Romanians in Italy became a notable presence mostly after 1999, due to a large wave of emigration known in Romania as Fenomenul către UE. 80% of the emigrants went to Spain or Italy. They were followed by a further wave beginning in 2002, when Romanian citizens obtained the right to leave their country and go to any Schengen Zone country without having a visa. , there were 555,997 Romanian citizens living in Italy, representing 15.1% of all foreign citizens in that country.
On 4 November 2007, Italy started expelling Romanians with criminal records, after a wave of violent crime blamed on swelling numbers of immigrants from Romania.