My husband Joe and I have been living in Italy off and on since May, 2016. For the first 14 months, it was more off than on. For those first 14 months, we were here in Italy for a total of 219 days. Only once in that time did we come “close” to hitting the 90 in 180 days rule, and when we flew out through Germany on the 89th day the German immigration officer perused my passport for a good 3 minutes before letting me through! It felt like 30!
After 3 trips back and forth during those 14 months, the “90 days in 180 days” dance was wearing on us, but truth be told, we had a lot of family and work that kept us going back and forth anyway. It wasn’t so much the “going back to the States” that was troublesome. It was remaining there for 90 days each time! So in October 2017 when we headed back to Italy, we decided it was time to stay. My husband is Italian, so I by default am eligible for the “Carta di Soggiorno di Familiare di un Cittadino dell’Unione” (Residence Card of a Family Member of a Union Citizen). By EU directive, spouses of EU citizens are entitled to live in the EU with their spouse. There is not a “granting” of this right when you apply for the Carta di Soggiorno. In reality I’ve been “legal” since the day Joe declared residency. The Carta di Soggiorno is simply the proof that you have a legal right to be in the country. For me, the most important part of course was the ability to travel to and from Italy without worry about being seen as a tourist who had overstayed the visa, since the Carta di Soggiorno substitutes for any visa required for entry.
There are many blog posts and articles on the Internet about obtaining the “Permesso di Soggiorno”. The Permesso di Soggiornio is indeed a residence “permit” and does require obtaining the proper permission to be in the country (a visa), whether that be as a student, a worker, as a self-employed business owner, or as a retiree. There are complications and various requirements for each of those, and the many often conflicting articles become quite complicated and convoluted. I became totally confused about what was going on. There are, for example, rules that you must present yourself to questura within 8 days of arrival, various documents to be presented, leases and residency to be established, etc. Not being aware that these are NOT part of the requirements for a spouse or close family member, I was fully prepared to have to deal with the requirements of a Permesso di Soggiorno – that is until our friendly local Anagrafe office told me otherwise. I’ll spare you all of the details here, but I wrote about this in another blog post a couple of months ago on Thanksgiving Day. For the general background, you can read that! I will repeat the pertinent details here though, so that you can see what was needed, and what was not in one combined place!
First of all, let’s establish who can ask for a Carta di Soggiorno.
Qualifying family members of the EU citizen are:
- the spouse
- the registered partner, if the legislation of the host Member State treats registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage
- the direct descendants who are under the age of 21, or are dependants and those of the spouse or partner as defined above
- the dependent direct relatives in the ascending line (parents, grandparents) and those of the spouse or partner.
So, as a spouse, I qualify! This took us 4 trips to the Questura. In reality it should have taken us 3, but we did not really understand the “queuing up” at the Questura at 8:00 a.m. to get your paperwork handled. Here’s is how this all works. This is for the Questura in Parma, and I have no doubt that there will be variations in some other jurisdictions. If you run into a particularly sticky variation, please comment on this post, and I will make updates to help others avoid headache.
As an aside, I know a lot of foreigners in Italy who view the process at the Questura to be arcane, and sometimes plain baffling. There were truly times when I felt so frustrated that I just wanted to cry. However, my husband is a US Green Card holder, and without an immigration attorney we would have been just as lost in never-ending and difficult to understand details. We would have made numerous mistakes, costing us huge amounts of time and effort. We made a “few” mistakes in Italy, costing us time (one day in Parma that was mostly wasted, except we decided to make it a “day out and enjoy ourselves”) and some extra travel expenses. Each round trip to Parma cost us about 30€ in travel expenses, and mostly a day of being away from home. In hard money (the tax stamp and our travel expenses), this process cost a total of 136€. Joe’s green card cost about $2000. When you compare that, then the “aggravations” seem more palatable!
Step 1: Gather your documents.
We specifically needed the following:
- Copy of the photo page of my passport
- A copy of my husband’s Carta d’Identità (ID card), showing he is a citizen and resident of our town
- A copy of our marriage certificate that was registered at our comune (town hall) (or a self-certification of marriage – ask your anagrafe office for the form)
- 4 passport sized photos
- Marca da bolle (tax stamp) in the amount of €16 that we purchased at the local tabaccheria.
These are the only documents that are required according to this official: http://www.pratomigranti.it/documenti/permesso-soggiorno/tipologie/motivi-familiari/pagina50.html
We actually brought originals and copies of all of these documents, as well as the following documents (which we were not asked to present). Being a member of various Facebook Expat groups, I suspect that I was told I needed some of these documents either because they are needed for the “Permesso”, or some Questure actually ask for other documents, even though the website above does not list them as necessary.
