December 2015 – December 2016
Trying to start the Italian Citizenship process in Naples back in December 2015, sadly I hit a brick wall…this is starting to sound like The Italian Job.
More than a year on and I’m no closer, though I’ve learnt a lot.
No luck. Too hard for the public servants in the Comune to start the process as it’s too close to Christmas and interests are not around work.
I have to leave the EU for 3 months, so decide to volunteer in Thailand during this period.
Following the 3 months absent from the EU, the sketchy plan is to return to Calabria but specifically, to my father’s village: Parenti.
Naively hoping that I’ll have better luck in getting someone to start the process in this tiny village, especially as all my father’s paperwork is held at the Comune (council).
I have spent over AUD$600 so far in just obtaining initial certificates, legalising these, translating these into Italian, and then legalise the translation again.
After buying a car (Lola) in the UK to drive from Somerset to southern Italy, we only made it to central France before Lola decided to die a tragic death on the busy highway.
Four buses later and 36 hours, we arrived in Cosenza, Calabria; our original destination.
Comune di Parenti
Emailing the Comune di Parenti many times from Thailand and the UK, and obtaining all the required documentation (I thought) to travel to Parenti and start the process, things are sounding promising.
On arriving however, it’s a very different story.
The chap at the Comune is adamant I must live in Parenti for him to lodge the paperwork, after I advise that Cosenza is where I plan to live – he’s no longer interested.
Comune di Cosenza
Off to the Comune di Cosenza next…
The first visit proves a waste of time as the person I need is on leave and told to return the following Monday.
Another week away and my Schengen clock is still ticking.
On returning the following week and waiting in line for over forty minutes, I’m told by the same man I saw the previous week, that I’m in the wrong queue. I should be waiting in front of the person’s office.
Going to be a long day…
Finally, it’s my turn and I politely give my documents to the lady.
Everything is travelling just great and friendly, until…
I pull out my father’s Australian Citizenship certificate and her whole persona changes to one of disbelief.
Immediately, she advises it’s not possible for me to continue as my father renounced his Italian Citizenship barking: “He was Italian when he went to Australia but he changed” – she speaks as if my father was a traitor amongst truly untarnished residents – the ignorance is priceless.
Over and over this hurdle we go…
Obviously not interested, she invents a list of ‘additional’ documents required to start the process.
The list now includes a certificate from the Italian Embassy in Australia stating that my father was still Italian at the time of my birth. The email I have from this consulate stating this fact is not acceptable and has to be a certified document and translated into Italian.
The next hurdle is the copy of my father’s birth certificate I have in my possession, which is an official certificate in Italian that came from the Parenti Comune, but dated 1990. I’m advised the certificate is not the “integrale” (original) and she needs his original birth certificate, which is obviously lost, otherwise my father wouldn’t have requested this copy in 1990.
The requests are becoming absurd.
The revolving door of bureaucracy is spinning at an alarming pace.
Still with composure – but wanting to rip her throat out – I comment that I’d try to obtain all these documents and return to start the process.
The sinking feeling that I’m never going to start this process is swallowing me up into its abyss of paperwork and bureaucracy.
Decide to try a different angle.
As my partner is a dual citizen (UK and Australia) he’ll request Residency in Italy. I can then obtain my Residency as his De Facto, which is the law stated in black and white.
This request poses new requirements including depositing €10,000 in an Italian bank account. If the money is in an overseas account: “the bank statement must be translated into Italian and certified, so it’s better for everyone if the money is here in an Italian account”.
As this seems easier than the Citizenship route for the immediate moment, this angle poses a glimmer of hope.
Honestly, I’m starting to ask myself whether this is worth all this heartache, stress, and expense. The months spent so far with this and not having even started the process, makes me think it’s just not going to happen.
The Questura – yet another office
This new angle requires a new office, so ff we go to the Questura (State Police).
Throughout Italy, this office handles all Immigration, refugees, and anyone entering the country.
Whilst there, an officer appears from behind the locked door and starts calling out a name.
No one responds.
He asks one of the guys sitting in the room: “Where are you from?”
