“But if your parents are Italian, that means you can get citizenship, right?”
If only it were that easy! That’s what I thought while growing up. That everyone was just too lazy to haul ass to the Consulate in New York and get me my passport. By the time I finally made it when I was 21, they told me that I was too late. The laws had changed.
“Just marry an Italian,” the officer told me. “It’ll be easier.” I wanted to slap him across the face with a sword for denying me my birthright.
The law is that you can claim Italian citizenship through your ancestors as long as the tie had not been broken. But my parents were naturalised as US citizens in the 70s right before I was born. Back then, they had to give up their Italian citizenship in order to become American. So technically, I wasn’t born to Italian parents and couldn’t claim citizenship. But my siblings could because they were born when Mom and Papa were still Italian. So that means that their children could get it and their children’s children could and their children’s children children could. But I couldn’t.
This was a huge blow to me because all I wanted to do in my life was live in Italy. I spent my turbulent twenties travelling, teaching English and coming up with strategies, hitting walls, dealing with dejection and depression. I tried living in Mexico City, New York City, and Paris, but all of those places pissed me off for not being Italy.
Finally, in 2008, I said to myself, “Grow some balls, Giovan! Do it right!”
So I decided to do a masters in London and use that to get to Italy. So I went to London, wrote my dissertation on an Italian artist in Rome, and then moved there a year later to work with him. Through the Consulate in London (which was much friendlier than the one in New York) I got an elective residency visa which meant that I was able to live in Italy, but not work there. It wasn’t the greatest, but it did make me legal and I got my papers in order. I still worked though and got paid in cash teaching private English lessons and translating for the artist. I wasn’t happy about it and it made me feel like a drug dealer paying for everything in cash. It let me live though and I thought I could try to figure out another way to stay. After a year and a half, immigration laws across Europe were changing again and with no other prospects, I decided to move back to London just before they got rid of the post-study work visa which lets you work in the UK for two years.
It was a really hard decision because I loved Italy and Rome so much despite my heartbreak over love, intense solitude, and the soulcrushing bureacracy of Italian life and immigration issues. I was so close, but there was still a wall. I know that there are lots of expats that stick it out in Italy, but I was so afraid that if I gave up that life-raft of a UK visa that eventually I would have had to go back to New York, back to square one. And New York was even farther from Italy than London. So I went to London in order to figure out how to get back to Italy.
I got a job in London at a big company and when it came close to my visa expiring they told me that they couldn’t sponsor me for a new visa because the laws had changed again!
“Is there anything I can do from my end?” I asked HR.
“Do you have a boyfriend? Can you get married?,” she asked.
I wanted to rip open her button down shirt and puke down her tits. I sucked at love.
So the only other thing to do other than go back to New York was study again. So I got into another masters programme (I’m so smart now) and bought myself a visa and some more time.
UNTIL three weeks before I was due to start the programme, the university announced that they had been denied by the government to sponsor international students and that I as well as the other 4500 students had to find another university that would accept them or go home.
What’s amazing about all of this is that during this fiasco that gave me three months of the puke syndrome and insomnia, I met Davide, a dude from Italy that lived in London. And despite my freakouts and puking episodes and emotional storms, he liked me and wanted to hang around.
I was like, “Oh yeah? So marry me.”
And he was like, “Okay.”
Which made me puke some more because I didn’t want some weird reverse mail-order husband thing and a visa wedding. So I went back to school, calmed down, and two years later we got married.
In the end, I did what the douche at the Italian Consulate in New York told me to do a million years ago. I married an Italian.