Part 2: Return To Italy
Unfortunately the EU has a law that states that all non EU citizens who resided within Europe for the full amount of a 3 month tourist visa must stay outside the EU for a period of three months before reentering. Therefore I was not able to return to Italy till January, which gave me ample time to do all the laborious translations I have previously mentioned. I arrived in Rome’s Fiumicino International airport in early January, and was greeted by my at-the-time boyfriend. For the sake of his own privacy I will call him What’s His Name (code reference: WHN). WHN and I decided to apply for my citizenship in his home town rather than in Florence. This decision was made for a myriad of different reasons. The most important factor however was the size of the town, and its relatively vacant Questura (immigrations office). This meant that the waiting time for getting my appointment and eventual permesso di soggiorno (extra required visa) would hopefully be much less than what it would be in Florence. There were definite cons to choosing a smaller town as well. Those cons will be revealed throughout my rendition. Now to the all important self-created terminology…
The Ping-Pong Effect: All those even faintly familiar with Ping-Pong are aware that the main objective of the game is for the ball to be hit back and forth between players. Well that is what it is like trying to get anything done in Italian bureaucracy. There are an overabundant set of rules and procedures that must been completed by various offices that all have different priorities. What this means for the average person is that one office will require you to do something and tell you one thing, while another office will tell you to do the exact opposite and require you to do something completely contrary.
This tends to happen between 3-4 differing offices, and workers within the office are not all on the same page. Two workers from the same office can also give you faulty advice, leading you to another fun round of back and forth. In the game of Ping-Pong they are the players and you are the ball. You must play along and hope that by the end of the game you are not laying dejectedly on the floor or in the rubbish bin.
Morning 1: WHN and I made our first trip to the Ufficio di Cittadinanza, and were unwittingly happy to meet our nemesis Ms. A. After a few minutes of explanation of who we were and why we were there Ms. A tells us flat out that she has no idea what we are talking about, but proceeds to contradict herself by saying that Legge 555 art. 12 states that I do not meet the requirements for Jure Sanguinis. Now all of you who know me personally know that I am meticulous with details. I had triple checked this particular law with my Italian consulate and the Florence comune before advancing with my app, and said as much to Ms. A. Well Ms. A in her infinite wisdom had taken it upon herself to interpret the law, and would not be budged. Morning 1 ended with me in tears, and Ms. A agreeing to ask my consulate for assistance.
In the mean time obtaining residency is a must for a citizenship app. An American might view this as a non-issue considering we sign our rental contracts from day one and life is gravy. In Italy tax on renting apartments and houses is extremely high, deterring property owners from issuing contracts. A contract is necessary in order to obtain residency. I was fortunate that WHN’s grandparents have a large house and agreed to host me. Our next step was to go to the anagrafe and register myself within the Comune system. The first time we went their computer system was down. The second time we were told that we needed a document from Ms. A stating that I was eligible for citizenship. Fast Forward 1 week: Ms. A was finally put in her place by my consulate, and reluctantly agreed to fax the cit. document to the anagrafe.
Road Block #3: My consulate informed Ms. A that I was missing my GGF’s actual Naturalization record. I had the Declaration of Intention (to naturalize), but failed to request the actual record that followed 3 years after his intention. This was a gross oversight on my part. I though the statement in the declaration of renouncing Italian citizenship would be sufficient. It was not. I was fortunate enough to have a cousin greatly interested in my app, and who lived near our city’s records building. He was very gracious, and agreed to search for the document, apostille it, and send it post haste to Italy.
We returned to the anagrafe where I received my residency certificate. Obtaining residency is necessary for the application for the visa (PdS). You also must have a letter stating that all your paperwork as been approved by the Ufficio di Cittadinanza (Ms. A again), and copy of your entire passport. A residency certificate isn’t valid however, until the Vigili come to your place of residence and confirm that you do, in fact, reside there. This can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months! Time I didn’t have. Ms. A also refused to give me my approval document until the Vigili “controlled” me. Luckily for me WHN’s grandparents know the administrator of the Vigili office. We went down to talk to her, and a scant 24 hours after receiving my residence cert. I was officially “controlled”.
Road Block #4: Before this point I truly thought the system was set up to be unnecessarily laborious. I still believe it is to a large degree, however the 3 week wait time seems to be the allowance the anagrafe has to actually enter information into their system. Now because I bypassed this I immediately ran into problems with the anagrafe the following day. It would be normal to think that my info would have been entered when they made my cert. This is not the case. We asked that since I had already been “controlled” that I be entered as soon as possible. One woman gave us a 3 day wait period. We checked back after the allotted 3 days only to be told that this procedure that takes 2 minutes would be done in 2 months! Another reason we choose WHN’s home town is because he and his family have an established network of friends there. WHN’s father is friends with a anagrafe worker who just got back from vacation right when I was told my crippling news. He had a few words with my anagrafe worker, and I was entered into the system 10 minutes later.
By now Ms. A was resigned to the fact that she had to deal with me, but this did not make her any more helpful. She once again put a restriction on granting me my approval letter. All my documents, though translated, would have to be certified by an office in the Tribunale.
This was easy enough, but the most expensive part of the process so far. 140 euro later all my translations were certified, but they were still not good enough for Ms. A. She then informed me that I needed to go back to the same building and have the city magistrate sign and certify them as well (insert rather nasty expletive). Waiting for the magistrate’s approval took another week. Ms. A also checked with my consulate to make sure that none of my male ascendants ever renounced their Italian citizenship, which is standard operating procedure. Finally Ms. A told me she had no idea what kind of approval document she needed to provide. I think I was fairly close to handicapping her at this point! WHN stepped in again by contacting a very high official in the Questura who provided Ms. A with her document, and a few choice words. It took one quick trip to the Post Office with my completed visa app packet to get my appointment for my visa at the Questura. From here it was smooth sailing. WHN’s official took pretty good care of us. I got my visa a month and a half after my appointment. I became an Italian/EU citizen 2 months after I picked up my visa.
Obviously this was far from easy, and I don’t think I would ever choose to immigrate again after this experience. However, I am now a Dual Citizen of the United States and the European Union, which opens doors that I previously only dreamed about. So from Start to Finish this process took me 10 months. I’m not sure if I’ve broken a record, but I at least have to be in the running! If you have any questions about Jure Sanguinis please let me know, or check out the Expats in Italy forum!