Migrants rescued by the humanitarian group Sea-Eye arrive in Messina, Italy, on June 22, 2022 | Photo: Gabriele Maricchiolo/NurPhoto/picture alliance
Migrants rescued by the humanitarian group Sea-Eye arrive in Messina, Italy, on June 22, 2022 | Photo: Gabriele Maricchiolo/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Some of the information for asylum seekers and refugees in Italy is not always available in the languages an asylum seeker might understand. On top of that, they are expected to know the meaning of a lot of abbreviations and acronyms. Here are a few of the most important terms to know.

➡️ This explainer is part of a series on acronyms for asylum seekers in different countries in Europe. Click here for an overview.

ACNUR Alto Commissariato delle Nazioni Unite per Rifugiati

This is the UNHCR in English, the United Nations Refugee Agency.


In English this means stateless person.


Meaning asylum. The Italian government has published a practical guide in Italian for people seeking asylum in the country.

It explains how to apply for international protection in Italy and what types of protection the country offers. If something is not clear in the guide, it is recommended to ask for help from legal specialists working at the welcome center where you are accommodated, or an association which helps migrants in your local area.

*Like in every country, Italy asks that you declare your intention to seek asylum as soon as possible. You should do that at the Questura (police station) or with the border police. The police will then register you, take your name, surname, place and date of birth, nationality, and take photos and ask for your fingerprints.

*You then have to fill out specific forms to start the process towards international protection. You will be given an interview by a territorial commission (Commissione Territoriale). Here you should talk about the things you have undergone which prompted you to seek asylum and your fears about being returned to your home country. The commission will then decide whether to offer you asylum. If you are refused, you have the right to appeal, (Ricorso).

ASL (or USL)

(Azienda Sanitaria Locale, or Unità Sanitaria Locale) is a local health department. This is where you register to get an Italian health card and be assigned a GP (general practitioner doctor). Through this card you can get access to free public health care and check-ups which are offered by the state. Once registered, you will be issued with a Tessera Sanitaria (Health Card) this will allow you to ssee a doctor, pick up prescriptions for medicine and get medical check ups.

Carta d’Identità

This is the Italian identity card. It is issued by your local Town Hall (Comune – Anagrafe), once you have been registered as a resident.

Carta di Soggiorno

Also called Permesso di Soggiorno. This is your residence permit. You apply for this at the police office or Questura. These can be different durations in length. Five years are generally given to non-EU dependents of Italian or EU citizens. Other times of stay permits are issued of different lengths.

CAS – Centri di acccoglienza straordinaria

These are reception centers in Italy. They are designed for temporary accommodation. This is normally for someone who has applied for asylum or needs some other form of protection. Sometimes, according to the website openpolis, a non-profit foundation based in Rome, services offered in a CAS can be similar to those offered in the SPRAR. (See below)

CARA / CDA / CPSA – Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo

These are first reception centers run by the state. They are normally offered to people just for the time they need to go through an identification process and apply for asylum and have health checks. This is where the authorities will check whether you are vulnerable and whether you might need extra assistance or protection. It is from these regional hubs that migrants will then be directed to the second line of welcome centers or SPRAR (see below).

Carta Blu UE

EU Blue Card. This allows the holder to live and work on the territory of a member state, in this case Italy.

CE – Commissione Europea

This is the EC – European Commission in English.

CEAS – Sistema europeo commune di asilo

Common European Asylum System in English.

CEDU – Convenzione Europea dei Diritti Umani

European Union Convention on Human Rights (ECHR in English)

Certificato di Idonietà

This certificate is issued by the Town Hall, or sometimes ASL. It confirms that the house or apartment in which you live complies with health and safety building regulations. You need this certification to apply for a stay permit. You need to make sure that your landlord also applies for a Cessione di fabbricato within 48 hours of you moving into the property. You will need this along with your housing contract to apply for the Certificato di Idoneità Alloggiativa, and then your stay permit.


