This is Post 1 of the Integration Agreement (that your questura may not be informing you about)
My landlady hates it that I am considered an “immigrant” the same as the Africans and Bangladeshis and other huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Every time I’m in her car with her, she points them out. “Look,” She says, gesturing toward the young African guys pedaling past stalled traffic, “They are given bikes, cell phones, clothing, housing… and you, you have to pay all these fees for your permesso, you have to jump through so many hoops… Perche? Perche?” Her voice rises and her arms fling about.
“Because they’re refugees…” I pipe up. But I’ve said the wrong thing.
“MA RIFUGIATI DI CHE COSA?” She shrieks. “DI CHE COSA?” (Refugees from what? From what?)
“Well, uh, from dictators…”
“But you, you have two masters’ degrees, you’ve published a book. You’re, you’re AMERICAN.” She sputters.
The dermatologist has a similar response. During my appointment, the usual curiosity comes up about my move to Lucca, which leads to the fact that I am being sent to a course on Italian civic life for immigrants.
“You mean you’re lumped in with the immigrants from Asia, and North Africa?” He asks.
“Yes,” I nod. “The state doesn’t see any difference.”
“Ma c’e’ una bella differenza!” He replies raising his eyebrows and looking at me intently. (But there’s a significant difference.)
For the most part I am pleased to be an immigrant, pleased to be passing each station of the cross, to reach my goal. The other day I completed one such “station” by taking the class on civic life as part of my obligation to the integration agreement.
If you are a foreigner applying for your first permesso, and if you intend to reside for at least a year in Italy, you’ll sign an Integration Agreement at the questura during your permesso appointment.
This all started in 2012 but often it seems, the questura simply forgets to inform foreigners of this agreement. Thus many foreigners are either unaware of it, or unsure if they fall into the category of people who are supposed to sign it.
Technically all foreigners over sixteen years old who submit an application for a residence permit with a duration of at least one year need to sign it and accumulate points.
The only foreigners who are exempt from it are: those with disabilities that “severly” limit them; minors in foster care; and victims of trafficking/severe exploitation.
If you’ve not been asked to sign this, pay a visit to your questura. It’s better to get going on accumulating your points so that you don’t have a nasty surprise when it comes time to renew your permesso.
When you sign, you earn 16 points. The point system is a determinant in the renewal of your permesso. More on that below.
The civic life class is a one-time deal and you don’t have to study and there is no test.
You only have to show up, put on head phones, and listen to and watch, a video in your own language. They say this takes 5 hours but the man running my class was flexible about that.
In my class there were some girls from Bangladesh, a girl that I guess was from China or some where like that, a young woman who appeared to from the Middle East, and few young guys whose provenance I could not distinguish. It appeared that no one except me spoke Italian.
I was surprised to learn that we were supposed to listen to information for five hours. As a former college instructor, I know that the average person’s attention span for a lecture is 45 minutes– 60 max.
Tip: bring water and a snack to your civic life class.
The information started out with very basic things, such as:
– This is the Italian flag
– These are the regions of Italy
– All Italian citizens are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion, political opinion, personal and social conditions.
I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back, I went up to the man in charge (who was grading papers at a desk) and said to him, in Italian, that I did not expect any favors, but I just thought I’d let him know that I have a masters in Florentine Renaissance history, that I teach college and that I already know the information.
He was very relaxed about it and said he was fine with me getting through it less than 5 hours.
I did pay attention to parts that interested me, such as, there are 60.6 million inhabitants of Italy and 4.5 million are foreign citizens. More than half a million from Africa have arrived in Italy over the last three years.
There was a section of the audio course that went on for about 45 minutes about children going to school which I skipped as I don’t have children. It stated things that were obvious to me such as “Parents can ask for a meeting with teachers.” I guess this kind of information is not considered obvious for some immigrants.
The strangest part for me was the section on what a condominium is, how renters have to follow condominium rules and how they cannot hang fish or meat from a line on their porch because this will spread disease and the other tenants will be upset.
Clearly the makers of this video are talking to a specific section of immigrants here– to which I don’t belong.
OK, so back to what you need to know about this integration agreement:
You need to gain 30 credits within two years.
- You get 12 points for the civil life course.
- You get 24 points for demonstrating a level of Italian up to at least level A2. (you can show a language school certificate for this, or pass an exam.)
Those are the two mandatory ones.
You can also gain 4 points for choosing a general practitioner and 4 points for doing volunteer work. You can earn 6 points for buying a house, and enrolling in academic courses at universities can earn you up to 50 points.
If you do not participate in the civil life course you will lose 15 points. If you commit offenses you can lose a maximum of 25 points.
A month before the expiration of your permesso, the immigration desk does a verification by asking you to present documentation for your civic life class and your Italian language competency.
I was not given any documentation at the time of my civil class, although I did sign next to my name on a roll sheet. I will update you guys when I learn how I will prove that I took this course.
Tip: Start learning Italian before you move, or at least jump into classes as soon as you arrive so that you have plenty of time to learn enough to pass the exam, or enroll in a course that will give you the needed certificate.
This integration process may seem daunting or confusing right now, but as we say in Italy, piano piano. Just take it step by step, stay informed, and keep all your documentation.
To learn about earlier steps in the process go here.