The paperwork in Italy is never done. No. Really. Never done.
In five years, I have never written about how to get a permesso di soggiornio because just thinking about it gives me chest pains.
However, the process is slowly getting better and it remains one of those necessities of life in Italy as a foreigner. Many permessi expire on 12/31 (or at least mine always do) so it seems like as good a time as any to try to wade through the process.
Here is how you can get your very own Permesso di Soggiorno (Italian permit for stays longer than 3 months):
Within 8 days of moving to Italy, you have to apply for your permesso. This is because you have to convert your visa (which grants you access into the country) to a permit of stay (which allows you to actually stay in the country).
1. Go to the Post Office (ugh). You have to go to a Post Office with a special window called a Sportello Amico. A list of these is available on the Poste Italia website.
2. At the post office, take a number. In Italy, the post office is used to paying bills, banking and sending packages in addition to applying for immigration status. Go figure. Anyways, make sure you take the right kind of number. You want an T ticket.
3. If you don’t feel like waiting, and have no shame because like me you have lived in Italy long enough to know that waiting in line is for suckers, you can try to jump the queue and ask for a kit. That’s right, it is called a “kit”. You literally just need to pick it up and leave so the people behind you in line should not be too mad.
4. Don’t panic when the post office is out of kits. It happens all the time. Your best bet is probably going to another post office rather than waiting for them to restock.
5. Get out a dictionary, open the kit, and start filling out forms. Oh my god, the forms! It is almost laughable how complicated it is. Again, do not panic. No one really knows how to fill them out. Do your best! I have never been corrected at the questura (immigration office).
DO NOT sign the form. You will do that when you go back to the post office.
6. Copy your passport. Yes, all of it. Usually, they will throw all the paper away when you have your actual appointment, but sometimes they scowl if you try to put in only the picture and visa pages.
7. Copy any documents about why you are in Italy. For school? Bring a letter from your university with the dates of your enrollment. Work? Include a copy of your contract.
8. Get proof of health insurance.
8. Go to the tabbachi and buy a bollo. This is a stamp with a monetary value that they will affix to one of the forms at the post office. The price keeps changing so just show the form at the tabbachi and they will be able to give you the right version (it currently costs €14.62). Not every tabbachi has the machine to print bolli so don’t panic if you strike out. You always need a plan B in Italy. Just move right along to the next tabbachi and try again.
9. Take your forms, photo copies and bollo back to the post office. This time you really do have to wait in line. Make sure to bring your passport with you in person. Here, you will need to pay the fee for the permesso (varies depending on length of validity but is 107.50 euro for most common 1 year version), then you will have to pay the post office 30 euro- just because. Then you have to pay 27.50. Just because you are applying digitally.
10. Get your appointment! Congrats! Once everything is accepted by the post office, you will get a piece of paper that looks like it was printed in 1988 and some receipts. Do not lose these. This confirms the day and time that you must be at the immigration office. It is also your proof that you have applied, and you should technically carry it with you if you travel outside of Italy before you get your handy PdS card.
The waiting time for the appointment at the questura (immigration office) has gotten a lot better. I think I waited two months for the my first appointment in 2010, but the most recent wait between application and appointment was only about 3 weeks this time around.
12. On the appointed day and time, take your receipt from the post office, your supporting document copies (school letter, work contract, etc), your passport and 4 Italian passport sized photos to the questura. You can find machines that take photos like these for about €5 all over Rome, and especially at metro stations. Worst case scenario, they also have these photo machines at the main Rome quester.
13. If you are in Rome, you can get the Rome questura by taking Metro B to Rebibbia. When you exit the station, turn right and look for the bus stop for bus 437. The bus will say Immigration Office and be full of non-Italians. The drive will take about 15 minutes, and you can exit when nearly everyone else on that bus (also carrying paperwork) gets off. It looks like this:
14. When you get the questura, be prepared to wait and throw some elbows in line. The officers will call your time and have you line up, but they will likely be running behind schedule. There are chairs to sit in but wrap up if you are going in winter and bring water/a snack in case you are stuck outside for awhile.
15. Once inside, you will go through a quick security screening. Upon entering, you will then pickup the folder of documents you dropped off at the post office by showing your receipt.
16. Then you wait some more. The Rome questura has vastly improved and now has screens that will flash your name and the number of the desk you are meant to approach when it is finally your turn.
17. The interview should be pretty short. Having basic Italian will help you a lot. Mainly, the officer will go over the information with you, check your documents and take your finger prints. They will also ask you where you want to pick the permesso up, so be prepared to name a police station near your house.
18. Go home and wait some more. The permesso should be ready in 30-45 days and you can then go pick it up at the police station nearest to your home. Check online with your id number to see if it is ready, or pass by the police station to see if your name is posted outside. Remember to bring your passport and your receipt!
19. Revel in glory for a few months until it expires, and then start the process once more.
More information is available on the Portale Immigrazione in Italian.
Don’t worry. It won’t be pleasant but it will be fine.