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Overstayed Visa Applying for Family Cohesion in Italy

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I am an American living in Italy on a short-term work visa (research). It was short notice that I got the job, and my wife and I married right before. My wife came with me when I moved here 4 months ago, though we married too close to the move date that we could not apply for a family visa, she would have had to wait in the US for another 2 months. We were told to just apply for the family cohesion visa once we arrived. (I am on a 1-2 year research visa).

Well, she was not allowed to apply for family cohesion until I received my full Permesso di Soggiorno, the recipt was not enough. This process took about 10 weeks from start to finish, including all the paperwork/trips for my health card etc, and getting a permanent apartment.

We went to apply for hers. No-go. We need a lot more paperwork, including a translation of the marriage certificate, that is certified by the Italian consulate in the state we're from. We have a company in Italy translate it, overnight it home, have someone get it Apostilled/etc, and drive it to the consulate. The consulate denies it saying the translation doesn't look enough like the original. I do the translation myself, send it over, get it approved. The italian consulate then tells us to buy an overnight envelope to send it back. We do, they hold on to it for 5 days before shipping it and it gets mailed back to the return address because they took too long. Then I have to have someone else send it and it takes about 5 days to get to Italy. This process took about 2-3 weeks in total.

Still can't apply, need a proof of housing form to "add" her to the housing even though when we got the apartment we had her put on the contract! So we have to do a lot of paperwork to add "0" people. To do so I had to get an engineer/architect to approve my apartment. No one returned my call or emails in December, everyone listed was unavailable (holidays...). Finally got a friend of a friend to do it. Still was waiting on one form that the apartment owner needed to sign, and I needed the origina. (She was out of the country on vacation due to holidays, I tried to submit a faxed copy, and was denied).

I finally get to apply for this! Oh but wait, the application process for the housing card takes up to 40 days from submission. She has now gone over her tourist visa waiting to apply. We're so close to applying finally, and are advised by someone form one of the immigration departments of my work(not the questura) to just apply as soon as we have the forms, even if she is over, as leaving now she can face fines/deportation/etc.

Well, now we finally have everything to apply, but are 1 month over her visa. We had started this process as quickly as possible. I went in to the questura to ask about it, and they told me they could help me if they made an appointment, which they want to set for the end of March! (I guess theyre backed up). If I wait for that it will be way too long (thats like 3 months OVER the visa expiry). We didn't want to do anything illegal, and have proof of this entire process taking so long.

We are not sure if she should just try leaving the country now (back to the US), as she is over and it will only get worse. It seems like the Italian government is taking its time with even allowing us to apply. They told us this week that she would have to come in to get fingerprinted/etc. But they have not got to the point at all of whether she is over her visa or even in the country. So we are afraid to have her show up at the police station (questura) with a 1-month over visa and get deported without even being allowed to apply. (Once she applies she is legal, with the receipt from the post office).

Does anyone have any recommendations or experience? We could fly her home and just continue this after the 90-day break, or do it from the US if we have to, but due to all of this we are paranoid to try and leave the EU due to maybe her being "deported" at the airport leaving, paying fines, getting black-stamped, and not being allowed to apply for family cohesion.

Thanks for your help! I hate to insult Italy, but the government processes here are quite ridiculous. It feels like you jump through 50 hoops to have one tired immigration officer barely glance at it, stamp it and put it in a folder. Some offices say one thing, others another.

Any help?

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