The Italian “contract of stay” for foreign workers

21 March 2024

When foreign workers access Italian soil to perform professional activities under subordinate employment relationships, the latter undertakes to individually execute a so-called “contract of stay” once they arrive in Italy, which allows them to stay in the country lawfully.

Section 5-bis of Legislative Decree no. 286/1998 (i.e., the Italian consolidated act on immigration) was established in 2002 and provides that employers and non-EU citizens reaching Italy to perform working activities in favour of the latter shall execute a contract of stay. In such a document, the employer has to state its commitment to (i) grant that the worker has access to proper, lawful accommodation and (ii) take care of the travel expenses for the employee's return home.   

The contract of stay must be signed by the involved employee at the same immigration office where the reference employer had previously submitted its clearance request (of course, provided the latter has been sustained), which is usually later telematically communicated by the competent authority to the consulate of the employee’s origin country. It will be the latter that, once received such notification, will release an entrance visa, allowing the interested subject to enter Italy and, consequently, sign the residency contract.   

Only signing a valid contract of stay (i.e., containing both of the provisions mentioned above) allows the employee to obtain the corresponding residence permit and, consequently, to stay in Italy in compliance with the relevant regulations in the matter. Otherwise, the worker’s permanence in the country – as provided by the entry visa issued for work reasons as explained above – must be considered irregular.

The residence permit subsequently granted to the employee will last for the entire duration indicated in the residency contract, which cannot exceed one year in the case of a fixed-term employment relationship or two years for an indefinite one.  

Generally speaking, each time an employer chooses to have foreign workers come to Italy through the use of each of the instruments defined by Italian legislation aimed at regulating the entry of workers into Italy (e.g., the so-called 'flows' decree or the 'European Blue Card'), the latter is requested to partially fill out the residency contract—which, as mentioned, will later be completed and signed by the involved employee.