Almost ten years ago we moved to Italy specifically for the purpose of claiming Italian citizenship for Tony via a process called jure sanguinis (by right of blood). In fact, that was the impetus for starting this blog in the first place: recording all the wacky and frustrating and occasionally miraculous things that happened along the way.
Several months, dozens of official stamps and seals, and many scoops of stress gelato later, Tony and the kids officially had their Italian citizenship recognised. And I was immediately eligible to apply for Italian citizenship myself as the wife of a bona fide Italian. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards our business failed, and we went through several rough years of financial instability, as well as some health issues, punctuated by various moves domestically and abroad.
Somehow, Italian citizenship for me never made it up the priority list, even though it was always in the back of my mind as something that needed doing.
Technically, I don’t actually need it to live the life I’m living, since in most cases it’s enough to just be the spouse of an EU citizen. But there’s a constant stream of small annoyances and big headaches that would be ameliorated if I just had the right passport.
For example, when we moved to Amsterdam all Tony and the kids had to do was go register at City Hall like any Dutch person or EU citizen moving in from outside the city. I, on the other hand, had to go through a complex rigamarole of proving our relationship, demonstrating enough money in our bank account, begging family members in the U.S. to get me Apostilles, getting fingerprints taken, etc. As in every other country where I am intimately familiar with immigration proceedings, the rules and procedures were time-consuming, variable depending on who was working that day, and required several more inconvenient trips to crowded immigration offices than anticipated. Right in the middle of an international move, which is never a low-stress or relaxing endeavour at the best of times.
And then there’s immigration at the airport when we go on vacation. There’s an EU line and a non-EU line. Technically, there’s a regulation that immediate family of EU citizens are allowed to use the EU line, but not all airport employees or immigration officers agree with this. My inner introvert quails at the thought of a confrontation with an immigration officer, so I usually end up in the non-EU line. Although then sometimes it’s weird not going through as a family, since you’re supposed to do that too. So we’ve also all gone through the non-EU line, even though it’s almost always much longer. I am fully aware that my U.S. passport already makes me an incredibly privileged person in the grand scheme of things, but every single time I hesitate anxiously in front of the EU/non-EU lines at the airport, I feel like a second-class citizen.
More serious stuff crops up sometimes too. Last year when we were at the point of buying a house, our bank suddenly changed its regulations to bar non-EU citizens (and persons married to non-EU citizens) from getting mortgages. We had maintained an account at this bank for over ten years, since long before we ever even thought about moving to the Netherlands. Nevertheless, to get a mortgage from them, we would have had to get a divorce and then qualify using only Tony’s income. Needless, to say, we started shopping around for another bank, and fortunately were able to find one. (So yes, if you’re an expat who needs a bank, or especially a mortgage in the Netherlands, I recommend ABN Amro instead of ING, for obvious reasons.)
Suffice it to say that the hassle of not having Italian citizenship has surpassed the hassle required to get Italian citizenship. This on top of the fact that I’m an embarrassingly fanatical Europhile dealing with a significant degree of imposter syndrome, which I optimistically imagine will be ameliorated by becoming officially European.
So I’ve requested and received all the requisite documents and asked the two non-Italian countries involved for Apostilles (fancy and superfluous extra pages covered in seals and stamps meant to make documents look more impressive and official to foreign governments). I went and picked up my non-Italian documents from the certified translator yesterday. Incredibly, the translations also then needed to receive Apostilles as well. This means that by the end of this process, a one-page F.B.I report, for instance, becomes a ridiculously expensive, stamp-festooned five-page monstrosity.
This week, if all goes well, I will be able to submit my application online, after which at some point I will have an appointment with the Italian consulate in The Hague to make sure everything is in order. Then I’ll be able to sit back and wait the two years it’s supposed to take the Italian government to process my application. With any luck, I will be safely Italian before I have to go through the process of renewing my five-year Dutch residency permit. Which is my immediate goal, besides the rather more long-term goal of being Italian forevermore.
Tony’s original Italian citizenship application would never have been approved had I been even a smidgen less persistent and resourceful. It was full of grey areas, stretching of circumstances, and liberal exploitation of the fact that we were exotic Californians with two adorable kids. I even literally made cookies one day and took them down to appease the small town functionary who was tearing his hair out over the headache (us) that had been foisted upon him by his boss.
