Dual Citizenship Preparations
Prior to leaving on our world travel adventures, we spent a lot of time and money gathering documents to apply for dual citizenship in Italy.
Over twenty documents, from two countries, three U.S. states, multiple counties, and the federal government. Things like birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, name changes, divorce decrees, naturalization documents, and so on. It took months.
Once we obtained these documents, they each needed a special authentication seal called an apostille, which makes them usable in foreign countries. We sent everything off to get apostilles from their respective secretaries of state for the state in which they were issued.
We finally had everything in our hot little hands.
Once everything was together I carried it all in a waterproof folder for a year in my backpack, while we bounced around Europe. Only a wee bit stressful.
When we finally landed in Italy, the all-important appointment day arrived when we were to take all of our precious documents to the Italian comune — the administrative office for the district where we live. It was the moment where the lady in charge would say either, “Yes, you may have a file created here” or “No, try again because your documents aren’t up to snuff.”
She’s the very important clerk.
She’d be the one processing our paperwork so I made sure to make la bella figura (a good first impression).
Meaning, I wore makeup. And I brought my kid. Italians love kids.
Well, she seemed to give us a nod of approval, so I figured that meant I officially applied.
Bureaucracy in Italy
I’ve read a lot about people moving to Italy. Everyone complains about the slow bureaucracy.
Maybe I was sufficiently prepared for this (from reading books and blogs), but I have no complaints so far. I admit some of the government offices seem a bit outdated, with their big computer CPUs and immensely large paper filing systems, complete with a crucifix hanging in each office.
Well, I guess the crucifix isn’t the outdated part, but, well, Italy.
A few days later, I had another appointment at the comune office where I thought I officially applied for dual citizenship.
I say I thought, because it’s in Italian. Although my “citizenship assistant” speaks English very well, when it’s explained to me, my brain processes some of her English in a weird way that I don’t grasp everything. Maybe it’s just all so new still- and everything is complicated. Maybe it’s the eustress of living in another country? Amazing as it is… it’s still too much for my brain?
There’s a lot going on. We have a child here and parenthood is never easy, let alone in a foreign country. Greg’s hip and foot have been a challenge (long story – he’s injured). Lastly, my brain is simply on massive-fucking-overdrive – day after day.
I can only process so much in Italian. Or English, for that matter.
Turns out, that previous appointment was for merely getting permission to create a file. I’ve since come to learn there are a lot of appointments in this process.
But, now, it was time to create the all-important official file. An official blue file was my goal.
My citizenship assistant, Alice, did the talking for me, in Italian of course. Thank god we hired ICA. Throughout the appointment, I crossed my fingers that all would go well. My non-religious, but very spiritual self, glanced a few times with pleading eyes to the crucifix in the room. It can’t hurt. Also, when in Rome…
When I saw the clerk taking my paperwork and putting it in a blue file folder, I figured that was good news. And, it was. At last, I had a file at the comune.
It’s time to celebrate with a spritz.
Not So Fast…
What I didn’t realize was that it still wasn’t an official application yet. That would be the following week. But, hey, I had a blue folder at the comune. Baby steps.
Fast forward to that important day…
Alice emailed me letting me know that we’d go to the comune for my official signature and a special stamp in front of the clerk. That would make it official. (Fuck, I think that’s what she said – again, I’m not even sure I understand English anymore).
But! I’d then need to take a copy of the signed document to the post office, which would then get mailed to the police station, because that starts the process for getting my official “permit to stay during the citizenship application.”
Even more… at the post office, they’d give me a computer-generated date for when to show up at the police station.
Bring the Exact Change!
So, in Alice’s email she wrote in bold and underlined that I’d need exact change, in cash, for the post office processing.
I wasn’t surprised by this.
You see, I read a whole other story about another couple going through a similar process, but without the aid of an assistant like I had with Alice. And they were turned away from the post office for not having exact change. When I read Alice’s email, I thought to myself, “Oh, I totally know about this!”
But knowing about it didn’t make it easy.
Alice sent me an email the evening before our appointment. I didn’t know if I had the correct change for the next morning! Gathering my euro together, I asked Greg for what he had. Between the two of us, we were 50 euro short. Shit.
I could go to the ATM in the morning and get the money before the appointment. I asked Greg how much was in our Schwab account. Travel tip: world travelers like using Schwab for ATM withdrawals because they reimburse ATM withdrawal fees.
Here’s where I started to sweat a bit.
He said we had $57.
I did a quick estimating calculation and figured that was about 50 euro and just the amount we needed! I think.
In the meantime, we transferred more money just in case, but Schwab said it could take up to 3 business days. Yikes. Is that just an estimate or are they serious? Well, it shouldn’t matter because I think there’s enough for my needs at the moment.
The next day I set out for the ATM.
