24 March 2010

My entry visa trauma...

When we moved to Italy in October 2009, Stuart entered on his EU passport which meant that he could stay as long as he wanted to. Since I had an Australian or New Zealand passport, I could stay a maximum of 90 days only on a tourist visa. After that period, I needed to leave Italy for 3 months during which time I had to find out how to legally stay in Italy longer than 3 months at a time.

We made our first trip to the Italian Consulate in Brisbane immediately after Christmas 2009. The Consulate explained that a longterm stay in Italy would be easy for me. Since Stuart has an EU passport, I could enter Italy as his 'wife'!

All we needed was a marriage certificate.

And therein lay the problem: We were not married!

However, we thanked the Consulate and smiled sweetly at him before making an embarrassed escape.

At a local coffee shop, we sought refuge in a dark corner. We sweated profusely at the prospect of an urgent marriage proposal being made in the very near future.

We agreed that these were not the best circumstances under which to pledge undying love for each other.

So it was back to the Consulate to explain our lack of a marriage certificate.

No problems, the Consulate said. There was another alternative. I could apply for a longterm visa. This visa would depend on my health insurance and would therefore expire on the same day as my insurance. Since we had only 6 months insurance, he suggested that we try to extend it to 12 months. We told him we would try and return as soon as possible.

However, first we had to go on a 4 week camping trip.

In hindsight, our trip seems extravagant given the criticality of the longterm visa. On returning from our trip, we would have only 2 weeks before we were to fly back to Italy. But the Consulate had promised that my application could be processed quickly so we weren't unduly worried.

While we were away, our insurance company had advised that our insurance couldn't be extended because the premiums for 2010-2011 hadn't been established.

This was a hiccup but we still weren't worried. We would simply proceed with a 6 month longterm visa instead.

So back to the Consulate we went, only to be told that the Consulate had gone to Italy on compassionate leave! His offsider had utterly no idea what to do with our application. We realised this when he disappeared behind closed doors for 2 hours before emerging with several folders of legislation and a strange nervous tick.

We were doomed.

He told us between twitches that the Consulate would be back 3 days before our flights. We asked him if he thought we should re-schedule our flights. He ticked.

We were on our own. We decided to take the risk.

On the third last day, we were the first customers at the office. We sat shaking in our waiting room seats, desperately straining to view a glimpse of the Consulate.

Finally, with joy beyond description, we saw him!

Within minutes he and his ticking offsider were processing our application.

They told us that the visa 'may' be ready on the day of our flight. We asked them if they thought we should re-schedule our flights. The consulate shrugged. His offsider ticked.

We were on our own. We decided to take the risk.

On the last day, we made the first phone call into the office. Frustration levels were at an alltime high and the tension was unbearable. We waited while the receptionist checked the status of our application.

'Yes, Catherine, your visa is ready', were the sacred words I heard.

We were away. Emotionally exhausted but on our way.

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