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A new European regulation is in effect granting travel throughout the Schengen* area for certain visa holders. Until yesterday, those who entered Italy with a long term (over 3 months) visa for work or family and applied for a residence permit at the post office were not able to go to other Schengen countries with the postal receipt. They were restricted to wait until the residence permit was issued, which could take from 3-6 months, sometimes even more than a year. With the new European rule, Schengen travel is now allowed relieving this problem of being “stuck” in Italy without the legal possibility of travelling to nearby countries, or even being allowed to have a layover in a Schengen country if you wanted to go back to your home country. Now, residence permit applicants can go to any other Schengen country for up to 90 days in each 180 day period. (Note: The rule remains unchanged for family members that have entered Italy as tourists and are completing their immigration formalities in country – they cannot leave Italy at all until the residence permit is issued). Schengen* area - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta and Switzerland.
It has come to our attention that the Italian Consulates abroad are becoming more rigid in the issuance of tourist and/or business visas. While in the past, it was simple to receive a 90-day business or tourist visa, the Consulates are now starting to issue shorter term visas. There is no general standard as each Consulate has discretionary powers. Applying for a 90-day tourist or business visa no longer guarantees it will be issued, thus it is important to be forewarned before applying.
There was a problem with the prior legislation as written. The number of quotas was to be determined in 3-year terms, the last one having been drafted for years 2004-2006. Since no quotas were planned for the 2007-2009 term, an annual “emergency” quota procedure was created resulting in 170,000 quotas in 2007 and 150,000 quotas in 2008 with zero quotas in 2009. Since there were no quotas in 2009, there could have been no quotas issued in 2010 as the new quotas during the emergency period are limited to the number issued for the prior year. To bypass this problem, the government finally amended the quota laws, so that new quotas can be issued based on the latest written decree (thus, referring to 150,000 quotas in 2008). Since elections are taking place in March and immigration is a hot topic, these quotas will not be issued until sometime in April or May of 2010 .
While not yet confirmed, the Italian government is already discussing the issuance of 150,000 work quotas in 2010 and immigration law reform. This is important news as the current immigration laws as written have prevented the government form clearly issuing the annual quotas since 2006 other than in an emergency ad hoc manner, with zero quotas being issued in 2009.
The Italian government has for the fourth consecutive year decided to continue to monitor the entry of nationals from Romania and Bulgaria. There is no restriction for hiring nationals in the following industries: agriculture, tourism, hotels, domestic help, construction, metal industry, managers, seasonal workers and highly specialized personnel. All others employees are not denied access to work, but their employer must send a written request for authorization to the Prefecture which request cannot be denied. This rule only applies to first time hiring, those already employed in any industry may change employers regardless of industry or position.
The Italian government has extended the possibility of working in Italy also to foreigners who have obtained a Master’s, Doctorate or other post degree specialization. It has become easier in Italy to convert a residence permit for studies into one for work purposes with no need for a work quota. Until now, only foreign students who obtained a preliminary degree from an Italian university could use this conversion process. All others had to wait for the quotas to be issued and hope that one would remain. Now the possibility exists for post graduate students to also convert their residence permits for studies into work using a fast track procedure. Those that have obtained one of the following credentials can take part: 3 year degree, specialization/magistrate degree, 1 or 2 year specialization diploma, 3 year Doctorate in research, or first and second level Master’s.
The Italian government has increased the penalties for non European nationals that overstay their visits in Italy. The penalties apply to anyone that breaks the law: those that need a visa to enter Italy and remain beyond the duration of the visa; those that do not need a visa to enter Italy as tourists or business visitors and stay for over 90 days; and also those that have a valid residence permit that has expired and they fail to renew. All are subject to a sanction with fine ranging between 5.000 and 10.000 Euro. Please note that previous sanctions will continue to be applied, i.e., the foreigners can be subject to expulsion and would be "blacklisted" under the Schengen rules, thus being prevented to re-enter the Schengen area for 5 years.
The length of time needed before one can apply for Italian citizenship as the spouse of an Italian has been increased. Rather than 6 months, the applicant must be a resident of Italy for 2 years before filing the citizenship application, or just 1 year if there are children (natural or adopted). If, after the application is filed, the marriage ends in divorce or separation, then the Prefecture will reject the application as the marriage must remain intact until the citizenship is granted by the Ministry of the Interior.
Under the new procedure, a company which executes a "protocollo d'intesa" or pre-approved validation with the Ministry of Interior can avoid the procedure of submitting the documents which until now were to be submitted to the immigration office. The company will still need to file an application electronically, but then the application will only need to obtain a clearance from the Police and then be forwarded directly to the relevant Italian Consulate will be able to issue the visa. Signing of the contract of stay upon entry into Italy and application of the residence permit application apparently remain unchanged. The new procedure – for which the Ministry still needs to approve all application forms – should benefit those companies which have several applications submitted every year.

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