Family reunification as the recognition of the right to family unity for foreign nationals.

Family reunification represents one of the possible ways to legally enter and reside in Italy and is regulated by artt. 282929bis and 30 of the TUI (Testo Unico sull'Immigrazione), which is the relevant legislation.

This legislation has been adopted as a consequence of the recognition by Italian lawmakers of the right to family unity, which – as set out in art. 28 of the TUI – can be exercised by any foreign national who is legally residing in Italy to request reunification to the following relatives:

  • The spouse, who is at least 18 and not legally separated;
  • Children under 18 years of age, including those born from another partner upon prior consent of the other parent;
  • Dependent children aged over 18 who – for objective reasons – are not able to address their own basic needs;
  • Dependent parent, provided that:

    1. There are no other children in their country of origin or provenance;
    2. The children residing in their country of origin are not able to address their needs due to documented health issues;
    3. They are aged over 65.

Requirements to apply for family reunification

In order to obtain the authorisation for family reunification, it is necessary to meet specific requirements and to follow a particular procedure, as set out by paragraph 3 of art. 29 of the TUI.

In particular, the applicant shall provide evidence of having:

  • adequate accommodation complying with the hygienic requirements established by Italian law;
  • sufficient resources which are not lower than the annual amount of the social allowance;
  • a health insurance which may cover medical expenses in case healthcare assistance is needed in Italy.

As for the sufficient resources required, two aspects are particularly important: the minimum income and its variation depending on the number of relatives reunited.

Minimum income

The benchmark used to establish whether the resources of the foreign national are sufficient is the social allowance.

The social allowance is a welfare provision put in place by the Italian legislator for elderly people with low income. The amount of the social allowance is established yearly and is subject to ISTAT revaluations.

Therefore, foreign nationals will be considered to have 'sufficient resources' available when their annual income is higher than the maximum income required to be entitled to social allowance.

In accordance with the provisions set out by European legislation, directive 2003/86/CE, and by the TUI, the overall annual income of the applicant's cohabitants are taken into account in assessing the income.

Changes in the minimum income

The income under consideration may change depending on the number of relatives for whom a request for reunification is made.

  • The social allowance is increased by half for each relative to whom reunification is requested;
  • The amount of the social allowance is doubled when:

    1. the applicant requests reunification to two or more children aged less than 14 years;
    2. the applicant is a beneficiary of the international protection status.

How to apply

If all the above requirements are satisfied, it is possible to apply for family reunification by following the below procedure:

  1. The foreign national must submit the request for a nulla osta at the designated office of the competent Prefettura – Ufficio territoriale di governo, depending on where the applicant resides.
    The nulla osta is a document that the competent authority may decide or not to issue, attesting that

    1. there are no hindrances causing the inadmissibility of the foreign national for legal entry to Italy. The reasons for rejection are indicated in art. 4 par. 3 of the TUI;
    2. all requirements indicated in art. 29 to apply for family reunification are satisfied.
  2. The application for nulla osta must be submitted with all the documents attesting the applicant's eligibility. The competent authority must issue the nulla osta or notify its rejection within 180 days from the application submission.
  3. Once the foreign national applying for reunification to a relative residing in Italy has obtained from the Immigration Office the nulla osta and other official documents, he/she can turn to the diplomatic missions and consular posts in Italy to obtain an entry visa for family reunification.
  4. Once the foreign national has received the visa for family reunification and entered Italy, he/she must go to the competent immigration desk within 8 days (as per d.P.R. 394/1999) with the following documents:

    1. 16,00€ stamp duty;
    2. copy of a valid passport;
    3. copy of codice fiscale (if already obtained);
    4. a certification attesting the current residence;
    5. copy of the nulla osta.

After having submitted all the documents, the foreign national will receive a pre-compiled form that he/she will have to put in an envelope and send to the designated post offices through the 'Sportello amico' by using a specific kit as indicated on the website of Poste Italiane,, in the section 'Guida per il rilascio e il rinnovo del permesso di soggiorno' (Guide for the issuance and renewal of the residence permit).

The foreign national residing in Italy with a residence permit for family reasons has access to assistance services, study courses or vocational training, job opportunities.

The duration of the permit is the same as the duration of the permit for the foreign national who has applied for family reunification and it is possible to renew it along with the latter.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.