Beginning on March 10, 2012, all foreigners over 16 years of age who enter Italy for the first time and apply for a residence permit with a validity of at least one year must sign an "Integration Agreement" (Accordo di Integrazione) at the immigration office (Sportello unico per l’immigrazione) or at the police headquarters (Questura). The new measures do not apply to those already present in Italy.
The agreement regulates the new point system for the permit of stay. Foreigners are accredited with points or credits based on their level of integration into Italian society.
The agreement, where possible, is translated into the native language of the person. Upon signing the agreement, each foreigner is automatically assigned 16 points, which corresponds to a sufficient knowledge of the Italian language (A1) and of the basic principles of Italian culture and public life.
The main points of the agreement include:
- Achievement of an "A2" level of knowledge of the Italian language (slightly higher than the basic level);
- Sufficient knowledge of the fundamental principles of Italian law and public administration;
- Basic knowledge of Italian public life (e.g., social service, health care);
- Compliance with work and tax obligations;
- A guarantee that children of school age attend compulsory education.
Within six months of signing the agreement, the foreigner must attend a free cultural education course (five to 10 hours). The course can be taken in one of several languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Albanian, Russian, or Filipino.
The foreigner is awarded points based on considerations such as demonstrating knowledge of the Italian language, courses taken, and educational qualifications. Those who obtain at least 30 points are considered to have fulfilled the requirements of the integration agreement, while those who obtain between one and 29 points are given one year to complete everything and obtain the necessary minimum 30 points. Those who have all their points deducted are no longer eligible for a permit of stay or renewal and will be expelled from Italy.
Points may also be deducted for reasons such as a criminal sentence, even if not a definitive sentence (a judgment by a lower court that can be appealed); being a threat to public security; or committing administrative or tax offenses.
One month before its expiration date, the immigration office will review all the documents submitted by the foreigner (e.g., certificates of courses attended, educational certificates). Those who fail to submit the certificates must undertake a test if the authorities deem it necessary.
The Ministry of Home Affairs maintains an official register of all foreigners who have signed the integration agreement. The register indicates points obtained by each foreigner. Any changes to the points will be communicated to the relevant person, who will also have access to the register to check status.
The law also provides the possibility to suspend or postpone the agreement for cause of force majeure or for justified reasons that prove it is impossible to fulfill terms of the agreement such as serious illness, work, study and training obligations.