Living in Italy – The Integration Agreement

I’ve just received formal notification that I have met the terms of the Italian Integration Ageement I signed as part of my first permesso di soggiorno application process. If I were coordinated enough, I’d do a few cartwheels, now that I am able to check this important “to-do” off my list.

What is the Italian Integration Agreement? If you plan on living in Italy, you’d better bone up on this one!  An American, or other non-EU person applying for a stay permit (permesso di soggiorno), and subsequent residency, is required by the questura (the immigration police) and the immigration offices to meet important criteria demonstrating they are doing certain things to become part of the Italian culture. When I went to the questura during the interview and fingerprinting part of my first permesso di soggiorno application, I was presented with the Integration Agreement, and asked to sign it. Thankfully, this multi-page document had been given to me in English so there would be no mistaking the terms to which I had agreed. 

The Integration Agreement was only put into place a few years ago. People who have been residents here before the enactment of this immigration law already are “good to go”. If you are planning on living in Italy for several years, be prepared to do what it takes to satisfy the terms outlined, or you will risk being sent back home.

Don’t fret. Meeting the terms of the Integration Agreement is very doable. From what I understand from having navigated the immigration system here, you pretty much have three years to get your act together. For me, after I secured my third permesso di soggiorno renewal, I received notifcation from the immigration office in Perugia that the formal process of tallying points had begun, and I had ten days to submit any documentation that would add points into my file. “Points?”, you may be asking. Let me explain…

You are required to have a total of 30 or more points to satisfy the terms of the Italian Integration Agreement.

The Integration Agreement clearly outlines what must be accomplished. Included in the agreement is a laundry list of things that will earn you points. Even though you can reach a total of 30 points with other line items, some items are obligatory.  

Certification at the A2 level of Italian (speaking, listening, writing) is required for living in Italy.

Be sure to check out my post in which I share my experience in getting my A2 language certification as a requirement for living in Italy. You’ll get 24 points for reaching this important milestone. Don’t grumble about this requirement since reaching this “advanced beginner” level will make your assimilation into Italian life much easier.

Upon signing the agreement, you automatically are assigned 16 points. There is a catch, however…

You agree to attend a class in Italian civic and cultural affairs. If you skip the class, 15 points are automatically deducted. And, you will still have to pass some sort of civic and cultural assessment to prove you are learning general Italian law and life. I attended my class, and made sure my presence was duly recorded. While I did learn some useful and interesting facts, the video we all had to watch was far from riveting. The class basically consisted of the adminstrator pushing the start button for a lengthy video presentation of a man and woman lecturing us, while sitting on stools, and pointing to charts with facts and figures. The class was five to six hours long, with short breaks. Don’t think you can skip out of the class mid-way through. Load up on a few espressos and stick it out. 

“The present Agreement shall be in force for two years and can be renewed for one year.”

This is the verbiage in my  contract. As I stated above, I pretty much had three years to get my act together. Look at your third year as your grace period. By year three I didn’t have anything else to accomplish, having taken my A2 certification exam, and being confident I had passed. Still, I had to wait several months to receive my official certificate before contacting the immigration office with a copy. My recommendation is to plan your time accordingly. Don’t risk getting to the end of your third year without a certification in hand. As I understand the process, satisfying the agreement allows me to apply for my fourth permesso di soggiorno without complications.

A word of caution…

Please remember, this is one person’s experience, and if I’ve learned anything in Italy, “things” can and do vary depending on where you are in Italy, and with whom you are speaking. Certain people, in the process of making my permesso applications, alluded to the agreement specifications as being applied when applying for a carta di soggiorno, which is a long-stay (permanent) permit – and only available after completing your fifth year in Italy. Being typically vigilant about following rules, I’m glad I planned for the “letter of the law” since that is what happened. You might talk to someone else who has had a different experience than me, but I urge you not to bank on skirting the agreement requirements.

You can earn points for other important aspects of setting up life in Italy.

These include things like owning a home, choosing and registering with a family doctor (as part of signing up for the national healthcare plan), certain education “pathways”, volunteering, and several other things.

When you receive your signed copy of the Integration Agreement, you also will receive instructions for accessing an online account to track your progress on your points. My recommendation is to “don’t bother”, since, in my experience, my balance online always was at zero. This freaked me out because, at the very least, I knew I had the 16 points initially awarded. I’d recommend speaking directly with the immigration office in your region to determine how you’re tracking and to help you anticipate what, if anything, still needs to be done, and what type of documentation might be outstanding. While I don’t know its exact auditing process, my guess is that the office keeps a file on you, and doesn’t formally begin registering and tracking your points until the beginning of your third year.

I have a few months before I tackle my next permesso application, and I want to prepare for “anything”. For that reason, I’m keeping my letter of completion, and my language certification close at hand. Meanwhile, I am going to bask in the knowledge I am continuing to make important progress for living in Italy long-term!