December 2015 – December 2016
Having tried to start the Italian Citizenship process in Naples back in December 2015, sadly, I got nowhere…this is starting to sound like The Italian Job.
More than a year on and I am no closer, though I have learnt a lot.
Although I had help from a very friendly Immigration Officer in Naples back in December 2015, who tried his hardest to assist in every way, he advised to try in Pozzuoli as we were staying there with Reg at the time.
It was just too hard for the public servants in the Commune to start the process. After all, it was close to Christmas and interests didn’t revolve around work.
I now have to get out of the EU for 3 months, so decided to volunteer in Thailand during this exit period.
Following the 3 months out of the EU, a sketchy plan was made to return to Calabria but specifically, where my father was born: Parenti.
I naively hoped that I would have better luck in getting someone to start the process in this tiny village, especially as all my father’s paperwork would be held at the Commune (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.
Commune di Parenti
Having emailed the Commune 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 were sounding promising.
On arriving however, it was a very different story.
The chap I was dealing with was adamant I must live in Parenti for him to lodge the paperwork. This was after I advised that Cosenza is where I planned to live; he wasn’t interested.
Commune di Cosenza
So, off to the Commune di Cosenza next.
The first visit proved a waste of time as the person I needed was 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 was told by the same man I saw in the previous week, that I was in the wrong queue. I should have been waiting in front of the person’s office. Going to be a long day…
The interview at the Commune
Finally, my turn was up to see the required lady.
Politely, I took out my papers.
Everything was travelling just great and friendly, until that moment…
I pulled out my father’s Australian Citizenship certificate and her whole persona changed to one of disbelief.
Immediately, she advised it was not possible for me to continue as my father renounced his Italian Citizenship: “He was Italian when he went to Australia but he changed”. She spoke as if my father was a traitor amongst truly untarnished residents – the ignorance was priceless.
Over and over this hurdle we went…
Obviously not interested, she invented a list of ‘additional’ documents she required to start the process.
The list now included a certificate from the Italian Embassy in Australia stating that my father was still Italian at the time of my birth. The email I had from this consulate stating this fact was not acceptable – it had to be a certified document and translated into Italian.
The next hurdle was the copy of my father’s birth certificate I had in my possession, which is an official certificate in Italian that came from the Parenti Commune, but dated 1990. This lady advised it was not the “integrale” (original) and now wanted his original birth certificate, which was obviously lost, otherwise, my father would not have requested this copy in 1990.
The requests becameg absurd.
The revolving door of bureaucracy was spinning at an alarming pace.
Still with composure (but wanting to rip her throat out), I had to say that I would try to obtain all these documents and return to start the process.
The sinking feeling that this is just not going to happen was swallowing me up into its abyss of paperwork and bureaucracy.
Decided to try a different angle.
As my partner is a dual citizen (UK and Australia) he would request Residency in Italy. I can then obtain my Residency as his De Facto – and stated in black and white.
This request posed new requirements including depositing €10,000 in an Italian bank account (not in an overseas account). If the money was in an overseas account: “the bank statement would have to be translated into Italian and legalised, so it was better for everyone if the money was here in an Italian account”.
This was becoming painful.
Although, as this seemed easier than the Citizenship route for the immediate moment, this angle posed 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 is just not going to happen.
The Questura – yet another office
For this new angle, a new office was frequented.
Off we went to the Questura (State Police). Throughout Italy, this office handles all Immigration, refugees, and anyone entering the country.
Whilst there, an officer appeared from behind the locked door and started calling out a name. No one responded.
To one of the guys sitting in the room, he asked: “Where are you from?” – no response.
This question was asked in Italian, English, French, Arabic, and an African language. The guy held up an A4 piece of paper in a plastic sleeve stating: “I am from Amantea”. (Amantea is near Tropea and about an hour’s south of Cosenza).
As one of the only people waiting that could speak some Italian, I was able to communicate why I was there. After speaking with a couple of officers that could not offer help, we were taken to the Senior Officer upstairs.
This officer patiently listened to me and took out her Bible, which is a few inches thick and slammed it on her desk…well not quite but she wasn’t gentile.
