My italian passport expired years ago and I have never found the courage, time and patience to renew it.
We all know how italian bureaucracy can be a tad complex at times, therefore a trip to the Italian Consulate in Melbourne could potentially become a bureaucratic nightmare.
But where there is bureaucracy, there is a way to avoid it and, as all good italians, for years I had found a way to do so and still keep my passport up to date. I had “conoscescenze“, a friend who worked at the consulate and sorted out all my italian citizenship needs. Then, unfortunately, he was posted somewhere else and, with him, I lost all my privileges. My passport has being lying dormant since 2007.
There is no practical reason for me and my daughters to have an italian passport, we can easily travel with our australian ones but I like the idea of being able to go to Europe as a european and, this year, I decided I was going to renew our passports.
The first step is to make an appointment. I knew it might take a few months so, knowing that Julia will go to Europe next July for a gap year, I was very organised and went to make our appointments a few weeks ago, in August. There are option for single citizenship and double citizenship and the website kindly state that there might be a few months waiting for people with the double citizenship. First appointment …august 2015…in one year time!
I tried to call to ask if she could have an earlier appointment as she was planning to leave in July next year. But at the Italian Consulate they don’t answer phone calls. I emailed but I received an auto reply stating that the Italian Consulate doesn’t reply to emails. The appointment is the only way in!
A friend, italian of course, told me: no problem, just pretend to have only one citizenship. I followed her advise and yesterday I went to my appointment.
I did feel a bit nervous as, in my many years down under, I have become very good at respecting rules but I did feel entitled to be heard and I walked confidently to the counter. No one asked me about my double citizenship and before I knew it I was given some forms to fill and I was in!
The man across the desk was friendly but I immediately felt guilty and told him my secret. I had lied, I did have an australian passport but my daughter…He didn’t let me go any further and assured me there was no problem. He explained that as people with a double citizenship can use the australian passport to travel, they give priority to the single citizenship ones. It made perfect sense.
I had my old passport, I had my driving licence, I had my photos and my money (no credit card accepted!). I ticked all the boxes. Or so I thought. What I did not have was my husband’s permission. I haven’t asked my husbands permission for anything since…I guess I never did! Luckily I wasn’t the only one to find this a bit ridiculous, the kind man smiled and blamed our homeland bureaucracy and we laughed amicably and knowingly. He told me Nigel could print the form from their website, sign it and email it to me now. At my strange request for his permission to get my passport Nigel did not ask any question but I did hear him giggle quietly on the other end. He knew better then to make any comment. Needless to say, he did give me his permission and I came out with my brand, new passport!
Walking back to my car I thought about my morning. It hadn’t been as frustrating or time consuming as I thought it would be. I thought about the strange and apparently meaningless request, the rules that are there to be broken and the formal but conspiratorial attitude of the men working there. I had spent a morning in Italy, without even living the country!