- Copy of our registered lease
- Copy of our Codice Fiscale papers (tax IDs).
- A blank form for a “declaration of hospitality” that another American spouse said she had needed, wherein her husband declared that she was living with him.
From what I understand in that link above, if your marriage certificate has not been filed with your local comune (city hall) (ours had been filed in 2015 in order to get our son his passport), the Italian citizen spouse can fill out a self-declaration of marriage.
Step 2: Get your “Appointment” at the Questura
From what I can tell, there is no hard and fast rule about when this needs to done, unlike the “8 day rule” for applying for a Permesso when you arrive in Italy on a visa. We had no idea what getting an appointment entailed. The lady at the Anagrafe office just said “take your wife to Parma”. I cannot say that the website for the Parma Questura was that helpful. It is entirely possible that I simply didn’t know what I was looking for. But it’s also possible that it’s just not there! We just showed up at the Questura (4 weeks after our latest arrive in Italy by the way), which would have been correct, but we should have showed up at 8:00 a.m. when the gates open. The website for the Questura shows 8:30am-1:30pm M-F as their opening times. No where online did I see anything about a “lineup” at 8:00! Our first day we feel we got very lucky. When I walked up to the booth and just looked like a foreign deer in the headlights, the officer gave me tickets to come back. Had we been there at 8:00 a.m., the same would have happened, but we would not have had to wander around the Questura waiting room, trying to figure out a plan of action.
So, go to your Questura, and be there at least 30 minutes prior to the doors opening. I have no idea if all Questure do this the same way, but in Parma you will be golden!!! I would recommend that you take all of the documents you have gathered with you to this “appointment making trip” on the first visit. You never know your luck, and your Questura might do things differently, and even have same day “appointments” available. It is VERY important, however, that if there is more than one family member involved, you get numbers or appointments (as the case may be) for each and every person. Do not expect that you will all show up at one appointment and have the officer process everyone at once.
Step 3: Return on your appointed day with your documents.
The documents (those we needed, and those we brought just in case) are outlined above in Step 1. Since we were given a number and not a specific appointment time (your Questura might do this differently), we arrived at “opening” to be safe. Business started as promised at 8:30, and we were finished (number 7) by 9:20 a.m.
As stated above, I had many documents that they did not ask for. Rather than just handing them all over, I waited until the officer asked for each one. I saw no reason to “complicate” the matter by offering documents that were not required. The application was simple, really only asking where we live, and contact info such as my cell phone number. In retrospect, realizing that this is more of a “registration” document than a real application document, it makes more sense. I expected much more paperwork to be involved.
At this time we were told to wait for fingerprinting. I have heard the some Questure require you to come back at another time for fingerprinting, but most of these recounted stories have to do with an actual “Permesso di Soggiorno” and not the “Carta di Soggiorno”. Be prepared for that though. You may be asked to return for fingerprinting.
Step 4: Wait for your notification that the Carta di Soggiorno is ready to pick up
I was given a receipt with a control number on it, as well as a website to go to in order to check if the Carta was ready. I was also told that I would receive a text message that the document was ready to retrieve. This website states that SMS will not be used by the Questure at Bologna, Naples, Modena, Padua, Caserta or Genoa. After over 2 months of waiting, I got creative and found the email address of our questura on the website. I sent a message indicating that I needed to travel (I do, but not for a couple more months), and was concerned that I had not received the Carta yet. I got a very nice (albeit vague) reply that essentially said my document was ready, and that I should pick it up “during normal business hours, according the procedure already known to me.” If you have been paying attention, that procedure that really was NOT already known to me, was to be there by 8:00 to get in line! We made the miscalculation of wanting to sleep an extra hour and take the later bus, arriving at 8:45 rather than 7:45, and were unceremoniously told to “come back at 8:00 a.m.”. A day wasted. But we were celebrating an anniversary, so we went out to lunch and made a good day of it “in the city” rather than pout!
Step 5: Go pick up your Carta di Soggiorno
Yesterday (a week after our failed attempt) we went back to Parma to the Questura, honestly not sure what would happen. Would we get the Carta, or merely get another “number” and date to return. The good news is that we were there at 7:45, the gates opened at 8:00, and after about a half-dozen people in front of us who did not have appointments, and who tried their hardest to get some kind of an exception made for them, the officer at the gate took my receipt and motioned us into the waiting area. I was called up at about 8:45, asked to present my passport, asked to sign my Carta and the copy of the Carta, the officer smiled at me, and we were done!