In 2018, Italy received 239 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 10.1% more than in 2017. This figure comprises 24.2% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 3.5% labour migrants, 57.4% family members (including accompanying family) and 12.8% humanitarian migrants. Around 3 200 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 6 900 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 74 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2018, an increase of 14.3% compared to 2017. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Romania, Brazil and Albania were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, India registered the strongest increase (3 300) and Nigeria the largest decrease (- 5 500) in flows to Italy compared to the previous year.

In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -34.5%, to reach around 35 000. The majority of applicants came from Pakistan (7 300), El Salvador (2 500) and Peru (2 400). The largest increase since 2018 concerned nationals of Peru (+1 700) and the largest decrease nationals of Nigeria (-4 300). Of the 93 000 decisions taken in 2019, 19.7% were positive.

The Annual Decree setting labour migration inflow was passed in April 2019, opening 18 000 entries for seasonal employment and 12 850 for contract and self-employment, identical to the previous year. Of these, 9 850 were permitted to change status from other permits, primarily for study, training and vocational education; 2 400 were authorised for self-employment, for categories ranging from artists and professionals to investors and start-up entrepreneurs. Admission of labour migrants outside these categories is authorised on the basis of exemptions.

In July 2019, Italy and Hong Kong, China signed a Working Holiday visa agreement, with a reciprocal cap set at 500 visas annually.

As a response to the influx of undocumented migrants shipping to Italian coasts, the Ministry of Interior was given the power to restrict or prohibit the entry into, transit through or parking in the territorial sea of ships, with the exception of military ships and ships engaged in non-commercial governmental service, for reasons of public order and security.

Italy was one of the first countries struck by the COVID-19 pandemic and imposed internal and international mobility restrictions in March 2020. In light of closure of offices and general confinement, expiring permits were extended. In June, these were prolonged through August. Permits for seasonal work expiring May 2020 were extended through to December. New and returning seasonal agricultural workers are unable to enter the country due to mobility restrictions.

In the context of the response to COVID-19, Italy is undertaking a targeted regularisation programme. It is only for foreigners who have been employed in the following sectors: agriculture and livestock, fisheries, long-term care (for persons with severe conditions or requiring assistance with daily living); and domestic work (cleaning, childcare etc.). Two separate streams were opened for applications, with filing running between 1 June and 15 August. The first stream is open to foreigners whose permit expired after 31 October 2019, if they prove they were in Italy at 8 March 2020 and worked previously in the sectors identified. Applicants will receive a temporary 6-month permit to look for a job with the possibility to change it into a residence permit on the ground of work. The second stream is foreigners who have new employment contracts or regularise current illegal employment in the above sectors and were present prior to 8 March 2020. Employers must pay EUR 500 and those who report prior undeclared employment will also be required to provide back-pay and social contributions, although the rules for such payments were not included in the initial regularisation regulations. The estimated number of applicants is about 200 000.

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