I had actually planned to write a different blog post today, but yesterday when I went to pick up my carta di soggiorno at the questura, I had another idea. I just posted a couple weeks ago about what documents you need to get your carta di soggiorno, but I realized yesterday that that isn't all that people want to know.
I don't know about you, but I have spent quite a lot of time before important appointments in Italy wondering what exactly the experience is going to be like. Will there be an interview? Will I have to go back into a back office or will I have to stand up and talk over the counter in front of everyone? Will there be a lot of people there? How long will it take? Will I get ink everywhere when they take my fingerprints?
Surprisingly, there isn't a lot of description online of the actual appointment experience for the carta di soggiorno, or for any appointments, really. So I am going to do my best to change that by posting on here every time I have a dealing with bureaucracy, so I can help you to feel more prepared for your own appointments.
Here's everything worth sharing about my (two) carta di soggiorno appointment(s):
I already wrote in the previous article that every questura is different, and has different rules and ways of operating. I went to the Questura di Milano - Commissariato Cinisello Balsamo branch. I was nervous, because I had read online that I should expect everyone there to be very authoritative and to always be in a very bad mood.
I had an appointment for 8:30a.m., but when my husband and I arrived, we still had to wait outside in a line with immigrants from just about every country you could think of. There were children, adults, elderly men and women, babies: it was like a giant melting pot of everyone who wanted to get permission to live in Italy. It was cold and raining, but with the rules about social distancing, it was impossible to let everyone come inside (although they really did try, we heard several of the officers trying to come up with a solution once we finally made it in).
Since I had an appointment and let them know that when we arrived (others got added onto the list in order of when they showed up/based on what they were there for), we didn't have to wait quite as long as some of the others, but we still had to wait fifteen or twenty minutes. Once inside, there were a lot of people rushing around, and a lot of people doing a lot more waiting. Since there were so many people, the officer who was helping us directed us to a table off to the side of the waiting area and took a look at my documents. When he saw that everything was in order, he took my passport and papers back to the back and told us to have a seat and he would call us when everything was ready.
Although he surely was feeling a bit harassed with everyone milling around wanting help (and not wanting to wait in line to get it), the official who helped us was very nice. He really appreciated that we had all of our documents filled out properly and that I had my Italian husband there to help translate for us if I didn't understand something in Italian or couldn't express it properly (I understand Italian, but up until now, I read and wrote in it more than I spoke it so I'm still working on my confidence in that area.). He said that the main reason why it always seems like there are problems at the questura is that people show up with no appointment, no documents, and no understanding of Italian at all, so it stands to reason that they might get a bit grumpy from time to time!
After that, we waited.
During the wait, we saw some of the supposedly short-tempered officers with such supposedly bad attitudes checking in on people, and even giving candy to some young Russian children who were waiting with their mother. While this may not be the case at every law enforcement office, I wanted to make sure to include it here, since a few people have said in the past that I can be a bit too "optimistic" when it comes to Italian bureaucracy. While any kind of bureaucracy (Italian or otherwise) is never a walk in the park on a sunny spring day, I have to say that this was my personal and sincere experience at the questura, and it was not bad at all. So maybe don't make up your mind about Italian bureaucracy just yet and just based on other people's stories!
After thirty minutes to an hour and one more check-in with the guy helping us (it turned out that we were missing a document after all, but they were able to help us straighten things out anyway), we were called into a back room where there were several desks and several more officers who all looked like soldiers in the military taking a break in the break room. They were all very nice and conversational with my husband, who, it turned out, had common connections with one of them in Southern Italy (I was really half-expecting them all to become best friends after this appointment, that's how well they all got along).
I, though, was still a bit nervous, certain that I was going to make a mess with the ink when it came time to get my fingerprints done. But I needn't have worried. Apparently they don't use ink for taking fingerprints anymore — it's all digital!
A different officer from before had me place one finger at a time atop a square machine that looked like an open document scanner or copy machine (the green light was the same color too). He put on gloves and gently rolled each one of my fingers finger back and forth a bit on top of the glass top of the scanner, then had me put all four fingers of one hand on at once. Then we repeated everything with the other hand.
Then he verified my eye color and height (the latter of which we had to measure in the office since I only knew it in feet and inches, not meters and centimeters), typed a bunch of things into a form on his computer, then printed it out. I signed it in several places, then I got a paper receipt with my photo stapled onto it. That would serve as my carta di soggiorno until I could come back and get the real one.
All in all, the whole thing took about two to three hours, but most of that was waiting, which wasn't that bad once we got inside the warm building. They had a bathroom and snack machine as well, so we could have easily made ourselves at home for a while!
Picking up the Carta di Soggiorno
Technically, I could have gotten my carta di soggiorno on the same day as that appointment (which was not what I had read online previously), but the machine used to print them out was broken. So they told me to come back in a few weeks. They said I didn't need an appointment, but that the office was only open for carta di soggiorno pick-up on certain days and at certain times.
So, after a few weeks had passed (and then a few more, since there were holidays in between), we went back to the questura and stood in line outside again (this time it wasn't raining, but it was still cold!). We didn't wait long at all this time, then we went right in, presented the receipt and my passport, signed the official document twice in the back office, and I was handed my official carta di soggiorno... which was literally just a piece of carta (paper). I had been expecting a laminated or plastic card, but apparently you get something different depending on how you applied and what reason you have for getting it (work, family reasons, etc.).
Then that was it! I went home, officially, legally able to reside in Italy and to start the process of getting all of the other things I needed, like residency, the codice fiscale, the tessera sanitaria... Oh boy, I can't wait.
I am happy to act as your guide through Italian bureaucracy, however, so I will be sure to report back here once I learn everything there is to know about all those other steps!
Hopefully this post was useful in helping you to know what to expect at your carta di soggiorno appointment. If not, I'll be posting on a different topic next week, so just hang tight!
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section!