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’.