Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Italian Work Visa: Not for the faint of heart...

When I first came to Europe back in 1998 I came to Germany. While here, I kept hearing people referring to something called "German efficiency". For the life of me I just could not understand where the term came from because this country was far from efficient. Two years later I moved to Italy and immediately realized that, in comparison, Germany must seem to Europeans to be the most efficient place in the world.

During my 6 years in Italy I was constantly amazed at how disorganized and inefficient the country is. Most Americans that I worked with down there just could not get used to it and couldn't wait to leave. A select few of us learned to live with it and were the lucky ones. The past couple days however, my love of - and patience with - Italy was severely tested. Come with me now as I relive the tempestuous journey to receiving my Italian work visas...

It started several weeks ago when I was notified that I had been selected for my old job. I was given a litany of documents I had to acquire before I even applied for the work visa. I finally had everything I needed and emailed the Italian consulate in Frankfurt to set up my appointment. The gentleman I corresponded with was Signor Morganti who seemed very pleasant and helpful. My appointment was for Tuesday, October 28th at 1000. All of us had to apply in person so we got up early and jumped on the train. The visa applications that I carried had the address as 17 Beethovenstrasse so I had google-mapped it the day before and was happy to see that it was a walkable distance from the train station. Of course it rained so we got a bit wet. I was adamant that we be early to avert any last minute crises that might come up. We arrived on Beethovenstrasse at 0930 and all seemed well. Since we had a half hour til out appointment, we popped into a little cafe and got something to drink and a sandwich. As I'm paying for the sandwich I said to the girl "The Italian consulate is on this street, yeah?" She replied "Oh no, they moved a long time ago!".

Panic set in immediately as I tried to size up the situation. It was now 0940 and I only had 20 minutes to figure out where the consulate had moved to and then get all of us - including Luca, who was in a baby stroller - there. The girl says that she has been working there 4 years and the consulate had moved THREE YEARS AGO. I showed her the visa application that they had sent me which said Beethovenstrasse and she made a few comments about "Typical Italians...". Apparently we were not the first ones to make this mistake. Fortunately she knew where it had moved to and asked if she should call me a cab and assured me that the two kids would be able to ride in the cab so I agreed. The cab arrived and we rushed to get everyone in but we were blocking traffic and the cabbie was in such a hurry that we ended up riding all the way with both the X Man and Luca (in his car seat) unsecured in the backseat which made me very nervous. But we arrived at the consulate without incident.

We checked in and waited. Finally the old bald guy at the desk said "if you or the children need to go to the bathroom, please go now because in 5 minutes we will go downstairs and there is no bathroom there". 5 minutes later he took us downstairs where we joined a group of about 6 or 7 other people waiting. 10 minutes later Sr. Morganti came out and called my name and took us into his office. He spoke really good English but I still used my Italian as much as I could because that usually gets you better treatment. As he did the applications we bantered about his hometown of Bologna, soccer, Italy in general and things seemed to be going well. He finished up and said he was going to try and get them finished quickly but he had to take care of everyone else as well. I asked if we were going to get them back same day and he said probably. I was pleasantly surprised. It would be short lived. It was about 1045 by that time and all the other people that were in the waiting room with us were gone so I figured we wouldn't have to wait that long. So we waited. And waited. The X Man was getting bored so I started playing cars with him on the floor. We waited some more. I had to pee but there was no bathroom. We waited some more. Finally, sometime after noon, Sr. Morganti came out and asked me to follow him upstairs to the cashier to pay for the visas. I was elated as I thought sure I was going to have to make a return trip to Frankfurt a few days later when the visas were ready so the fact that we got them same day was great. But it was not to be. I paid the 300 euros (about $400) - visas cost 75 euro each - and then Sr. Morganti informed me that we could wait for the visas if we wanted to or come back. I said we'd come back after lunch and he said "No, sorry, the consulate is now closed so you must either wait now or come back tomorrow". I asked how long the wait would be and he got that classic Italian look and said he had a staff meeting and it would probably be at least 2 hours. The thought of waiting down in that room with two kids, nothing to eat, nothing to read, for another 2 hours...well, it just wasn't happening. I told him I would come back first thing in the morning and we left.

Thus ended day one of my Italian visa saga. Coming tomorrow: "Day Two"...

3 comments:

Michael said...

Sounds like standard crap you get from the (any) Consulate....

Makes me wonder if those people really have no common sense, that they think treating people like this is normal somehow... Then again, people in the government have always been rather special, people who are detached from the real world and it's procedings, always thinking of better ways to make useless things (which noone really cares about) better and spending too much money in doing it...

Sorry for the rant bud

Anonymous said...

that really "Grinds my Gears"

Peter Griffin

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