Thumbing her largish fingers to the page that she wanted, responded: “NO – we couldn’t apply as De Facto”.
After advising that the Questura website specifically states we can do this and the laws have changed, she was a little annoyed and responded: “NO – we would have to get married or I would have to return to Australia to apply for the 1-year Residency Visa”.
Can you imagine an Immigration Officer advising someone to get married to stay in that 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 was also advised that as my father obtained his Australian Citizenship before I was born, my parents were Australian when I was born – “il sangue” (blood) means nothing.
Regardless of the fact that the Questura’s online information states that I can apply through my grandparents, I was advised by the Senior Officer in the Questura that it is 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 explained 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 was 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 I can 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 with the intent of residency. When I return to Italy I still need to apply within 8 days, for permission to stay on the grounds of residency, which grants me 5 years here – I think, but who knows?
It appears that the email I received from the Italian Consulate in Canberra stating my father was Italian at the time of my birth was incorrect. I phoned this same person last week and 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, this time from Sydney.
Several days of organising many emails to the Italian Consulate in Brisbane, for the year-long Residency Visa as even what is on the online information for Australia is not entirely true in reality.
I also need to have 15 months left on my passport to obtain this Residency Visa. But of course, I only have 13 months, so I need to also apply for an express passport at a higher cost (AUD$381 instead of AUD$250) before I can apply for my Residency visa. The visa takes 15 working days. So, I am leaving enough contingency (hopefully) to deal with all the officials in Australia…wish me luck.
Also including 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 finally came to say…ciao, ciao.
We were kindly driven to Paola, which is about an hour away by car, said our goodbye’s, and now on the very comfortable Trenitalia (€15 one-way) to Roma Termini, train station.
As it is Saturday and only one fast 3-hour train leaves too early in the morning, booked the slower 11:11hrs 5-hour journey, which should arrive at 15:34hrs. This train is already full after 20 minutes.
A pleasant trip following the coastline north for part of the way – very picturesque.
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 should not be an issue, you would think. Always seems to be 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, ventured out to stretch the legs.
To the Commune again – a different reason
After returning from Australia, another visit to the Commune was necessary.
Although not compulsory as the UK is still part of the EU, my partner decided to try for Residency to be eligible for an Identity Card this time.
The Commune advised he needed a legalised stamp stating that the health insurance was valid in Italy (although the insurance specifically states Europe and Unlimited).
So again, we walked 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 decided to walk up the stairs of what I thought was a Sports Health office to see if someone could point us in the right direction.
With the name of the person we had to see, a minor miracle happened.
I had stumbled in to the correct office. But typically, the lady was out for half and hour (probably on lunch). We decided to wait, just in case.
Finally, the very helpful lady turned up and we explained that the Commune had sent us to legalise our Insurance paperwork. Advising this was not necessary as the insurance was valid, she printed out several online regulations, officially stamped a post-it note that contained her details, and advised to have the Commune phone her direct to explain everything. This is the same office that issues all EU Health cards in Cosenza.
Returned to the Commune the next morning only to be greeted by the same unhelpful frosty guy that is so disinterested in his job, he retire. I imagine he has been doing this job for 40-plus years and evident that still knows nothing about his position.
Saw a different lady who wasn’t sure about the insurance and advised to return the following morning as she had to check with her supervisor.
Returning yet again but the same lady from yesterday obviously hadn’t checked with her supervisor. And so, I explained the whole story once more to the supervisor; the same person we saw back in August that advised we needed our insurance legalised.
Refusing to accept our health insurance, I requested several times that she phone the Health office; reluctantly she did. Departments hate being told by other departments how to do their jobs…inter-department feuds.
The next laughable excuse was as my partner did not hold an EU Health Card, the supervisor advised to have the Insurance document translated into Italian and legalised with a stamp – she would not accept an English copy.
This was a different request than when we saw her in August. Each person makes the rules up as they go along.
I lost it with her after she suggested we make a special trip to the Australian Embassy in Rome to have this done. Seriously? We are a 6-hour train journey from Rome!
