On Becoming an Italian Resident

Of one thing it is certain, Italians are very fond of their multi-paged forms to fill out and the rubber stamp that is needed to signify that yes indeed this office has certified that your form is fully completed. What happens next remains somewhat mysterious and requires the patience of Jobe while you wait to see if in fact completing that form will result in the desired action.

I went to see two apartments and in talking to the real estate agents it became clear that renting an apartment is not as simple as deciding yes, this is the place for me. Rent and utilities must be paid by direct withdrawal from you bank account so that the proprietor pays the appropriate income taxes. So off I went to open a bank account. In order to open a bank account the very professional young women at the bank tells me that I need the equivalent of a social insurance number. She writes a quick letter that explains why I need a codice fiscal. Next day we head to the Italian equivalent of Revenue Canada. You cannot just pick up a form. There is always someone who you talk to first who wants to know what you are doing there and then points you to the area where a myriad of forms are displayed. We take the appropriate form and complete it, pick up a number,  and then the wait, with at least 50 other people, to see the person who issues the codice fiscale. Luckily it was another rainy day and I did not feel as bad having to make Dario wait in line, something which all Italians do very badly. Even with a numbering system everyone tries to jump the queue – I just have a quick question they say – and then jump ahead of you. Finally my turn and the harried admin type person does not even look up at me, asks for my (Italian) passport, keys in the number, keys in something from the previously completed form, then the computer balks at Quebec as the province of birth. Dario makes some kind of joke and the admin guy relaxes a bit, the printer spits something out, he stamps it, passes it over to me wrong side up and says I am done with you. I am now officially registered to pay taxes and so off again to the bank.

The bank is of course the opposite of the tacky revenue office filled with “estra-communitari”  like me. The inside of the bank has frescoed ceilings at least two stories high, marble columns, Murano glass chandeliers. We are warmly greeted, with a handshake, by the same, fashionably dressed young woman who helped us last time. Not withstanding, this is a bank and it took about 30 minutes to enter all the required information into a very slow software. The bank now has to complete a check of some kind on me since I am not yet a resident and will let me know if they will give me a bank account.

Yesterday we went to the office that registers you as a resident of Trieste. We picked up the appropriate form which did require the codice fisicale which I am now in possession of.  We went back this morning, this time no line up, but we had to wait while the admin person there finished talking on the phone.  She was making some medical appointments. Then another women arrived back from her morning break, I presume, and took over. The first thing she did was stamp a form and have me sign it – my garbage taxes. She then scanned in my passport and I was actually in the system as a resident of Trieste and as an Italian citizen living abroad. So the people at the Italian Embassy in Ottawa did do their jobs and I am registered with the AIRE. She made a copy of my passport and then asked Dario for his id.  Because  I do not yet have an apartment I had to give  use his address as my place of residence.  It is all a bit circular since I cannot sign a lease for an apartment until I have a bank account and I cannot get a bank account because I am not a resident of Trieste.   Another form is printed and duly stamped. Then she advises me that we will be visited within the next 45 days (any day between 9 and 10:00 a.m.) by the police. They must check that I actually live at that address. Of course, when I get an apartment of my own I will have to go back and do a change of address. Next on the to do list is a carta d’identita so I do not have to carry the passport with me. Dario says I must always, always have the passport with me for reasons of terrorism! Even when I bought the SIM card for my phone, they took a photocopy and scanned my passport.

Since I am now a resident of Trieste, I can go back to complete the forms for a Tessera della Sanita – a health card, and then you are provided with a list of doctors that you must select from. This was the longest wait time bout 2 hours the first time I went. There is a numbering system but they only issue 50 numbers because they only issue these cards between 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. .

I have completed the form to register for Italian Classes for foreigners but have yet to hear back. Overall despite the number of ways that you must be registered, while time-consuming, I am happy to say that with Dario’s help I have managed to navigate the system and all seems to be in place. I have not heard  back  from the bank yet and it has been a week so will go back tomorrow. Now things are almost in place to start seriously looking for that perfect apartment.

March 26, 2014

I moved into my apartment 3 days ago, despite having signed all the rental agreement forms on March 6th.  This is because we had to wait until the police arrived to check that I was actually living at the address that I had indicated as being my residence.  We were asked what would be a good time for the police to visit and we said between 8 and 9 a.m. and so then the wait begins.

About 10 days after applying for a bank account I receive a call that yes all is in order and I can come to the bank to get my account set up.  I sign a stack of forms most of which deal with privacy but this is no different than with the Canadian banks except that as a foreigner there appear to be a lot more papers and signatures.  I wanted a bank card of course but this will have to wait.  I fill out some more forms and the card should arrive in the mail in about a week.  I now have the card but have to go back to the bank to have it activated.  THe same young women did all the appropriate paper work and gave me  sealed envelope with the PIN number for the card – you do not get to pick your own PIN.  She also gave me a stick that generates a random number so that when you do internet banking ( which I also requested) you key in a PIN and the number generated by this stick.  I go to the bancomat and withdraw some cash and it all works.  Now I have to ask my sister to transfer some money from my Canadian account to the Italian account. She has her own story of how long it took my Canadian bank to get the transfer figured out.   A few days later I get a telephone call (which I missed because the phone was in my purse), a text message which I also missed and an e-mail from the Italian bank.  The person at the other end was frantic to get a reason for why I was transferring money from Canada to Italy.  The funds were in Mestre and he needed an answer right away.  I explained that I need to pay my rent for a year but I could feel him sweating at the other end of the line.  He says “OK , I will write Affitto for one year”.  The next day I was at the real estate office to sign the lease and various other forms that included transferring the water, light, and gas accounts to my name, insurance fees, real estate agent fees, the normal security deposits, one months rent and condo fees, an inventory of the contents of the condo because it is furnished, the form for direct transfer by my bank to the bank of the owner for  rent and condo fees, a floor plan of the condo (used later at the office where I registered to pay garbage taxes) , a form to register the rental of the apartment.  That form goes to the city registrars office and you have to wait for them to register you as a renter at that address.  While at the real estate office my phone rings and it is another harried person from my bank wanting to know why I am transferring money from Canada.  I explain again that I need to pay my rent.

