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Permesso di Soggiorno in Italy, my experience

drowning in red tape

After a somewhat successful trip to the questura yesterday for the 65784893 time since I arrived in Italy, I don’t know how its humanly possible that I haven’t yet written about every expats place of terror…the immigration office and the process of legally staying and working in Italy.

waiting game, defend your number in line!

napping questura style

Despite all of the books and movie’s showcasing Italy to be a place where dreams are  made and visas and wine flow freely from the fountain, it actually really sucks being an immigrant. FYI – immigrant & expat means basically the same thing, just one happens to sound a whole heck of a lot better than the other and gets more hits on google ;).

I have a lot of personal experience in “all things immigration” since my dad worked his entire life in the immigration system in the states and my mom happened to be herself an immigrant. One memory from middle school was of having my dad host a huge naturalization ceremony at our school and watching the proud faces of those being sworn in as US citizens – I naively had absolutely no inkling of actually how hard it likely had to be for them to arrive to that day especially since Italian citizenship seems like an island I’ve heard about but likely won’t visit in a long long time. I know a lot about how to get dual citizenship and have helped friends with the process of obtaining theirs but it’s one thing to have Italian blood and another thing to not..

It’s easy to be jealous of those who get married or have the opportunity to obtain dual citizenship, but remember that anything worthwhile in life is going to be difficult to get, and maybe that’s how it should be. Your going to have bad days, just expect that. Remember that there is a light at the end of the rainbow, you get to stay in the country you fell in love with.

When I studied abroad in 2005, the process of getting your permesso di soggiorno, or permit to stay was a slightly different ordeal. You had to get your visa from the Italian consulate in the states (still true), take your paperwork to Italy and send it off via mail to the immigration office who then would send you your permit or rather a peice of paper stating it was your permit. Ahhh…the golden days it seemed. Of course as immigration got to be more of a hot-button issue around the world, Italy being no different,  has taken a tougher stance on who they allow to legally stay in their country and the process for a student and worker is very different. I do agree that immigration has to be controlled, but we also have to admit that Italy’s population is getting older, having kids much later or not at all and having trouble paying for it’s bloated public finances.

Not to mention some of the most outspoken critics of immigration in Italy, Umberto Bossi was himself investigated for corruption ( surprise surprise ) and resigned from the party. Italy needs young people who want to live, work, pay taxes, have babies and not escape to wealthier European countries with less red-tape and I truly wish there was a point system alla Australia for those looking to live here.

One piece of advice I normally give people who ask me about getting permission to work  in Italy is please don’t listen to the internet, your well-meaning friend and the person she heard who did this… etc etc,  the neighbor, tv or just well anyone. There is a lot of misinformation swirling about providing false hope or on the end crushing any dreams for future Italiani.

In my opinion, Italy has a way of weeding out the people that really want to stay from those who just think they do. It’s a country famous for it’s suffocating red tape and the only real advice you should take is from those hired by the comune to help immigrants or an immigration lawyer.

Remember, everyone’s case is very different. To start, here is a great post on Insidersabroad.com on visa help and a curated search box with helpful links for visas here. I highly advice visiting the sportello di immigrazione in your city and asking for help. I have used them on countless occasions with success, they have walked me through filling out the permesso kit and printed out papers stating what documents I needed to take to the questura.

My visa renewal was  a success though me and t-man really worked hard to make it happen, sleepless nights and wine therapy was what we went through these past months. This year because I changed types of work visa, I will only get it renewed for 12 months. Fair enough, the only problem is that in Florence, to receive the hard copy of your permesso itself takes around 3 months to arrive and it will be yet another afternoon off work.  Luckily I have a disintegrating paper copy to carry and my nifty carta d’identita which is actually more useful.

All in all, we actually got lucky in that the lady at our sportello at the questura was helpful and patient which is a far cry from my first experience when the carabinieri standing outside answered my question with “Sono cazzi vostri” which is rude slang for “that’s your problem.” NICE. 

you too can look like a criminal!

Update* as of today (July 24, 2012) I have my new updated permesso di soggiorno. Valid for one year and I will have the “pleasure” of renewing it next March. yay. The funny thing is I got the text message telling me to come in and pick it up today at 3:40pm. I asked a friend of mine who is a questura expert and she told me to go at 11:30 and get a number, then come back at 1:30 to pick it up even though my appointment was for 3:40pm. I took her advice and did exactly and thus walking out with my new card at 1:40pm. I suppose the “appointment” time is merely a suggestion though it is true that pick-up is normally in the afternoons after 1pm.

*I heard that the EU has a special work visa (EU blue card) for two years for highly skilled applicants (college degree or work experience) that looks legit. For more details click here.

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  1. Jennifer Avventura

    Great post! I don’t have the electronic permesso…yet, instead I have a HUGE piece of yellow paper as my Pds. I also have my ‘nifty’ carta d’identita which doesn’t even state that I’m married!

    • ggnitaly84

      thanks jennifer! I know what you mean about your PDIS, is it for 2 or 5 years and shouldn’t it be for 5 years ( carta di soggiorno ). I helped a friend with that process in florence who is married and she a 5 year one and yes it was just a piece of paper. why don’t they issue you guys an electronic copy?

