Expat Life Problems: Permesso di Soggiorno Edition, Part 1

posted in: Expat Life, Italy | 0
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Picture of Italian Post Office, Poste Italiane

Anyone that lives in Italy, has lived in Italy, knows absolutely anything about Italy knows that one of the few things most Italians can agree on is that here nothing works. So by the end of this post, I’m sure any seasoned expat in Italy will be laughing at me and the things I’m going to vent about. Nonetheless, I feel I cannot go on without writing this post because getting a permesso di soggiorno (or permission to stay) in Italy is an expats rite of passage, if you will. Also, allow me to release my frustrations for a second…

WHAT THE F***?!?!

If everything goes according to plan, we will be living here in Italy for the next two years. You may be wondering, isn’t getting a longterm visa enough to receive “permission to stay” in Italy? Well, no, no it isn’t. Having a visa is not enough to legally reside Italy (or any other country within the EU, I believe) for more than 90 days. We must also have a Sojourner’s Permit or… the Permesso di Soggiorno.
At first, it was not very clear how one would go about getting this, but we read a lot of stuff online about having to make a line somewhere at 5 am and making sure you held on to your number as if your life depended on it. Well, thankfully things have improved somewhat since the days those articles were written. Now you can go to your local post office and get what they call a “Kit” which is basically a big envelope with the forms one needs to fill out. Seems easy enough, no?
Last Friday, we went and got a “kit” for each of us at a post office nearby (I’ve learned since then that getting a “kit” is an accomplishment in and of itself) and made sure to fill it out during the weekend correctly, as well as make copies of our passports and visas. We knew that we would have to return this “kit” to the post office where we would pay the Sojourner’s Permit fees and they would send it to whatever government agency (I still haven’t learned my Italian government agencies but I’m assuming it has to do with immigration) it is that processes these things.
We arrive at the post office on Monday, ready to get this stuff over and done with because, by the way, you need to send the form within 10 days of arriving in Italy. First bump in the road, we need to pay in cash, no credit cards accepted. We didn’t have enough cash on us, so we had to go and get some. This is mildly inconvenient but not at all surprising since people here don’t pay every single little thing with a card as we do in America (at least as I do in America). We left, got our money, and came back. Now, the lady tells us we are missing a “marca di bollo” on our forms (basically a stamp which goes on the actual form, not the envelope. The one that goes on the envelope is a separate one with its own separate fee -_-). Fine, we need a stamp, so we can just get that right there in the post office, right? WRONG! You get the marca di bollo in the tobacco shops (tabaccheria).
Now, the tabaccherias are a curious little business for me. I had assumed at first that they were just shops that sold all things that have to do with smoking. They do, but they also serve the purpose of having lotto tickets, selling marca di bollo, and selling bus tickets. Yes, this means that if you don’t have a monthly or annual bus card and there are no tobacco shops around you (that are open, anyway), tough cookies. In theory there are tobacco shops in every corner and certainly around bus stops, but that doesn’t mean that they are open when you need them.
Or if they are open, and near your location, it also doesn’t mean that they even have the bus tickets you need because they can run out. In our case, the closest tobacco shop didn’t have the marca di bollo that we needed. So we kept walking from tobacco shop to tobacco shop until we found the damn stamps we needed.
I mean, I think we were pretty good sports about the whole thing. I mean the expat mantra around here is “take it easy”, right?
We return to our dear post office once again and our guy was able to finish the entire process of getting the two Sojourner’s Permit packets ready, which took about half an hour or so. During the half hour, people start trickling in to the empty post office and a little line forms behind us, getting more and more impatient by the minute (patience isn’t Romans’ strong suit I believe).
When everything is done (and this is my favorite part of the story), the guy starts getting ready to take the next person and Jaime quickly takes out another little piece of paper and says innocently, “Devo fare anche questo del cane” (“I must also do this for the dog”).
At this point the guy behind us throws his hands in the air and you could almost hear the entire room groan. The guy helping us firmly told us we must wait until he helps the rest of the people in line and he would get back to us. In retrospect, he really should have finished everything we needed to do because hey, it’s not our fault that the post office serves about a billion functions in Italy.
So what was that thing about the dog? Well, we have to register the dog at some neighborhood registration  place and the cost is 8 Euros. However, you must pay the fee at the post office, where they give you a receipt saying you paid the fee. This would be fine if it was the end of it, you must take this receipt to another office that actually registers the dog. So here’s the million dollar question: if paying the fee at the post office does not save you the trip to the registration office, why can’t you just pay it at the registration office? Silly me, I know.
In the end, we got done everything we needed done. It just took like two hours instead of 15 minutes but hey, what can you do? I mean, I’m in a different country and I can’t expect them to do everything the way I’m used to, so I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining even though it’s only been one week (but yes, I’m complaining. Sue me.). But hey, if I’m here and I’m trying to record all my experiences in a different country, I gotta talk about the expat life problems as well as the good stuff. I’m just happy that my husband, who I know can breathe fire when the bureaucracy fails him, was able to keep calm and even laugh about the whole thing at the end. After all, when in Rome…