Monday, February 20, 2017

Time to name the walk. Please vote

If you read my blog from a month ago, you'll know what I mean when I ask you to vote on a name for what I formerly called "the old man walk." Click on the survey to the right and make your preference known. If you missed the background on the need for a name, read this first: Creative title needed for previously unnamed "Old man walk." And for those of you who submitted titles, thanks!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Permesso nearly in the bag! Now an enforced time out before round 2

Okay, I admit I was drunk! I can’t believe I suggested that Lucy might get her Italian citizenship quickly. I was intoxicated not with Montecarlo’s fine red wine but with hope, because the lines in the Questura had been relatively short, I could understand the clerk, and we had all the documents we needed for her permesso di soggiorno in my hands.

This morning we went to the Questura, and after a 50-minute wait in line and then a half hour for the clerk to process the paperwork, she gave us a stamped ‟receipt” marked permesso di soggiorno. Then she told us sit in the waiting room and someone would call us for Lucy’s fotosegnalamento. That was a word I didn’t know. She also said something about waiting one month. What? Now I was confused. But she clearly told us to sit and wait, and so we did.

Within 15 minutes, a side door opened and we were escorted into an office for Polizia Scientifica. A friendly middle-aged police woman asked Lucy for her height and the color of her eyes, and then she took digital photos of Lucy’s palms and fingers, the fotosegnalamento. That’s it, she said. Lucy’s permesso di soggiorno card would be ready in about a month. They had my cell phone number and will call when it’s ready.

Still, we were optimistic that we could start round 2, because we had the receipt, which clearly stated permesso di soggiorno. It had a photo of Lucy attached and official stamps from the Questura. We drove straight to the city hall of Montecarlo to start Lucy’s residence permit.

Ah, not so fast, the clerks there told us. This document is not the actual permesso di soggiorno. It is just a receipt, and we have to wait for the real card to be issued. Presumably this has something to do with Lucy’s fingerprints being checked through the system first to make sure she is not a criminal or terrorist.

Is there anything we can do to speed up the process?” I asked. ‟Perhaps,” one clerk said, ‟you could go to the Prefettura in Lucca and get a declaration of Nulla Osta.” This is a clearance form stating there is no legal obstacle from Lucy’s past. However, a Nulla Osta would probably take a month to get, she added.

It’s better just to wait,” she said. ‟There is no hurry, is there?”

Since there actually is no listed record in Guinness for fastest foreign citizenship obtained in Italy, I had to admit that we really had no good reason to ask anyone to bend the rules. ‟No, we can wait,” I said. ‟Of course. No problem.”

We have passed step 1 with flying colors. It’s just that now I have a hope hangover, a small deflation of excitement. The chase has been put on hold, but it’s not in any way off track. It’s on to other challenges, like our leaky roof, meeting new people, finding the best scenic hikes. For Lucy, making some quilts. For me, editing my book manuscript. Basically, living la dolce vita, and I guess that’s not too bad!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Great progress on Permesso di Soggiorno, step 1 to Lucy's citizenship

As much as I love coming to Italy for the beauty, food, people and tranquility, I also like the challenge of learning a new language and discovering how to get by on our own in a different land. Lucky thing, because now I have to figure out how to get Lucy’s citizenship here in Italy instead of at the Italian consulate in California. This new challenge is not entirely unwelcome, and we’re making progress every day.

On Tuesday, I went to the comune in Pescia, where my citizenship is registered. After leaving his window to consult with a colleague for a few minutes, the clerk came back and told me I’d have to go to the Prefettura in Lucca.

Wednesday, off to Lucca, where I found many offices for the Prefettura. On the fourth try, I found the right one and explained what we were seeking. The helpful clerk asked me a few questions and then spoke with a colleague on the phone. He explained that it would be a three-step process. First, get a permesso di soggiorno at the Questura. Second, apply for residency in the comune at Montecarlo. Third, come back to the Prefettura and apply for citizenship.

What a difference a few years and a little language learning makes! The clerk understood everything I said, and I understood everything he said—so different from our misadventures in Padova in 2001. So off to the Questura, and on the third try, I found the right office. I realized on approach that it had to be the right door, because dozens of multi-national immigrants and refugees were milling around or waiting in one of the four lines. Sportello 1 said it was for informazione and permesso, and it only had one person in line ahead of me.

I had read online a few years ago that one must first go a post office to get the needed forms and an appointment time, but I figured I’d try my luck directly at the Questura first. And it almost worked, but not quite, because I was missing the first item on the list: the applicant. The lady at the window looked at our passports and said all we needed to obtain the forms and an appointment was Lucy to appear in person.