In English this would mean citizenship. If in Italy you are called a Cittadino non-comunitario, it means you are a non-EU national. If you are called Cittadino di un paese terzo presente irregolarmente then they are saying you are a third country national found to be illegally present (without the correct documents) in the country.

Codice Fiscale

Is the tax code. You need this for many things in Italy, even buying a mobile phone, signing any kind of lease agreement, purchasing a car, or opening a bank account or registering for a health card. You can apply for your tax code at the Italian revenue offices, known as Agenzia delle Entrate. **Obtaining the code does not imply that you will need to pay taxes in Italy but it is important to have this code for many different forms you will need to fill in.

Contratto di Soggiorno

Foreign nationals entering Italy on a visa with Lavoro subordinato need to apply for this at the Sportello Unico Immigrazione (SUI – Immigration Office). You must apply for this within eight days of arrival and it should be followed by an application for a residence permit Permesso di soggiorno at the Post Office.

CPR (ex CIE) – Centri di permanenza e rimpatrio

These are detention centers prior to deportation. They are normally situated near an airport. People can be sent here if their asylum claim has expired, or they did not come to Italy to seek asylum.


This means Certificazione Unica. It is a form issued by your employer, which confirms the taxes and other mandatory charges that may have been withheld from the payslips by the employer. It is issued annually. You need this for filling in the tax declaration in Italy.

Decisione definitiva

This means a final decision in English. It would be given when a country, in this case Italy, decides whether or not you are in need of protection, asylum or refugee status. This would be after you have exhausted the appeals process.

Divieto di Ingresso

This means entry ban. It is normally applied with a judicial or administrative decision and means you are not legally allowed to remain on the territory of a member state. It is normally accompanied by an order to return to your home country.


This means Direzione Provinciale del Lavoro. It is a local office of the Ministry of Labor. The DPL provides clearance for the issue of work permits.


This refers to the Dublin Convention. It is the convention which determines where your asylum claim should be heard, based on the first country of entry in the EU.

EASO – Ufficio europeo di sostegno per l’asilo

European Asylum Support Office – also EASO.

Economia informale

This is the informal economy. It would mean that you are working in a sector not governed by the requisite laws and standards. Often laws are not respected in this sector and so exploitation can be rife. If you are working in this sector, your work will also not be counted when you come to make an application where you need to show your employment record. It can also be called Lavoro sommerso (Submerged work) or Lavoro in nero (Working on the black, ie not in the light of the law). The word ‘sfruttamento’ in Italian means exploitation in English.

EMN – Rete Europea Migrazioni

European Migration Network in English – also EMN.


This means expulsion or deportation. It is used in migration terms when a third-country national is issued with a decision to expel them. This is normally when they are deemed to pose a serious and actual threat to national security or public order. Perhaps they have committed a crime and been tried and condemned for that crime and been sent to prison for at least a year. People can also be expelled if there is concrete proof that they intend to commit a crime and are from a third country.


This means family member. It normally refers to someone you are married to, or are legally bound to. It can also refer to your children and other members of the family for whom you are legally responsible. In relation to migration, there is also the right to a family life (diritto alla vita familiare) and right to family unity (in the sense of reunification of the family members who may still be abroad or in your home country) diritto all’unità familiare.


This means border. If you are in the Zona di Frontiera, you are in the border area or zone.


If you are working in Italy, this office might come in useful, especially if you are engaged in dangerous work, or have an accident. It is the Istituto Nazionale per l’Assicurazione contro gli Infortuni, or the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents.


Istituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale, which is the National Social Security Agency. When you are working you have to pay into INPS. You should check your employer is paying in for you on your contract. INPS issues registration numbers to each employee. You will need this to ask for your stay permit to be extended. You need to make sure your employer is filling out two forms in particular from INPS, the Modulo F24 which is used to pay most taxes and the Modulo DM10, which is used by the employer to pay social security charges for employees.

