shutters, laundry, Rome, apartment

How to get your permesso di soggorno, or Italian bureaucracy without going insane

shutters, laundry, Rome, apartment

One of the most stressful parts of moving to Rome can be acquiring your permesso di soggiorno, or permit to stay. The process requires dealing with Italian bureaucracy, which is notoriously difficult: between long wait times, short opening hours, lack of readily available accurate information, and oft-unfriendly staff, getting anything done in this country can seem impossible. Here you will find my quick guide on how to proceed with getting your permit to stay, as well as a tale of my own misadventures with the immigration office.

Hours of online research had led us to this point, scrabbling around all corners of the web-o-verse desperately trying to piece together conflicting bits of information drawn from a variety of government sites. The tips and tricks provided by expats and bloggers were no better, filled as they were with information from personal experience and various references to the same conflicting websites I  had been viewing.

After consulting other expats who had gone through the same struggle, a conclusion was reached: show up with your documents and just see what they say.

And so we trudged our way sleepily towards the Immigration Office with the sun just peeking over the horizon, ready to be the first in line for the opening of the office an hour and a half later, at 8:30AM. Wrong. A crowd was gathered in front of the gate, eye-ing each other uneasily, looking like racehorses at the starting block ready to spring forward at the sound of the bell.

At 8:43 a guard unlocked the front gate.

We made it into the middle of the line forming in a large room filled with rickety seats, and row after row of window covered in blinds. The fluorescent light flattened each member of the line into pale silhouettes, dark shadows under eyes dulled by the long wait. Movement began behind the blinds, but still no one opened their window for business. The crowd was shifting uneasily, parents holding their infants tried desperately to keep them quiet as we waited.

What is a permessio di soggiorno, or permit to stay?

If you are staying in Italy for more than three months, you are required to:

  1. Get your visa before departing from your home country.
  2. Apply for the Italian equivalent of a green card while in Italy.  This is called the permit to stay or permessio di soggiorno. Many universities and study abroad programs facilitate this process for their students, as it can be very difficult and time-consuming.

Note that anyone arriving in Italy is also required by law to register with their nearest questura within 8 days of arrival. You will need to have a fixed address of residence to do this.

This post, like those I perused during my own search, can only provide advice based upon my own experience, the experiences of others I know, and online research, I cannot guarantee that any of this will prove true for you. Part of the fun of Italian bureaucracy is that the rules always seem to be changing, and what was true one month (or one hour) earlier no longer stands due to constantly changing regulations and the fluctuating moods of civil servants.

If you are an EU national please stop reading, as you do not need to go through this particular painful process. However, it seems that individuals holding EU passports are also required to jump through some bureaucratic hoops of their own. I’m not an expert in this, but you can find some info here.

How do I start?

For most permits to stay (those for individuals in Italy for work or study), the first step is stopping by a post office (Poste Italia) to pick up a ‘Permesso di soggiorno Kit‘. This should be a simple task, but thanks to the many inefficiencies of the Italian post office, you may have a hard time. A friend of mine recently checked at something like 20 post offices around Rome, only to be told by each of them that a kit was not available. If this happens to you, do not panic! If you are concerned about getting any trouble from the police etc. (very unlikely, but always a possibility), make sure that you hold on to your receipts from the post office visits (these are like taking a number to wait in line) and try to ask them to write you a note saying what happened. Because bureaucracy doesn’t work in Italy, the authorities tend to give you leeway. Besides, I’ve only once been asked for my permit to stay by any authority figure – usually they just want to see your passport.

Once you have your kit you will need to fill it out, providing various documentation (including health insurance, proof that you have a place to stay, adequate funds, etc.) and send it in. You will be given a receipt which serves as your temporary permit to stay, and then (eventually) receive an appointment to go into the immigration office.

If you are seeking a permit to stay because you’ve married an Italian citizen, the above does not apply to you. You do not need a kit from the post office, but will need to go directly to the immigration office with your partner and some documentation.

Then what?

Once you are ready to go to the immigration office you will need to prepare some more documents.

If you’ve sent in a kit you should follow the instructions you were given. In my experience this meant providing the following:

  • Four passport photos of yourself. You can get these from the photo machines all over the streets in Rome, or try asking at a photo shop.
  • Ensuring that you have multiple photocopies of everything that you submitted with your kit, or any supplemental information. Especially your passport – make sure that you have a copy of every single page.
  • You will also need a €14.62 electronic revenue stamp (what is called a bollo). You can get this from a Tabacchi (tobacco shop – the one with the giant blue and white T outside).

If you are going to apply for a spousal permit make sure that you are accompanied by your spouse (my husband had to sign a paper taking responsibility for my wellbeing…) and the following documents:

  • An original copy of your marriage license (which they will probably take from you so hopefully you have a double)
  • your original passport.
  • Photo copies of every single page of the passport, even the blank ones.
  • Four passport photos of yourself. You can get these from the photo machines all over the streets in Rome, or try asking at a photo shop.
  • You will also need a €14.62 electronic revenue stamp (what is called a bollo). You can get this from a Tabacchi (tobacco shop – the one with the giant blue and white T outside).

Where do I go?

Just getting to the immigration office can be a chore. It is called the Questura di Roma – Ufficio Immigrazione, and is located in the northeast corner of Rome just inside the ring road.

Personally, I’ve had the good fortune of having a ride whenever I needed to get to the Questura. If you are arriving with public transport I wish you the best of luck.

What do I do at the office?

Arrive really early (even if you have an appointment this is advisable), be polite, make sure you have all of your documentation, and then follow whatever instructions they give you. From this point on the process seems to be variable. For my student visas I later picked up my permit to stay card from the local questura. When applying for my spousal permit I received the documentation immediately.

Useful resources:

 Polizia di Stato– basic info on legal documentation in Italy in English

Portale Immigrazione – most in-depth info. Not sure how up to date this is kept, and available only in Italian.

US Embassy to Italy

Read more:

Surviving rome: The Transportation Strike

Top 10: Things you should know about living in Rome

3 thoughts on “How to get your permesso di soggorno, or Italian bureaucracy without going insane

  1. Reblogged this on From across the pond and commented:
    I’ll just leave this here. Suffice it to say that my experience is captured by the “How do I start?” section.

    Kudos to Chelsea for making a complicated, stressful topic (more) understandable to those of us new to Italian bureaucracy.

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