I told her I’m not made of money and that I made a special trip from here to Australia just to get my Residence visa to which she mockingly replied: “then it would not cost much for you to get the translation done in Rome”. I really lost it after this and told her to forget about everything.
We are trying to do the right thing by Italy, not putting out our hand for anything, paying our way, and this is how we are treated; bid her and her colleague a good day, and stormed off.
Since then, 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 was my turn to be the good cop.
Having flown back to Australia for the interview for my 12-month Residency visa, my passport now contained 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 schedulled 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, did 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 – what a madhouse.
Although I have an allocated appointment, the order was barked at me to take a number and wait my turn, as everyone else is also waiting.
My number came up and I saw two police officers in uniform and one in civilian clothes. They started advising I could not 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 advised several times that I am not allowed to own a house in Italy as I am 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 all 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 was taken to another building to have another full set of fingerprints taken and every section of both hands.
It is like a disorganised mad house.
Whilst I was waiting turn, one officer came into the room and advised that the waiting room was now empty. Another officer went back out there and remarked: “the room is now full, another boat load must have just arrived”!
These guys 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 for the last year.
Everyone at the Questura today was incredulous that I would trade Australia for Cosenza and all wanted to swap positions, and live in our house back in Australia.
One officer’s wife spent a holiday in Australia, fell in love, and wanted to move there, but the officer loved Italy and refused. So we met his wife, who also works in that office – of course.
Wishing everyone a great Christmas, we said our goodbyes, and I was advised that I would receive a call when my card is through in 15-20 days. Card, what card?
Although different officers advised different things, the last officer advised I could not leave Italy until this card came through.
I was also advised that I would have to re-apply for my next 12-month visa two months prior to my current visa expiring. This could be done in Cosenza…let’s hope so as I’m not flying back to Australia again.
Questura update – March 2017
Having received an official text a couple of weeks ago that my Residency Card was ready for collection today the 6th, at 15:05 hrs, off I trotted 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 greeted me…so too is the very packed room inside.
It is a free-for-all inside. Noisy and not even organised chaos – indeed it is manic chaos.
There does not seem to be a process, regardless of receiving an allocated appointment. You still must wait in line…but for what? No one tells you 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 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 dynamics of gender is out of 60-70 males waiting, there are only 2 or 3 females.
As a female seeing this, I despair as to what has happened to other females from these countries. It begs the question of why are they not here in this office?
I know for a fact that when you attend the Questura, everyone in a family must attend – no excuses.
After not getting anywhere, I moved to the front of the office with the advancing herd, pushing forward.
As the door opened and an officer poked his head out, I handed him my receipt – this is what everyone does, but in a frenzied manner.
Finally, I slipped into the other familiar little office where the officers process the paperwork and waited.
After over two hours of standing up waiting, I asked the officer if I would receive my card today. I was conscious of the time and their closure – it is 16:30hrs, so only half an hour left.
A young lady came through the door and pushed in front of me pleading with the officer to attend to her first, as she had to pick up her two young children. Mentioning that I was next, reluctantly he attended to her first – I started stressing. After about 10 minutes, the lady finished and off she went. (It pays to wear a low top and tight clothes.)
The Residency card
I was next and fumbling for my paperwork, the officer walked over to another desk where three large boxes sat. These arrived fresh from Rome. Everything is processed in Rome then sent back to various offices around the country.
Making small talk about Australia, the officer commented: “we don’t see many Australians, in fact, you’re the first I’ve processed”.
Finally, he remembered me from the December interview and asked again why I wanted to live in Cosenza. Again, I told him that my father’s family was from this region and he advised I could obtain Citizenship. I explained that I could not.
My two index fingerprints were taken again (this is the third lot of prints taken in this office), I signed a form, and my Residency card was handed over – all in about 15 minutes! I was free to go back out into the remaining pack in the entrance’s office and out again.
To my surprise, my card expires mid-October 2018 (not 2017 as I thought).
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). Hopefully, I won’t have to go to any Questura or Commune office again, until this date (think I need to re-apply two months before for another Residency card).
At last I have the card and 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 as I may learn something new.