standing at 140 days (or well north of four months).

Other cities experiencing long delays include Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Turin, Vicenza, Verona, Piacenza, Parma, and Reggio Emilia.

Katherine Sahota, a British national living in Brescia, has been trying to book her theory test since September, but says there have been “little to no appointments available” in the area.

While being denied the opportunity to book a test is sufficiently frustrating in and of its own, the issue is particularly pressing for Britons in Italy at the moment.

READ ALSO: ‘So stressful’: How Italy-UK driving licence fiasco threatens couple’s Tuscan dream

The 12-month grace period allowing British nationals to drive across Italy on UK licences is due to expire on December 31st and, with negotiations over a reciprocal agreement between Italy and the UK showing no sign of progress, many British nationals have chosen to get an Italian driving licence. 

But the delays affecting many licensing offices across Italy are already undermining their efforts and mean it’s unlikely some residents will be able to get their licence before the deadline.

Sahota might just be one of them. 

“It is a helpless situation not being able to plan anything,” she tells The Local.

“I don’t think they understand how this affects the lives of people who need to drive for work, for families, for their own freedom of movement.”

Sahota’s situation, and that of many others across the country, isn’t being helped by the inherent nature of the Italian licensing system, which is built on a series of tight, consecutive deadlines. 

Red Vespa motorcycle and vintage Fiat

The Italian licensing system is based on a series of tight deadlines, which make candidates susceptible to even the shortest delays. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

After submitting a request to take the test, candidates have six months to pass the theory exam, within a maximum of only two attempts. They then have 12 months and a total of three attempts to pass the practical exam. 

Also, those who have to resit either exam can only do so at least a month after the failed attempt.

As a result of this, even a waiting time as ‘short’ as two months might keep a candidate from being able to retake an exam within the set timeframe. If this happens, the candidate has no choice but to re-enrol and pay all the enrolment fees again.

Several reports of residents not being able to retake an exam through no fault of their own have emerged over the past few weeks. 

Stefano Galletti, president of Bologna’s UNASCA office, said last week that candidates in the city “can barely take an exam” in the given time span, with longer-than-usual waiting times often keeping people from retaking in case of failure.

READ ALSO: Some of the best learner sites for taking your Italian driving test

While hiring more examiners looks like the solution to the problem, but increasing the Italian licensing department’s workforce might not be as straightforward as many would think. 

According to Patella, the Italian government will have to either implement a special hiring policy known as ‘piano straordinario’ – an option which, he says, hasn’t been considered so far – or delegate tasks to employees of other national agencies in order to fill the current gaps. 

But, even if one of the above measures were to be put into effect, Patella believes that “we would only manage to get back to a normal state of things in around three years” – that’s also because “being an examiner is not a very sought-after job and few people are still willing to do it”.

In the meantime, residents facing delays can get in touch with the Italian licensing department’s support centre to report their issue or ask for guidance. 

It’s also worth noting that residents are allowed to sit their driving tests in a province other than the one where they reside. 

However, if the province where they choose to take the test doesn’t border that in which they are resident, the licensing office can ask candidates to give a valid reason for the choice and to provide additional documentation.

For further information, contact your local licensing office (Uffici di Motorizzazione Civile). Find details of your nearest office here