Sunday, July 22

Getting an Italian ID Card - not for the feint of heart

The stories surrounding the Carta d'identita' process are legend, as are the stories of obtaining the mysterious Permesso di Soggiorno (resident's permit) in Italy. Mysterious, because your success doesn't depend upon the bureaucratic hassles, but by the mood of the person behind the desk wielding their power from behind thick glass windows. Switch people: the process is entirely different. Ditto for driver's licenses.  Following is a brief recap of one foreigner's experience in ID Card renewal (and he hails from "United" Europe - where this stuff should be a piece of cake).  Instead, he found it was no cakewalk:

I needed to go and renew my Italian Identity Card (Carta d'identità).  Everyone reassured me, "Oh! It's so easy nowadays! They just stamp it and extend it for another five years!"   Living in Italy, I should have known better--I discovered (the hard way) just how wrong they were...
I head down to Roma centro storico City Hall, armed with an entire file folder filled with every recorded document about my life history that would be an archivists wet dream.   This, as a preventive measure in the (not so uncommon) instance that the clerks suddenly require my birth certificate, my tax returns for the past 5 years, you name it.  Confident that I would make the grade today, I take a number at 10:20am. There are 28 people in the queue ahead of me. Only to be expected of course. So I go home, get my computer and some reading material, come back and sit down with a book. I am called at 11:55am.  I go up to find a grouchy blond lady behind the glass.   She takes one look at my expired ID card and says, "Oh, but we can't renew this one - it is in 'a deteriorated condition'"  [Not only must you have your paper i.d. with you at all times for five or ten years, it must be produced in absolutely pristine condition.]  Looking down, I could see that it had been dog-eared.  I challenged the verdict.  She replied, "It is unacceptable.  Y
ou have put Sellotape on it." 
[Her comment also begged the question, Who Cares??!  It's expired.  I need a new one anyway... But, trying logic proved useless.  Seeing that I was being sent over to PARKING, without being able to pass GO, I tried my hand to ply her for all the other information I may need to carry out all the Herculanean Tasks which would be delivered to me like a slow drip in an Intensive Care Unit.  She would have nothing of it, saying only curtly, "You have to buy the form to apply for a new ID card." "Where?," I ask.   "It's upstairs on the first floor," she says dismissively.  Game over.  Before it begins.
So on I go up to the first floor and wait in line at the CASSA (cash desk).  I count my blessings.  I'm only the tenth in line and it only takes me around eight minutes.  I pay €5.62 for the new id card module.  I fill it out, trudge downstairs and go back to the same grouchy blond lady (mercifully,  I didn't have to take a ticket again, and can go back up to her bullet- and sound-proof window).  Hurdle no. 1 surmounted, I hand over the form.  
As if seeing me for the very first time, and pretending to not have heard my foreign accent (Scottish, to say the least) through her solid window, I hear her say, "Oh, but you're not Italian -- in that case, you need to produce a new document, your "Attestato di soggiorno" (Permanent Residence Certificate).  With all the documents I had with me, this one I didn't have.  That's because, I had never even heard of the darned thing.  Turns out, it's a doc that I am entitled to as an EU citizen -- and as someone who has been in Italy for more than ten years.  Why don't I have it?  Because it came into existence after a law decreed number xxxx/yyy of 2007; only five years prior and pursuant to the time I last renewed my ID.  Again, I pull out my best tweezers and attempt to extract some information as to how I get one of these newfangled forms.   She refuses to give me any hints, telling me to go to the information desk to ask.  Hurdle no. 2 - non-surmountable, try your luck at no. 3.
Naturally, you have to take yet another numbered ticket to access the information desk.  Much to my dismay (but not surprise),  it was by this time past noon, and I discovered that the machine does not emit tickets after 12pm.   Not to be easily defeated, I simply barge up to two ladies who were actually very helpful.  They gave me a piece of paper listing all that's required to obtain the 
Attestato di soggiorno
1.  Two tax stamps (marche da bollo) of € 0.42 each (to be purchased from the cassa on the first floor - again!)
2.  Two tax stamps of € 14.62 each - to be purchased from a tobacconist
3.  Photocopies of my passport, last ID card, tax code and health card, VAT number certificate and my entire last Italian tax declaration
I had actually brought most of these docs with me, but still needed to pay the piper upstairs and up the road.  I decided to take advantage of the lunchtime closing (when pretty much any fulltime workers could, in the real world, get any of their transactions done).  It would reopen again at 2pm.   Hurdle no. 3:  In progress.
So up again I go to the friendly cashier at the CASSA on the first floor, and buy my two damn stupid tax stamps for 42 cents each.
I then leave the town hall and head for home to make photocopies of t
he missing docs, stopping at a tobacconist on the way to buy two more damn tax stamps for €14.62 each.  I make the copies and eat a bite of lunch and return to the beloved City Hall at 1:50pm.   There, I find a queue of 40 people already hovering around the ticket machine, waiting to take a ticket and (not) be attended to by the friendly staff.  At 2pm sharp, we're admitted and the machine starts spitting out little tickets!  I take one for my immediate procedure, one to pass GO later.  Incredibly, I am called up to a serious lady seated in an office behind the counters, who takes me almost immediately.  She swiftly issues me with my "Attestato di soggiorno" (permanent (yay!) residence certificate), making a photocopy for me to give her blonde colleague at the other counter who (doesn't) issue darn ID cards.  In the process, she also informs me that she could have done the entire deed for me right then and there, extending my i.d. card too, but at this point, and since I'd already paid the fees for the forms, I might as well carry on down the hall.  Down, but not out, I go to wait for the next window.  Hurdle no. 3:  Complete.  Onward to Hurdle no. 4.
