What is the ‘decreto flussi’ anyways?


I wish everything were black and white.

Not literally of course (love me some color!), but I just wish that every question had a black and white answer. Like why can’t I remember my dreams? Why is the word for ‘beer’ in Italian feminine (la birra) and the word for ‘wine’ masculine (il vino) even though men tend to prefer beer and women tend to prefer wine?  Why is the sky blue? (The correct answer is: “Because God is dead and we’re alone.” – but that’s another story).

But the question that I really wish were black and white is “What is the decreto flussi?” 

Decreto Flussi.  

Two little words I have come to love and despise at the same time. 

Recently I’ve been getting a WHOLE LOT OF questions about working in Italy. Questions that are really difficult to answer without speaking about the decreto flussi, which is inherently an enigma in and of itself. Am I an immigration lawyer? Certainly not. But I have had to deal with a lot of bureaucratic bullshit red tape when it comes to working in Italy.

So let’s get to it. 

What is the Decreto Flussi anyways? 

The Decreto Flussi – translated as ‘flow decree’ in English – is an Italian immigration policy that states when and how non-EU foreigners can enter Italy, as well as how many immigrants from a each country are allowed to enter. Think about it like a door to the Italy working world. When the door is closed, no immigrants are allowed in for working motives (motives related to study, family, and highly specialized jobs are different and don’t fall under this decreto flussi category). When the door is open, a certain number of immigrants from each designated country are allowed to apply for a work visa, so long as they have an employer willing to sponsor them.

Decreto Flussi Door

Sounds simple right? There’s only one catch: the decreto flussi isn’t always open. In fact it’s usually only open for a few months out of the year, sometimes every couple of years depending upon Italy’s current state of immigration and job market. The opening times are completely random and there is practically impossible to predict when a a decreto flussi is going to open.

Of course EU citizens, this whole work visa/decreto flussi business isn’t a problem. EU citizens can legally work in Italy without a visa. Yet for non-EU Citizens it’s tricky business – even if a foreigner is fully qualified for a position, an employer can’t legally hire a non-EU citizen without a work visa and they can’t apply for a work visa unless the decreto flussi is open. 

What Can You Do?

First thing’s first – speak to your potential employer. Ask them if they can help you apply for a work visa and if the decreto flussi is open. If they are Italian, they will probably be able to navigate and understand the bureaucratic process easier than you. 

Some employers are hesitant to help, probably because they aren’t sure they want to go through all the trouble of sponsoring a work visa for an employee they don’t know very well. From my experience in the English teaching industry, schools can just as easily hire someone with an EU passport who is just as qualified for the job as you are. In this case, you might have to make some sacrifices, apply for a student visa in the meantime (yes, you’d have to enroll in school in Italy), and then convert your student visa into a work visa later after the employer has gotten to know you and agrees to take you on as a permanent employee.  

Decreto Flussi Door | What is the decreto flussi? www.italyproject365.com

Second thing you can do is have a look at the Ministero dell’Interno’s website to see if there’s any news about the decreto flussi. There’s also loads of information about what is called a Nulla Osta – this the application that your employer and you must complete when applying for a work visa. Here’s an example of a announcement about the opening time of the decreto flussi, when you and your employer can send your Nulla Osta request online. 

To make the Nulla Osta request, you should register through the Ministero dell’Interno’s portal first and complete the application online. After that, they should send you instructions on how to apply for your permesso di soggiorno per lavoro

Still not sure what to do? Please leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer your question. 

In bocca al lupo! (good luck)

27 comments on “What is the ‘decreto flussi’ anyways?

  1. Any news updates about decreto flussi last time I fill up form is way back 2013 if I’m not mistaken can’t wait to get my name called and issue me permit to go work in Italy.

