Today, I’m going to talk about something everyone loves: Bureaucracy and paperwork!

Moving to Italy, I expected bureaucracy to be a little less frustrating than it had been when I was living in China. I expected that my job, which had hired me, would be responsible for knowing the process and having at least a basic list of all the items that I’d need before arriving in the country.

They did not.

Multiple aspects of my life in Italy have reminded me, time and time again, that this is not an organised country in any way humanly possible (unless, I guess, you count organised crime?). If there is a single website that is dedicated to explaining different processes from the government (i.e., documentation required for immigration, fingerprinting services for identification purposes), I never figured out the correct search phrase to input.

The paperwork required, regardless of the country, always feels like one bizarre extra step.

When I started the process to move to Italy for work, I knew that I had to get a lot of documentation. There were some obvious pieces of documentation, as per the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: a completed entry visa application for (only available in Italian), a recent passport-sized photograph, a valid passport with an expiry date three months after my visa, and a “nulla osta” for work.

I definitely had the passport, and the passport-sized photographs were pretty easy to obtain. I had no idea what I needed for my “nulla osta,” and I was struggling to fill out the entry application due to a language barrier. (Reminder: You do not need to speak Italian to move to Italy.)

I contacted the HR company working for my employer: “What are these? What do I need to do to get any of these things? Do I need something more?”

Their email was vague: “The lawyer will help you later. You need a declaration of valor.”

So I contacted them again: “Exactly what is a declaration of valor?”

Their response was infuriatingly curt: “You get it at a consulate.”

So I spent an evening searching for information on how to obtain a ‘declaration of valor,’ whatever that meant. It turned out that this is basically the way that Italy figures out your level of education in comparison to their system, despite the fact that there is no logical need to compare any of the school certifications you get. A high school diploma indicates that you completed high school, a Bachelor’s degree indicates you finished undergraduate studies, a Master’s degree indicates that you completed at least one kind of post-graduate studies. These things are not so different across the globe that they, from any country, really need to be evaluated in the immigration process.

So we start jumping through hoops.

Acquiring a ‘declaration of valor’ requires that you have all of your educational documentation evaluated against the Italian system, and it can be a lengthy process if you happen to have gone to schools in different jurisdictions. Which I did.

Anyway, what this means is that you can’t just get this at any Italian consulate; you have to get it at a very specific consulate that is “responsible” for your jurisdiction.

In more functional places, they may ask simply for your most recently acquired diploma. This would’ve been my Post-Graduate Diploma of Education and my Master of Environmental Management degrees. Except, Italy’s not really the most functional place. In order to evaluate my most advanced degree, I had to evaluate everything before it. Yes, everything! And that does include my high school diploma.

So the journey started:

First, I had to acquire copies of my transcripts and diplomas from my high school. This meant that someone had to go to my high school and put through a request to get these documents (because who the hell still has high school transcripts in their 30s?). These documents then needed to be notarised, in order to prove that they’re authentic (because apparently that is a thing that cannot be done when you receive them). After getting all of that, they then needed to be sent to have an Apostille attached to them so that the EU recognises that they’re authentic (because notarising them isn’t enough).

During the time that this was happening, my (very lovely) friend was translating copies of my high school paperwork into Italian so that we could send everything to the consulate to receive this ‘declaration of valor’ as soon as everything was returned. These would be sent to the Italian consulate in Chicago because my high school was in Illinois.

Oh, but there’s more!

Simultaneous to these events, I was also doing the same thing with my undergraduate university. At least with them, I was able to order copies of both my diplomas and transcripts online. These then needed to be notarised in Kentucky, as that is where I went to university. This started a fun process of:

Send degrees from Kentucky to Illinois (from the university).
Send degrees from Illinois to Kentucky (to receive notarisation).
Send degrees from Kentucky to Illinois (from the notary public).
Send degrees from Illinois to Kentucky (to receive the Apostille).
Send degrees from Kentucky to Illinois (from the Secretary of State).

