Anthony Majanlahti shares his story
My experience of getting my residency is not the most difficult one I’ve heard of. Refugees have it worse, in fact just about everyone who isn’t an EU citizen has it harder. I can only tell my own story.
I was born and raised in Canada, of an English mother and a Finnish father. I’m a historian and writer about Rome, and obviously there’s no better place for me to live and do my research than here. However, for many years I lived here very hazardously, never sure if, once having left the country, the authorities would let me back in. I will draw a polite curtain over the stress of my life here as an extracomunitario. Temporary permessi di soggiorno for the purposes of study would expire, and have to be renewed, always from the Italian Consulate in Toronto, because they wouldn’t do it from Italy. So back I would go. And that kind of permesso didn’t give the right to work.
A few years ago, my father let me know that Finland had changed its laws to permit the children of people born in Finland to claim Finnish citizenship, probably because Finland’s population growth is negative at the moment. I didn’t have any EU citizenship rights through my mother, because the British changed their citizenship law: since I hadn’t been put on some embassy list before I was 18 years old, I had no right to British citizenship. However, now I suddenly had the right to Finnish and therefore EU citizenship. I jumped at the chance. After a surprisingly friendly and easy series of steps, I found myself clutching my prize, an EU passport. Now finally I couldn’t get sent back to Toronto.
At this point I wanted to go all the way and get my residenza in Rome. But I was perplexed. The information available online seemed contradictory and incomplete, and who knew whether or not the sites had been updated. Yet at the same time I didn’t want to go and ask anyone official – years of living dangerously had taught me an innate resistance to coming to the attention of the Italian authorities. I lived in a sort of semi-legal limbo for a long time.
My first piece of concrete advice is: if you have an EU passport, but no job, don’t be scared. There are a bunch of helpful organs ready to give you various pieces of information. I went to discuss the matter with the CGIL immigration assistance office on via Buonarroti 51, and they were very nice and gave me a lot of advice. It was also free. There was another agency of another big union, the UIL, whose offices are at via Cavour 108, near Santa Maria Maggiore, and they were even more friendly and less crowded. They too offer help and advice for free.
If you’re an EU citizen you don’t need to mess around with permessi di soggiorno or carte di soggiorno, no matter what the Ministry website says. What you want to establish is your residenza. With that, you can get your identity card and your health card, and with those pieces of identification you have official existence in Italy. You can even get a job.
Second, and this is a bit strange, but every different municipality of Rome has different requirements. As I live in Municipio I, Centro Storico, I am describing what my experience is with them. If you live in the historic centre, you are in Municipio I and you have to go down to the huge drab Fascist-era Anagrafe or Public Record Office on via Petroselli, down past the Theatre of Marcellus toward piazza Bocca della Verità. If you live in a different Municipio, check their website to see how their requirements differ: they won’t be significantly different, in any case.
Here is what you need, as an EU citizen without a contract or a job, to get your residenza:
Make sure you have copies of everything! The Anagrafe will want the copies to keep, and will want to look at the originals, so bring it all with you.
The adventure really begins once you get to the at. It is said to open at 8.30, but by 8.30 the entrance is already crammed with a mass of people blocking your way. Sometimes someone has already made a makeshift numbering system and giving out little scraps of paper saying you’re number 16 or whatever. That makes the entrance into the Anagrafe at 8.30 slower. In any case, Bring a good book and your iPod, because chances are . Since the Anagrafe is only open in the morning, arriving after 8.30 is pointless. The bureaucracy is not fast.
Once you’re inside the Anagrafe, you will want to make your way to your , up some steps, into a large gloomy hall where you will have to decide what kind of service you want, like at the post office, and press a button to get a waiting number. You will want whatever the button is that says “”. There will probably be a helpful staff member to press the button for you if you are perplexed. However, at that point you are on your own. If your number isn’t immediately going to be called, you can exit the hall, go get a coffee and croissant at the bar inside the Anagrafe on the other side of the main entrance, and go upstairs to the Cassa comunale and buy your “” and the form (“”) for the identity card. Having done that, you will feel a pleasant sense of being armed and ready to do battle with the bureaucracy.
When your number is finally called (pay attention to the screen!), you will be brought into an office with a hopefully kindly functionary behind a desk who will ask to see your documents, may ask you questions, and will fill in a bunch of information on the computer. This functionary will tell you if there are pieces missing from your documentation – if there are, you will have to go through all of this again twice, so try to avoid missing out anything. At the end, having taken your photocopies of everything, the functionary will issue you with a wide computer-printed strip of paper, the “fascia”, which serves as a sort of interim identity document, saying in effect that your application for residenza is being processed. (You can already go to your local health authority with this “fascia” and sign up, but I waited til I had everything sorted out.) You need to bring this “fascia” back with you to get your identity card.
