I'm still struggling to come into this space and type words that make any sense but I'll give it a shot. We've got our residency, finally.
There's still so much to be done, and we can't really do much of that until they finalise how our address will be structured. Being given an address is one of the best things to come out of all of this - it legitimises our community - without it we'd no chance of getting residency. But the Italian structure for these things is interesting... we can't be given a certain format of address because we're not a road... we're not truly a square, either. So they're still figuring that bit out.
Without that address we can't register to vote or get a doctor or change our driving licenses or get our ID cards or do most of what we need to do because all of these things require our address, and changing an address after the fact is costly and time thirsty. So we need to wait a bit longer before we can fully start the process of becoming Italian residents.
Having the residency is a massive relief. It doesn't offer us much protection; it isnt citizenship. What it does do is stop us becoming illegals in the event of a no deal, and that's about it. We are at least on a par with other immigrants now. The EU27 haven't yet decided how they're go to manage all of the British citizens living in their countries and we're still very much in limbo. But at least we have this. It's the very minimum but we have it.
So far its cost us €7,000 - that's moving the business, getting married (we weren't planning either of these but our immigration status needed them); all of the back and forth in translating and legalising our documents. The actual residency application itself was free, it was everything we needed to do that cost.
Next up is sorting out a car. We were going to import our current one but a new eco tax has added an extra couple of grand to that, and we can't afford that option any more. The car side of things, including getting insurance (which we need to start from scratch) is going to cost in the region of €5,000 (this includes the transfer of details, converting drivers licences too) and that'll basically eat up the last of our life savings. So we've got to scrap our current car - which breaks our hearts, it's one of the most reliable vehicles we've ever had - and find something that we can afford locally. We're not towing trailers across the continent anymore and a smaller run-around will do for now.
Despite the huge financial and emotional costs, I'm looking forward to moving forward. We won't be coming back to the UK this summer. We can't really afford it anyway so if folks wanna see us, they know where we are, I guess. Doing our first full summer in Italy is gonna be a challenge but I'm up for it. Aran's very happy at the prospect of a whole summer with his friends.
This week I'll be doing our very last tax returns to HMRC and I'm mighty excited about that. That'll be one of the very last ties we cut and it feels pretty significant in my head. Its bye bye UK time, officially.
This boy of ours is 11 years old today - happy birthday Aran!
To celebrate, I've released a free pattern- 'Aran's Slouch' - and you can find it on the Free Patterns page. Usually members of The Woolly Hat Society get an exclusive period on free patterns yet this one's a little different, and I'd like folks to consider donating to their local kidney charity.
5 years ago Aran was living with chronic kidney disease having gone into renal failure a couple of months earlier on new year’s eve. Bronchial pneumonia hit boxing day 2013, which was preceded by impetigo. A post- strep complication led to acute PSGN (poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis) which was then further complicated by HSP (Henoch-Schonlein purpura). He was off school for months (the risk of infection was too great) and it would be at least another 18mths before he went into remission.
Kidney disease can recur and stay for life (it's not something you're ever entirely clear of), with a possibility of end stage kidney disease, so he continues to have his annual checks. We are mighty chuffed that he continues to be in good health and clear of kidney disease for the last 3.5yrs. Acute PSGN and HSP mostly affect children and the year that Aran had acute PSGN 19,000 people died worldwide from the disease... we were the lucky ones.
It's only really now that I can see just how hard this hit all of us. We were also facing eviction and we somehow all had to get through it and keep buoyant for Aran's sake. We got through it. Yet only a year after going into remission and winning the eviction case Brexit went & threw us back into uncertainty again... this week we should finally see some stability again.
Go and enjoy this pattern on us, wish our boy a happy 11th birthday and keep everything crossed for a successful residency application?
In the last couple of weeks we finally had what we thought to be the right documents together to apply for residency in Italy.
Government in Italy is decentralised, so whilst there may be lots of recommendations to read through about what may be required, the only advice that matters is to speak to the local comune (council). The comune are the ones who ultimately make the decision, and so they are the ones who should provide you with details of what you need.
So, having used the various online articles as a guide, I duly collected everything together. I got more than we needed just in case. Because I wanted to cast my net wide and make sure we had something of use.
Last week was our first attempt at applying. And the woman we encountered at the comune was as unhelpful as anyone can get. She basically threw the documents back at us, gave us an outline of what she thought we needed (which wasn’t much) and when we asked how to get that, she said she had no idea and bounced us towards the embassy. She should have been the one to provide us with concrete information, not pass the buck.