      • Jennifer Avventura

        My Pds is valid for five years, same with my codice fiscale. I have no idea why they didn’t issue me with an electronic pds, I’ve seen others with them in the Questura. One day I asked at the post office, what do I need to the electronic pds … they handed me about a billion papers to fill out and re-submit. The file has been collecting dust on my self for the last year! Ill stick with my big ole yellow pds for now! ;)

        • ggnitaly84

          yeah they are non consistent about issuing the electronic version, some friends of mine have the paper like you and others were issued the electronic one immediately. annoying!

    • ggnitaly84

      the only time I have ever showed it is when leave the schenegan zone. but basically it just collects dust ;). I do need to start studying and getting my drivers license. next step!

      • Pierotucci

        OMG – can I tell you a story about that. I Could. Not. Believe. that Italy does not recognize American DL – I mean it will recognize Morocco – but not the States! I’ve been driving since I was 16 and it was a bit of a shocker to have to study for the test. I wound up taking an oral exam (which was soooo much easier) but I did have to do it twice :-(

  2. Letters to My Spouse

    Ahhh, the questura is definitely a painful experience, especially for people from third world countries. Though it never runs perfectly, I did manage to learn to randomly pick Sat morning at 10 am to make my visits…LOL. No lines=less nonsense!

  3. Toma

    If I wasn’t at work I would have punched my computer screen. Hearing the word ‘questura’ sends a shiver of hatred down my beer-filled Australian spine.

    • ggnitaly84

      LMAO, I could not agree more. I have spent far too many hours in that hell-hole and it still scares me. I almost offered to volunteer there on the basis that no one knows anything about anything

      • Toma

        I know, right?! And should you be brave enough to question them not knowing anything you risk the rath of 1000 carabinieri. How can it cost so much to do so little?!?

        • ggnitaly84

          During one of my first visits and ill-fated requests for information, one of the carabinieri suggested that I get pregnant or married as a means to stay in Italy. #keepingitclassy

          • Toma

            Well, when we did move to a country that voted for Berlusconi – repeatedly – and he says things far worse. What bothers me about this comment is that there is no way he would say this to an Italian woman (at least not in my experience). No matter whether we come from countries like Australia and the US or Morocco and Bangladesh, we are treated like lesser people.

          • ggnitaly84

            I could not agree more, can you imagine if after all that has happened he finds himself in power again? I think I would have to rethink my life plan in that case. My dad spent his whole life in immigration so I am used to the lesser-people syndrome but what gets me is how inconsistent they are. I literally was told a million times it would be possible for me to renew mine because I was changing types and yet I was successful ( of course I’ll be paying a lot for the privilege).

          • Toma

            I too have been there. The way I always explain it is that bureaucracy serves laziness. The more bureaucratic they are the less they have to work. It’s a matter of ticking boxes. They don’t care how you go about it as long as they can tick the boxes. If they can’t, they don’t, and the sure-fire way to piss them off is to ask them a question they don’t know the answer to because you will make them work. Give them a reason to tick the boxes, that’s all that matters. And DON’T make them think. They joined the Questura for a sure paycheck. If they wanted to work they would have gone into construction.

  4. lavitadipasseggiata

    ugh! I had no idea it would be THIS difficult. I knew the process wouldn’t be cake, but seriosuly? …is it even possible to locate the f’in permesso in Roma? I’m on day 9 of my search for one and no post office has them, nor does the questura or the police station. No one has any info.

  5. Tiana Kai (@TianaKaiMiami)

    OMG, I got my carta d’identita’ today and asked for a plastic id card also, but they just gave me the paper one that folds open. So, you have both right? I am wondering if I will get an actual plastic one that I rather carry in my wallet and when I travel than the silly paper version.

    • ggnitaly84

      you have to order the plastic version specially from the comune, the flimsy paper one is just the one they give everyone. I am not sure of the cost but we are looking into getting one as well. Is your ‘permesso’ a big sheet of paper? (that’s usually what spouses of Italians get)

  6. Anna B.

    Hi There! I found your post via google search. I’m a US citizen married to an italian citizen. My schengen visa is expired and we are trying to file the kit. This is a maddening process not to mention my Italian isn’t so great. Do you or anyone know the restrictions around traveling while waiting for the permesso? There is an unbelievable amount of *unclear* information out there on the net & on the italian government sites. I’m actually dumbfounded that there is NO place to find the list of laws, the EXACT items needed per type of permesso, etc etc. Figured I guess… but anyway, I desperately need to go home to USA to visit family and also travel for business as its part of my job (for a USA company). I’m stuck here now and curious whether A. I can travel to UK and USA WITHOUT any receipt and be able to come back (show my marriage certificate) and B. If not, what do I need in order to leave/reenter Italy?
    Anyone… HELP! write me miss.anna.a.bogdanova@gmail.com thank you! – Anna