The same friend translated these for me (because she’s super awesome). However, these would be sent to the Italian consulate in Detroit. However, they also needed to include the ‘declaration of valor’ for my high school diploma in order to be completed, meaning that we then had to wait to send these until the first one came back.

As I was living in China for all of this (because of my job at the time), my mother was amazing and took responsibility for handling everything for me.

Except, I had to continue with another process all at the same time with the Italian consulate in Sydney, where I completed my (really indebting) post-graduate studies. At least the Australian consulate was more logical than the United States consulate because:

United States consulates cannot, unless it is a federal document, provide notarisation services. This is ridiculous because there is literally no logical reason for this; they could easily contact the institution and verify its authenticity. This also includes Apostilles.
Australian consulates, on the other hand, complete Apostilles for all Australian documents, no questions asked. Just an abysmal fee for putting a sticker on a paper.

So I made an appointment with the Australian consulate, took my documents there and had Apostilles attached to my transcripts and diplomas (super ouch). These were kept for about a week and mailed back to me.

One more time, my friend translated the document for me. (Her patience throughout this process was so wonderful, and I would’ve struggled without her.)

While I was waiting for the translations, I contacted the Italian consulate in Sydney: “My diplomas are A3 and massive. I have certified copies from the Australian consulate, can I send those? They’re A4 and fit better into the envelope.”

The consulate responded: “Yes! As long as you have the Apostille copies for the immigration office in Italy, you can send us the certified copies instead.”

So I sent, via a lovely friend in Melbourne, all of my documentation for the Italian consulate in Sydney. I had to send it to her because the process required a registered envelope to send my documents back to me. You know, because the consulate doesn’t have enough money to spend on that when they charge you hundreds for an ultimately unnecessary process.

A week after everything arrived, they send me an email: “You need to send the Apostille copies.”

Quoting their email back at them, I ask: “Why did you tell me that I could send the certified copies instead?”

They respond, once more: “You need to send the Apostille copies.”

So I package my diplomas and send them to the consulate via a courier because they clearly weren’t going to change their mind on a second try, even if I quote them back the email that they sent to me. Italian institutions are really stubborn.

This entire process took roughly four months between all the sending paperwork between multiple places when, you know, the internet exists. Immigration bureaucracy is a ridiculous process; it doesn’t even seem to matter which country you’re in, but some are more ridiculous than others. All these rules to keep people out? It’s a little intense. And awful.

For those not keeping track, here’s the complete process of just doing my ‘declaration of valor’:

Go to high school to acquire diploma and transcripts.
Go to local notary public to notarise high school diploma and transcripts.
Send diploma and transcripts to Secretary of State (for Apostille).
Translate diploma and transcripts.
Send diploma, transcripts, and translations to Italian consulate in Chicago.
Order diplomas and transcripts from undergraduate university online (easiest part of the process).
Receive diplomas and transcripts in the mail.
Send them back to Kentucky to be notarised.
Receive the notarised copies.
Send them back to Kentucky again to get the Apostille from the Secretary of State.
Translate diplomas and transcripts.
Wait for and receive ‘declaration of valor’ for high school diploma and transcripts.
Send undergraduate diplomas, transcripts, and translations along with high school ‘declaration of valor’ to get the undergraduate ‘declaration of valor’ from Italian consulate in Detroit.
Go to Australian consulate to start the process of getting Apostille attached to postgraduate diplomas and transcripts.
Translate postgraduate diplomas and transcripts.
Receive the postgraduate diplomas and transcripts with Apostille.
Send everything to my friend in Australia so she could send everything with a paid registered envelope.
Friend sends everything to the Italian consulate in Sydney.
Fix the problems that the Italian consulate gave me because, hey, a certified copy totally is a forgery.
Wait for another month to receive postgraduate ‘declaration of valor’.

Comments are closed.