Residency permits For Members

'I feel trapped': How long waits for residency permits are affecting people in Italy

Jessica Lionnel
Jessica Lionnel - [email protected]
'I feel trapped': How long waits for residency permits are affecting people in Italy
Navigating the paperwork required to live in Italy as a non-EU national is a complex task, made harder by long waits to renew permits. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

Getting Italy's permesso di soggiorno is never easy, but waiting times of up to ten months are making the process much harder. The Local’s readers tell us how the wait has ruined Christmas travel plans and left them feeling "infuriated".


For many people living away from home in Italy, Christmas means returning to spend time with loved ones, with airports around the festive period full to the brim with people and their gifts.

But for Erika Worley, 25, Christmas this year will look different from the one she had hoped for in her US home. She won't be travelling as she has only just received her appointment to renew her Italian residency permit (permesso di soggiorno), despite applying for it eight months ago.

“It’s awful, I feel trapped. I haven’t left Italy in over a year and my trust in the system has gone completely downhill,” says Erika, a literature and philosophy Master’s student at La Sapienza University in Rome. 

“I asked during my appointment two weeks ago if I could go home for Christmas this year and the lady at the desk just looked at me and said no, because I needed to wait two months to get my residence permit.”

This isn’t the first Christmas at home Erika is missing due to not receiving her permesso di soggiorno in time: last year she missed out on a family Christmas too due to complications with her first permesso di soggiorno. She had gone to her appointment in March 2022 but did not receive her permit until February 2023. 

“It was the most frustrating experience ever, and had it not been for my Italian roommate, I highly doubt I would have received my first permesso di soggiorno,” Erika says. 

“What makes it more infuriating is that because I had applied for it in March 2022, it expired in March 2023. I had less than a month with a valid permit before having to apply again.”

READ ALSO: Can you travel abroad while waiting for an Italian residency permit renewal?

“It’s now my second Christmas away from home. I feel like a prisoner. I was devastated when they said no to going home for Christmas because my dad was recently in a bad car accident and was in hospital. It’s been really a tough time.”

Erika said a few people she knows suggested that she go home with her permesso di soggiorno receipt, which is technically legal, according to the information available on Italy's state police website.

However, she doesn’t feel comfortable travelling, mainly because the official at the immigration desk told her not to. Several other readers also report being told by officials that they couldn't travel either, leading to confusion and concern that they may have trouble at the border.

Anyone applying for or renewing a residency permit in Italy will need to become familiar with their local post office. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)


To make matters worse, Erika’s expired permit was stolen along with her bag around the time of her renewal application in March 2023. She said her only saving grace was the fact she filed a denuncia (report) with the police after it happened so when it came to her renewal appointment in November, they had a record of it.

She was also charged €130.46, the cost for a five-year permanent EC long-term residence permit, at the post office instead of €70.46 for a permit that lasts a year.

READ ALSO: How the rules on renewing Italian residency permits have changed

Erika continues: “The system is so disorganised and slow. It is frustrating that so many people have different experiences and there is no uniform with the rules. They tell me one thing, but they might tell someone else you can go home with the receipt. 

“The information is not defined or passed down regularly. Not to mention that I applied for my appointment in March and I have just received the appointment. There is no reason for it. No apology was given.

“I’m now just waiting for my second card. I have to get it and I’m sceptical it will take two months. I’ve accepted my fate: I cannot go home for Christmas again this year.”

READ ALSO: 'Arduous process': What to expect when applying for Italian permanent residency

Erika’s Rome-based friend, Karla Chávez from Mexico, has also had issues with her residency permit.

“It was terrible and I couldn't go home or anywhere for a year. It affected my mental health so much and I got depressed because I didn't get to see my family or even move inside of Europe,” Karla says.


“I sent my kit off in February of this year and got an appointment seven months later in September. The only highlight was that it took 41 days for me to get the document. I consider myself fortunate.”

Under present law, authorities should issue the new permit within 60 days of the appointment at the Questura. This is similar to the rules in other EU countries such as France and Spain. However, the main issue with the renewal of permits currently is getting the appointment in the first place, not what happens after it.

In 2023 The Local has heard from a growing number of international residents who say they face waits of eight, nine, or even ten months for the appointment.

One reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, says renewals are getting harder by the year and that for some foreigners the experience can be quite alienating.



“I presented my kit a month ago but I wasn’t given an appointment at the police station. The postal worker asked me strange questions like: are you Muslim? I asked him if it was necessary for him to know that when filling out a renewal form and his reaction was quite mean. 