My own Italian citizenship application, on the other hand, couldn’t really be more straightforward. I guess I just have a lot of leftover angst from the first time around. In no particular order, these are the things I’ve worried about as I’ve been gathering documents and preparing to apply.
My name. Is it printed correctly (and the same!) on all my documents? Taking your husband’s last name is not done in Italy, so the fact that Tony and I had the same last name occasioned some raised eyebrows. So much so that last time I renewed my passport (we were living in Florence at the time) I seriously thought about going back to my maiden name. Except that it’s so ridiculously hard to pronounce, and in other countries the eyebrows get raised when you’re trying to travel with kids who have a different last name. You really can’t win with the name thing.
Things getting lost in the mail. I had to mail a set of fingerprints from here to the U.S., my mom and brother kindly agreed to mail things to the state and federal governments for Apostilles, and then my mom mailed everything back to me here. I didn’t pay for a tracked mail option on any of these, but I probably should have, since I did worry about the stuff in these envelopes crossing the oceans. Or not crossing the oceans and instead being lost forever.
My FBI report. I’ve never gotten an FBI report before. I’ve also never been arrested or really had any encounter with law enforcement (other than that one time I became a vandal at BYU). But the irrational part of my mind wondered if somehow they would find something I didn’t remember I’d done. According to the FBI, no. But they made sure to leave open the possibility that I was still, in fact, a criminal. Hopefully the Italian government is satisfied with this:
Not being able to get an appointment at the consulate. None of the documents I submit is allowed to be older than six months. When I tried to picture requesting all these different documents so they arrived more or less at the same time, getting them translated, and then getting into an appointment with the Italian consulate in The Hague, all within the space of six months, it didn’t really compute. After all, last year I spent four months trying to get an appointment for my kids to renew their passports using the online appointment system. We finally spoke to someone at the consulate, who revealed that the secret is to wait until just past midnight exactly three months before when you want an appointment, and log in and snatch up one of the available appointments before they all get taken that morning. Fortunately, I think the six month thing just refers to submitting my documents online to the Italian government. I’m pretty sure the consulate appointment comes afterwards. Let’s hope.
My Italian isn’t really that good. OK, it’s loads better than my Dutch, and the Italian government doesn’t impose a language requirement. But will I feel like a total fraud actually being Italian when I’m not completely fluent (to say nothing about my careless style of cooking pasta)? Should I feel like a fraud?
The expense. I haven’t actually kept track of this exactly. I mean, there’s the cost of the documents themselves, probably around €60, and then the Apostilles, for another €50. Fingerprints for the FBI report were another €50. The translations came in at just under €300, with another €60 for Apostilles on the translations. Then there’s the €200 paid straight to the Italian government with the application. Plus miscellaneous postage and travel costs associated with this little endeavour. I estimate that in the end it will come in at a bit under €800. Which is not insignificant; I mean, there are lots of things one could do with €800. But it’s really not bad, I guess, for the privilege of not only being Italian but belonging to what just happens to be my favourite gigantic social experiment in the history of the world.
Which brings me to another worry. Something that was not even on my radar ten years ago when I first realised that if Tony got Italian citizenship we could live and work anywhere in Europe. What if, after all this, the EU dissolves? Funny enough, I first became really aware of the EU when I was in Amsterdam in 2001. I distinctly remember putting my bank card into an ATM and watching the bills come out, and they were euros. Weirdly, I looked this up online, and euro bills aren’t supposed to have been rolled out until the next year. In my memory they were euros on one side and Dutch bills on the other side. Maybe I imagined this whole thing.
At any rate, my imagination was well and truly caught. I read up on it during the ensuing years, and for me it was the perfect marriage of European history and utopian idealism. I was head over heels in love with the idea of the European Union. So when I found out we could get Tony Italian citizenship and be part of that romantic ideal, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could dislike the EU, or how it wouldn’t inevitably propel history almost immediately forward into the science fiction paradise of my dreams.
A lot has happened since then. With the Greek bailout, the refugee crisis, and now Brexit, things are looking considerably more tenuous. I would be shattered if the EU dissolved, and it would be especially tragic if it happened just as I was running up late to the party.
But anyway. Today I sat down to take the plunge and submit my application and . . .
. . . the part of the website of the Italian government where you apply for citizenship was down.
Sigh. Here’s to this whole thing eventually happening.