The embassy in Rome wasn’t much help. They couldn’t get me off the phone quick enough; they told me to go back to the comune. (the rumours we’ve heard about British citizens being let loose by their embassies are proving true. Thanks, UK government).
What we’ve needed is evidence that I pay tax. I have wage slips and and an employment contract and bank savings and everything we need to prove that we want to pay tax. I’m not daft, I know that I’m going to need to pay into the state to be able to get health cover et all. So I got it all together. I can prove that we won’t be a burden on the state.
What I hadn’t considered was something that’s so absurd you just wouldn’t.
As a non-resident, I’m not expected to pay tax on foreign earnings, which are what my earnings from my business come under. But there isn’t way to pay voluntary contributions. So I can’t get residency unless I prove I pay tax and I can’t pay tax because I’m not resident.
It is as ridiculous as it sounds.
We’re now working with a commercialista (accountant) who has confirmed this for us. Just about everyone in Italy has a commercialista because tax law is eye wateringly complex and this is the only way to cover yourself (also: benefits and health deductions are made against income tax; commercialistas don’t just deal with the self-employed).
So here we are, willing to pay tax but we can’t. There are thresholds in Italy for immigration and they’re no way near as high as the UK, and what I earn is sufficient for our family. But, y’know, I can’t pay. The comune have acknowledged that this catch-22 is a problem but that doesn’t really help us much.
So, our options are twofold.
Tom can get a job.
Employment contracts are the most straightforward way to get residency. Provided they’re an employment contract from an Italian company. However, unemployment is high and wages are low, and we know few people with a full-time wage that’s high enough to cover the immigration thresholds, so we don’t hold out much hope of Tom getting a contract in the next 55 days.
He does though only need a contract. That’s all it takes to get us residency. The contract could be terminated or cancelled as soon as we’ve got residency and that’s fine, because as soon as we have it we can fall back on my earnings and tax and still get health cover.
But that’s not a straightforward route. We’ll put feelers out, but we’re not expecting much.
The other option is private health insurance.
This would guarantee us residency but have you looked at the prices for PHI? Online quotes started at £10,000 before we even mentioned the pre-existing conditions for Aran and myself.
We don’t have £10,000 in the bank. That’s almost as much as it costs for us to live on in a single year.
Brexit has already cost us in excess of £5,000 and that cost is rising. I haven’t sat down and worked out the figures to date but I estimated it would cost us between £5,000 and £10,000 (which would eat all of our life savings, basically). Private health insurance would easily double that estimated cost and when you remember that it wasn’t that long ago that we as a family were living below the poverty line, you can perhaps imagine how much of a leap it would be to try and find that much money.
And how incredibly stressful this is.
I’m the sole wage earner, I have to manage the money and keep it coming in. I’m currently juggling tax laws in 3 different countries, and the residency laws of two. I’m trying to house, feed and clothe my family whilst also trying to recover from debilitating illness and some serious fucking anxiety and depression. You know all this.
Stressed doesn’t even cut it.
We’re waiting on a few phonecalls to see what our options are. A few more days in limbo, waiting, stressing, are nothing compared to the 952 days that we’ve waited so far.
I mean, what’s another breakdown? Another week of feeling helpless in the face of bureaucracy?
Fingers crossed that we can find a local PHI policy for under 4 figures, or a friend willing to draft a contract for Tom?
I’m often asked why we haven’t applied for residency before now. The main answer is because we didn’t need to. Freedom of Movement rights guaranteed our right to be here. I worked hard at maintaining my residency in the UK because that was the simplest thing to do. I’m not even trying to move my business to Italy, just legalise our lives here and it is impossible. Expensive. And absolutely fucking ludicrous. Why put yourself through all of this if you don’t need to?
I actually hear people asking me why we’ve not done something we didn’t need to do more than I hear people understand the depth of the situation we’re in because of Brexit. Whilst I understand many people now regret their vote, the end result is still the same to us. We’re just as screwed whether it’s regretted it or not.
Our Freedom of Movement rights protected us as we lived without an official address, as we lived between countries, and as I worked between countries. We cannot do any of that now because our rights are not going to be protected whether the current deal gets through parliament or not. The one right that matters most to British citizens living in the EU27 is Freedom of Movement and without that we’re all utterly screwed. We’re luckier than some; our home might be at risk but at least our family won’t be split. The UK press have happily glossed over what’s happening to British citizens out here and the general public are none the wiser. I can shout all I want from the rooftops that we’re definitely NOT going to be OK but is anyone actually listening?
The Italian authorities were one of the first EU27 governments to announce that in the event of a no-deal, anyone with residency would be able to keep their right to live in Italy. However, without residency and in the event of a no-deal, we’ll automatically become illegal citizens. I’ve said time and time again that residency is a process in Italy, it’s not automatic. Our history here doesn’t count for much.
