ITALY - Austerity Reforms May Create Delays in Immigration Processing
The European Union’s (EU) Central Bank has been working with several EU countries’ finance ministers regarding spiraling national deficits that could adversely impact the Eurozone. Within the past few months, many EU countries have announced government labor reforms along with significant cuts in government programs and services that could substantially reduce staff in labor and immigration offices. As a result, assignments to certain EU countries could be delayed due to increased immigration processing times.
EU countries such as Greece, Italy and France have announced pay freezes or reductions in force for government workers. The United Kingdom has announced substantial reductions in force of government workers beginning in 2011. As a result, some government workers are reacting by striking and may resort to purposefully slowing government functions.
In particular, this week in northern Italy, workers in the largest regional immigration office (the Sportello Unico in Milan) have reacted to proposed massive dismissals of employees by striking and refusing to process work permit applications. Although the office in Milan is usually regarded as being one of the more expeditious immigration offices, initial work permit applications filed in Milan that would normally take 30-60 days to approve may now take well over 90 days. Depending on how long the strike lasts, the backlog of pending work permit applications could rise significantly.
It is not yet known whether strikes will occur in other regions, but the Milan strike could create a “domino effect” in other regional immigration offices. In addition, assignees who have received their work visas from Italian Consulates and intend to enter Italy should confirm whether appointments with the host Sportello Unico are available to execute the assignee’s “Contract of Stay,” since this is required within eight days of the assignee’s arrival. If a Contract of Stay cannot be executed, the assignee will be delayed in regularizing status in Italy and applying for Post Office residence registration receipts.At this time, there does not appear to be further delays in processing renewal applications for assignees with work and residence permit renewal applications pending in the Milan region.
Italy may be the first of several EU countries to experience government strikes and delays due to national austerity measures. Employees filing work permit applications in Milan may also encounter significant delays due to the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays in addition to delays caused by the staff strikes. We will provide further updates with regard to changes occurring in Italy or other EU countries.