Welfare benefits and social security in Italy


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Social welfare rights in Italy


Social welfare rights include financial or other aid provided by the government to the people in need (e.g. unemployment, accidents on the job, sickness, invalidity, pension, family insurance services, maternity). These benefits regard social, health or work needs. The social welfare system is an important integration tool.

In Italy, welfare benefits are connected to the employment, nationality (Italian, EU or Non-EU citizen) and the status of resident

  • Foreigner that is legal resident, that has a permanent residence permit (https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/content/residence-document_en) in Italy, has equal treatment of access to social welfare with Italians.
  • People granted international protection have access to social insurance no matter what type of protection you have. When it comes to welfare benefits, you can access them if you are employed.
  • Asylum seekers (https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/content/asylum-seeker-0_en) have access to social insurance while waiting for the response for your application thanks to the Personal Health Card from National Health Service. You don’t have access to welfare benefits but have provided adequate housing (in centers for migrants), food and pocket money. 
  • People in irregular status (https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/content/irregular-migrant-0_en) have the right to emergency and primary medical treatment, but you cannot use economic welfare benefits or health insurance

Social Insurance


Italian insurance law says that foreigners with legal residency are treated equally to Italian citizens and benefit from national insurance and assistance. The Italian social insurance system is based on health, pension and work accident insurance.

Pension is a regular payment that you get if you have worked in Italy and if your employer has paid taxes for you or in the case of self-employment that you paid for yourself. There are two type of pensions:

  • Old age pension – for this type you need to fulfil the same requirements as Italian citizens to have at least 20 years of taxes paid.
  • Mobility and invalidity pension – the condition is to have at least 5 years of taxes paid, 3 of which in the past five years.

Unemployment insurance


If you are a foreigner who is legally in Italy (and not seasonal worker) and you lose your job you can apply for unemployment benefits. The conditions are that you reside in Italy, are in the possession of the unemployment status (which is certified by the Job Center (Centro per l’impiego)) and have a minimum insurance record. This means you need to have paid at least 13 weeks of contributions in the 4 years preceding the start of the unemployment period; have completed at least 30 days of effective work in the 12 months preceding the start of the unemployment period.

The request for unemployment insurance must be made within 68 days of the job loss through one of these channels:

For further information about healthcare, see chapter Employment in the Guidebook.

Health care

Basic health insurance by law as part of the social insurance is a legal obligation in Italy. In other words, in case of sickness, accident at work or unemployment the social insurance system is taking over the costs of treatment, rehabilitation and for medicine.

To access the health care service you need to enroll in the National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN) (https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servizio_sanitario_nazionale_(Italia)).

  • If you already have been granted protection you are guaranteed the same healthcare rights as nationals no matter what type of protection you have.
  • Temporary residence holders have the same rights to healthcare as Italian citizens for the duration of the residence permit.
  • If you are an asylum seeker you can benefit from the healthcare system while waiting for the response for your application thanks to the Personal Health Card from National Health Service.
  • People in irregular status have the right to emergency and primary medical treatment only.

For further information about healthcare, see chapter Health in the Guidebook. 

Family reunification and welfare benefits for families


If you have been granted refugee status or subsidiary protection and your family members are living on the Italian territory, they have the right to welfare benefits and healthcare protection just as you. You have the right to welfare economic benefits such as childbirth allowance, child benefits, family insurance (health insurance), allowance for maternity or paternity. It is important to submit the application the latest six months after the birth of the child in order to get the child benefits.

If your family is not living in Italy and you have asylum protection you have the right to family reunification. First, you need to submit an application at the Prefecture Immigration Unit (Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione della Prefettura). With the issued document (nulla osta) you submit the application for family reunification visa at the Italian embassy of the country your family is staying.

The holders of humanitarian protection and asylum seekers do not have the right to family reunification.

Welfare benefits for persons with disabilities


If you are legally resident in Italy (with a residence permit) in order to benefit from social security for invalidity and economic help you need to get your status of disabled person in Italy recognized. Therefore, you must obtain the medical certificate attesting the handicap. You need to submit the request for verification of the health requirements through the INPS (National institute for social security) (https://www.inps.it/nuovoportaleinps/default.aspx) website or by contacting a relief organization (Patronati). You will get an appointment with INPS medical commission. If this assessment proves the existence of health requirements, a certificate attesting the state of disability will be issued (within 90 days of the visit) which will allow access to the benefits provided for by Law 104 (https://www.money.it/Legge-104-testo-guida-permessi-agevolazioni-disabili). The benefits you can ask can be related to your work, members of your family and tax benefits.

How to obtain welfare benefits?

Social security (http://www.integrazionemigranti.gov.it/en/legal-framework/domestic-law/Pages/Social-security.aspx)

Everyone who lives in Italy is obligated to have a social insurance. This insurance is not obtained automatically, but you need to register with the National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) in order to obtain social security. To do that you have to go to the local A.S.L. (Assistenza Sanitaria Locale – Local Health Service) (http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/temi/p2_6.jsp?lingua=italiano&id=3826&area=statisticheSSN&menu=vuoto) and you should present:

  1. personal identity document
  2. tax code
  3. residence permit
  4. certification of residence (as a habitual residence is considered reception center where you live for more than three months)

When you register, you will be able to choose the family doctor or pediatrician for your children too.

