The Italian regularization of migrants
26 May 2020
Project “Never Alone”
14 June 2020

Migration and COVID in Italy: the 2nd phase

Farm workers harvesting yellow bell peppers near Gilroy, California. Crews like this may include illegal immigrant workers as well as members of the United Farm Workers Union founded by Cesar Chavez.

In May, Italian legislation was still focused on the COVID-19 emergency and the social and economic challenges of the so-called “Phase 2“.

A Decree of 19 May 2020, containing urgent measures in the field of health, support for work and the economy as well as social policies related to the epidemiological emergency from COVID-19, provided for measures to emerge from illegal work. Years after the last regularization, this procedure affects migrants employed in specific productive sectors. This is because the rationale of the regulatory provision is focused on the needs of the labor market rather than on regularizing the legal status of foreigners present in the territory without the necessary permission.

Two possible ways to apply for regularizing the worker position occur.

  1. The employers can hire a foreign citizen who was already on the national territory on 8 March 2020 or declare the existence of irregular work in progress. It is not yet clear how the foreigner can demonstrate his presence on the territory from the above-mentioned date. In fact, the photo-signaling procedure and / or the declaration of presence or other documents could be considered.

For those who already have a valid residence permit, this procedure implies only work regularization. The important news, however, concerns those who do not have a valid residence permit. In fact, they will be able to obtain the regular legal status thanks to the hiring and regularization of the work activity. The procedure involves the intervention of two institutional actors: the “One Stop Shop for Immigration” for the preparation of the employment contract and the Police Headquarters for the issue of the residence permit for work reasons.

  1. The second regularization procedure provides that foreign citizens, with a residence permit expired on 31 October 2019, will be able to apply for a six-month temporary job search permit, valid only in Italy. This permit can be converted into a work permit if the foreign citizen is hired during the six months of validity of the permit and proves the existence of an employment contract in one of the following sectors: agriculture, personal assistance and domestic work.

Concerning the technical-practical aspects, an implementing decree and two circulars were published on 27 and 30 May 2020 respectively. These tools accurately describe the procedures for presenting and managing the application for regularization.

A particularly interesting aspect concerns the need to verify the participation in regularization procedures by asylum seekers who are denied or awaiting a response from the territorial commissions or the courts.

Finally, as occurred in Greece, even in Italy the health emergency brought attention to the reception facilities’ conditions. In May, some Courts ruled on migrant repatriation centres because of the serious impact of the COVID-19 on an already problematic situation. In this regard, the overcrowding and difficult coexistence in reception facilities and return centres increased the concerns of numerous organizations and lawyers operating in the sector.


Sara Morlotti and Marina D’Odorico, Fondazione ISMU

June 4th, 2020