Italian I.D. Card - Fill in the Blanks
Fortunately for me, I had already taken my afternoon ticket.  Wait time: only another ten or so minutes.  This time, I'm invited up to the counter by another grouch, a red-head.   She takes one look at my docs and says, "Oh!  But your old ID card is dog-eared and therefore invalid!  In order to proceed, you must stick (yet another!) TAX STAMP of € 5.62 on the application module."  I tried protesting--in vain.  Game Over.  Onto the next person to refuse service to.  I scale the stairs once again up to my newfound friend at the CASSA, with whom I am now on a first-name basis, and purchase YET ANOTHER measely tax stamp for € 5.62.   Hurdle no. 1 (or no. 5, but who's counting?!):  Still a work in progress.  The outcome?  Anybody's guess.  
I go back downstairs, but this time must face Grouchy Blond -- the same person that started all this trouble in the first place.  By now, confident of my document and tax stamp wielding agility, I give her a smug look while I slide all of the documents on hand directly her way.   It is by now nearing 3pm; a full five hours since my morning attempt at automated document renewal.   Miraculously, and without a further word (clearly seeing that five hours of penance at her hands, not unlike Juno wreaking vengeance on one of her ex-lovers), she...ISSUES ME WITH A SPANKING BRAND NEW ITALIAN ID CARD!!  I am elated by my success.  Unfortunately, my balloon was burst before I even had a chance to take a step away from her window of doom.
Standing there, watching her in earnest, goosebumps percolating on my skin, whilst she busied herself stamping and initialing all sorts of documents, I swear sixty million times,
I happen to notice - to my shock and horror - that the Passport Number on my newly-minted Permanent Residence Certificate is TOTALLY INCORRECT!  In fact, the number posted is that of my OLD passport which expired back in 2007.   They must have still had that number in the heart sinks and visions of tiny ticket numbers and light-hearted conversations with Mr. CASSA come into my head.  I am crestfallen.  Hurdle no. 6:  In progress.
BACK AGAIN I go to the serious lady in the office behind the counters.  At this point, I simply barged straight in, going behind the counters with a vengeance.  Of course, no one stopped me (so much for 8 inch thick windows -- I could have been coming in there with a bomb,
 for all they knew - In fact, I am still amazed that there are no instances of wild-eyed foreigners 'going postal' in the Italian City Hall offices nationwide).  
I catch the lady walking back into her office and advise her that the passport number on my certificate is wrong.  She gets a worried look across her face.  I am losing all hope.  I can't believe my ears when I hear her say, "Oh dear -- I don't know what to do about that!"   She turns to ask a little man who is filing reams of paper files (in this day and age!) what to do.  He shows her how to make the correction [It goes without saying, on the system that SHE supposedly uses every single day].   BINGO!  Out comes the corrected certificate with the correct passport number on it! Hurdle no. 6:  Surmounted.
But once again, before I even have time to utter, Hip Hip Hurrah! I look down on my spanking new certificate.  I look over at the old one.  I see that they are different -- the old one bears two neat tax stamps -- and they are now stuck onto the wrong certificate!  Hurdle no. 7:  Another trip to the CASSA office in store?  Read on...
I tell her in no uncertain terms that I will be damned if I am going to go and buy any more tax stamps, especially since it was their error.  And, for the second time all day, Fate is smiling on me...The nice office lady takes her fingernails and gingerly PEELS THEM OFF.   She sticks them right onto the corrected certificate, and then rubber stamps them, initializes them, and does the hokey-pokey, for all I care...All is well in my bello bungalow of bureaucracy.  Hurdle no. 7: Done Deal.
But doing her duty to see that of course, no document shall be issued from her office with any ease, she then asks me to return the photocopy of the previous (incorrect) certificate.  I reply casually,  "I gave that to the grouchy blond lady who issued me with my ID card!"  Mercifully, she accompanies me over to her colleague across the room.   At this point, and upon seeing me once again,  the grouchy blond I am sure starts to wonder what the heck the fat Brit is doing back here again.  Eureka!  The old photocopy is replaced with the new photocopy... Hurdle no. 8: Hercules would be proud.
I thank both ladies profusely, who in response simply frown at me...And I finally leave, no longer an illegal immigrant, with my spanking new Permanent Residence Certificate and my new 10 year ID Card.  I am overjoyed at the prospect of not having to enter those hallowed halls until - 2023!  Maybe by then, things will be automated.
Eat your heart out Olympians.

As for me, as a dual citizen, I've never encountered any of these problems, save for having to buy a few extra forms because on one my middle name was left out, or, like Tony above, my expired i.d. was one form, the fact that the paper doc was torn was another...Nonetheless, I have found out (the hard way) that my officially issued by the City of Rome i.d. is still invalid in many circles...Although sporting all the official seals and stamps, it was handwritten in pen.  Which since its issuance, is no longer accepted.  Each time I get pulled over or go thru customs, I am told it's not valid and asked, "Why is it in pen?"  My reply:  Try asking your colleagues in the office that issued it - not me.  I should hardly think I'm the one who requested "pen only".   


Anonymous said...

You couldn't make up a better story!!! Classic Italian system!

Anonymous said...