This article details the process for obtaining the most critical document for anyone wishing to stay over 90 days in Italy, the permesso di soggiorno. Compared to the immigration systems of other governments, the Italian immigration process is relatively easy and simplified by different versions of visas and stay permits such as permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay). For this process, reason should be immediately abandoned as the associated scavenger hunt will have you purchasing stamps at cigarette stores and possibly swearing unnecessary oaths. Being married to an Italian helps expedite the process and being married to an Italian with the patience of a Saint helped accomplish the process.
To reside in Italy is a pleasure like none other and people stay for a variety of reasons. The visa options reflect this diversity and applicants may choose options ranging from being a foreigner to family or religion. It should be noted that most visitors wishing to stay past a tourist visa are covered by the options afforded by the permesso di soggiorno.
Simple geometric order required for basic traffic flow, lines or cues is not one of Italy’s achievements. An antiquity in the states, the ticket dispensers help alleviate throngs common to places of public commerce and are common throughout Italy popping up anywhere from meat counters and flea markets to the post office. For the purposes of simple inquiry or a quick question, it is unnecessary to take a number for cue; in every other case, collect a number.
Larger post offices, or Poste Italiane, have a special station, or sportello, for permesso di soggiorno. At the appropriate sportello ask for the permesso di soggiorno packet and also for any guidance on which type of permesso di soggiorno is most applicable. Obtaining a packet from the post office is not a necessary step if you plan to file in person; however, the instructions provided in the packet and by the post office employee are helpful and recommended.
The application requirements depend on the type of permit, but all require two to four passport size photos of the applicant, a photocopy of the biographical data page of applicant’s passport, the original passport for inspection at the time of application, and a marca da bollo in the amount of 14.62 Euros.
The marca da bollo is an adhesive stamp that can only be obtained at Tabacchi Shops. A large blue or black sign with a white “T,” are indicative of Tabacchi Shops, which are found most every street in major cities. Marca da bollo are used for many reasons and are available in any amount, therefore 14.62 Euro amount must be specified and you should be prepared to pay in cash.
To apply in person* for permesso di soggiorno, find the nearest Questura –Ufficio d’Immigrazione, bring along the packet and all of the necessary documents and lowered expectations. It is unlikely that the first visit will be the only visit. Do not waste time looking for the ticket dispenser as the Questura –Ufficio d’Immigrazione (offices outside of Rome may vary) requires a wait in an information/document check line before a number is issued. If your documents are in order a number will be issued, if not further instructions will be given. Pending the issuance of a number, then next step is waiting of turn and then a visit to a sportello.
A huge smile, patience and friendly attitude are advised as the employees deal with hundreds of pleas and complaints daily. Expect to communicate in Italian and bring along a friend, spouse or translator if necessary. On our second visit, with the previously requested documents, in my case, the employee at the sportello simply said, “Ahh America? Tutto BIG!” then affixed the passport pictures and gifted me a notarized receipt with one picture attached and hand wrote instructions on the back for both a biometrics appointment and date to pick up the official permesso di soggiorno. The notarized receipt is worth its weight in gold, for the purposes of residing in Italy, and can be used in lieu of a permesso di soggiorno while waiting for the official document.
The biometrics appointment included a third visit to the Questura –Uffico d’Immigrazione, then waiting in a cue (sans ticket number) for the military officials to call the corresponding appointment time. Only the applicant is allowed beyond the gate and at the scheduled appointment time, I was directed up a few flights of stairs to another waiting area, in which the order of operations was somewhat questionable. Some ten minutes later, four of us were guided into another waiting area. Immediately From inside the processing office, shouts of “AVANTI!” guided us in one-at-a-time. Avanti translates literally to come forward; as in “NEXT!”
At this point, computerized full-hand scans are taken. Be prepared as some Questura have not upgrade technologies and are still using ink prints. It is important to know your height in meters and centimeters and knowing your hair and eye color in Italian doesn’t hurt either. Whereas my passport and all of my other identification documents state my hair and eye color to be brown and hazel respectively, the lady taking my biometrics identified me as blonde with green eyes.
The official permesso di soggiorno is picked up at a subsequently scheduled visit to the Questura –Uffico d’Immigrazione. If additional documents or information is requested do not expect a call, expect to find out when you go for your appointment. It was when the Questura requested an original marriage certificate (already transcribed in the Italian system) that I learned the Comune di Roma and the Immigrazione are in no way related. We darted home, and returned with an original Mauritian marriage certificate. The official asked for the apostille, as the government stamp and notary stamp were not sufficient. Refusing to be turned away, my husband explained that the certificate we provided was an original and asked if we make an affidavit swearing this as the case. Having abused affidavits for our civil union, we were accustomed to the power of a simple swear and a signature. What was to be a five-minute trip turned into a five-hour expedition, and a fifth visit that resulted in the official permesso di soggiorno document good for a 5-year residence in Italy.
*For an additional 30.00 Euros it is possible to post the packet with the requirements, though the timelines for receipt of permesso di soggiorno often far exceed those of direct filing at the Questura –Uffico d’Immigrazione. A biometrics point is still necessary.
About the author: Brooke Porter is a marine biologist, teacher, surfer, traveler and activist originally from Missouri. With residences in Maui and Rome, she is navigating the naturalization processes in both Italy and the USA for her and her Italian husband respectively. Together the couple works as international scientific consultants.