“I called the police station to check the status of the appointment with the questura, but they told me that I have to wait for a letter, which has not yet arrived.

"I've been here for five years, I renew every year and every year it gets harder and harder and the wait gets longer and longer.”

The Local has contacted Italy's ministry of foreign affairs for comment.

Have you been affected by long waiting times when renewing your Italian residency permit? Do you have advice for people waiting for residency permits in Italy? Share in the comments section below or email us [email protected].


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Jamie 2024/01/23 13:28
We applied for our PDS in April 2023. Appointment was October 2023. Fingerprint appointment November 2023. We went back to US for Christmas and just returned. No questions asked on re-entry.
Judy 2023/12/06 20:44
Here in Palermo, when I submitted the completed Kit to the Post Office, immediately they would issue a paper with the appointment date to the Questura printed on it. The date was within 2 months. After the appointment to the Questura, there was a very long & unknown waiting time for receiving the notice of PDS collection either via SMS or checking it online. My 1st renewal was 4 months, 2nd one in 2021 was nearly 9 months. Next year I have to renew it again ..........big suffer again.
S 2023/12/03 13:29
While I’m sorry to hear of your difficulties, please now spare a thought for the foreigners who deal with equally (if not more) dysfunctional UK or US immigration. Please bear in mind also that France isn’t any better (I know from direct experience), and I’ve heard that Germany is similarly Kafkaesque.
Carolyn McConnell 2023/12/01 21:19
I don't understand why the persons in the first stories were unable to go and come from Italy for Christmas. Could someone please explain this?
Mike Weber 2023/12/01 17:55
We arrived in Puglia from the United States in March 2022, applied immediately for the elective residency permit, were given an appointment immediately, which was six months later, had to make three trips to the Questura to finalize the paperwork, then waited. After several months, when we had not received the permits, had cancelled two trips to Greece, and had to return to the US, we returned to the Questura and learned that we should submit a request via certified email. We managed to figure out how to do so, sent the request, and were notiffied several weeks later to pick up the permits, which we did. A month later, we had to renew the permit, submitted the application at the post office and were told we would receive a certified letter regarding an appoointment. We waited four months and just sent a certified email requesting information about the status of our application and an appointment. We were told we should not travel outside Italy without the permit, that the application and receipt would not be sufficient. It would be wonderful to get some clarification on this point. Can we travel to the US and return with our US passports? Are the application and postal receipt sufficient for travel in the Schengen area? It does seem that the system is overwhelmed.
Carol 2023/12/01 07:30
My understanding is that as long as you have made the appointment with the Immigration office through the Post Office and have the receipt you paid to show you ought not to have any problems traveling.
Maje Brennan 2023/12/01 07:17
All you have to do is photocopy the documents the post office gives you and take your expired permission di soggiorno to show immigration.
Sam Cross 2023/11/30 19:54
The regulations are explained on the Polizia di Stato website - Foreign Nationals/Residence Permit - 'Requirements for immigrants leaving Italy temporarily'. You can travel direct Italy to/from your home country (or possibly other non-Schengen countries), but not via Schengen-zone countries. My Post Office receipt works travelling to and from UK and Italy. I tell the border officer that I am waiting for my (first) permesso and show the PO ricevuta.
Nancy 2023/11/30 19:32
We received the Permesso Soggiornanti Lungo Periodo UE, permanent Permit to stay. Such a relief to not have to deal with the questura and all the problems all my friends are dealing with right now. Everyone is waiting a long time and it does impact their lives for travel in Schengen. I encourage people, to apply for this long term permit as soon as they can. You must have been a resident in Italy for five years and you must be a tax payer. There are more documents needed than for the PdS renewal
Peter Conover 2023/11/30 13:31
We arrived in early July 2023 and made our PdS applications right away. We received our appointment dates (in early February 2024) immediately at the Post Office. Now the big question is how soon after the appointments we will actually receive our PdS. However, I don't know why Erika was told she couldn't travel to the US. Unless I'm missing something here, the travel restriction is to Schengen countries.
Kelly 2023/11/30 12:15
Yes!!! I arrived in September and applied at the post office within five days of arrival. The postal worker told me that I should wait to receive an appohtment from thre questura in thr mail which has not arrived as of today November 30. My Italian boyfriend found that I had an appointment I scheduled for June 2024! I was planning to depart for Christmas in December 2023 and now I’m scared that using the receipt is not good enough. Where is the solid information about what is acceptable and what is not!?

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