This question is then asked in Italian, English, French, Arabic, and an African language.
The guy holds up an A4 piece of paper in a plastic sleeve stating: “I am from Amantea” (near Tropea, about an hour south of Cosenza).
As one of the only people waiting that can speak some Italian, I’m able to communicate why I’m here and after speaking with a couple of officers that can’t help, we’re taken to the Senior Officer upstairs.
This officer patiently listens to me and takes out her Bible, which is a few inches thick and slams it on her desk…well not quite, but she isn’t gentile.
Thumbing her largish fingers to the page that she wants, responds: “NO – you can’t apply as De Facto”.
Advising that the Questura website specifically states we can do this and the laws have changed, she becomes a little annoyed and responds: “NO – you have to get married or you have to return to Australia to apply for the 1-year visa”.
Can you imagine an Immigration Officer advising someone to get married to stay in their country?
Another dead end.
Trying to start the process of Italian Citizenship has been an abysmal failure, yet again.
Still in Cosenza after 3 weeks of officials telling me I can only stay on a Schengen 90-day visa as this is on what I entered Italy. I’m also advised that as my father obtained his Australian Citizenship before I was born, my parents were Australian at the time of my birth – “il sangue” (blood) means nothing.
The Questura’s online information states that I can apply through my grandparents, but I’m advised by the Senior Officer in the Questura that it’s impossible: “you cannot jump a generation”.
More importantly, each bureaucratic office has its own system and paperwork they require, regardless of what is on any official website. Rules are invented on any given day and at the whim of who is delivering the message – nothing is concrete and everything is like shifting sands.
Officials explain that both my older sisters would not have a problem applying for Citizenship as “they were born to Italian parents, but as my brother and I were born to Australian parents, it’s not possible for us” – bizarre isn’t it?
Sadly, in the 1960s Italy did not allow dual citizenship, which was only allowed from 1992 and there is no Amnesty for people previous to 1992.
The only way I can obtain Citizenship is if I live in Italy for 3 years and then apply: “from a former Italian parent”, otherwise this would be 10 years for all non-EU Citizens.
Reluctantly, I now need to fly back to Australia for an interview to apply for a 1-year visa. When I return to Italy, I need to apply within 8 days for permission to stay.
It appears that the email I received from the Italian Consulate in Canberra stating that my father was Italian at the time of my birth is incorrect. After speaking with this same person last week, basically he had made a mistake but did not want to admit to the error. This email was my proof to return to Italy in the first instance and apply.
Leaving Italy again
With a flight now booked for Brisbane in September, I have a lot of appointments and work to do in Australia before flying back to Italy in October.
Several days of organising many emails to the Italian Consulate in Brisbane, for the visa as even what is on the online information for Australia is not entirely true in reality.
I also require 15 months left on my passport to obtain the visa. But of course, I only have 13 months, so need to also apply for an express passport at a much higher cost before I can apply for my visa. The visa takes 15 working days. So, I’m leaving enough contingency (hopefully) to deal with all the officials in Australia…wish me luck.
Also organising a badly needed roof repair and my Niece’s wedding whilst in Australia, so many tasks to complete.
Last day in Cosenza
Following a lovely cooked dinner by our wonderful hosts and friends, the day is finally here to say…ciao, ciao.
The drive to Paola station is about an hour away. We say our goodbye’s, and now on the very comfortable Trenitalia (€15 one-way) to Roma Termini train station.
As it’s Saturday and only one fast 3-hour train leaves too early in the morning, we’re on the slower 11:11hrs 5-hour journey, which arrives at 15:34hrs. This train is already full after only 20 minutes.
A pleasant picturesque trip following the coastline north for part of the way.
Passengers and seat numbers
One really funny thing I’ve noticed over the years of travelling is that passengers never seem to be able to find their seat numbers. Regardless whether it’s a train, bus, plane, ferry or other.
Have you ever noticed this? Why is it so hard?
