You have worked through the process, provided the certificates and the proof of all the things you need proof of and have been granted your visa! Congratulations!! You have arrived! You are living in Italy!! You are done, right? Wrong. Within 8 days of your arrival you must go to the Questura, the main police headquarters, which issues, among other things, Permessi di Soggiorno (stay permits) to foreigners and passports to Italians. They do a bunch of other stuff too, but just what is a mystery to us, because there is very little if any signage indicating who should go where for what service.
Here’s our experience with The Questura in Perugia:
It is located at Via Cortenese, Number 157, a short bus ride from centro and not far from the main train station – but the buses don’t run early in the morning so you might want to do what we did, and take a cab.
We expected that we would be able to apply for our "permesso di soggiorno" at the Universita per Stranieri where we had registered for a language class. However, we learned that since we do not have a Student Visa we would have to go to the regular Questura down in the lower part of town to apply. You are required to do this within eight days of arriving. The way this system works is that you get there as early in the morning as possible - they are only open Monday, Wednesday and Fridays - and get in line. Hopefully you get in that day. If not, you must come back and start all over. We decided to take a taxi in the early morning since the Questura is not that close to our apartment. Many of the people here in Perugia speak at least a bit of English, although it is not universal. Especially not, it seems when you are doing some official business like at the Questura. So be prepared.
We got up that morning at 5am and threw on our clothes, and called a cab. There were already at least 20 people waiting when we arrived. The way this works is, you get there early, around 5 is best. At 7:30 the door opens and an officer hands out numbers. When the door opens it is a mad rush to get one. You have to be really firm and stand your ground or these guys will push right through you. They let you into a big yard where there are a few tables and some chairs - most of us sat on the curbs with our papers in our laps and filled out the forms. We were happy to find that some of the terms were in Italian and in English. We have a 3-ring binder with plastic sleeves where we put multiple copies of all of our documents so it's easy to see find them.
They don't actually perform any services until 8:30am, but once we had our place in line we found a seat and settled in for the wait. They have 5 windows with plexiglass between them and you but at any given time the person behind the window disappears into the back of the office. In front of these windows are 5 separated queues (the word is “sportello” for these windows, in Italian.) We noticed that people were crowded into these queues who hadn't been in front of us originally and we figured out that they were calling the numbers in order of people who were there for the first time, but that if you were returning to pick up your document you could just work your way up the line and be served. Which explains why the numbers moved so slowly! We ended up with number 82 & 83 and waited for our number to be called, around 10am. Not as bad as we had expected. The woman behind the counter frowned reading through our papers and we were certain she was not finding things to her liking. We held our breaths as she looked through them, giving us back a few - copies of our birth certificates, the rent receipt and copies of our airline tickets. We brought all the same papers with us that we had sent to the Consulate in Los Angeles to obtain our Long-Stay Visa (Residenza Elettiva) in the first place with the addition of something called a "copia cessione fabricato" provided by our landlord, which is like a contract. We had to provide 4 passport photos - we had these taken here in Perugia in a little camera/telephone/electronics shop since they are a slightly different size than the ones we use in the U.S. along with what is called a "marco bollo" a tax stamp that cost 11 euros each which is the fee you pay for the document, and you can get these at the Tabacchi. We were so worried that she would want something that we didn't have and we would not be able to understand but all seemed in order and she put no less than 6 rubber stamps on the form and signed it, stapling the whole thing together and giving us back a copy. Then we were told we had to wait for the actual Permesso di Soggiorno, which was expected to take a few weeks. She told us we could check online to see when it was ready, but we never could figure out how to do it. At any rate, she said, it would definitely be ready for us to pick up there after May 17.
Back to the Questura
On that date, a Wednesday, we went back to pick up our final Permessi di Soggiorno. At 7:50am we left our appartamento and got on the bus so that we'd be there when it opened at 8:30. We did, it did, and we jockeyed for our position in line until we got up to the counter a half hour later only to get up to the window to be told that they only do return people like us on Tuesdays and Thursdays!
So, we returned the following day, didn't have to wait long and were handed our official, bonafide, authentic, genuine, 100% legal Permessi di Soggiorno (Permits of Stay)!!!
Of course, looking back on it all, it doesn’t seem so bad, and even amusing. Everyone who goes through this process can certainly offer the commune advice about how to make this process run more smoothly, like at least having an information booth where you can ask questions. Or a posting of the process and what you need and where to go. But they don’t and everyone there feels just a bit edgy, not knowing what to expect or where to stand or how the number system works, so we hope you find this helpful in working your way through it. The most astonishing thing is the people who really do want to crash your line and work their way to the front, no matter if there are 10 people in front of them. So stand your ground and keep moving forward. We found that a smile and a polite manner went a long way to having them help you through it all. After all, we are in their country, hoping they would let us stay, well worth the price of a few uncomfortable mornings.
We believe we had way more things in our binder than necessary, but here’s what we brought with us:
1. Our visas, of course
2. Birth certificate and, if appropriate, Marriage License, translated into Italian, with the added “Apostile” (certification of the certification done by the state/county/city of your birth/marriage applied to these certificates) before we left the states
3. Proof of a place to live (the copia cessione fabricato from our landlord)
4. Proof of income (lots of income – letters – and I do mean letters, not just bank statements – and pension amounts and bank account totals)
5. 4 photos that you have taken here in Perugia at the little camera/electronics shops who do it on the spot. They are a different size than the passport photos in the states so you have to do it here.
6. A “Marco da Bollo”, a tax stamp that looks like a postage stamp, and costs 11 euros. You get these at any Tabacchi and they should know exactly what you need.
7. Our return airline tickets
As I said before, the woman at the window/sportello gave us back some of the stuff but never really said just exactly what we needed so we figured more was more and thought it wouldn’t hurt to have extra stuff than to be sent home to get something else.
It’s so much fun and so rewarding to watch them with their little rubber stamps (at least 6!) – bam, bam, bam, stamping all over your application, with great vigor! That’s when we decided we were OK and went off for a celebratory cappuccino and a brioche!
So good luck. If you want to read more about our adventures, check out our blog at www.livecheapmakeart.blogspot.com
We have found also, that most of the expats we have met are more than willing to help and generous with information, so utilize this site and the others and let us know what we can do to help!
Rosemary & Bob