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4 Ways Foreigners Can Conquer Italian Bureaucracy

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The Devil that lurks in disguise of Italian bureaucracy is real.  It’s a serious evil that everyone must endure and try to befriend if they’re going to make it in Italy.  Everything you do needs a form, a number, a receipt, an appointment, and a follow-up – scratch that, several follow-ups and then you can only hope that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Nothing makes sense, nothing is the same from one person to the next, nothing is done quickly and if you have a list of five chores to do in one day, if you get one completed you are doing well.

It is no joke.

The struggle with the Italian bureaucracy is what ends up getting most ex-pats in the end, especially if they don’t learn the language or have someone they can rely on for help. Changes to the system are frequent and information is not easily shared.  Even for Italians, it’s a minefield of nonsense, which has resulted in one of my friends carrying a binder full of legal directives to remind any official (including the police) of the laws.

But again, navigating the Italian bureaucracy is a necessary evil, that you must accept if you want to stay and enjoy the amazing lifestyle that this country has to offer.  To help you find the smoothest path to success, here are four tips on how you can manage this devil and come out of it with a bubbly glass (or two) of Prosecco on the other side.

Plan Ahead:  Know Your Comune

Surely you have spent a lot of time contemplating, evaluating, and planning for your big move to the Boot, and most of your energy has likely been spent on finding the right visa, a house to rent or buy, and learning how much you will pay in taxes.  But often the only preparation made to tackle the bureaucracy is – well a few posts on Facebook.

Every part of the settling-in process will be connected to your local Comune.  This is the Municipality where you intend to live.  The main offices that you will become very familiar with (and learn to hate like the rest of us) are the Anagrafe (vital stats office), Agenzia delle Entrate (tax office), and the Post Office (the devil’s lair).

Every Comune has different processes for every action.  Always contact the local offices where you intend to live before arriving to ensure that you have the correct documents and their process understood.

Do not expect the advice given in a Facebook post to be accurate.  Every single case is different and every single Comune is unique.  By doing this little bit of homework ahead of time, you will save a ton of time and frustration when you arrive. 

Save the Receipts

Italians love paper.  Only recently have some offices opened online application procedures and paperless processes, but it is still way behind what you may expect.

For every application, there will be a piece of paper.  Not just in bureaucracy, but in everyday life.  Receipts are gold in Italy, and they can save you from a world of frustration if you have to prove your whereabouts or stage in the process.

For example, you know those little cash register receipts you get for every espresso?  Those are very important as they account for the sales that the bar you bought your espresso from took that day. These numbers go directly to the tax office and by law, the bar must give you a receipt to prove they are claiming the sale.  And the police can check that you were given a receipt. 

The same will go with every part of your settling-in process. For example, when you apply for your Permesso di Soggiorno, you will get a receipt. Scan it or take a picture immediately and save it to your phone.  Then put the receipt somewhere very safe as originals are uber important here.  Whatever you do, do not lose it.  This goes for all receipts and paperwork you receive.  Head down to the 1 euro store and buy a big accordion folder and make a routine to save everything.

Get Help

For all of you DIY’ers out there, I hate to break it to you but there will come a time that you will need help.  If you speak fluent Italian the bureaucracy will be much easier, but you will still need help navigating the system at one stage or another. 

If you do not speak Italian, you will definitely need help as most of the government offices do not speak English and can be less than accommodating.  It is critical that you understand everything that you are doing and signing – and you will be asked to sign a lot of things.   

It’s ok to ask for help, whether it is from a new neighbor in your Comune or a professional service like ours, the point is to ask.   Get the help you need so that you can move forward with confidence that your legal status and registrations are correct.  Without it, you cannot access many of the benefits of living in Italy like healthcare, buying a car, reduced rates on your utilities, and more.

Change your Mindset

This is the single best piece of advice I can give you. 

Italy is not the USA, Canada, Australia, or the country you are from.  Italy is Italy and the moment you stop comparing it to your home country you will break through to a whole new level of happiness. 

Yes, I know, it sounds a little dramatic, but I can’t stress this enough.  If you try to find reason or logic or continue to ask yourself why is it done this way, why do you need all of these documents, why does it take this long you will never – move – forward.

You will find yourself amongst a group of foreigners who constantly complain about how nothing is how they want it or thought it would be.  This is toxic and it will not help you in any way.

My favorite quote is from Dalai Lama “If you can change it, don’t worry.  If you can’t change it, don’t worry” 

Embrace this, change your mindset and lean into your new life in Italy. You moved for an adventure, a change, and a new experience.  Enjoy it in its entirety, including the good, the bad, and the bureaucracy.

Here are more ways we can help you navigate the Italian bureaucracy :

Listen to Episode #5:   Five in Ten with Antonio Sardi, Italian Residency Expert answer five of our listener’s top questions in ten minutes or less.  He gives us his view of the biggest mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy.

Need 1:1 help?  We are happy to help guide you through all stages of your move to Italy all you need to do is ask.

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