Registration with the health service is valid for the duration of the residence permit. If your permit has expired and you are renewing it or you filed for an appeal, it is sufficient to bring a document that proves this to the A.S.L.

Once registered you will receive a document the “Personal Health Card“, which entitles you to receive the following services either free of charge, or upon payment of contribution quota (Health Ticket) (depending on the region you are in): general and specialist medical visits, home medical visits, hospitalization, vaccinations, blood tests, radiographs, ultrasound, medicines, rehabilitative and prosthetic assistance.

Welfare benefits

Requirements:  regular presence and employment in Italy.

In order to get access to welfare benefits you have to register in nearest C.A.F. The C.A.F. (Fiscal Assistance Centers) (https://www.cafitalia.eu/) are organizations that support employees, retired people and employers in various obligations, such as the compilation of the different requests, tax returns of all kinds and other. The first thing to do is to get a residence in a municipality where you live. To do this you should have a valid permit of stay with your address and you need to be registered in the municipal list (anagrafe) which in Italy are two separate procedures.

Once you get the residency, you can access the following services: 

  • social services (accidents on the job, illness and invalidity, pension)
  • economic help (unemployment, family insurance services, childbirth allowance, insurance services for maternity and paternity, ….)
  • the nursery schools
  • driver’s license
  • procedure for submitting an application for Italian citizenship. (for the request of citizenship by naturalization the foreign citizen must be a resident legally for ten years)
  • participation in public housing tenders

In the case, you cannot meet the conditions for residence permit your access to welfare benefits and social security automatically terminates but you can still benefit from health security in the case of emergency.

Healthcare in emergency

If you are staying in Italy without authorization you don’t have access to healthcare, but you are guaranteed urgent and primary healthcare. One of the non-governmental organisations that provides basic and specialist healthcare for migrants – with or without residence permits is Emergency that has a clinic in Palermo too.  https://en.emergency.it/projects/italy-palermo-clinic/

In order to benefit from the medical assistance in public institutions you will need to request S.T.P. card (Temporarily Present Foreigner) (http://www.insardegnamigranti.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=40:stp&catid=3&Itemid=4&lang=en) from any A.S.L.  (Assistenza Sanitaria Locale – Local Health Service), hospital or institute that is valid for six months and renewable. To get it you will have to declare your personal details and that you do not possess sufficient financial resources.

This card can be issued without your name and surname and it gives you the right to:

basic health care,

(urgent) recoveries in day-hospital,

urgent and primary healthcare even if continuous, due to illness or injury.

Access to health facilities does not involve any kind of reporting to public authorities.

Irregularly present pregnant women (http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/salute/p1_5.jsp?id=193&area=Servizi_per_persone_o_situazioni_speciali)  receive a permit of stay for medical purposes and have the right to social protection during the pregnancy (equal to Italian citizens) and during the maternity. They are exempt from expulsion from Italy in the following 6 months after the birth of the child.

Further information & links

The current system of Italian social services has adapted very little to the influx of immigrants and their families. Considering this the procedures to access these services can be complicated and confusing for foreigners. Therefore, it would be useful to provide intercultural mediators (http://www.integrazionemigranti.gov.it/en/services/Intercultural-mediation/Pages/default.aspx) on the ground which is rarely the case. However, for help you can contact institutions of patronage (Patronati – http://www.tituteliamo.it/chi-siamo/) to guide you during administrative procedures and make your contact with the public administration easier. 


Websites that give more information on welfare and social rights in Italy:


Social security: http://www.integrazionemigranti.gov.it/en/legal-framework/domestic-law/Pages/Social-security.aspx#2




Social services for immigrants: http://informa.comune.bologna.it/iperbole/salute/servizi/2072/

Access to social services migrants: http://sociale.regione.emilia-romagna.it/immigrati-e-stranieri/documentazione-fami/accesso-ai-servizi-e-cittadini-migranti-novita-e-cambiamenti

IMMIGRAZIONE: L’ACCESSO AI SERVIZI SOCIALI di Daniela Pompei e Rita Cutini https://shop.wki.it/documenti/61302076_est.pdf (Retrieved on 28.05.2018)

Family reunification: http://www.meltingpot.org/La-procedura-per-il-ricongiungimento-familiare.html#.WxAUs-6FPIV

Servizi Socio-Assistenziali Comune di Palermo http://www.attivitasociali.palermo.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=56

Quali sono i diritti degli stranieri con disabilità in Italia?



Residence permit: http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/italy/content-international-protection/status-and-residence/residence-permit

Istitutions of Patronage: http://www.tituteliamo.it/chi-siamo/



1.What do welfare benefits and social security cover in Italy?

They cover social, health or work needs.

2.What are the basic requirements to access the welfare benefits and social security in Italy?

For the social security you need to have the status of resident and to be registered in the National Health Service and for the welfare benefits you need to be employed also.

3.Do foreign citizens with legal residence have equal rights as Italian citizens when it comes to access to welfare benefits and social security?

Yes, the Italian insurance law guarantees them social security and welfare benefits equal to Italian citizens.

4.Do family members of asylum seekers have the same rights to social benefits as the asylum seekers they are linked to?

The right to welfare and social security are implicit for the family members of refugees and subsidiary protection holders living on the Italian territory.

5.Can persons with disabilities access welfare benefits?

Yes, you can if you are legally resident in Italy and you had your status recognized in Italy.

6.Does a person with irregular status have the right to welfare benefits?

No, only the right to health care in the case of emergency.