I never applied for Italian citizenship, though I could have years ago. Once or twice I’ve gone to the Prefect’s office to collect all the forms, but I never got around to filling them out and so I still don’t have an Italian passport, I can’t vote here and every so often, depending on what the ever-changing law says at any given time, I have to renew my papers so I can stay here legally.
When I got married, I managed to get papers for ten years, which was almost exactly how long my marriage ended up lasting. Ha.
That means I am currently in the process of doing all the paperwork all over again. A lot has changed in ten years. First, the Italian immigration office is better organized than it was a decade ago. For a fee, you mail your forms and photocopies in a special folder from the post office. And they set up appointments now for you to go in for fingerprinting and presenting your forms of ID at the police station, and so you only have to wait an hour or two at a time, not the 3+ hours and then go back again the next day, and quite possibly the next, the way it used to be. Also, they didn’t used to fingerprint you, and now they are really into it, with fingerprinting at every office you go to.
Some things, though, never change. No matter what documents they say you’ll need, and no matter how many times you consult any of the lists you are given or the websites you can find, and bring in every single additional piece of paper you can think of that they might ask for, they always come up with at least one more you’ll need. And extra photocopies! How many times have I heard, “And I’ll need another copy of this… Come back tomorrow.”
Today I went armed with all the documents and tax returns and forms of ID they had listed and the required passport photos, plus extra pieces of paper I thought they might ask for: my children’s Italian birth certificates, our family status certificate from the town hall, my marriage certificate, my court-endorsed separation agreement, a copy of my lease, tax returns, and a letter from the regional authorities certifying that I reported my recent change of residence within the legal deadline. I felt a little silly, like I was maybe going over the top with everything, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Of all the extra paper I had with me, the police officer asked only to see the separation agreement. But my tax return got got him thinking …
First he wanted to know if I could make another copy of the agreement and bring it in tomorrow. Then he asked if I had brought my company’s by-laws with me. Um, no. I don’t even have by-laws! A new business report filed with the local Chamber of Commerce? “I’m just freelance,” I said. “We are not legally required to register with the Chamber of Commerce or file by-laws.” I’m sure I’ve heard my Italian accountant say something like that before. But he needed proof of my business, which basically means I need to find a paper trail because all those taxes I pay in its name aren’t enough. But I offered to bring in a copy of the print-out the tax authorities gave me when I applied for a VAT number as a freelance translator, and he said that would do. Now, if only I could find it. And while I was at it, he said, I should probably get my accountant to prepare a report for 2011. Italian tax returns aren’t due until June, and I suppose the government wants to know how well last year went for me before deciding whether to let me stay or not.
Then he sent me off to another building, just a few blocks away inside the city walls, to be fingerprinted again after another long wait in an unheated waiting room.
I’d say it went pretty well! Much better than that time they sent me upstairs to an official’s office so he could tell me I’d been rejected and would have to leave the country.