Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finalmente! Ho il passaporto italiano

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
After a futile attempt to obtain my Italian passport in Italy last spring, today I have an appointment in the Italian Consulate in San Francisco to try again. I am encouraged by the fact that the Consulate has responded promptly to my email requesting an appointment for me and daughter Sandra. They will see me at 10:30 a.m. and Sandra at 11:15 a.m. Yesterday Sandy and I went to Walmart to have our passport photos taken, and then we went online to fill out the two-page application and print it out.

I show up at the Consulate around 10 a.m. and check in, and am further heartened to notice that the line is short and the lobby is not crowded. When I came here in 2000, I had to wait in line for almost an hour, and I remember some of the people ahead of me having long arguments with officials who seemed to be low on patience. Apparently, much has improved procedurally since then, and I hope this impression will soon be confirmed.

However, I wait for nearly an hour until I am called into the office of Sr. Giuseppe Penzato, and when I do, he tells me that the computer system appears to be blocked. He was able to process the passport application of one man earlier today, but when he tried to process the man’s wife, the system refused to respond. He will enter my data and hopes that the problem has been resolved. He collects my cash fee of $113.10, makes copies of my American passport and drivers license, takes three imprints of each of my index fingers and enters my data into his computer, which operates extremely slowly and has to be restarted once. The problem, he explains, is that the data has to be sent electronically to a computer in Rome to be authenticated and approved, but there is no response from there. He can’t call to find out why because it is nearly 9 p.m. in Rome, and the offices are closed.

After nearly a decade of stumbling through this process, I am mentally prepared for more obstacles, and I am not in a hurry, so I take this latest delay in stride. Sr. Penzato explains that he has entered my information, and he can finish the process later today or tomorrow and mail me my passport, which is fine with me. He can do the same with Sandra, who is next in line.

We are left with one more curious encounter with the Italian bureaucracy: I must provide Sr. Penzato with a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the mailing of our passports. The receptionist gives me the address of a stationary and mailing store about five blocks away, and when I arrive there, I meet the lady who had the passport appointment before me. She is in a hurry, she says, because the Consulate will close for lunch in a few minutes, and then we will have to wait at least an hour to give our envelopes to the receptionist. I sprint back and make it with three minutes to spare. Meanwhile, Sandra has had her fingerprints and data entered, and we are off to enjoy the rest of our week-long trip to California. (Additional note: When we arrived home, the passports were in my mailbox!)


  1. Yay! Now to start the loooong process of trying to get my relationships with my spouse and kids registered in Italy so we can get their passports. I'm sure this will take another 10 years. But, how awesome is it to have an Italian passport???

  2. Is it wise to have a copy of your passport available online for those wishing to steal your identity?

  3. Good point, Anonymous. I have taken the photo down now!


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