Every year the Italian government issues regulations called "the decreto flussi" which specify the number of permits that will be offered to long and short time foreign workers from outside the European Union, who have been offered a job in the country. The potential employer must apply for a "permesso di soggiorno" which once issued permits the foreigner to live and work legally in the country.
This year the government will issue 170,000 of these permits (more than double the number issued in 2005) that are valid while the foreigner is working for the employer who applied for it.
Although the request for the permit is made by the person offering employment it is usual for the foreigner to deliver the request to the local post offices on the day specified in the decreto. This year the start of the deliver date and time was 14.30 on 14 March. Queues formed outside the 6,200 post offices all over Italy, thousands of foreigners sleeping out all night to make sure they were among the first to present their request. Volunteers from the Red Cross and the civil protection department provided blankets and hot drinks to help them through the night. More than half a million requests have been delivered. In the province of Lazio 62,503 requests were presented for the 14,946 permits available but the record goes to Lombardia where 90,438 permits were requested for the 16,940 available. Two years ago many of the permits issued had expired before they were delivered. The holders were never able to work legally and had to reapply in 2005.