Paul and Lucy Spadoni periodically live in Tuscany to explore Paul’s Italian roots, practice their Italian and enjoy “la dolce vita.” Paul is the author of "An American Family in Italy: Living La Dolce Vita without Permission," an Amazon bestseller.
All work is copyrighted and may not be reprinted without written permission from the author, who can be contacted at www.paulspadoni.com
the wonders of modern communications and transport, we received all
of our documents on time for Lucy’s citizenship appointment at 11 a.m. today.
The most amazing event was receiving the apostille for her FBI
report, which was picked up in Washington DC yesterday morning and
given to Federal Express in the afternoon. Somehow it made it to our
hotel lobby this morning at 7 a.m.
Lucy at the Consulate
over each of the 26 pages of documents (or 52, if you consider that
we must provide a copy of each page) several times to make sure I had
everything in order. I re-read the directions, which gave the
requirements. I had a money order in hand ready to make out to the Italian
Consulate. I re-checked the address and route. We arrived an hour
then, because of one tiny little digit, we failed to receive Lucy’s
citizenship. One tiny little but all-important digit, a seven instead
of a six. It seems that correct digits are vital when they are used
in the year of one’s application appointment, which turned out to
be August 2, 2017, not August 2, 2016. We were exactly one year
early! The lady in charge of the citizenship by marriage was not even
at work today, and there was no possible way an exception could be
the heck? How could I have been so incredibly stupid! In looking back
at the website where the appointments are booked, I saw how I made
the mistake. Back on May 23, when I made the appointment, the first
month that showed on the calendar was June, which I assumed was the next month. It was full, and so was July, but there was one open date in August. That’s a busy time of year for my business,
and I also thought that might be too short a time to get all our
documents together, so I clicked ahead month-by-month to the
following June. I found that every other day was booked for a year ahead of June, so I clicked backwards to August and reserved the
only date open.
didn’t notice in all this clicking was that the calendar program
had taken me to June of 2017, not 2016. I
had just assumed that I was looking at this year’s calendar, but
not so. It seems that the Consulate staff is incredibly busy (they serve seven states), because
now when I look at calendar, I see that it starts with
August 2017, and every date between then and August 2018 is already
reserved. It’s not yet possible to make reservations for September
2018, so essentially there is not a single open date for the next two
at it from this perspective, I’m still fortunate to have an
appointment only one year away. If I had waited until I had every
document and then tried to get a date, I would have had to check back
regularly just get an appointment at least two years in the future.
Yes, I wasted some money on express mail delivery, and we took a
somewhat pointless trip, but hey, it’s still San Francisco. We’re
having a good time, and this is kind of an anniversary celebration
for us, since we worked right through our 42nd anniversary on July
At least we're in San Francisco . . .
probably would be less embarrassed if I hadn’t written that blog on
the train two days ago, because then fewer people would have been
aware of my incredible blunder. Oh well, everyone who knows me
already is aware that I can be absent minded, and now all my blog readers
know the same thing.
the shock of learning we were there a year early, Lucy and I walked
to the North Beach, the city’s large Italian district. We drowned
our sorrows in substantial bowls of gelato while we walked around
pretending we were in Tuscany. We’ll fly home tomorrow afternoon
and have a whole year to plan our next vacation in the City by the
When I obtained my Italian citizenship
in 2010, Lucy automatically became eligible to become a dual citizen
as well, since we already met the requirement of being married for at
least three years. But with no compelling reason to do so and a list
of somewhat confusing requirements, we put it off. Now we have a
compelling reason, and we’re currently on a train to San Francisco
to try our luck at the Italian Consulate.
Outside our home in Montecarlo, 49 via Roma.
The compelling reason is to avoid
property taxes on our Italian house. We put the house in both of our
names, not realizing the tax ramifications. Italians are allowed to
own one house tax free, so I pay no property taxes on my half, but
Lucy must pay on hers because she is a straniera, aforeigner.
Besides that, there will be other benefits in the future, including
medical care when the need arises. So we went to the website of the
Italian Consulate in San Francisco to read the requirements.
didn’t sound too difficult. We needed to get a copy of Lucy’s
birth certificate from Detroit and an extract of our Italian marriage
registration from Pescia, Italy. We weren’t married in Pescia, but
that’s the home city I chose to hold my documents when I became a
citizen. We also needed statements that Lucy had a clean criminal
record from the local police, state police and Federal Bureau of
Investigation. Each of these documents, except the one from Pescia,
had to be accompanied by an apostille to verify its authenticity. We
had obtained apostilles from Olympia, our state capital, for my
birth and marriage certificates and other official documents for my
dad and nonno when I
submitted my citizenship application. We knew that we could mail in
the documents or pay an extra fee to get them done immediately in the
secretary of state’s office, so that would be no problem.
