COVID-19 Summary – for foreigners and travelers in Italy

Mar 04, 2020

(latest update 26/03/2020)

Following the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the North of Italy, the entire country is on lockdown and extraordinary health measures have been implemented in Italy and across Europe.

30-day suspension permit of stay procedures (permesso di soggiorno)

On March 2, 2020 the Italian government published a Law Decree with immediate effect containing measures to support families, workers and companies with respect to the COVID-19 outbreak (Law Decree 2 March 2020, n. 9). In the effort to employ as much public staff as possible to control the current health situation, the Italian Government has suspended the issuance of permits of stay for 30 days (starting from March 2) but has also temporarily suspended the terms to file permit applications for a period of 30 days (1st permits must be filed within 8 days from entry, extensions at least 60 days prior to expiration date).

The above terms are suspended starting from March 2 for a period of 30 days. As a result, obligations to file applications within the deadline above are lifted and non-EU nationals who may not be able to meet the deadlines due to public offices unavailability, will not incur in any consequences. Strong delays in issuance of permits and in general in all immigration related procedures are expected.

Validity of residence permits (permessi di soggiorno) extended until June 15, 2020

The validity of all permits, authorizations, certificates, clearances with an expiry date between January 31, 2020 and April 15, 2020 has been extended until June 15, 2020.

Travel restrictions

National Measures: The Italian Government has implemented new mobility restrictions on March 10th, and has placed the entire country under lockdown.

Movements are, in fact, only allowed for work or medical reasons, and individuals need to show proof of those reasons providing a signed self-certification supplied by the local police. People who are positive to the COVID-19 test or have been quarantined are, however, banned any movements.

It is possible to travel abroad only for necessity (work or medical reason), or to return to own residence. Individuals leaving Italy need to be screened at the airport before boarding and need to show proof of self-certification indicating the reason of their trip. Individuals will also be screened at the airport of arrival. Similar supervision will be applied to all passengers arriving at airports in Italy. Additionally, individuals entering Italy have to inform local health authorities about their arrival in the country, and need to be in self-quarantine for 14 days.

Restrictions and bans from other countries: In order to contain the global emergency:

Many countries are enforcing for Italian citizens or individuals travelling from Italy, a travel ban, mandatory or voluntary quarantine. The restrictions change day by day, we advise to check with the country of destination and the airline what measures are being enforced.

Health Measures:  The government has closed down schools and most businesses, including a number of administrative and governmental offices such as local police offices or post offices. Some governmental offices have adopted limited access and working hours to avoid risks and contamination. All schools and universities are closed until April 3rd and closure can be extended. All sport events and public gatherings have been banned. Starting March 12th, also restaurants and bars have to stay closed, as well as all businesses and retail stores, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, tobacco shops, newsstands (with the appropriate safety distances) .

People will only be able to travel between cities for emergency reasons and can face fines and up to three months in jail for breaking quarantine rules. Those who have to leave their region or their cities out of serious necessity can do so only if they have self-certification stating that they must cross the borders for compelling business reasons, health reasons, or because they have to return home.

What happens if a non-EU national is unable to leave before the expiry of the visa or allowed stay?

We have received several queries from non-EU nationals that – due to flight cancellations or the risk of being quarantined upon arrival – cannot return to their country and will be overstaying the validity of their  visa or the permitted time for non-visa nationals. Both the Schengen Visa Code (which applies in all Schengen countries, such as Germany, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Poland, etc.) and Italian Immigration Law have provisions which allow to extend the stay in case of the individual cannot leave the country for reasons of “force majeure” .

Schengen Visa Code:

According to the Schengen rules, a short-term visa can be issued for a stay of maximum 90 days in 180 days, allowing the holder to be in the Schengen countries for the period indicated in the visa. Normally the holder has to leave the Schengen area at the expiration of the visa but there are some circumstances in which it is possible to request an extension of an issued visa. However, the extension of a visa should not result in a total stay going beyond 90 days in any 180-day period.

Art. 33 of the Schengen Visa Code provides for that “if someone is unable to leave before the expiry of his visa for reasons of force majeure, humanitarian reasons or serious personal reasons, can request for an extension of the Schengen visa. Grounds for requesting an extension (i) reasons of force majeure (ii) humanitarian reasons (iii) serious personal reasons.

The request for an extension of the visa is to be addressed – prior to the expiry of the visa – to the authorities of the Schengen State where the holder is, even if the visa was not issued by that state consulate. In Italy, the request must be addressed to the local police office (Questura) A circular letter on the matter is available at this link in the Police website:–33–per-la–proroga-del-periodo-di-validita-del-visto.pdf).  In case of force majeur the extension must be mandatorily granted (while in case the extension is requested for business reasons, is discretionary on the Authority to which is submitted).

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Italian Immigration Law: normally it is not possible to convert a short-term stay (for tourism/business) into a permit directly in Italy (an exception being family reasons). However, when the foreigner cannot or does not want to return to the country of provenance for reasons related to an exceptional unsafe situation (for instance, Chinese nationals who did not or could not return to China because of the COVID-19 outbreak) he/she should consider submitting application for a temporary residence permit for “calamity” reasons (Art. 20-bis of Italian Immigration law). Such a permit can be issued when the country to which the foreigner should return has a situation of contingent and exceptional calamity that does not allow a safe return and stay. The permit is valid for 6 months, can be renewed for additional 6 months and allows to work. However, it cannot be converted into a permit for work allowing a longer stay.

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Giuditta Petreni

Giuditta Petreni has over 10 years of experience in assisting companies and business investors with relocation of managers and staff to Italy. Giuditta has extensive experience advising corporate and private clients on a full range of Italian immigration categories. She is fluent in Italian and English.

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