  2. Hi Sarah! I’m a 23-year-old American living in Italy, currently as an au pair, but trying to make my way teaching. Your blog has been so informative and inspirational to me in these months, and as of today, I finally have a job offer– from MYES in Torino! They’ve offered me a work contract, but right now I have a permesso di lavoro for “casi particolari” (ragazza alla pari), which needs to be changed into a regular work permit (subordinato). Do you know anything about this process? Is it possible to change the type of permesso like that? Thank you!!! Christina

  3. Hi Sarah. Thank you for making this website. I find it very, very helpful.

    You wrote, “apply for a student visa in the meantime (yes, you’d have to enroll in school in Italy), and then convert your student visa into a work visa later, after the employer has gotten to know you and agrees to take you on as a permanent employee.” You may want to point out that this is difficult because as a student in an approved school, you going to be so busy with classes and homework that you won’t have that much time to work for anyone. I know you’re allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on a Student visa, but I don’t see how people find the time.

    Also, on another page you wrote that you got your Student visa by being a student at Via Lingua. I’m surprised that enrolling in their one-month program was enough to get you this. I also realize you did something very smart. You could have visited Italy on a three month Tourist visa, but then you wouldn’t have been able to work at all (as a non-EU citizen). But as a student, you’re allowed to work up to 20 hours a week. That’s why you asked for a Student visa rather than a Tourist visa, right?

    Did I miss something? Please clarify. Thank you.

  4. I just reread something you wrote on a different page, and I see that I am mistaken – you did not get your Student visa due to Via Lingua. Since you were at the University of Bologna for a year, that was probably how you got it. So I take back the second question I asked you. Sorry for my error.

    My first question / comment is still in place: It’s very difficult to enroll in an approved student program and still have enough time on the side to work for – and impress – an employer so that the employer will agree to get involved with the paperwork of sponsoring you for a Work visa. This is the main obstacle I see ahead of me. My wife and I will be coming to Italy next year. She will be coming on a Student visa, enrolled at the University of Florence. I was going to ask for a family Visa, but that would mean I wouldn’t be able to work legally at all. Now, based on what you wrote and what I read elsewhere, I’m thinking of also coming on a Student visa, so I could work part-time and hopefully impress someone to sponsor my Work visa once the window for Work visas for non-us citizens opens. So thank you for this insight.

    It’s all so complicated. That’s why I’m so grateful that people like you produce sites like this. Thank you again.

    • Hi Seth, Thanks for your comment and kind words.

      My first student visa was through Via Lingua. I think I got very lucky. The program director wrote me a very nice letter of enrollment that was worded very carefully to say that I would be completing a 6 month long course (1 month in the classroom, 5 months “pracitce teaching”). I didn’t ask them to change the wording or anything, I think they just wanted me to enroll and so they wrote the letter this way.

      After my first 6 month visa expired, I enrolled in an Italian language school in Bologna for another 6 months. Again, I think I got lucky. The Boston consulate would not issue me a visa for this program, however the Miami consulate did (I was able to apply to both being a “student resident” in Rhode Island but having permanent residnecy in Georgia). My Italian course was 20 hours a week, 4 hours each morning. I couldn’t attend to every hour but since it wasn’t a course that granted a degree or issued an exam, it wasn’t imperative that I go every day. I did the course to improve my Italian, attended whenever I could while working my normal teaching hours.

      My third and final student visa was through the University of Bologna. I realized that doing this would not only grant me a visa more easily (the Italian consulate doesn’t like to issue study visas for “fun” courses), but would also allow me to stay in Italy for at least a year and give me the possibility to renew the visa in Italy if I passed a minimum of 2 univeristy exams in my first year. It’s important to recognize that Italian univeristies are generally much more lax when it comes to attendance and your exam is based on assigned reading, not what the professor says during lectures. So, following the course wasn’t time consuming. I was able to attend a few lectures and read on my own time when I wasn’t working. I passed my first exam and then got really lucky because the Ministero dell’Interno opened up the ‘decreto flussi’ – allowing any immigrants currently holding a study visa to convert it into a work visa given that they had work sponsor.