police reports were the most daunting part. I read the websites for
all the agencies and started the process. Lucy had to go to an office
across from the County-City Building in Tacoma to get fingerprinted
and obtain a statement that she had no criminal record in Pierce
County. They also gave her two sets of official fingerprints, a lucky
thing, we would find out later.
also sent a form to the Washington State Patrol to get another good
citizen statement, and we sent one set of fingerprints to the FBI to
request their clearance statement. In addition, I e-mailed the comune
in Pescia to request the marriage extract, which I received about a
then occurred to me that since we had set all these document requests
in motion, I should find out how to make an appointment at the
Consulate. I saw it was possible to do this online, but I was shocked
to find that every day for the next 14 months was already booked –
except for one day, August 2, 2016. Probably someone had booked it
and then canceled, so I quickly grabbed it. Surely we could get all
the documents together in the three months we had before the
appointment, I reasoned. We booked a train trip down to San Francisco
and a flight back, and Lucy arranged to stay at the San Francisco
Worldmark for two nights.
obtained a letter from the county police on the spot, and the WSP
letter came within a few weeks. We also had obtained Lucy’s birth
certificate. We just needed the FBI statement and then we could take
all the documents to Olympia for the apostilles. Or so I thought.
Days, weeks and months passed, and still there was nothing from the
FBI, with only a couple of weeks before our appointment. How does one
call the FBI and complain about poor customer service?
went online and found an agency that assists in obtaining FBI
clearance and promised fast service. Lucy called the number and was
told that people who send in requests on their own typically must
wait three to four months. We had sent in our request in May 24, so
the soonest we could expect it back would be August 24, threeweeksafter
our San Francisco appointment. However, if we used the agency’s
services and paid extra for express mail, we could get the report
back in a week, leaving us another week to spare. Luckily, we had
that extra set of fingerprints, or we would have had to send Lucy
back to Tacoma for more. Then we could take all documents to Olympia
at once for apostilles. We thought.
online to read more about the apostille process, and to my dismay I
found that Lucy’s birth certificate could only receive an apostille
from the state of Michigan. Lucy bought two overnight express
envelopes and I dashed off a letter to the Michigan office imploring
speedy processing and enclosing the express return envelope. We
received the apostille back on Friday, two days before our train
Lucy took a trip to Olympia to get apostilles for her Pierce County
and WSP documents, only to find that she had been sent the wrong
documents. They had to be notarized letters from the county and State
Patrol, not just statements. She drove back to Tacoma and then to the
WSP and was able to get the notarized letters, and then she drove
back to the capital and get the apostilles. She successfully did all
this in one full and exhausting day.
even worse news about the FBI report, which we didn’t receive until
a week before our trip to San Francisco. We would have to obtain an
apostille from the State Department in Washington DC, and we had only
five business days left to do that! We overnighted it to Randy on
Monday, counting ourselves lucky to have a son who works in downtown
DC. He received it Tuesday and took it to the State Department on
Wednesday. They could get the apostille back in three days, which
would be Monday—the day our train would arrive in San Francisco.
Since Randy would be leaving for Myanmar on Friday, he arranged for a
courier to pick up the apostille Monday morning and overnight it to
us at our hotel in San Francisco. Whether it will arrive in time for
our 11 a.m. appointment on Tuesday is our next drama.
also paid for a professional translation of all the English language
documents into Italian. I scanned them and sent them off for a rush
translation that arrived three days ago.
I am a
little worried that someone will ask why we don’t have a document
from the Gig Harbor police, since our address says we live in Gig
Harbor. The police wouldn’t issue a letter because we don’t live
in the city limits. We did get them to write a letter explaining
this, but we didn’t translate it and are not including it unless we
are asked. No use muddying the waters needlessly.
Consulate website had some contradictory information about how much
the appointment will cost and how to pay the fee. We’ll try to get
that clarified before our appointment. We also have to have copies of
our passports and Lucy’s drivers license, and we need a utility
bill that will help prove her residency in Gig Harbor. All the bills
are in my name, so we had the Peninsula Light Company write a letter
saying that she has been a long-time customer. We didn’t have the
letter translated; hopefully, that won’t cause a problem. I didn’t
read anything about the utility bill needing to be in Italian.
have done about all that we can do, and now we’re relaxing on an
all-day, all-night trip down the coast. Trains are pleasant and
relaxing, so much nicer than air travel. We can walk around, get off
at the major stops, eat in a dining car, enjoy the scenery and sleep
with our legs stretched out. We would gladly take a train back if it
didn’t mean missing another day of work.
of things can still go wrong. It took me more than 10 years to get my
citizenship, through a combination of my own errors and the slow pace
of bureaucracy. However, I’ve learned a lot since then, and I feel
the odds that we got things right this time are in our favor. But
with the Italian government, one never knows.