Friday, September 18, 2009

Italian Bureaucracy 101

Just forget about doing anything quickly, or logically, in Italy. Just forget about it. We were mostly prepared for this after our Visa Escapades. Mostly. This entire last week has been sacrificed to the obtaining of the Permesso di Soggiorno or Permit of Stay.

First, we needed to acquire the notorious marriage certificate with the troublesome Apostille that was being sent to us in a Fed Ex package by Mom Gaetano. (Some of you may remember, this is the one that Mom and Dad Plopper applied for in Madison about 1 1/2 months ago!, then they messed that up, the mail lost it, I re-ordered it, they almost failed to match it up correctly, and it was still late, despite expediting, when it came to York the day after we left, Mom Gaetano had to mail it to Padova. Matt also wanted me to mention that this should remind us that these problems are not exclusively Italian.) Padova, however, cannot manage to deliver this package. Matt had to wait from 9:00AM, when, supposedly, there was an attempted delivery on the previous day. Then, after being out there for well over an hour, he asked a random delivery man if he knew about our FedEx package and was told to be waiting outside at 11:30. He was; they didn't come...until well after 12:00, so they claimed. Anyway, no luck. The only number they leave is a fast Italian message. I finally find someone to help me call them, they don't know where the package is, and we're running out of time. Foreigners must present themselves before they have been in Italy for 8 business days, and tomorrow, Tuesday, is the last day.

We go, without it. To where? That's exactly what we wondered. From what we could tell, we needed to go to the post office to obtain a "kit" (pronounced, "keet"). We rush to the local post office at 8:30, hoping to get it so that Matt can still go to class for the day. Nope. You must go to the central post office. Great. So, after waiting for the said Fed Ex package until 12:00, we decide it's not coming. We set off at a fast pace for the central Post Office. We make it there and get the two kits, only to discover that they are near impossible to decipher and that we do not know what to do with them. Having heard about the SAOS office, which assists immigrants in such matters, we set out to find them. We do. Now really begins the frenzied lines and waiting and backtracking of the last week.

At the URP (Ufficio Relazioni Publici or Office of Public Relations), we take a number and wait. And wait and wait. With the kids. Finally Paulita sees us, right as Cate starts to wail. I wait outside while Matt receives hurried instructions about what papers he needs. "Come back on Thursday," she says, "at 9:30." Wednesday is spent by Matt running around on buses, trying to obtain a tax number, and by me, signing a housing contract and making photo copies and getting tobacco stamps (long story!). Hoping to bypass the line at URP, we get there at 9:30, but already 4 people are ahead of us. She sees us after 2 hours, and helps Matt fill out his paperwork. Now we rush to the post office to wait in another line to submit this kit. Oops, wrong line. Start over. At last, after the scrutinizing eyes of the postal workere, his kit is accepted and he gets a receipt (making him legal, although this is not the Permesso di Soggiorno, he must still be finger-printed and then they mail it months later if everything is in order).

Paulita, of the URP, tells us that I must go to the Questura (Police Station) instead of the Post Office to submit my papers. She will meet us there and introduce us. I make more photocopies and buy more tobacco stamps. We go to the Questura half hour early (after going to the wrong place--we weren't given an address. Another long story!). There is a mob of people outside of a locked and barely identified wrought-iron gate, number 8. Are we even at the right place? I call Paulita and tell her we are there, and she tells me she'll be there in 10 minutes. 45 minutes later there is still no sign of Paulita. Finally, we see her on the inside of the gate, admitting people! Oh! She actually works here, too! She nods at us, and we are relieved that she knows that we are there and is going to help us. There is a mob inside too. Everyone is moving around, cutting in line, and pressing forward to be seen first. After an hour of being annoyed (it's hard to "budge" with a stroller), we realize there's no actual line. She simply calls each person when she wants. After two hours, she looks at our papers. Okay, everything is good. Husband, as Paulita refers to him, can go to class.

We wait another hour. Dominic has eaten 3 packs of crackers, 5 cookies, Nemos, and one sippy cup of juice. He has played with books, toy cars, shoes, and clothespins. Paulita tells us we need Matthew's post office receipt. Come back Monday at 8:00 with these copies. Feeling very dejected and like we'd wasted our whole morning, I call Matt. He suggests that he leave class, hop on the bus, get the receipt, make a copy, and return to the Questura while I wait there, preserving our place in line. Ok. I wait. He returns, having accomplished his mission. I'm so proud and excited about my heroic husband! We submit our new papers. Ok. Now you may see the counter. Phew. Almost there. Life can almost get back to normal.

But at the counter they tell me they can only grant a tourist visa for 90 days, not 300. What?! I ask them to ask Paulita (who is behind the counter). They conclude that it is ok, I can get one for 300, but not there. I must take a "keet" and submit it at the Post Office. Then I will get an appointment and return then. I must have looked very peeved and upset because Paulita immediately assured me that she would fill out the kit for me. "Come Tuesday at 2:30," she says. "Then go immediately to the Post Office." Sound familiar? Anyway, Matt and I spent the next couple of hours trying to figure out if there was any point at all to this whole morning... We went to a nice place (Brek) for lunch and the kids were sleeping. A silver lining?

So Tuesday I will go to get my filled-in kit. Then to the Post Office. If everything goes well, we will receive our appointments at the post office, we go to the Questura to have fingerprints done, to wait for the Permesso di Soggiorno to come, maybe before we leave, in the mail.


  1. oh gosh, Amy! What a labyrinth! You are intrepid! I will be sending the kidlets "sit still and be happy" vibes :D

  2. Sounds extremely taxing. It makes my anxiety level rise just to read the account of it all. Will keep praying for you all.

  3. And the crazy thing is, you will probably never receive the actual "permeso." Rumor has it that 12-18 months is normal for the actual papers to be ready. I never got mine, and neither did any of my classmates.

    I hope you all have a great trip, I've enjoyed writing the "all about Italy" emails with Katie.

    Christopher Teague

  4. Amy your descriptiion was fantastic. I could feel myself getting irritated just reading. What craziness! Brings new meaning to the whole "going postal", eh? Hopefully it'll all mellow after this and then you and matt can laugh at the silliness of any government beaurocracy.

  5. Darling, you have a fabulous sense of humor--and thank heaven! How else would you survive the shenanigans of these foreigners?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences here. It's probably healthy to get it out of your system. Gosh, I miss you.

  6. This reminds me of talking to Uncle Dennis about doig business in Italy. He would try to make an appointment - say for Wednesday at 10 AM. From what I remember - the response was some thing like we can meet around then. And the meeting could actually be at anytime. Not a very precise country when it comes to time and schedules. But then again that is part of the charm of being in Italy!

  7. Oh my, oh my. I wish I had been there to appropriately glare at them.

  8. My experiences of getting my name changed and new licenses and plates, soc. security cards etc. seemed so awful when we moved to California! I can't imagine what it would be like in a place where I wasn't fluent in the language and there was no order! Whew!