U.S. soldiers in Italy

U.S. and Italy still at odds over permits process

Kent Harris
  The number of Americans living in Italy illegally continues to grow as a dispute over residency permits nears the six-month mark. Italy implemented sweeping changes to the process on Jan. 1. The United States objects to having Americans in military communities go through the process as it is proposed. Bases continue to accept permit applications, but they are holding onto them until the issue is resolved.
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Katherine Sharp, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, said negotiations were ongoing between the two countries and there were no new developments to share.

Caserma Ederle has 860 applicants pending, according to Jon Fleshman, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Garrison-Vicenza. That represents about 1,350 people, because children under the age of 14 are generally included on their parents’ permits. Aviano Air Base had 303 new applications pending and 141 requests for renewal in early June, according to Capt. Jennifer Ferrau, chief of public affairs for the 31st Fighter Wing.

Naval Air Station Sigonella is holding about 200 permits and Naval Support Activity Naples has about 375 on hold, according to Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Snyder, spokeswoman for Navy Region Europe.

Bases are supplying letters to those who have to travel without valid permits in an attempt to provide some documentation for Italian authorities when travelers return to Italy.

Attempts to reach Italian officials at the immigration office in Pordenone, responsible for Aviano, were unsuccessful. But according to a Web site set up by the Ministry of the Interior and Posteitaliane — the Italian postal service — the rules were established to conform to European Union regulations. A new card that can be read electronically also has been introduced.

A Permesso di Soggiorno is generally required for foreigners who plan to spend more than a few months in Italy. Technically, foreigners are supposed to have passports — with a soggiorno inside — with them at all times.

American active-duty military personnel, in the country under NATO auspices, are exempt. But family members and American civilians are not. Until this year, they received permits by meeting with Italian police officers on base or submitting paperwork to a designated military office. No fees were involved.

Under the process introduced by Italy, that would no longer be the case. Foreign residents are required to obtain application packets from participating post offices. The packets contain an eight-page application, a separate three-page application and three supporting documents. All are in Italian.

In addition to a 30-euro processing fee, applicants are required to obtain a 14-euro stamp for official documents — which can be bought at tobacco shops or newsstands — and pay a 27.50 euro fee for the new card. Applicants eventually would be notified by the local immigration office — each province has one — to pick up cards. They’ll need to bring four passport pictures. Applicants who aren’t EU citizens would be fingerprinted.

Stars and Stripes, European edition, Wednesday, June 20, 2007

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