  7. Mike

    Hi. I’ve been trying to set do a internship at a restaurant in Italy and I’ve been ready a lot and unsure if my plans will actually work. Here’s my deal. I’m not a full time student at this time and my “internship” is more of a “stage” and i would be enrolled in a institution in Italy. I will literally just be working in a restaurant (not getting paid). I’m pretty sure if I wanted to only stay for 90 days It would be no issue. My problem is that I was planning on staying for 5 months. Would I be eligible for a student visa? Or a temporary work visa or permit? I appreciate any help. Thank you

    • ggnitaly84

      Hello Mike, if you plan to stay more than 90 days than you need a visa or permesso di soggiorno to stay in the country, or you could run into problems at the border. They pay attention to how many months you are signed up at the institution and that’s how many months you’ll get to stay in Italy. Legally you can also work 20 hours a week with a visa, but I am not sure how it works with internships to be honest, the restaurant should be able to tell you this if you are doing an internship with them :). ps. obtaining a work visa is really really hard and may involve lawyers if you don’t go through the lottery so, I would go the student visa/internship route!

      • tnea

        hi I have a similar problem, I have been here with a study visa for 5 months but I never went to get the Permesso di Soggiorno because the person that hosted me said that it wasn’t necessary. Im ok with all my visa dates and everything but do I really need the Permesso di Soggiorno to go back to USA? Do I still need to do the process now?

        Thanks

  8. Lisa

    I was wondering if you have had any troubles traveling to the uk or the states with a permesso? My 6 month visa recently expired , I’m waiting to pick up my new permesso so I can stay another 6months to study . I know I can travel to the other eu countries but I’m not sure if I can travel easily to countries like the uk or back to the states , please help :)

    • GirlinFlorence

      As far as I know you must take the reciept and any documents necessary to show you are undergoing the renewal process while you travel. I will be able to let you know first hand soon because this week I will be hading bk to the states for a visit with an expires permesso..

      • 1logos1

        I would love to hear you insight on this. I will need to be flying back with an expired soggiorno and I will necessarily be passing through Madrid on my way back. Also, the “receipt” you are talking about is what they give you when you pay at the “poste” correct?

    • Dawn Graziani

      Hi-Just went through all this. Back to the states is a peice of cake; Italy didn’t even require more documents but one time. Had the receipt and no problem; showed them anyhow. You can’t go through any other countries in EU besides Italy and your place of nationality (US). England is the hardest place to go through for any of the immigration processes; have met many couples with more problems from there then any other in Europe. Italy was very simple for me; I would say that route first for anyone. They even went out of their way to help when I left the country with my receipt and couldn’t be back in time to get the actual permesso card when it was ready. Hope this helps; I was a wreck worrying for all this but there was no reason to be. However, just be sure you go only through a direct flight between the states and Italy with the receipt. It will not be acknowledged anywhere else other then Italy.

      • Dawn

        Hi, I would just check with your consulate on this. I am certain that it can’t be acknowledged in Schengen areas until you get your actual id; we were very careful about this. We asked specifically when at la questura when we applied as I knew I would be leaving back to the US. Only to be safe. I was told I need my passport and receipt both ways but they were definate about Schengen areas in their warning; then it is up to the country you are going through. May have to answer some questions but should be fine. I had a friend whom had no problems going by train with the receipt through France but never went through by plane. Best wishes for a good trip back.

  9. Georgia

    Hi! Great blog! Making me miss Florence so much! I see that you say you have friends who have obtained a permesso through marriage. I was wondering if you had any more info on that process? I’m marriage to an Italian/UK citizen and we are back and fourth between the two countries. My time in England is up and I really don’t want to get on their bad side bc I’ve heard horror stories! We’ve decided to go the Italian route bc an English spouse visa is quite pricey and I’d have to go back to the states, not knowing when I’d receive the visa. We are currently in the process of opening a business in England and though this Italian permesso seems to be the best way to be legal in the EU at the moment I’m worried I’ll have difficulty getting back into England. Let me know what you think and thank you for your time! :)

  10. ewandowd

    We are waiting for our permesso cards, we check on line to see if it is ready for collection and then have to make an appointment to pick it up. we have been waiting nearly two months, we are in Bologna I am getting concerned because we will be refused travel on an aircraft within Europe without it and the slip from the post office doesnt count and the old permesso is expired, I know this because we were refused travel to Malta on the aircraft, we were just lucky we got a nice check in girl who did some phoning around for us What I want to know is where can you go to find out where you are in the system, I tried going to the questura of immigration here but they basically also said chi se ne frega. Helppppppp

    • GirlinFlorence

      I would go ahead and go to the questura and see if they are ready directly, I actually never got my sms telling me my permesso was ready. Annoying but then in just two hours, I walked out with mine. Then your next stop should be your tessera sanitaria (health card) renewal which can be done at any CUP azienda sanitaria in your district of residence (they will want your old tessera, proof of residency and permesso di soggiorno).

  11. Dimpy

    hey dear … my bf is living in milan italy and he applied for his Permesso di Soggiorno on 20-sep-2012 but till date he did not get any call or any appointment from prefettura di milano … please suggest me a proper way how can he get his Permesso di Soggiorno ….


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