Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lucy’s quest: The saga continues . . .

Last time I compared Lucy’s citizenship quest to playing in the NCAA tournament. Last week, she was headed to the Final Four, but looked to be the underdog. Unfortunately, in the real tournament, Gonzaga lost in the final round . . . perhaps a bad omen? But I’m not giving that away in the lead.

We had been told by three people at the Prefettura that Lucy must be an official resident in Italy for one year before applying for citizenship, but that didn’t sit right with me. If I were still a ‟cittadino all’estero,” a citizen living abroad, she would be immediately eligible (even though the waiting list for an appointment is super long). Why should a resident citizen have fewer rights than a citizen abroad? In addition, I was sure that another man at the Prefeturra had told me in February that Lucy could apply immediately after obtaining residence. Who was this mystery man? One of the two men who had turned us down last week told us it could have been Dottor Pierotti, who would be back in the office Wednesday morning.

Holding on to this slight hope, we found Il Dottore this morning just as he walked out of his office, and I tried to explain our situation. He seemed to be on his way somewhere else. He listened to me for a minute, but not long enough to hear the whole story.

‟Yes, you need to talk to Signora Bertelli,” he said, while leading me into the office we had visited in vain last week. ‟Here she is. She’ll help you.” And he started to leave!

‟No, no, I need to talk to you,” I explained. ‟I think you were the man who a month and a half ago told me my wife could apply for citizenship immediately if we had her residency.”

At this point, Signora Bertelli jumped in and explained our situation much more effectively and rapidly than I could have done. She was the supervisor who had explained to us last week how the law said we had to wait a year.

And then—music to my ears—Dottor Pierotti told her that this was nonsense. There had been a circolare—a memo—published that clarified our situation. The one-year waiting period didn’t apply to people like us who had been married 42 years and had children who were already citizens. I don’t know everything he said, but he didn’t seem to be gentle about it. Not rude, but blunt. And then he left.

Signora Bertelli was apologetic and probably a little embarrassed. I was jubilant and felt vindicated. I had successfully challenged the Italian system and won, for once—but only because the law had actually been on my side. Also, I had been very lucky to have spoken to Dottor Pierotti the first time around—and then found him again when I needed him the most. If I had met up with Signora Bertelli the first time around, I probably wouldn’t have persisted.

We quickly downplayed this big play, because we didn’t want to antagonize the person who would now be responsible for the rest of our paperwork. ‟No problem, no problem,” I said to the apologetic signora. ‟We’re just happy that we can continue.”

It seemed like we had a slim lead in the semifinal game with less than a minute to play. And then, just as happened to North Carolina in 2016, a dagger struck. Signora Bertelli still had the ball in her hands, and she sank the tying basket on her final possession!

We had previously collected all our documents last August, in our failed attempt to get Lucy’s citizenship at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco. Signora Bertelli asked for our marriage certificate. Got it right here, with an official seal from the comune of Pescia. Lucy’s birth certificate? Check, right here. With apostille attached? Oh, yeah. Official translation of birth certificate? Here it is. And your apostille for the official translation? What? No, I didn’t know I needed that. It wasn’t required by the Italian Consulate.

But can I have someone official here in Lucca translate it again? Yes, we can go to the Tribunale on via Galli Tassi and pay for a new translation. Okay, we’re still hold a slight lead—but she still had the ball. And she took her final shot: ‟Of course, you need ‟good conduct” statements from the police for every place your wife has lived in the United States—and they all must be dated within the last six months, with apostilles attached. And they all must be translated, with apostilles attached for every translation.”

My heart sank. I had thought that being fingerprinted and photographed by the Italian Polizia Scientifica would have taken the place of this requirement. We did have these good conduct statements and translations, but they all were dated in July of 2016—10 months ago—in anticipation of our ill-fated San Francisco trip. This time, we had no answering play. It will take several months to get these documents again. We leave Italy in three weeks. The buzzer has sounded, and this game is going into overtime!

We left the Prefettura with mixed emotions. We had gone toe-to-toe with the bureaucracy and won a major concession, and then, with victory almost in sight, we let them score the equalizer. So it will be back to the United States for the summer. We’ll get our documents renewed. And we’ll return to Italy in the fall for what we hope will be the final period. Please, no double-overtime!


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