Living in Rome
Yesterday was an important day for us: our babysitter, M, finally became a legal immigrant in Italy, after a long and arduous process lasting years. I got really emotional when the officer stamped her papers, as it was the culmination of years of frustrations, hopes, disappointment and struggle. After eight long years of living in Italy as a clandestine, she will be able to get social security coverage, open a bank account, and simply travel around the country without the fear of getting caught by the police. She will finally be able to visit her family in Senegal.
The whole process for becoming legal confirms all the clichés about Italian bureaucracy. It is unbearably slow and tiring, cumbersome as well as testing for one’s patience and energy level. We had to provide everything from ID, proof of residence, earnings, a registered list of family members as well as a detailed floor plan of the apartment we live in, all of that stamped by the local authorities. It must have taken me a total of at least 15 visits to the administration if not more, and I paid about 100 Euros in various stamps and disguised taxes to have these documents released.
To be legalised M had to find a family willing to help her with her application. She had been working with us for more than five years, so it wasn’t an issue for her, but I understand that it has become a whole business with some individuals charging immigrants for sponsoring them. M’s saving grace was the fact that the government issued an amnesty last September, which granted residence to all illegal immigrants already working with a family in Italy. We knew that this time she would finally become legal. We had submitted two applications before; the first one was rejected because she had once been caught without a permit to stay, while the second one is probably still being processed (it was filed before the amnesty was issued). Under the regular immigration process, sponsors have to declare that they want to “import” a worker from a third country. Everybody knows that the workers are already in Italy, but the whole process still has to be followed. Once the employer gets an appointment with the administration to check the documents, the employee has to fly back to his or her country of origin to present him or herself to the Italian Consulate there. They can re-enter Italy as a legal immigrant. By doing so, they usually lose a month to six weeks of work.
M has now to wait another six months to receive her residence permit which will allow her to exit and re-enter Italy as she wishes. She will finally be able to visit her family; she just has a little longer to wait.