Marca da Bollo

Is an official stamp. It is used for paying tax or duty. You can buy these at Post Offices and Tabaccherie (shops selling Tobacco, they also often sell stamps). You often need these to apply for official documents before sending off all your forms.

Nulla Osta al Lavoro / Permesso di lavoro (Work Permit)

The Sportello Unico at the Immigration Office issues these forms. They give foreigners clearance to work in Italy and go on to apply for a work visa.

OIM – Organizzazione Internazionale per le Migrazioni

IOM – UN Migration Agency in English

Permesso di Soggiorno (Permit of stay or Residence permit)

This document allows you to stay in Italy legally. You need to request it within eight days of arriving in the country. There are several different types of stay permit. If you do not qualify for refugee status, or subsidiary protection, you can ask for information on the other types of stay permits available to apply for.

These can be:

  • Permesso per cure mediche To receive a particular type of medical treatment. This is issued to those with very serious illness and lasts for a maximum of one year. Pregnant women also have a right to this type of permit, so they can receive medical attention for their newborn children for up to six months after the birth of their child.
  • Permesso per calamità – This is given if you cannot return to your home country because of some kind of a catastrophe, like an earthquake or a flood. Normally this permit lasts six months and is only valid on Italian territory. This allows you to work but cannot be converted into a work permit.
  • Permesso per casi speciali – If you have been the victim of violence or been seriously exploited, you have the right to obtain a six month, renewable then for one year, stay permit for ‘casi speciali’. This type of permit is also offered to those who have been exploited at work, or those who are victims of domestic violence. If you receive it after being exploited at work, it is renewable for one year and then can be converted into a work permit.
  • Permesso di lavoro – See above, Nulla Osta al Lavoro / Permesso di lavoro (Work Permit)


Is a local government office, under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior. It is often where the Sportello Unico, or Immigration Office is located.


Is a Police Office, also under the Ministry of the Interior. This is where migrants often have to go to be fingerprinted and then to apply for and collect their stay permits. Here you will often have to go to the Ufficio Stranieri, which is there to deal with all immigration matters.


Means refugees. According to the Italian government. These are people who have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their own country, on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they belong to a social group which is being persecuted and cannot receive protection from these things in their own country.

Ricevuta Postale

This is an official receipt which is issued by the Post Office. You need this if you have to send off your expired permesso di soggiorno for a renewal. This official receipt then confirms that you are compliant with Italy’s regulations. This receipt is only valid within Italy, so cannot be used as a replacement travel document.

SPRARSistema di protezione per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati

This is a protection system for asylum seekers and refugees. If you cannot afford to pay for accommodation or to eat while you are waiting for your application to be processed, you can try and get a place at one of these. They come in several different forms. Some are communal centers and some are a series of private flats, offered with state assistance. Others are run by charities, which are in turn registered within the state system. The SPRAR system is made up of local networks and is funded by a national fund (Asylum policy and services Fnpsa). This fund and many of the centers try and offer ways for asylum seekers and refugees to integrate. Including language courses and other activities. In theory, they try and offer individualized projects to help each individual. Funding has sometimes been a problem for these projects which means the CAS often do a lot more than they first set out to do, which was just provide emergency help and support.

Titolari di protezione sussidiaria

Means subsidiary protection. According to the Italian government, these are people who did not receive full refugee status, but could still be in grave danger in their home country. Perhaps they have been condemned to death, have been tortured, were treated inhumanly or in a degrading way, or they could be in danger of being killed, perhaps because of an armed conflict going on in their home country. Both of these types of protection guarantees, when granted, that you will not be repatriated and that you can stay in Italy.


Visto means Visa. The VIS is the Visa Information System, or Sistema Informazione Visti. This is the system that the European Union uses to exchange information between member states.

Much of the information here came from the Italian government and a private legal firm called Mazzeschi which published a comprehensive list of alphabetical terms in 2018.

Another source was the European Migration Network's glossary of terms and abbreviations.

The IOM has also published a glossary on migration terms for more general use, not specific to Italy.


More articles