As I mentioned in my last post, we just got back from a short trip to Miami to visit our region's Italian consulate office (Consolato Generale d'Italia) to turn in our paperwork and request a student visa in person (which is required). This was one of the biggest milestones that we've had to cross during our year of preparations for our move. I'm writing this as a 2 part, because there is a lot I want to say, but as we were preparing, I loved to read other people's accounts - so it could be good info for others planning to move. As I type this we don't have our colorful visa stamps on our passports in our hands - but I feel very certain that we will soon. We had an unusually pleasant experience with this whole ordeal...and as we drove away from the consulate office, Chris thanked me for getting all our paperwork organized, and asked how I knew exactly what we needed. It took me a while to really remember how this process started and where I began to compile the tasks ahead of us. I owe a lot of this knowledge to the active expat contributors of online resources and my constant research of this information. I remember reading numerous blogs and forum discussions where I learned many hints, tips, and procedural outlines - and so I knew that I wanted to "give back" in a way and write about our preparations and specific tasks so that others may find it helpful.
One of the most helpful resources has been the website Expats in Italy, which I've mentioned before in my posts. This is an invaluable resource for expats and future expats to Italy. There are several visa articles that I read and gathered bits of info from each. Also, a specific article by Bryan outlines his and his wife, Valerie's, journey through the bureaucratic necessities. He also wrote about the details of their preparations and continues to write about their life in Italy on his blog. I do owe the idea to organize our paperwork in a carefully labeled folder to them! Also, Transitions Abroad held several good pointers for this process.
When we entered the 5th floor of the fancy building and found the large mahogany doors of the consulate's office - I think I let out a little excited gasp. It's strange how this really made this entire move feel more real...but we nervously walked in to the lobby and spotted a man and woman behind the glass partitions. The woman was helping the only other person in the room, so I walked up to the man with a anxious smile and my large folder in hand. He smiled and asked how he could help - I immediately recognized his voice as Fabio, the man I'd spoken to several times on the phone and emailed throughout the last several months. I said, "We're here to apply for student visas" then started to shove the oversized folder through the small opening on the counter...he gave us a smile and said with an Italian accent, "I think I know who you are!" I laughed a little because I knew I must stand out as the over analytical, anal retentive girl which only makes sense that I would have a color-coded table of contents on our folder. He mentioned that we only had a couple months to go, since he remembered that our classes began in September! He was beyond polite and looked over everything and had us fill out a new application as there was a newer format than what I'd found online. Chris sat down to read an Italian newspaper, Bel Paese, and when I finished filling out our new apps, Fabio had completed looking through our paperwork. He gave me the folder back (after he'd taken the paperwork out), and said "This was very well done! Those months of preparations paid off!". I then filled out a FedEx shipping label and he mentioned that he was on vacation next week so he'd try to process this the NEXT DAY and send it overnight! He explained that our paperwork would also have a stamp along with our passport visa stamp and that we'd need to have the paperwork on hand as well when we enter Italy.
I then waited to speak to another lady about getting our Codice Fiscale (Italian tax identification number needed to purchase cell phone service, etc) and when a large line formed as we waited, Fabio took a break from the line of people to come over to where we were sitting in the lobby...he tapped on the glass and said "Her-een (we love the way my name sounds with an Italian accent)...I want to make sure you don't need me for anything else." I said we were just waiting for the other lady. We just people watched and listened to a lot of Italian being spoken and tried to pick out words. It was nice hearing the language again and renewed our excitement! After we received our new codice fiscale numbers, we headed out and looked back to wave goodbye to Fabio, he was just headed to the back, but caught a glance at our gestures and quickly stepped back into view to give a smile and wave back. (I kept telling Chris that I should get a photo with him for fun, but the lobby just filled up with more and more people - oh well).
**Coming soon: a look into the color-coded folder** :)