Normally when I’m up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving morning it’s to get started with the cooking. But this year, Italian bureaucracy has given us a new way to celebrate the holiday. On a bus to Parma.
As the spouse of an Italian citizen who is a resident of Italy, I am entitled automatically to a Carta di Soggiorno – residence card. It’s a bit like a green card in American terms. Today we went to Parma to attempt to acquire such a beast. Before I tell you about the process, let me give some background
In 2015, we traveled to Chicago to the Italian Consulate. This was to get Husband Joe and son James Italian passports, and to find out the procedure for me to apply for dual citizenship. Joe and James were already Italian citizens, and they just needed to fill out a passport application essentially. I was told that I would need to fill out a lot of forms and gather a lot of documents. Without getting into the details, it’s been 2 years now trying to get this all together, and the bureaucracy has been a bit daunting. That said, the bureaucracy getting Joe his green card in the US wasn’t exactly simple either. However, without citizenship or a visa, I could only stay in Italy 90 days a time (since Joe was not a “resident” of Italy), and after three trips back and forth, that was growing old. So when we arrived in Italy in early October, one of our first tasks was for Joe to declare residency at our town records office, and figure out how to get my Carta. The Town Registrar told Joe essentially “take your wife to the Questura (the police station for immigration), and tell them you want her to stay.” Sounded easy enough. The Questura is in Parma, and about 90 minutes by bus that picks up right outside our apartment, and drops us off about a 5 minute walk from the Questura.
I did some research and gathered the documents I thought we needed:
- A copy of our marriage certificate that was registered at our comune (town hall).
- A copy of my passport
- A copy of my husband’s Carta d’Identità (ID card), showing he is a citizen and resident of our town
- 4 passport sized pictures
- Marca da bolle (tax stamp) in the amount of €16 that we purchased at the local tabaccheria.
- 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.
So, on November 8, 2017, armed with all of these items, we boarded the bus at 6:55 to head to Parma. The doors to the Questura open at 8:30. We arrived at about 8:45. There had to have been 200 people in the place, and I couldn’t see any obvious instructions as to how things worked, and no one in attendance to explain it. People were being called by name, and of course we didn’t have a appointment, so it was befuddling! Being an assertive (ahem) American, as soon as one of the windows had a lag, I went up and asked what to do without an appointment, and after about 30 seconds we were presented with two tickets numbered 7 and 8, and told to come back on November 23. We were in and out in 15 minutes. We had expected that our first trip might just be to get an appointment to come back, so we walked into Parma, browsed the market, had lunch and headed back home on the train.
For today’s “appointment” we decided we should be at the Questura when it opened. So we took the 5:55 bus (!!!!) and got to the Questura at 7:45.
When we arrived, there were about 30 people already queuing up. At about 8:10 the gates opened, and a policeman checked to see if we had an appointment or a ticket. A number of people ahead of us did not have either and were told to come back on December 11. We got into the waiting room about 8:15 and waited to see what the next step was. Hopefully they would call numbers!
They started calling names right about 8:30. Then at about 8:50, the first number was called. Number 7 was called a bit after 9:00. Of all of the documents we brought with us, we had to give him:
- Copy of the photo page of my passport
- Copy of Joe’s Carta d’identità
- Copy of our marriage certificate
- 4 photos
- Tax Stamp
From what I understand, if your marriage certificate has not been filed with your local city hall (ours had in order to get James his passport), the Italian citizen spouse can fill out a self-declaration of marriage. The application I filled out was pretty simple. A single page with name, date and place of birth, local address and phone number. The form also had lines for what kind of visa I have, why I am here, etc. All of that was left blank. We were finished with the first process by 9:20, and the policeman asked us to wait until we were called back to the front for me to get fingerprinted. That was a bit over an hour’s wait. Once the fingerprints were done I received a receipt with a website to go to to check to see when my permit will be ready to pick up. Mostly painless.
As an aside, there is another way to “get an appointment” and that is to go to the local post office and get a packet to fill out. This is actually the prescribed method if you are in Italy on a long term stay visa, and you must do so within 8 days of arrival in Italy. Spouses/families seem to have less stringent requirements. I found this site (in Italian) that lays it out pretty clearly – http://www.pratomigranti.it/documenti/permesso-soggiorno/tipologie/motivi-familiari/pagina50.html – this specifically sets forth the guidelines for getting a Permesso for a spouse who does not otherwise have a visa or prior Permesso.
When you do submit your application at the post office, you are given an appointment time. From what I can tell, this takes a lot longer. I’ve had people say they applied at the post office, and their appointment time is 6 months out. So if you are looking for a Carta di Soggiorno as a spouse, I recommend just going to the Questura. Just like the Town Clerk said 🙂