The carriages on this train are numbered, albeit you have to look hard. The seats are also numbered, so there shouldn’t be an issue, you’d think. But, it’s always an issue as passengers always sit in the wrong seats upsetting the whole flow in the train. Conductors have a frustrating time re-organising annoyed passengers to their correct seats.
Arriving in Rome late in the afternoon for an overnight stay, venture out to stretch the legs.
Return to the Comune
After returning from Australia, another visit to the Comune is necessary.
Although not compulsory as the UK is still part of the EU, my partner decides to try for Residency to be eligible for an Identity Card this time.
The Comune advises he needs a legalised stamp stating that our health insurance is valid in Italy – although the insurance specifically states Europe and Unlimited.
Again we walk the streets of Cosenza looking for the correct office to stamp and legalise our very expensive Travel Insurance.
After about four offices and outdated Google addresses, I decide to walk up the stairs of what I thought was a Sports Health office to see if someone can point us in the right direction.
With the name of the person we have to see, a minor miracle happens…
I stumbled into the correct office. Typically though the lady is out for half and hour, so we wait.
The very helpful lady turns up and we explain that the Comune requests she legalises our Insurance paperwork. Advising this isn’t necessary as the insurance is valid, she prints several online regulations, officially stamps a post-it note that contains her details, and adviss to have the Comune phone her direct to explain everything. This is the same office that issues all EU Health cards in Cosenza.
Returning to the Comune the following morning and greeted by the same unhelpful frosty guy that is so disinterested in his job – he should retire. He’s probably been doing this job for 40-plus years and it’s evident that still knows nothing about his position.
A different lady this time and she’s not about the insurance so advises to return the following morning as she has to check with her supervisor.
Returning yet again but the same lady we saw yesterday obviously hasn’t checked with her supervisor, so I explain the whole story once more to the same person from August that advised that we needed our insurance legalised.
Refusing to accept our health insurance, I requests several times that she phones the Health office – reluctantly she does – departments hate being told by other departments how to do their jobs…inter-department feuds.
The next excuse is that my partner does not hold an EU Health Card. The supervisor advises she requires the insurance document translated into Italian and legalised with a stamp – she’s not accepting an English copy.
This is a different request from August. Each person makes the rules up as they go along.
I lost it with her after she suggests we make a special trip to the Australian Embassy in Rome to have this done. Seriously? We are a 5-hour train journey from Rome.
Advising I’m not made of money and that I’ve made a special trip from here to Australia just to get my visa, she mockingly replies: “then it won’t not cost much for you to get the translation done in Rome”. I really lost it after this and tell her to forget about everything.
We’re trying to do the right thing by Italy, not putting our hand out for anything, paying our way, and this is how we’re treated – bid her and her colleague a good day, and stormed off.
Since this, my partner applied for his EU Health travel card online and waiting on its arrival before the next onslaught.
Yet another painful visit to the Questura
Today is my turn to be the good cop.
Having flown back to Australia for the interview for my 12-month visa, my passport now contains the visa stamp. Although within 8 days of arriving, I still must submit a ‘Kit’ at the Post Office, pay another €80, and book an appointment with the Questura. That interview is scheduled for December, in 2 months.
Today is that appointment at the Questura at 10:55 am.
Walking towards that oh so familiar building with migrants and refugees spilling out of the building, down the stairs, and on to the street, does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Typically it’s mostly North African and Africans waiting. Today it’s the same but also one Russian, three Asians, and me – an Australian.
The noisy waiting room is rammed with many more people – a madhouse.
Although I have an allocated appointment, the order is barked to take a number and wait my turn, as everyone else is also waiting.
Finally I see two police officers in uniform and one in civilian clothes. They start advising that I can’t stay for the 12-months’ residency as I did not own a house here…seriously? Is this a new rule invented in the last three months?
I assertively advise several times that I’m not allowed to own a house in Italy as I’m not a resident. And so, the revolving door of bureaucracy is rearing its ugly head again.
Finally, between the three officers, some sweet talking on my part, but also being quite assertive reminding everyone that I flew back to Australia for this visa (as advised by two of their colleagues in August), my paperwork is processed. In addition to having my fingerprints taken at the counter, I’m taken to another building to have another full set of fingerprints taken and every section of both hands.