      I don’t mean to devalue the importance of education here. The courses I attended were both interesting and helpful, especially in temrs of Italian language and honing my conversation skills. So even though I didn’t attend the university course full-time, I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot.

      My advice is that if you have the means and guts to enroll in an Italian university, it’s the best option for getting a study visa.

  5. One more question please, if you don’t mind:

    Once a person gets a Work visa, is it permanent, allowing him to work in Italy for the rest of his life?

    Thanks again for your help.

    • No, not exactly. Your work visa is valid for as long as you maintain your employment. I think if you don’t maintain your job, you have a limited amount of time (probably around 6 months) to find another job before your visa expires. This said, you will also have to renew your visa (permesso di soggiorno) every 1-2 years. You can do this in Italy.

      • Thank you very much, Sara, for your long and helpful reply. I appreciate your taking the time to respond.

        If you managed to get your employer to sponsor you, he must have been very impressed with you, because from what I’ve read, it’s very difficult to find an employer willing to do that. He has to prove that he cannot hire an Italian citizen for the job.

        Tell me, aren’t you worried that if you’d ever lose your job and couldn’t get another employer to sponsor you for a Work visa within 6 months or so, that you’d have to leave the country or go back to having to enroll in a school somewhere on a Student visa? This sound terrible.

        My wife is an EU citizen. As I’m sure you know, it’s much easier for an employer to hire an EU citizen than a non-EU citizen. From what I’ve read, once she’s in the country on a Work visa for 5 straight years, she automatically gets Permanent Residency status, and then I get it too as her spouse. So I’m lucky.

        By the way, here are two books that I found very helpful for English – speakers considering moving to Italy. You might want to consider reading and recommending them on your website (I’m not connected with the authors in any way) :

        ** At least you’re in Tuscany, by Jennifer Criswell
        ** Living and Working in Italy, edited by Graeme Chesters, and published by Survival Books (a bit old, but still very helpful)

        Also, if you don’t mind, I have two more questions please: I read that to get a Residence Permit, you need to prove that you’re staying in a “suitable residence”. I also read that many rental contracts specifically forbid you to use their apartment’s address for this purpose. (This is to protect the landlord in case he has problems with the tenant, since otherwise it’s very difficult to evict a tenant, no matter the reason.) How difficult of an issue was this for you? If nearly all rental contracts are going to have this clause, how on earth am I going to get a Residence Permit?

        My other question is more simple: How can I stay up-to-date with the latest changes to the immigration laws? Is there a website, Twitter feed, or anything else I can subscribe to that you know of?

        Again, thanks very much for your help.

        • Hi Seth,

          I wasn’t too afraid about losing my job. Yes, it’s always a possibility, but I had a good rapport with my employer at the time. They first hired me under a short term contract when I had my student visa and after they figured out they liked me enough, were willing to sponsor my work visa.

          Now I am a co-owner of an English school in Genova so I don’t really have to worry about losing my job. If something did happen, I’m optimistic that I would find another teaching job or a marketing job, since that’s what I have a lot of experience in now. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! :)

          As far as a “residency permit” goes, I think you might be confusing the difference between a “Elective Residency Visa” and a “residency permit”? A residency visa is quite difficult to get, like you said. On the other hand, applying for ‘residency’ is pretty standard in Italy. Once you find an apartment and sign a rental contract, you simply have to go to the local town office to declare where are you living. This is important so you can receive local benefits, like a health card, parking permits, etc.

          Unfortunately, Italy isn’t the most organized country. Keeping up with the latest changes in immmigration laws isn’t so clear. You can always check the Ministero dell’Interno’s website (mostly in Italian) for immigration news.

          Thanks for the book recommendations and good luck!

          • Thank you, Sarah, for answering all of my questions.