The first one didn’t work, or it didn’t seem to work. Hmmm.
OK, I tried the next one. I had to walk past the building where Alice would be waiting for me, and time was ticking. In a true New Yorker walking speed, I busted a move. In Italy, nothing screams “Americana” more than walking fast.
I went to the next ATM.
Shit. It didn’t work either.
Or maybe, the ATM was working, but my mental calculations were off and I didn’t have 50 euro in the account? Or maybe I had just barely enough but there were some rule against emptying the account?
Either way, it didn’t matter. I needed 50 euro and I didn’t have it.
Take a Deep Breath
But wait, I have an Italian bank account I opened the week before. I had put about 140 euro in it. I ran across the street, praying the bank was open at that time and that I could make a withdrawal, which I had not attempted yet.
The bank tellers have dealt with me a couple of times already though. I’m the Americana. And though they speak little to zero English, they smile and exude beautiful Italian patience as I struggle to communicate using Google Translate.
This day was no exception.
I printed my little queue ticket, securing my spot in the non-existent line.
I Waited Nervously to Be Called.
I went up to the lady and asked to make a withdrawal, in Italian, as I read from the Google Translate app on my phone. I received a vigorous “bravissima!” for my efforts. So far so good!
While she was processing my request, the friendly teller asked where in America I was from. I told her Arizona, which received an equally enthusiastic response as her last one. She was so excited, pausing the withdrawal of my money to tell the teller next to her that I was from Arizona, and how she wanted to go there to live.
The Clock Was Ticking.
The tellers chatted for a bit, but I still had 7 minutes to get to my appointment. I was feeling pretty calm.
She gave me my money and then said in English, “You have a beautiful … hhmmm… what’s the word… giornata…” To which I replied that she was looking for the word “day.” She said, “Ahhh yes, you, you have a beautiful day.”
I turned around to walk to the bench where my umbrella and bag were waiting for me, with my colorful little 50 euro bill, feeling like I dodged a bullet.
The next customer approached her window and started his request, at which point, the teller stopped, stood up, and called to me, letting her other customer wait. She wanted to know how exactly to say “you have nice day, not beautiful day” properly in English. I replied, “Have a nice day.”
She clasped her hands together, excitedly, and repeated it out-loud. “Have a nice day!”
I told her I wished her the same and I left to meet Alice, like a boss, exact change and all.
To the Post Office.
After getting what we needed from the comune, it was time to visit the post office, where my exact change was needed.
I have to say, this post office is beautiful. It’s grand, with high ceilings, organized tellers, and it’s very important looking.
Upon entering, I saw that they even had free WiFi, which I figured might mean it was going to be a long wait. But honestly, the place is so pretty, I could spend 30 minutes just looking around.
We retrieved our ticket placing us in the queue.
Speaking of queues… in all those books I read, people complained about Italians not queuing. Maybe those people were all in southern Italy where it’s a bit more wild west – I don’t know. But here in Rovigo, northeastern Italy, there are proper queues for pretty much everything.
We waited about 10 minutes, which I eagerly used to pepper Alice with questions. “How would I pay rent over the summer if we have to leave? How do I pay my utilities bill and where? What about my mail?”
We chatted about these things and the fact that I’ve now officially submitted my documents. Yay! It’s great that I’ll be allowed to stay in Italy for the process of the citizenship… but my husband won’t??? He can only be in the EU for three months out of every six months since I’m not a citizen yet.
Do they really expect us to be apart? We have a bambina (young girl) for crying out loud. For the love of god(!), surely they can infuse our processing with some familial compassion for which Italy is so recognized.
Alice promised to work on it. When it comes to the Italian bureaucracy, they say if you don’t like the answer you get, ask someone else until you get the answer you want.
My Number Was Called.
We approached the window and Alice explained what we needed to do. Turns out, this employee was not authorized to process our request. We’d have to sit and wait for the employee next to him.
No big deal.
Our turn came. Again.
While Alice was handling these things with our new, upgraded postal employee, I noticed something on the counter. Something that looked very familiar. A credit card machine.
Can I pay for this with my credit card and not the exact cash? Alice??
Turns out… I could. And I did.
All that running around to ATMs and the bank… for nothing. Oh well, I saved my cash for important things like buying cappuccino in my favorite bar. They don’t accept credit cards – I know that for sure.
So I paid at the post office with a credit card, and I submitted my request for permission to stay in Italy. No word yet on my husband, but it’s doubtful he’ll be granted permission until he submits his own documents applying for dual citizenship, which won’t happen until my citizenship is granted. Which could take a while.
Until then, we’re in and out of Italy (the EU, actually) every three months. (The Schengen Area, to be more precise. Not all EU countries are in the free-travel Schengen Area.)
Oh well, more countries to visit!
Next stop: IRELAND!