by Melinda Gallo

Staying in Florence

One of the biggest worries for anyone who lives here is how to continue staying here legally or how to stay here legally if he/she is here illegally. When I first moved here, I didn't dream that I'd fall in love with Florence after being here only three days. I didn't get a visa at that time because I initially planned on staying three months to study Italian. And when I arrived this last time in 2004, I came prepared with a visa to stay for a year.

Since the day I arrived in Italy, I think I have only been relaxed for about nine months of each year, which is the duration of my permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay). After filing all the paperwork at the Questura (police station) to get my permesso di soggiorno, I worried that something would be wrong and that my application wouldn't be accepted. Then, once I got my permesso di soggiorno a month or two later, I felt great relief and tried to bask in it for as long as I could. Then a few months before I had to renew it, I once again found myself worried sick.

And so here I am again about to have my permesso di soggiorno expire and worrying more than is probably necessary or healthy about renewing it. To ease some of my worries today, I went to the Infopoint Migranti, which is an agency that helps stranieri (foreigners) to understand and to fill out the necessary paperwork we need to file in order to obtain a permesso di soggiorno or carta di soggiorno (stay card). It wasn't the first time I've gone to speak to someone there; I think I've been there at least three times including today.

I waited in the sala d'attesa (waiting room) along with about four other people. When it was my turn, the woman waved me to sit down in front of her, leaned over her desk, and smiled at me. I asked her, "Posso rinnovare il mio permesso di soggiorno un po' in ritardo? Cioè il giorno stesso o qualche giorno dopo la scadenza? (Can I renew my permit to stay a little late? Meaning the same day or a few days after the expiration date?)" I had read that for a year-long permesso di soggiorno, I am supposed to renew two months in advance. "Sì, non c'è problema. (Yes, that's not a problem.)," she responded and gently tapped my hand as she must have sensed my worry.

I wasn't done with my questioning as I gave reasons as to why I'll be late. But, she kept reassuring me that it's not a problem. I left the office a bit more relaxed, but still thinking in the back of my head about what I need to get in order to file on time.

It is odd as this year I have three options available to me, which include renewing my existing permesso di soggiorno, converting it to another type of permesso di soggiorno, or obtaining a new one while I wait for my Italian citizenship, if they accept my application.

I thought at first that I was pretty lucky to have a few options available to me, but now that I'm stuck between the three, I find that it's even more stressful. It's all in choosing the right one and crossing my fingers tight enough to make sure it ends in my having another permesso di soggiorno for one more year. In two years, I'll be able to apply for a carta di soggiorno, which lasts five years.

I don't think I know one person here in Florence, unless that person is married to an Italian, who doesn't go through this permesso di soggiorno merry-go-round. Almost all of the expatriates I know talk about their permessi di soggiorno, what they did to get it, and how they're not looking forward to renewing it again.

In the end all the stress is worth it because when we receive our new permesso di soggiorno, we are able to live in one of the most enchanting cities in the world for a little bit longer.

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