by Melinda Gallo

One step forward

For almost a month I have been a bit worried about changing my permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay). I had seen my avvocato (lawyer) almost a month ago and he told me that we'd be going to the Camera di Commercio (Chamber of Commerce) the next week. I called him a few times to no avail, and then he called me yesterday to say that I was supposed to meet him today at the Camera di Commercio at 11AM.

I am mostly worried because if this change falls through somehow, I'll have to renew my permesso di soggiorno. And, because they changed the rules for renewing it, I have to file all the documents at least two months before the scadenza (expiration) of my permesso di soggiorno, which is the end of October. Before, we were allowed to renew a permesso di soggiorno up until the scadenza and even at least a week after that. But, I won't have the response from the appropriate agencies regarding this change until probably September, so it'll be too late for me to renew by then.

I met with my avvocato (lawyer) at the Camera di Commercio as he requested. He escorted me through the winding corridors to a woman's office. He had another pratica (case/file) that he had to work on as well, which he gave the woman first.

When it was time to work on my pratica, she gave us the description for the work I do: creazione pagine Web e produzione software (Web page creation and software production). The avvocato wrote something else and because they want things to match up, he had to write the same thing on the two documents that he had already prepared beforehand.

The woman looked up at my avvocato and asked, "Fa produzione software, vero?" (She writes software, right?). He looked at me and I responded, "Sì, signora." (Yes, madame).

She took my passport and carta d'identità (identity card) and made photocopies of them both. I normally don't carry my passport with me, but they sometimes don't consider the carta d'identità as a form of identification for stranieri (foreigners).

I signed both documents and she asked for a marca da bollo (official stamp) for about 14 Euros. The avvocato whipped out a long strip of marche da bolloand stuck one onto the document. Then, the woman said that we had to pay 10 Euros. I figured that we'd just give her the money, but the avvocato stood up and said, "OK, pago e poi torno fra un po'." (OK, I'll pay and then come back in a little bit.)

He took me to the second floor of the building and down another long corridor. All the office doors were closed and it seemed rather quiet. He knocked on the door and we heard someone inside say, "Prego."

When we opened the door, I was struck by the amazing view from the large windows that were open. I could see San Miniato and the river. I wouldn't have minded being cooped up in an office with this view, I thought to myself.

The woman looked at the document, went back to her computer, printed out a document. The avvocato gave her 10 Euros and she had to put it into a machine to check to make sure it wasn't counterfeit.

After we left the office, I thought we were going back to the first woman's office, but instead of taking the elevator, we walked right past it. He motioned for me to stand and wait in the hall so I did. He walked into an office and less than a minute later he came back out. I barely had time to read the headlines of the newspaper that someone had left behind.

He smiled as he walked toward me. "Cosa hai dovuto fare?" (What did you have to do?), I asked him. He showed me the same document he got from the last office and pointed to the timbro (stamp) on it. "E basta?" (And that's all?), I said. He laughed and said, "Roba da pazzi." (Hard to believe.)

We whispered almost the entire time we were in the building because we only saw two other people who didn't work there, and it was virtually empty most of the time.

We walked back to the first woman's office and he handed her the documents. "Quando ne avete bisogno?" (When do you need this?), she asked. The avvocato said, "Mi dica Lei." (You tell me.) "Lunedì prossimo sono in ferie per tre settimane." (Next Monday I'm on vacation for three weeks.) My heart sank and I tried not to voice my disappointment. "Ma proverò a fare firmare i documenti per venerdì." (But, I'll try to get the documents signed by Friday.) My avvocato said, "Sarebbe perfetto, grazie." (It'd be perfect, thanks.) They talked about talking on Thursday and finding a time on Friday when either he or I could come by to pick up everything.

We walked out and I asked him what they have to do that could take so long. He showed me two letters that had all the same information on them typed up with the signature of the woman in charge. He laughed and said, "Ci vuole una persona per stampare i documenti e un'altra per firmarli." (One person has to print the documents and another has to sign them.)

When we got outside he explained how next week we'll be going to the Questura (police station), which he informed me has moved near the Fortezza da Basso. His friend who works there is back from his vacation on Monday, so tentatively we're supposed to go on Tuesday if we have what we need.

We are going to have to ask his friend if I should go ahead and try to renew my permesso di soggiorno at the same time in case something goes awry. I'd rather be safe than sorry. I'd hate to have to go to the US to get another visa and start all over again.

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