Permits, Beauracracy and the Italian Way of Getting Things Done!
Unfortunately for me, when my father arrived in Australia, the whole family changed their citizenship from Italian to Australian so, as I was born after this fact, I had no claim to an Italian passport. This would cause me many testing moments during each of my stays in Italy and as I wanted to stay for longer than the three month visa waiver period, I had to apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit of stay).
As Toni was a permanent resident, we thought it would be easier for her and Patrizio to go as guarantor for me and my reason of stay was for family reasons or Motivi Familiari as was written on the Permit.
You are probably thinking that once the application form was filled out, it was just a matter of waiting for the official document to arrive. Wrong! Firstly with the application, we also had to submit copies of my and Toni’s passports, our birth certificates, proof of Toni’s residency and actual address, four photos & a letter from Toni and Patrizio guaranteeing that they were responsible for me during my stay. All our Australian documents had to also be translated into Italian and be certified by a notary in Australia!
Luckily for us, the police captain at the Forte dei Marmi questura was very lovely and seemed quite charmed by the Australian twins! Toni and I took full advantage of this of course – anything to help me get my permit more quickly! Toni was even so cheeky as to ask him if there were any nice eligible police officers available for her poor single sister! Apparently the guy who worked in the criminal lab was free (and not bad either!) When he took my fingerprints, he made a big show of explaining the CSI technology of the computer that was taking my prints without ink only to have the program crash when he tried to save my file! We had a little giggle at his expense once we left the office.
So we hand over all the documents and these are sent to the big questura (office of the head of police) in Lucca and we wait to hear that everything is approved and my permit is ready to be picked up. And we wait. And we wait some more. I think two months pass before I call to check up on the status of my permit when I am told that we need to produce an additional document (when they were going to inform me of this I have no idea!) This time we need to provide Toni’s marriage certificate and heaven knows why, also Toni’s childrens’ birth certificates. These additional documents then get sent to Lucca and again, we wait some more.
After another few months I receive a call from Capitano policeman to be told that now Lucca want a Certificate called a ‘Stato di Famiglia’ which basically says that Toni is married to Patrizio, they have two children Annabella and Joseph and live at so and so address. They need this to prove…………. Wait for it………. That I am actually the Aunty of Annabella and Joseph!! I don’t know about you, but I think the fact that I am the identical twin of Toni who is the mother of Annabella and Joseph is kind of proof enough that I am the ‘blood’ Aunt!
Part of the process also involves a home visit from the police to ensure you are actually living at the address as declared on your application. As luck would have it, I wasn’t at Toni’s house when the police came to visit . I was in Florence. Four policeman turned up at the house but didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t there and were entertained by Annabella and Joseph. This time it was the children’s charm that won them over. They signed off the documents and that part was approved.
After another few months, I finally get the call that my permit is ready to be picked up! I am so excited to finally have this piece of paper in my hand. And can you believe it took nearly a whole year from the time we first applied to when I received it! The funny thing was that the permit allowed me to stay for a year – not counting the year I had already been in Italy waiting for the bloody document to be processed!
During this time I met Emiliano and after a year of going out together, he asked me to marry him. I start to investigate what permits and documents we will need to get married in Italy. OMG! Here we go again!
That’s another story which I will save for another post but now that I am married, I still need to renew my permesso even though I am also now a resident here in Italy.
My permesso is due to expire on the 10th October, so last week, I head to the questura in Florence to get it renewed. I know already that this is a whole different experience compared to the quiet, calm questura of Forte Dei Marmi. The office opens at 8.15am so I arrive at 7.40am and seeing only a handful of people out the front, I think that things don’t look too bad. I then walk inside the office to get my number and cannot believe that I am number A109. There are already 108 people in front of me! I ask the nice policeman if there is a different line (I’m hoping shorter) for people married to Italian citizens. I am informed no and go and sit patiently waiting for the office to open.
At 8.15am when the office is supposed to open, in typical Italian style, the office workers are present, and I can see them, but they are finishing up their morning conversations and coffee with no sense of urgency whatsoever. At 8.33am, the first number flashes up on the screen to go to the window number one. A mass of people rush to hover near the window even though it is a number system and they will all be served in the order in which they arrived. I notice the numbers are passing quickly and also notice with interest that the majority of people spend only a few minutes at the window before moving off to a different section of the questura. After about an hour and a half, the magic number A109 flashes up on the screen and I push forward to present my documents and explain I am just here to renew my permit and am now married to an Italian citizen with Florentine residency. I am handed another ticket. D414! Another line! I can’t believe it! I have waited an hour and a half to be given another number to line up at a different window when wouldn’t it have been kind of logical to have given me the D number when I first walked in???
Welcome to Italy!
The ‘D’ line is much shorter and I only wait another 15 minutes. Here the lady is very helpful and luckily I have all documents and photocopies as needed. That is except for one! I also need to go and get a ‘State of Family’ certificate from the local town hall which states that I am married to Emiliano Di Donato and we live TOGETHER at the same address! Because clearly both of our residency cards with our address and our marriage certificate isn’t proof enough! I am told that with this extra certificate, I will be given a permit that allows me to stay for much longer. Gee that’s comforting!
The next morning I get up nice and early to be at the town hall when it opens at 8am. Amazingly getting the certificate is quick and painless and I am also informed that when I receive my new permit, I must come back here so that they can update their system with the new expiry date. I then head back to the questura. I am given number A232 and they are only up to number A120. I’m not falling for that again and here is where I proudly prove that I am clearly becoming more and more Italian every day! I stand behind the D line and before they have a chance to call the next person, I rush forward with my certificate advising that I was there yesterday and just have to drop off this one document.
Alleluia! I am in and out of there in less than ten minutes!
Before leaving, I ask when I will be able to come back to pick up the new permesso. You will not be surprised to know that my new Permesso di Soggiorno will be available for pick-up in …………………Fifty – Yes 50 – Five Zero days!!!
Living here really is a true test of patience sometimes but I think it’s worth it! I fell under the spell of this place many years ago and have learnt that it’s no use getting upset or angry.
This beautiful country is thousands of years old and this is just the way things are done here.