As I shared a couple of months ago, I hired a lawyer to help with my immigration to Italy (that STILL sounds crazy to say!). When we last left off, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and headed to the Los Angeles Italian Consulate, ready to get my visa application approved expediently.
Oh, sweet, naive baby.
Spoiler: I DID get my visa approved, but not without a lot of stress and impatience.
A Lesson in Italian Culture?
Besides hiring a lawyer who helped me prepare all the paperwork for my visa application (and there were REAMS), I am also a super-organized individual. I can't tell you how many times I visited the LA Consulate website to review and review again and review AGAIN the requirements I needed for my appointment.
So...yeah. I was pretty confident I had it all. In duplicate. Organized with paper clips.
When I arrived, I was directed to a glass booth with a grumpy-looking woman on the other side. I explained what I was there for and started sliding documents under the glass.
"What visa are you applying for?" she asked.
"A self-employment visa," I replied.
She snorted. "Good luck!" Clearly, she didn't mean it. (I later found out that Italians often don't say positive things because they don't want to bring the malocchio—evil eye—so they'll say the opposite of what they mean. I didn't get the sense she really wished me luck...)
She soon informed me I was missing a key document. I panicked and called my lawyer in the hall (and subsequently got locked out of the meeting), who then directed me to the necessary paperwork, which I had. I argued back and forth with the woman for the better part of an hour, insisting I had everything I needed.
She sighed. "I don't even care anymore." Presumably, she was referring to her thankless job. She made even the worst DMV employee look like an angel. At one point, when she heard her colleague speaking Spanish to a customer, she said (in Italian): "Why are you speaking Spanish? You need to be speaking Italian! Am I right?" She looked to me for affirmation, which, despite her coming off as a bit racist, I was eager to give, in the hopes of me finding favor with her. Ha.
After arguing yet another point, a family arrived in the waiting area, and she abruptly told me the appointment was over. "But signora, what can I do to finish my application?" I pleaded. She threw me a slip of paper with an email and phone number on it and said to follow up.
I left shaking. Near tears. But I was determined not to let this woman ruin things for me. She wasn't Italy, she was just a disgruntled employee who, I fervently hoped, wouldn't throw my application in the trash.
Italy, Let Me In!
After my lawyer sent an email with the missing information, I figured I'd have the visa and my passport within a week since the dragon lady said it should only take a few days.
The week came and went. Then did another. I really began to wonder if she'd trashed my application.
I sent an email inquiring about the status of my application. Crickets.
Then I called the number. Here's the kicker: they only answer calls about visas four days a week. For one hour. And you're on hold for 59 minutes. Their phone system is a farce: it tells you you're caller number three with 20 minutes remaining. Forty minutes later, you might get through.
When I finally did get through, the man transferred me. And the system hung up on me. Crap! By the time I got back in the queue (oddly caller number three yet again. Hmm...), the system shut down for the day.
Weirdly, when my lawyer sent a separate email requesting the status (in Italian), she got an answer. By then, the visa had been mailed, and now I have it in my hot little hands!
Tips for Dealing with the Los Angeles Consulate
I really hope you get to deal with a different consulate, but who knows if they're all so bad. There are a handful of Italian Consulates in the U.S., and each serves a different geographic area, so check to see where your nearest office is.
Book your appointment as soon as you can. There were no appointments available for a couple of months when I booked, so you'll need to allow enough time to get your appointment and then several weeks (took a month for me) to get the visa processed.
Email in Italian! Maybe that will get you an answer.
Be veeery polite to the dragon lady. It still won't help. Don't speak Spanish!
Have everything you need, based on the website. Print an extra copy, just in case.
Find out the year you got approved for the Decreto Flussi. That wasn't something I came with, and my lawyer had to inform them. I got it earlier this year, but it was actually under 2021.
Be patient. I tried. But just like in Italy, things don't go according to logic or take the time they say they will.
I'm relieved that the hard, stressful part is over (yeah, there's no more stress coming up with this move...is there??). Now it's time to sell all my worldly belongings and pack up a few boxes. Calabria, here I come!