            In the book Living and Working in Italy, it says: “To obtain a residence permit (Certificato di Residenza), you require a ‘suitable’ habitual residence. Although all residences are potentially suitable, some rental contracts forbid you to use an apartment’s address for this purpose.” He’s not talking about Elective Residence in this chapter.

            From your response to my question, I assume it’s not common for landlords to put this limitation in the contract, since you don’t seem to have heard of this problem. This makes me much less worried about it, so thank you.

            Good luck with your new school! I hope it works out well for you in Genova.

            Thank you again for all of your help.

          • Hi Seth, I haven’t had too much of a problem with finding a landlord willing to give me a legitimate housing contract, which is what you need to apply for the residency permit. Some landlords don’t want to do it because it means they have to pay more taxes and registration fees, however many landlords DO want you to sign a contract because it protects them and ensures they will be paid by the rentee should he/she not pay their rent on time.

          • Sarah, when the author wrote that “some rental contracts forbid” a tenant from using “an apartment’s address for this purpose” (referring to the purpose of obtaining a residency permit), he wasn’t saying that some landlords don’t sign legal contracts with their tenants. He was saying that within the legal contract is a clause forbidding the tenant from using the apartment for the purpose of obtaining a residency permit. When I read this, it very much scared me. But since you don’t seem to have heard of this clause, I guess it’s not that common for it to be included in a rental contract.

          • Sarah,

            Not sure which visa you’re using for your Italian residency, but now that you are an owner of a school, you should be eligible for a self-employment visa which would allow you to stay in Italy indefinitely.

            I didn’t fully understand the Residency Permit discussion. Whenever I stay somewhere in Italy for more than 30 days – at one address – I apply for a Codice Fiscale (tax code), but it’s not a Residency Permit. I’m not aware that the codice fiscale entitles me to any benefits like health care, though I can say that I have used emergency medical services in Italy – and have never been billed. Unfortunately, I still have to leave the EU after 90 days.

            If your blog followers would like to learn more about the Permesso di Soggiorno, they should go to Rick Zullo’s resource page and sign up for his newsletter and free guide: Permesso di Soggiorno – A step-by-step Guide. His guide also includes some links and information for help with visas, healthcare, the codice fiscale, and apartment hunting.


            Buona fortuna!

          • Hello, thanks for the useful info! A codice fiscale is different from a residnecy permit. A codice fiscale is a tax code used to identify people residing in Italy either temporarily or permanently. On the other hand, a residency permit declares that you are permanently residing in Italy and which town/city you are living in. You don’t really need the residnecy permit if you are only staying in Italy for a few months. It’s more important for people who need to receive health/tax/government benefits.

  6. Hi my name is inderpal sardar iam a student in Italy and I want my visa to convert in to work is flussi visa is released please give me the correct information so that I can apply

    • Hi Inderpal, you need to go to the Prefettura di Immigrazione in your city and ask if you can convert your visa. They will give you the instructions. Good luck.

  7. Hi sarah. Just wanto to clarify in applying the decreto flucci, once foreign worker has recieved his or her authorisation from the employer the worker should apply with the italian embassy in his or her own country? So it means if you are already in italy u need to go home to your country?

    • Hi Hannah, If you’re already in Italy and you hold a valid visa, you don’t need to return to your home country. All you need to do is apply to convert your current visa into a work visa at the local Questura office. On the other hand, if you do not have a visa at the time your Nulla Osta is approved, you must return to your home country and apply for the visa at the Italian Consulate.

  8. Hi Sara! wonderful information! I have 1 question though.

    When converting your study visa to a work visa, do employers still have to pay to sponsor you? In other words, without the conversion employers are under a lot of pressure to not hire foreign workers (cost, process, etc), are those the same when you’re just converting?

    I’m finishing my laurea right now and hope to start the magistrale next year… but I want to be prepared for after that too xD



    • Hey Tia, From my experience, the employer doesn’t have to pay anything to convert the permesso. If anything, it’s just a time consuming process and requires some effort on the employer’s part.