God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
The Italian Visa Challenge
We're All Mad!
Confusion reigns--or so it seems when entering the schziophrenic world of Italian visas. After some minimal research including the Expats in Italy site, reading a book or two and perusing several of the eleven US Italian consulate sites, I knew we were headed into Alice's Wonderland.
The problem is that clarity is not an Italian bureacracy virtue--not that I have had much experience with this (yet)--but, both American friends who have hired Italian lawyers to explain law to the consulate and Italian friends who live with it daily convince me this is true. So--we are prepared for the carnival ride ahead of us.
Last week was the first of what I anticipate to be many contacts with the Los Angeles consulate--the one we are required to use. After checking several consulate sites and discovering that no two (there are eleven in the US) have the same requirements for an Elective Residence visa application, the logical step was to call and ask my questions (e-mails had not worked). In anticipation of the office's infamous brusque approach to inquiries, I had prepared my questions so that I could be efficient and organized during the conversation. However, this didn't work so well as the young (sounded young anyway) woman I talked with didn't really want to listen. I think she was having a bad day and was tired of dealing with people.
Among other things she graciously shared was that "deciding to move to another country is a major life decision--not like deciding to change your hair color." I appreciate this insight and continue to keep it in mind as we plan our "seven month move" to a country we like in inordinate ways.
I further aliented her when I asked if we needed to have a plane itinerary when we applied for the visa--as is stated on the website of another Italian consulate in the US.
Young woman: Does it say that on the LA site?"
Me: No, but..........
Young woman: Then why do you ask? Just because someone else says so doesn't mean we do.
Me: OK. I just wasn't sure.
Young Woman: I don't know why you would be confused.
One issue most of the consulates appear to agree on is that in order to be issued an elective residency visa (sometimes called a Long Stay visa), we must have a place to reside in Italy prior to application. This tends to mean a rental contract stamped by the local governmental agency where the apartment is located. But---there is an indication (not totally clear) that a Letter of Invitation from someone stating that you are going to live with them is also acceptable (again stamped by the local agency.)
Me: We can get an invitation and then stay with our friends for the first month while we look for a place to rent.
Young Woman: The Letter of Invitation must state you will be there for at least 6 months.
Me: But, could we move before 6 months when we find a place to rent?
Young Woman: You shouldn't plan on breaking the law. You need to be willing to follow Italian law if you are going to live there.
Me: That's why I'm asking the question, so that we can follow the laws. We don't want to break them.
Young Woman: (sigh)
Then I began to ask about what was needed for Casey. We had heard that we would need proof that he is enrolled either in an international school or in an Italian school and so wanted to find out more about that. Unfortunately, that question was short-circuited when I mentioned that we are the court-ordered guardians of Casey--which I did just to let her know that while we are the grandparents we have legal responsibility for him. Releasing this bit of information was a big, big mistake!!
Young Woman: You have a big problem. I don't think you can do it.
Now my heart sank as I envisioned a trip into a bureacratic nightmare of gargantuan proportions--I know that we can, but convincing the consulate might prove difficult. I knew that this young woman was not the fount of knowledge but how to find that source? Then the gods smiled and she admitted that she really didn't know about this type of thing and that she needed to speak to her manager--who was out of town. She asked that I fax my questions--I offered to include a copy of the court orders which she said would be good. She said she would get back to me on Thursday--this was Tuesday. I immediately faxed all the papers with a concise list of well-written, conciliatory, friendly, etc. questions --figuring I should do it while she was still in the office so someone would know what it is about. She preferred to remain nameless so I have no idea with whom I was speaking.
A week has gone by now--and--we haven't heard anything. Do we call and ask--or just let it be and take all of our papers with us when we go in to apply. It is a quandry that would mystify even Alice--I do believe. We would prefer not to drive all the way to LA and find we need to hire an Italian lawyer to pave the way but, then, if we call are we just asking for problems needlessly?
Oh, My--What to do? What to do?