Whilst I’m waiting, one officer comes into the room and advises that the waiting room is now empty. Another officer returns to the room then remarks: “the room is now full, another boat load must have just arrived”.
These officers process hundreds if not thousands of applications every week.
I know this because of the mounting paper work and files in the massive shelves behind the counter – piles of applications marked for each day of many weeks and also for the last year.
Everyone at the Questura today is incredulous that I would trade Australia for Cosenza and all want to swap positions, and live in our house back in Australia.
One officer’s wife spent a holiday in Australia, fell in love, and wants to move there, but he loves Italy and refuses. So we meet his wife, who also works in this office – of course.
Wishing everyone a great Christmas, we say our goodbyes, and I’m advised that I’d receive a call when my card is through in 15-20 days. Card, what card?
Although different officers advise different things, the last officer advises I can’t leave Italy until this card comes through. I’m also advised that I must re-apply for my next 12-month-visa two months prior to my current visa expiring and this can be done in Cosenza – let’s hope so as I’m not flying back to Australia.
Questura update – March 2017
Receiving an official text a couple of weeks ago that my Residency Card is ready for collection today the 6th at 15:05 hrs, off I trot yet again to the oh-so-familiar Questura.
Approaching the building, the familiar sight of many migrants spilling out onto the footpath and up the building’s stairway greet me, so too is the very packed room inside.
It’s a free-for-all inside. Noisy and not even organised chaos – it’s just chaos.
There doesn’t appear to be a process, regardless of receiving an allocated appointment. You still wait in line…but for what? No one advises what you need to do but you must always bring your ‘Kit’ lodgement receipt with you. This vital piece of paper contains your submission bar code – NEVER EVER lose this receipt!
What always amazes me about this office after visiting here about half a dozen times now, is from where migrants and refugees are arriving.
The office is always full of North Africans, Africans, maybe an Asian, and a Russian or two. Typically, the gender dynamics is out of 60-70 males waiting, there are only 2 or 3 females.
As a female seeing this, I despair as to where other females from these countries are and begs the question, why are they not here in this office?
I know for a fact that when you attend the Questura, everyone in a family must be present – no excuses.
After not getting anywhere, I move to the front of the office with the advancing herd, pushing forward.
As the door opens, an officer pokes his head out so I hand him my receipt – this is what everyone is doing but in a frenzied manner.
Finally, slipping into the other familiar little office where the officers process the paperwork, I wait.
After over two hours of standing up waiting, I ask the officer if I will receive my card today as I’m conscious of their 17:00hrs closing time and only half an hour left.
A young lady comes through the door and pushes in front of me pleading with the officer to attend to her first, as she has to pick up her two young children. Mentioning that I’m next, reluctantly he attends to her first – I start stressing. After about 10 minutes, the lady is finished and leaves – clearly, it pays to wear a low top and tight clothes.
The Residency card
Finally I’m next and fumbling for my paperwork, the officer moves to another desk where three large boxes sit – fresh from Rome he advises – cards are processed in Rome then returned to various offices around the country.
Making small talk about Australia, the officer comments: “we don’t see many Australians, in fact you’re the first I’ve processed”.
Finally, he remembers me from the December interview and asks again why I want to live in Cosenza. Again, I advise that my father’s family is from this region and again he advises I can obtain Citizenship – I explain that I can’t.
My two index fingerprints are taken again – this is the third lot of prints taken in this office – I sign a form and my card is handed over – all in about 15 minutes.
To my surprise, my card expires mid-October 2018, not 2017.
This is due to a little checkbox on the Kit’s form that requires you to select 12 or 24 months, from when I entered the country in October, not the interview date in December. I’m hoping that I don’t have to go to any Questura or Comune office again until this date, but have to re-apply two months before expiry of the card.
At last I’m free to relax in Cosenza.
Incidentally, if anyone has experienced a similar process, please let me know of your woes or, if you encountered a smooth process, I would love to hear all about this also – I may learn something new.