How I Cried my Way to a Permanent Residence in Italy

Spoiler: It didn’t help, it’s just how I felt

Sangeeta Kalsi
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readNov 13, 2023

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Line outside of the Immigration office, Florence, Italy
This is 7:30am outside the Questura di Firenze. We’ve been here since 6:00 am. It doesn’t open until 9:00 am. (Source: Author)

Pam*, the kind girl at the copy-place, refreshed the Poste Italiane page for the fifth time that morning, then turned to me with a lot of confusion in her eyes.

“I don’t think you can get that online identification number… even with all this paperwork you brought.”

That was the second time I burst into tears in the visa-permit-of-stay-residency process.

The first I ever cried about it was when I had stood in line for six hours with my extremely supportive partner, only to have the guy at the Questura (immigration office) shoo me away. I showed him the status-update section on the Questura’s official site that said my permit was ready. The permit I had applied for nearly two years ago. That I had been following up on for nearly two years. The site said it was ready. It was irrelevant, and “Why would I ever come to their office when nobody emailed me that I should?”

Because it had been two years. In those two years I had managed to get a full-time job, rented three homes, finish a degree, contribute to taxes, play plant-mom to over 60 plants, and learn Italian. But because I didn’t have this permit, I couldn’t convert it for work, which meant even after having graduated and gotten a job working in my sixth language, I was still a “student.” And there’s a cap on how much you get to earn as a student. As though we don’t have rents to pay, food to buy.

I was frustrated. I cried on the way to work.

My work was in a remote area between two cities — Pistoia and Prato. I was once a Florentine resident, but since that’s where work was, that’s where I went. I earned approximately $6/hour with a master’s degree — all because of a card that was ready to collect on the website, but not really because, “Where’s your appointment?”

My work told me they couldn’t pay me better because I didn’t have the right paperwork. The country told me they couldn’t give me paperwork. Other residents told me to just be patient or consider bribery. But everybody loved having this exotic Dubai-born Indian explaining projects in very basic Italian.

I was not allowed to be paid like…

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Sangeeta Kalsi
Human Parts

I write about art and society through the lens of an immigrant.