Let’s continue our discussion of obtaining your Permesso di Soggiorno. You’ll be relieved to know that we’re almost finished, and indeed these are the last steps in our quest.
OK, by now you’ve obtained your application kit (Permesso di Soggiorno – Part 1) and filled it out properly in black ink (Permesso di Soggiorno – Part 2) and have the Marca da Bollo for €14,62 affixed to the top of the application. Now it’s time to do battle. If you don’t feel adequately prepared, please review those two previous blog entries first before entering the Arena (a.k.a. The Italian Post Office).
A couple of years ago I read a book by the Milanese writer Beppe Severgnini called, “Ciao, America!” In the book, he recounts his year-long sabbatical in the U.S., highlighting the things he found strange and peculiar about American culture. In one of my favorite passages, he laments that American bureaucracy is too easy—for an Italian, there’s just no challenge in it. The simile that he used was perfect: an Italian confronting American bureaucracy is like a champion matador facing down a milk cow. There’s simply no contest, ergo no fun.
This comparison can be enlightening to the newly expatriated American in Rome when you ponder the scenario from the other way around. Just so. My first foray into an Italian post office left me feeling like a Wisconsin dairy farmer that had accidentally wandered into La Corrida de Madrid on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t pretty, my friends, and I was grateful to have emerged with my limbs intact.
So you must steel yourself against this enemy. Stare into his bottomless eyes without even a hint of fear as you present your documents at the Sportello Amico. Act as though you’ve done it a hundred times before and that you are, in fact, quite bored with the whole process. Unless you are a seasoned actor, you may want to practice this at home a few times before you go, either with a friend or at least in front of a mirror. And for God’s sake, do not wear red that day—it only further riles their anger.
Here’s exactly what you’ll need to bring with you:
1) The completed Modulo 1 form.
2) Copies of every page of your passport (Yes, even the blank ones—yet another false assumption that I made during my process. Why should logic prevail, after all?)
3) Photocopy of Financial Statements
4) Verification of health coverage
5) Four passport size photos
6) Plenty of cash (technically you’ll only need € 27,50 for the application plus € 30,00 for the postage, but it never hurts to carry a little extra for any unforeseen acts of extortion that you might be subjected to).
7) Don’t forget to bring along your original passport, too. They’ll want to look at it to make sure that it matches the copies in your packet.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT submit any original documents in the post office kit (except for the Modolo 1, of course, which you should make a copy of for you records.)
So at this point hopefully you’ve been absolved of your sins by the Pope, you’ve had the malocchio removed by your roommate’s Sicilian grandmother, and all the requisite bribes have been paid out to the appropriate minions. If so, you will leave the post office with two documents in hand:
1) A yellow receipt (ricevuta) that is absolutely necessary in getting your final permit. What’s more, on this receipt you’ll find the user ID and password needed to check the status of your application online at: http://www.portaleimmigrazione.it/
2) A letter with the appointment date and time at the Police Station (Questura), for the last step in the procedure where you will hand over one of your kidneys (Or is it fingerprints? I can’t remember). You can verify that appointment at: http://questure.poliziadistato.it/stranieri/?mime=1&lang=EN
*NOTE* Until you have the final physical identification card, the receipt (ricevuta) has the same legal value. Don’t lose it. And please don’t make explain what will happen if you do. In fact, at that point, just give up and go back to your own country.
One more piece of advice: check the above websites from time to time to make sure that you’re at least in the system. If for some reason there is a problem with your application, they will NOT contact you. It is up to you to be proactive. If you discover a problem, bring the above two documents along with your passport to the Questura where you gave your fingerprints. The chances of encountering a helpful person are remote, but it’s your only hope to save you from starting all over again from square one.
So that’s it, the last of a three-part series to guide you through the process. Along the way, I’ve poked a little fun at the Italian bureaucracy, but the truth is that (in theory) this is a pretty fair process—especially compared to the U.S. system which literally extorts money and subjects would-be immigrants to unnecessary medical procedures. The problem with the Italian system is that none of the employees that you’ll encounter are even vaguely familiar with the steps that I’ve just laid out for you here. More frustrating still, if you ask the same exact question to ten different employees, you’ll certainly get ten different answers. It fosters self-doubt and anxiety in the newly arrived expat who isn’t accustomed to such a seemingly mutable set of rules.
Don’t fret my friends. Follow the steps that I’ve described with confidence, and once you’ve given them all your documents, you can take your revenge by going to the nearest trattoria and ordering a big plate of Coda alla vaccinara—the tail of the bull. Who’s the matador now? Ole!
P.S. The average waiting period from the time that you submit your packet until you receive the actual permesso is 4-7 months. Don’t fight it, that’s just how it is.