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Overstayed Visa Applying for Family Cohesion in Italy

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Feb 4th, 2014, 06:30 AM
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Overstayed Visa Applying for Family Cohesion in Italy

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?
travelingpostdoc is offline  
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Feb 4th, 2014, 07:40 AM
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I think you need legal advice, not advice from internet strangers who may or likely don't know what they're talking about.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 07:45 AM
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The best advice is to get legal advice at this point, and not rely on answers from strangers on an internet travel forum.
socaltraveler is offline  
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Feb 4th, 2014, 07:47 AM
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Get an Italian immigration lawyer and let him/her handle this.
StCirq is offline  
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Feb 4th, 2014, 08:48 AM
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you are in over your heads and it seems so is your company. (Not quite sure why you thought some strangers on the internet would be able to help)

As the others say -- Talk to an immigration lawyer ASAP.

>>she would have had to wait in the US for another 2 months. << In hindsight that 2 month wait at the beginning wouldn't have been so bad, would it?
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Feb 4th, 2014, 08:55 AM
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Get a lawyer, just remember the Italian civil service is far too busy running their own businesses to carry out their government work like sorting out your issues, they will always take long time unless you are a friend, as an American you just joined the back of the line.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 09:33 AM
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When I came to Italy, I already had a family unification visa, good for three months. (We managed to get this, and also the apostille on our marriage license, in four days between our wedding and our departure for Italy.) The consulate told me that I should immediately go to the town hall to register my residence and have myself added to my husband's household, and that I would have to go to the nearest questura to get a permesso di soggiorno when the visa was about to expire.

So on arrival, I went immediately to the town hall, had myself added to my husband's family. The municipal employee agreed with the consulate that I should go to the questura just before my visa expired; she suggested two weeks before the expiration date.

When I went to the questura, the officer told me very seriously that I was supposed to have gone there immediately upon arrival and that I had been in Italy illegally for almost three months. I told him that the Italian consulate had advised me to go to the questura when the visa was about to expire, and his exact words were, "What do they know!?!" Then he stopped to consider what I should do about it. His solution was to change the arrival date on my visa to a date in January rather than October! Since my passport clearly showed that I had arrived in October, I was always afraid that the discrepancy would be discovered when I was applying for Italian citizenship and that I would be accused of the forgery. However, here I am, fifteen years later, and no one ever noticed.

I also needed several times to return to the US with an expired permesso di soggiorno, because the questura was so backed up with its renewals. In this case, I showed proof that I had applied for the renewal, and it was always accepted, although some official sources say that you can't travel without the actual valid permesso.

To make a long story short, I'm pretty sure that the bureaucracy will find a way to resolve your problem and overlook the expired visa. However, I agree that you should talk to a good lawyer before doing anything at this point.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 10:50 AM
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We are NOT qualified to help you.

A local immigration attorney is what you need.

Anything else is just a waste of time and money.

And yes, if she tries to leave she may well be caught, fined, deported and not allowed to return. IMHO it would have been much easier - and probably faster to do it from the US originally. (And is your employer no help with this???)
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Feb 4th, 2014, 11:33 AM
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You need an immigration lawyer, not our thoughts on the matter.
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Feb 4th, 2014, 01:14 PM
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It would certainly have been much better to do as much as possible in the US, but that's water over the dam now.
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Feb 5th, 2014, 02:34 AM
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Yes I will look into an immigration lawyer, but as it currently stands, we're not looking at a forced deportation I beleive (no law offence, no danger, no risk), but under the new laws we'd face a "leave this country within 7 days" deportation, and fines. I'm supposed to hear back from an immigration official today, I think they just got backed up after the holidays.

I know you're not qualified for this (unless someone happens to be, as this IS the internet), I was merely looking for any experience in the situation (even anecdotal). Sometimes people have good suggestions that are actually legal and can help. I don't see the harm in asking, and you guys make me feel like I went to a VetMD for Dogs page and asked if anyone had experience with a rash (104 comments "see a vet").

bvlenci, thank you for your experience, and yes, looking back we probably should have had me go first and establish residency and have her apply from the US. Would have saved a LOT of headache.

Thanks everyone. I'll start looking for a local attorney that deals with immigration problems.
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Feb 5th, 2014, 04:16 AM
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Very interesting post, travelingpostdoc. You may not get the expert advice you need on this forum, but at least you have alerted others to the complications, frustrations and delays in the Italian immigration red tape. One of those situations where bribery would be tempting--so much more efficient.
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Feb 5th, 2014, 05:07 AM
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While expert legal advice is certainly best, the internet is, in fact, an excellent and very helpful place for immigrants navigating bureaucracy. I would suggest trying expatforum or similar, where you will be more likely to encounter more people who can offer you advice based on experience.

And because anyone dealing with bureaucracy can use a smile, I'll offer you this video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wtbQUaC9mE
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Feb 5th, 2014, 01:21 PM
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BDL - video ... Hilarious!
Janetd5 is offline  
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Feb 5th, 2014, 02:37 PM
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but at least you have alerted others to the complications, frustrations and delays in the Italian immigration red tape.

Almost any country's immigration red tape as seen by the non-citizen.
Michael is offline  
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Feb 5th, 2014, 04:29 PM
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travelingpostdoc, I totally empathize, having gone through the process to get an Italian Visa.

I would also suggest talking to an expat group. I got some great help from these folks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/expatslivinginrome/

You might also go to the US consulate and ask if they can recommend any attorneys who speak English and deal with immigration issues.

Best of luck!
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Feb 13th, 2014, 02:43 PM
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Thanks everyone! We ended up being assured by the authorities that it was ok to come in and she would not be deported, as she just needed to apply to be allowed. Due to the type of visa application it was actually quite quick, as they didnt have to mail the packet from the postale.

So everything is good! Though the idoneità alloggiativa recipt was not enough, and though we applied we have to come back in with the full acceptance card, and one other non-listed form.
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Feb 13th, 2014, 04:56 PM
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I actually know someone who went through this process without the recent wedding but....

Three years later he was just 'illegal' in Italy. The whole thing was bizarre and she had a pile of documents that he carried around and everyone accepted at proof the 'system didn't work' When they went through the pile they agreed he was fine every time Strange!
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