Moving to a foreign country involves more than the courage to leave familiar people and places behind. It also requires lots of paperwork, and once in the foreign country, the paperwork, although lessened, still continues. For us this means that once every two years we have to renew our permesso di sogiorno, or permit of stay.
This process used to be relatively simple, at least for us. Other expats who live in provinces with more foreigners and fewer resources dread a trip to the questura. It usually means getting up well before dawn in order to stake a place in a long line. Once the doors to the office open, numbers are then handed out, and depending on your number (and how many foreigners wielding strollers you've had to elbow back into the line BEHIND you), the REAL wait begins. Once you finally make your way to the clerk, your paperwork is reviewed and if you're lucky, everything will be accepted and your renewal process is underway.
The cost for this service used to be the cost of one marca da bollo (a tax stamp), and of course the time and gasoline it took to get to your designated questura. We lucked out when we moved to San Venanzo, which is located in the province of Terni, rather than the other Umbrian province of Perugia. Friends who live thirty minutes or more south of us must drive into Perugia, well north of here to wait in long lines and face inevitable delays.
We always enjoyed an excuse to spend the day in Orvieto, and the last time we had to renew our permessi, it took us less than forty five minutes to complete our renewal, and that was including the time we needed to make some extra copies I didn't realize we needed. The cost for the marca da bollo was €14.62 each, and we didn't mind the time or expense for the trip to Orvieto.
About eighteen months ago this process changed, and now permessi must be renewed through the post office. This new procedure was a disaster from the word go. The forms were very often not available at local post offices. When they were available no one really seemed to know how to fill them out. Once completed, the process was now much more expensive: in addition to the tax stamp (€14.62), the envelope itself cost €30 to mail (although this does include being sent a registered letter to set up your next appointment), and €27.50 for fees...so a total of €72, or about $115...EACH...and we only got to visit Marsciano, which is nice enough, but it's certainly no Orvieto!
After scouring the EXPATS IN ITALY website for information and tips, I found instructions in English and dutifully printed them out. We'd stopped at the Post Office in Marsciano to pick up the forms because the Post Office here in San Venanzo doesn't carry them. Unfortunately the Post Office had run out of the bolletini, the money order type documents used to pay bills through the Post Office. Oh well, they told me the bolletini would arrive soon, so I took the forms, and after several days of hesitation, I finally sat down to tackle them.
Of course I ended up having more questions, so I had to post them on the message board and wait for the responses. Eventually I thought I had the forms completed correctly. Now I had to make copies. I had to make photocopies of each page of our passports, then I had to copy every page of the deed to our house for both of us. I also had to print out copies of bank statements for the last several months to show that we had a continuing source of income. Because we're here on elective residency visas, we're not allowed to work and must show that we have adequate income to support ourselves. I also had to make a copy of our current permessi, and to include module 2, which covers work details and income. We were told by others to include this module even though it's blank....whatever.
We asked at our local comune (city hall) if the office for foreigners would be able to help us with the renewal forms, but they told us no. The mayor's secretary called Marsciano, and they gave us the times when we could come for help. From what others on the message board had told us, we expected to be sent to a union office or possibly to the office of one of the political parties for help, but that didn't happen.
After finding the office for foreigners, which had been moved to the lower level, we waited while a Moroccan family completed their paperwork. The clerk seemed friendly and patient, and when it was our turn we asked her to just take a look at our forms, just to be sure. As expected, she did find a few errors, mostly things that hadn't been explained in the English-language directions. I also told her that I was worried that some of my numbers and letters would be misinterpreted and that our new permessi would come back with incorrect information. The clerk carefully went over everything, adding little flags to the tops of the 1s and making sure I'd put a slash though all the 7s.
I'd bought the tax stamps at the tabaccheria in San Venanzo that morning, so except for the bolletini we were ready so return to the Post Office and mail everything to Rome....and then we were prepared to wait. We hear horror stores about people having to wait months and months for their renewals to be processed. In the case of the initial permesso, which is only good for one year, sometimes the year would pass without ever having actually received the permesso before it was time to renew it!
As we knew, and as the clerk told us, the wait time for Terni was much shorter than the wait time for Perugia. And then she walked to her filing cabinet and returned with the bolletini...and proceeded to fill them out for us! This went well above and beyond the call of duty, and I have to sing the praises for this wonderful woman who seemed to help everyone with kindness and patience rather than rudeness and arrogance which is so often the case with government workers in many countries.
She told us to wait about a month, but that we could check online to see when our apointment for the new, digital fingerprints would be scheduled. We'll also be notifed by registered mail, so now we just have to wait. In the meantime, once our permessi expire in September, the receipts for our renewals will serve as our permessi, should we need them. So far we've never been asked to show them, not even when we've returned to Italy from the states...but I still always have copies with me, just in case.
I was hoping that we wouldn't need to renew our permessi at all, that the house would sell quickly and that we'd be travelling throughout Europe this fall, but no. At least now we'll be good for 2 more years in Italy!
Labels: "permesso di sogiorno"