A few days later we get a call from the Real Estate office, the contract is registered and we can pick up the keys.  Also the bank calls and tells me that the transfer is done.   The exchange rate and fees for the transfer are not good – I need to rework my budget.  What is happening with the Canadian dollar?!?!?

We were told to take pictures of the condo in case there were any issues later.  The next day Dario called all the utilities to transfer them to my name, about 90 minutes on the phone in total – and always you have to give your passport number.

We now can go to the office where you register to pay for garbage taxes.  Actually a nice office with an Illy vending machine, plants, nice clean chairs to sit on while you wait.  They also have new modular office furniture like in our government offices except no baffles separating the desks.  So you get to hear all the issues that the person at the next desk is trying to resolve – privacy?!?!  The women there was very efficient and told us that, yes, I was now in the system as a resident of Trieste.  Now I wait for the bolletta  (not sure if this  means statement but it applies to everything in Italy) to arrive by mail.   The utility forms have now all arrived and each of the utility forms have to be signed, with a copy of my passport and mailed back. Next we need to visit the utilities office because I would like to pay the bills by direct transfer.  The other option is to pay at the post office where you have to wait in line every month and I am thinking that this is not the best option for me. For two of the utilities (and with two trips to their offices) I was able to get a form, that I then brought to my bank to have them register the direct payment.  The third utility I have to wait until they send me the bolletta and then I can deal with the bank.  However the young women at the bank was only successful in getting the electricity bill paid by direct withdrawal.  I went back four times for a wait time of over 8 hours to no avail.  She was unable to find the right “code” to enter to have the bills paid by direct withdrawal.  I finally said to her in frustration – am I the only person who ever asked for direct payment? and finally I just gave up.

The police did arrive around 7:15 in the morning last Wednesday.  I was asked for my passport immediately. Luckily I was up because we were getting ready for the trek to M.t e Maggiore. The policeman asked what I was doing in Italy, asked Dario a few questions, checked to make sure that there were enough bedrooms to accommodate  my being there and then he left!

Next was a visit to the Commune to get my Carta d’indentita. We are duly greeted and asked about our intentions, are given the form and we pick up a number. First I did have to get my picture taken for the card. Not too bad about 15 minutes later we are seated at a desk, with of course another person at the adjacent desk conducting their own business but now I know this is normal. The admin person checks in the computer and yes the police have accepted my residency. Photocopies, stamps , signatures, and 15 minutes later I have a Carta d’indentita and no longer have to carry my passport with me to travel anywhere in the EU.

Monday I head back to the same office to do a change of address to my new address.  Again not too bad, about a 30 minute wait in all.  For the first time I do this on my own and all goes well.  I am now a resident of Trieste and at the address of the condo I am renting.

I already had an internet stick from last year so just wanted to buy some data time and Saturday I went to WIND.  I had to give my Carta d’indentita and my codice fisicale that they scanned into their system – where is the privacy?

March 26th and I have now been happily ensconced in my apartment for 4 days!  Next week I will start the process for my  health card – Tessera della sanita.

It is now a couple  of months since I went to the office to apply for the health card but I remember how to get there and feel pretty confident that I have all the required identification, papers etc with me.  I head out to the office but this is Wednesday and on Wednesday’s they do not issue cards.  So back again the next day, first thing in the morning and luckily for me there are only 15 numbers ahead of mine.  I wait in the hallway for my number to come up on a screen over the doorway of the two offices that issue health cards.   The building is also a health facility for blood tests, x-rays, specialists and has a myriad of corridors and closed doors with numbers on them so you are never quite sure if someone is actually behind the closed door.  In this case I do see people coming and going from the number of the doors where health cards are supposedly issued.

I have a book with me but cannot concentrate to read it, since I am not 100% sure I am at the right place and the people waiting in the hallway with me seem to have far more documents with them than I do.  My number comes up and I hesitantly knock on the door.  There is always a  time delay from when one person leaves and the next number comes up and at all times that door remains closed.   A woman behind the doors says to come in.  She does not look up at me.  So I say “Buon giorno” and explain  in my very limited Italian that I am there for a health card.  Still no response so  then I ask her what she would like to see.  I explain that I am in Italy because I would like to learn to speak Italian and apologise that I am not fluent in Italian.   I tell her that  I like her plants.  She warms up to me a bit and  the process finally starts, some form comes out of the printer, she sends her assistant out with all my id cards to make photocopies, he comes back but the copies are not clear.  And through all of this I just sit there and wait because I have now learned that I need to be grateful that this person is doing all this work to get me a health card.  There is no concept of “serving the public”  in any of the offices I have been to.  In fact,  the feeling you get is very much that you are disrupting their day and that they have better things  to do then for example find a family doctor for you.  It is my  impression that the most likely reason for this lack of interest is  management styles that have not changed with the times.  Finally she asks me who I would like as my doctor.  I do not know any doctors so she pulls out a piece of paper from a file folder and we agree on a doctor whose office is located a ten minute walk or so from the apartment.  She provides me with the  phone number and office hours of the doctor and a piece of paper that serves as my health card. All in all a successful morning!  And I have all the paperwork in place to be functionally an Italian citizen!







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