At this point the nice lady functionary told me, “Now all you have to do is wait for the police to come and check that you live where you say you live.”
“Yes, you have no idea the kind of scams that people try to pull. Make sure you have your rental contract on hand and be at home when the policeman calls.”
“When will he come?”
“Oh, not within the next three weeks, I’d say,” said the functionary cheerfully. It was August. “You can certainly go on holiday without worrying.” This was all starting to look a bit haphazard and I got worried.
“What if I’m not there when he arrives?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll just have to take your rental contract and go to his office and show it to him.”
“But how is that different from showing it to you here, as I am doing now?”
“Because I am not the police,” she replied gently.
“And then what happens? Does the policeman give me a document that I bring back to you?”
“Oh, no!” she said. “The policeman sends a communication to us here, and we process it, and you come back and line up and get your identity card.”
“But how will I know when you get the policeman’s communication?”
“It usually takes about ten working days from when you see the policeman. Come back then.”
Well, I took her at her word, only to find that the police had passed by to see me when I was gone. I went to the police station on viale Trastevere, just past piazza Sonnino and before the start of via di San Gallicano, taking the piece of paper left with my concierge that gave the date and time that I should present myself at the policeman’s office. I noted that there were only two days a week when he could be found at his office, for precisely one hour, around lunchtime. I went with my rental contract, was ushered in immediately (there was no one else waiting), and a weary police officer filled in a form and glanced at my contract, and said “Congratulations. As far as the police are concerned, you are now a resident of Rome.”
“How long do I have to wait before I go back to the Anagrafe and apply for my identity card?” He laughed cynically. “All I can say is, this form will leave my office tomorrow. After that –” he spread his hands — “maybe you should wait a month or two.”
“But they told me ten days!”
“OK, OK. I can only tell you that my job ends when the paper leaves my office.”
“Well, thank you very much.”
“Welcome to Rome,” he said, already looking at another piece of paper on his desk.
I decided to wait two weeks, then risk it. This time I was smarter and got to the Anagrafe before 8 AM, and there were only about 20 or so people in front of me. I waited about 45 minutes, in high anxiety, before my number came up. I had brought my envelope with all my documents, originals and photocopies, including the “fascia” they’d given me last time. I went back into the office behind the counter, and a different functionary, but still very nice, confirmed that they had, indeed, received confirmation from the police that I was resident where I said I was, and that they could issue the identity card right away, especially since I already had the “modulo” (the form) and the photos. I handed my “fascia” over to her. After so much time and anxiety and effort, I could almost not believe it. But she put the blank identity card paper into the special printer and printed it out, then affixed one of my photos and stamped it with an official imprint. She then printed out a page entitled “ATTESTAZIONE DI REGOLARITA’ DEL SOGGIORNO PER I CITTADINI DELL’UNIONE EUROPEA” which stated that I, Anthony Majanlahti, born in.., resident in via…, of Finnish citizenship, “E’ REGOLARMENTE SOGGIORNANTE IN ITALIA”, “is staying in Italy according to the rules”. She affixed two of the “marche da bollo”, one of each kind, to one copy, and did the same to an office copy.
I left the Anagrafe with my carta d’identità, one of the old-style paper ones (“Some of the other Municipi give you the plastic card with the smart chip in it,” the functionary told me, “but it’s not free. It costs the earth!”), and couldn’t stop looking at it as I staggered up the via del Teatro di Marcello. I soon found myself in largo Argentina, and I went into a tobacconist’s to ask if I could buy a plastic cover for the identity card. “It’s my first identity card! I’m a legal resident of Rome at last!” I told the tobacconist, rather deliriously. To celebrate, he gave me the plastic cover for free.
From that point on, it was easy to get signed onto the medical system. I was in the Primo Distretto Sanitario of the ASL Roma A (which coincides with the Municipio I – check which yours is at their website, www.aslromaa.it), at via Luzzatti, 8, near piazza di Porta Maggiore. I went there with my documents, including my carta d’identità, and they filled out a quick form, took some photocopies of my passport and carta d’identità that I had already made just in case, and printed out a dummy version of my health card which would have to serve until the real one arrived by mail, a month or so later. I chose a doctor from a list of doctors near my apartment, and that was that. The real card arrived a month later and I cancelled my private health insurance. I was in the system.
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