Becoming an Expat in Italy? The Devil is in the Details.

expat in Italy

Your documents are plentiful. Make sure they all match!

When you take the steps to becoming an expat in Italy you’ll soon learn that there is a good bit of bureaucracy, which requires standing in line, quite often, and developing advanced skills in patience. Italians take their paperwork and processes seriously, and if you’re American, like me, you may be scratching your head in wonderment at all involved in the simplest of tasks. You may find yourself just wanting to “get it done”, but I encourage you to slow down and make sure, when you are getting things like your permesso di soggiorno, your carta d’identit√†, your driver’s license, etc., all your personal information lines up. If not, your journey to becoming an expat in Italy may be a bit painful.

I’m writing this post to spare you, hopefully, some of the difficulty I’m now encountering with my driver’s license, and my car registration. And, it’s all because of a missing suffix. So, if your passport includes Sr., Jr., II, III, be certain it doesn’t get missed in the process of having your documents issued. Suffixes truly are a odd thing here in Italy (as are middle names, as general rule). In my case, when my first residency card was issued the suffix of my name was dropped. Since the suffix isn’t actually part of my last name, but a way to distinguish me from my father, I didn’t think it would be such a big deal. It turned out to be a big deal, and I’m kicking myself for not checking closer and insisting on its inclusion.

The domino effect of missing details…

The good news is that I was able to get my residency details updated to reflect my name exactly as it reads on my passport. We called the comune office and explained the mistake, and they looked up the documentation I had provided at their office, including my passport and my permesso di soggiorno which DID have my full  name, including the suffix. Realizing their mistake, they changed my name in the system, and I was able to move my residency without issue (we moved our home base to Veneto last year).

But, the other necessities of being an expat in Italy involve buying and registering a car, and getting an Italian driver’s license (an adventure all its own – read my posts to learn more). And, guess what? My car registration and my driver’s license were modeled after my first residency card, without the suffix.

The problem came when I moved my residency north. I marveled that I had been able to get the suffix added successfully to my residency files, but when the comune here sought to move my car registration and license, everything came to screeching halt.

As an expat in Italy, your name has to align EXACTLY across all of your documents.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a suffix doesn’t matter. It does, as I am now learning. It IS currently being corrected on my car registration and driver’s license, but it’s costing me 190 euro, and several trips and calls to the local comune and the local auto agency. I couldn’t do anything until I received an official letter (with an official stamp) from my previous comune attesting that they had corrected my name.

Now, the other biggie for becoming an expat in Italy…

Your place of birth must appear consistently.

And, be prepared with documentation to back this up if things go awry. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have a single problem in this regard. But, I have friends who did run into a snag when they wanted to transfer their driver’s licenses from another EU country to Italy (they had resided there previously).

It’s a little confusing since some applications ask for “place” of birth, and other ask for “city” of birth. In the cases of not having three places to fill in city, state, and country, I’ve entered my state and country of birth. But, on my identity card, it lists my city.

So, my advice is to ask, each time, to be sure you’re providing the level of information they’re requesting. Otherwise, your application can hit a snag, as did for my friends.

Getting it fixed can be a headache, depending on with whom you are working. My friends went to one auto agency who told them it couldn’t be fixed, yet they persevered and found an agency willing to do the work on their behalf to make it happen successfully.

Be vigilant in paying attention to the details and all will be fine.

It’s easy, in my experience, to be a little afraid to ask questions when something doesn’t seem to have been done correctly. Processes can be confusing. Politely ask, if your details don’t appear correctly, and insist they be corrected, with equal politeness. After all, mistakes do happen everywhere in the world. But, in securing your status an expat in Italy, don’t let the accuracy of your personal data slide in the slightest, otherwise you could find yourself trying to untangle a mess!