There are plenty of people not willing to listen to the voices of those of us who are stuck in this situation. I would urge you to read anyway, because if you can understand just a little bit of what we’re going through and offer us something more than silence we’d appreciate the support.
I’ve had private messages asking how people can support us.
One thing you can do is scream about my work from the rooftops. I’ve a new collection coming out in a few weeks and any and all shares, shout-outs and reviews will help spread the word and hopefully generate more sales. I’m much more comfortable with this route than donations, but I’ll gladly accept any help.
When Inversion comes out (I’ve been so tangled in red tape that I haven’t even built a webpage for the book, let alone introduced the patterns here) shouting about it on Ravelry and helping it get onto the Hot Right Now page will be a massive help. I’ll stick all the links in my newsletter when it goes out, just to be sure.
The other thing you can do is donate, but I’m not very comfortable with that. The donation button can be found on any of the free pages - Free Patterns, Tutorials etc. Honestly though I’d really rather you bought a pattern or eBook or bought a pattern or eBook for someone else.
If and when we get residency sorted, I’ll let you know. Fingers crossed it’ll be ‘when’.
So it seems I’ve got lots to say but nothing at all, at the same time. Sitting here at this PC is not getting any easier, especially as I’m now withdrawing from the amitriptyline (and yes, I did taper off, over months, but I’ve come to understand that this is the norm for this medication.). The pain is now more noticeable but it’s manageable with the TENS machine and CBD oil is helping with the anxiety and panic attacks. And although I’m now getting more than 3hrs sleep a night I’m not getting the 9hrs or so that I need. But I am coming out the other side, slowly.
All that said, I’ve just ordered something that should make blogging that much easier. I manage so much more of my business on my phone than I ever thought I would, and I finally decided to prioritise that. Like a huge percentage of people I don’t have a phone to make phone calls. I loathe using the phone. And to everyone who says “what do you want a phone for then?” I’ll say it’s my portable camera. My networking device. My eBook reader. My calendar and organiser. My way to interact on social media. It is so, so many things beyond a phone.
Realising this, I figured I should upgrade. So I did.
Previously when I’ve needed a new phone I’ve gone for 2nd-hand most of the time, until recently. My last phone was bought new, as the previous phone decided to play up when I was on a teaching tour and needed a phone sharpish. The previous phone was also bought new, and I only bought that because I was heading off on a photoshoot and my previous phone had died. And each time I’ve bought new I’ve purchased something that hits the budget in the least possible way. Possibly ‘cos they were bought on the quick in emergency situations (where there’s little time to weigh up the specs and benefits) but also because I’ve never valued my phone as an integral part of business, and refused to spend much on one. After all, besides these mentioned purchases I’ve survived forever on 2nd-hand phones.
Now that I’m waged, I don’t see the purchase of a higher end phone as coming directly out of my pocket. Instead of seeing it as competition for food on the table, I can see it as an investment. Which is weird, but also progress. I’ve always tried to buy the best tech I can afford - laptop, PC, camera - but somehow I’d never thought to do the same with my phone. I don’t like to be replacing tech every couple of years; it’s an incredible waste on precious resources, not to mention a waste of money. So where I can, I buy thinking forward and get something that’s future proof. And also on sale! It’s paid off - my laptop is 8 years old and although it’s no longer my primary machine, it’s still a working beast. My camera is almost 4 years old and we’ve no need to replace it any time soon. I can see a pattern over the years, demonstrating how my business has grown, which is reflected through what I could afford to buy. For someone who started with a donated laptop and an old digital point and shoot, that’s been quite the journey.
And so I’m waiting for my new phone to arrive. And I’m ever so excited.
Instead of buying a digital notebook and a new, more powerful tablet and instead of buying a video recorder I’ve bought something that does all of these things in one device. It’ll also let me have a virtual desktop. I’ll be able to use it for power-points or slideshows when I’m teaching. In fact it has so many features that I need and could use to improve how I work that it didn’t take me any time at all to reach my decision.
I’ve bought a Galaxy Note 9 and despite everything I’ve written here, I still yelp a little at the cost. Even with the VAT off. But it’s going to be so worth it.
I’m feeling incredibly grateful and fortunate to be in a position to buy a phone like this outright. As I said, I started with nothing and have slowly moved forward, with careful saving and conscious purchases. So it might have taken 14 years to reach this point, but this point I have reached.
This wasn’t what I came here to say but I’ve blogged and I seem to have released some of the word tangle!