So, Thursday, off we went together, arriving 10 minutes before opening hours so we’d be near the head of the line. After a 20-minute wait, we received our forms and an appointment for March 2, not too long to wait. And it appeared that the requirements weren’t too difficult: four photos (easily obtained at a photo booth), a marca da bollo tax sticker for 16 euro to be purchased at the nearest tabaccaio, copies of Lucy’s passport (including every stamped page), a copy of our registered marriage certificate from Pescia (which I already had), and a declaration from me that I was hosting the foreign visitor at my house, along with a copy of the main page of my passport. The application form consisted of only a half page of very basic information.

We went home to fill out the forms, buy the tax sticker and make the photocopies. I had a few questions about how to fill in several lines on the form, and then I came to one requirement that struck a note of fear in my heart, a line that said ‟Certificazione medica.” The lady at the desk had not mentioned or explained that, and it had a pen mark under it—or maybe through it—I couldn’t tell for sure.
Is that last line underlined or crossed out?

The reason I hadn’t been able to obtain a permesso di soggiorno during our year in Padova so long ago is that the clerk at the Questura there said we must have a medical insurance policy, translated into Italian. We had traveler’s insurance, and I had translated it with some help, but it didn’t cover preexisting conditions. The clerk had denied my application.

Not wanting to wait until March 2, Lucy and I went back today for clarification. ‟Questa linea, e' sottolineata o cancellata?” I asked. ‟Cancellata,” she answered. There would be no need for a medical certificate or insurance. I showed her my other questions, all easily answered, and then asked a final question: ‟Since I have all the documents filled out, the tax stamp and the photos, is there any way we can have an earlier appointment?”

She walked into a back office, then came out and looked at her calendar. How about February 18? Domani? Si, si! So we are close to completing step 1. I feel 99 percent certain I have everything we need and that we’ll be successful tomorrow. I’m not sure if we will receive the permesso the same day or if we’ll have to come back, but soon we’ll move on to step 2, the residency permit. I just went through that process myself last April, so I know it’s not complicated.

I don’t want to jinx this, but I may look up in Guinness what’s the world record for the fastest foreigner to obtain Italian citizenship, because Lucy just could be in the running!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Further frustrations in Lucy’s quest for citizenship—but a ray of new hope

Loyal readers of our blog may remember our fiasco of August 2, 2016, when we went to the Italian Consulate in an attempt to obtain Lucy’s Italian citizenship. We arrived one year and one hour too early, and they told us to come back on the same date in 2017. We have already booked transportation and a room for next August, and we have all the documents ready, so we figure it should be a slam-dunk next time, right?
Consolato Generale di San Francisco

Wrong, wrong, wrong! In re-reading the requirements, I noted that all the police statements of good conduct—which must be both notarized and accompanied by an apostille verifying their authenticity by the issuing state—must be no more than six months old. So we need to go back to Pierce County, the Washington State Patrol and the FBI to get new notarized statements and new apostilles. Okay, we can live with that. It will cost some money and take some time, but at least now we know how to do it.

But in looking even more closely at the requirements, I came across this statement: ‟The Italian spouse must be registered at the Consulate as an Italian Citizen Residing Abroad (A.I.R.E.).” When I had read this earlier, I thought: No problem, I became an Italian Residente All’Estero in 2011 at the very same consulate. I know I’m on the list, because I receive ballots to vote in the Italian elections at my address in Gig Harbor, as do my children and my sister.

However, I noticed last November that everyone in the family received a ballot to vote on the December constitutional amendment referendum except me. Why was that? Because in April of 2016, I became a resident of Montecarlo. And in an uncharacteristic and inexplicable example of Italian bureaucratic efficiency (yes, I really used those two words together), the comune in Montecarlo must have communicated with the consulate in San Francisco, and I was removed from the list of citizens residing abroad.

Does that mean that Lucy can’t get her citizenship by marriage at the consulate any more? I sent the consulate an e-mail, and in another example of efficiency, they answered right away: ‟Your wife cannot apply here if you are not a resident here. The first requirement for the application is the sharing of the residency; therefore your wife can apply in Italy after moving her residence there.”

So, cancel the appointment, transportation and hotel in San Francisco. Start the maze over again in Italy. Luckily, we have just arrived back in Montecarlo, so this is the ideal time to start. The ray of hope I mentioned is that maybe we can somehow complete this process in the next two months. One of the reasons we want Lucy’s citizenship is that it will lower the twice yearly property taxes we must pay. It will also mean that she won’t need to obtain a permesso di soggiorno if she stays in the country for more than three months at a time. Stay tuned for updates in this continuing saga . . .