The amnesty is a major victory for irregular migrants (pictured here protesting in June 2018) who have been agitating for the regularisation of their status/Photo: Screenshot/MNB

Italy’s amnesty for undocumented migrants explained

Italy’s government has announced its amnesty programme for migrants without papers. Thousands of irregular migrants in the country will be issued residence permit under the scheme, part of a package of measures to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus on the country.

Italy’s coalition government finally reached an agreement on Wednesday (14 May) to approve provisional changes to the country’s migration laws to legalise the status of undocumented foreigners in the country, including those working on farms and in domestic households.

Here’s what you have to know about the amnesty programme by Emma Wallis/InfoMigrants


Amnesty: What does it mean?

In the relaunch decree, it entails a six-month temporary stay permit intended to allow you to work with a regular contract. If by the end of your six-months you have a contract from your employer, you can apply to convert the temporary permit into a longer-term work permit.

Agricultural Minister Teresa Bellanov, who worked hard for the adoption of the amnesty plan, addresses the press on Thursday in Rome /Photo: Screenshot/TG4


In the past this type of amnesty has been referred to in Italian as a ‘Sanatoria.’ This is what campaigners in favour of it and charities had been campaigning for years to obtain. Basically a blanket legalisation of all those without documents. This like many other ‘sanatoria’ is limited to certain categories of people and you have to fulfil certain conditions before you can apply.

Interestingly the word ‘sanatoria’ has been left out of any texts discussing this latest agreement, which is all about “regularisation of illegal working contracts.” 

This amnesty comes as part of a whole “relaunch decree” to try and help the Italian economy and all Italians, including those employed “illegally,” i.e. working on the so-called “black market economy,” without proper work contracts. So it is not just to help undocumented migrants.

It is about “principles,” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Agricultural Minister Teresa Bellanova.

The amnesty is intended to:

  • end illegal work contracts
  • end the conditions of slave labour
  • give rights and dignity back to workers

These principles are so important to the agriculture minister Teresa Bellanova, who has spent her career as a union member fighting for workers’ rights, since she once worked in the fields of southern Italy as a 15-year-old girl, that she broke down in tears when she announced the amnesty would be part of the relaunch package. She posted on Twitter, “It’s true, I cried.”

Minister Bellanova said that the amnesty, would help make “those invisible less so.”

She said it would allow people access “to an identity and to dignity.”

She said it showed that the “state was stronger than the mafia and than slave labour.”

A hostel for undocumented African farm workers near Calibri. Thousands of African labourers are employed in Italy’s agricultural sector and they’re often exploited and have to live in squalid conditions. The amnesty offers them a golden opportunity to regularise their stay and end their exploitation / Photo: Screenshot/ITN


Who is eligible to apply?

Those who have been working in certain sectors with illegal or non-existent work contracts. Sectors include:

  • Agriculture
  • Fisheries
  • Animal breeding
  • Livestock

Domestic work sectors (house maids, carers for the elderly or those with disabilities, childminders)

How many are eligible to apply?

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte refused to be drawn on how many people exactly would be eligible to apply.

In a press conference he said it “wasn’t about numbers but about principles.” 

Some estimates indicate there are 600,000 undocumented migrants in Italy but Prime Minister Conte said the decree covered numbers “far less than those estimates.”

According to Italy’s financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore about 212,000 workers could be eligible to be regularised by their employers and about 52,000 should be able to apply to regularize themselves.


Those migrants eligible to apply must have arrived in Italy before 8 March 2020 and have been documented with a photo ID process on arrival. You SHOULD NOT have left Italian territory since your arrival.

If your residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) expired since 31 October 2019 you can also apply.

How to apply?

  • Employers can apply on behalf of their workers and pay a sum of €400 flat rate to request the legalization of their employee, either foreign or Italian.
  • Those whose stay permit expired after October 31, 2019 can also apply for themselves. They would be required to pay a flat rate of €160.
  • If you want to apply yourself you need to go to a police station (Questura) and file a request between June 1 and July 15, 2020.
  • You need to demonstrate that you have already been working in one of the designated sectors (i.e. in agriculture or as a domestic worker.)
  • If you obtain an employment contract from your employer within the six-months temporary permit you can convert it into a work permit.

Who is not eligible?

Those who have been found guilty of crimes, such as drugs, clandestine migration or are considered a threat to public security.

Employers who have been found to have exploited their workers or aided and abetted clandestine migration or recruitment for labour exploitation or prostitution would also be excluded.

If you qualify:

The amnesty will then suspend any legal proceedings relating to financial, tax affairs or illegal entrance or stay on national territory. Giving you the right to become a fully documented citizen eventually.

Political debate

The amnesty took a long time to come to fruition. Even now it has been announced there are still intense political arguments going on about it.

Former deputy prime minister and leader of the League (La Lega) party, Matteo Salvini, has been against an amnesty from the start.

On Thursday, Salvini tweeted that those who support it would also be making it available to people who had had their asylum request denied, i.e. not just those who had obtained a residence permit.

READ ALSO Italy to regularise 600,000 undocumented migrants

He wrote on Twitter: “From the Minister for the South [Giuseppe Provenzano] we learn [in an article in the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica] that also those who requested asylum and were refused can apply to be regularised. Yes, you read it right,” Salvini continues. “Tell me what those people have to do with agricultural workers, and domestic workers?”

The Minister for the South, Giuseppe Provenzano, a member of the Democratic Party PD and a supporter of Bellanova’s proposal, said it wasn’t just for migrants but “for Italians too.” In fact, he said the amnesty was “for people.” It was about “giving a response to those who had waited for a long time for legalisation and the accordance of their rights.”

© InfoMigrants

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