Italy should have a new immigration law before summer, relaxing restrictions adopted by the previous centre-right government, Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero said last week. Speaking after a meeting with local authorities and immigrant associations, he explained that his department, together with the Interior Ministry, has nearly finished drafting the bill. ‘The measure should start its passage through parliament in January and be finalized by spring,’ he said.
The new law will overturn 2002 immigration legislation that has often been criticized for the fact that only foreigners with an Italian work contract are allowed a residency permit. Residency permits last just two years, and if immigrants lose their job before the expiry date they are re-quired to leave the country.
Ferrero said that one of the most important ideas under consideration was doubling the resi-dency permit’s two-year duration. Other legislative changes under discussion include the intro-duction of a single asylum law and a points-based entry system to encourage managed migra-tion. Proposals are also being drawn up to grant certain immigrants the vote and to make it eas-ier for them to gain Italian citizenship.
Meanwhile, another major change involving the way residency permits are issued is in the proc-ess of being implemented. This transfers the authority to grant residency permits from the hands of the police to the control of local municipal authorities. Following the success of a pilot scheme implemented in five provinces, the project will be established in the next 16 provinces by next week. The change will allow foreigners to apply for their residency permits at local post offices rather than through police stations, with the aim of speeding up the issuing process.