“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 was crushed and 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 has 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. And that means that their children can get it and their children’s children can and their children’s children children can. 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 traveling, 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. 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 and at the time much smaller and more personable as there were less Italians living in the UK during those years) 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 I felt 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 to make because I loved Italy and Rome so much despite my heartbreak over love, intense solitude, and the soul crushing bureaucracy 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 slide down the chair until the floor and cry my guts out. 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 got myself a student visa and got some more time to think.
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 international 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, my Marituccio, a sweet man 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, “O really? You might have to marry me.”
And he was like, “Sure.”
Which made me freak out a bit because I didn’t want 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 jerk at the Italian Consulate in New York told me to do a million years ago. I married an Italian.
But HAH! You think that’s the end of it, but it’s not!
Because three years after we got married, Brexit happened. And suddenly my EU family member residency permit didn’t look so stable anymore. In fact, everything was up in the air about what was going to happen to EU citizens in the UK. No one was rushing to kick us out, but we were sad and disappointed and I was back to the familiar feeling of uncertainty over my immigration status and sense of home, we both said, ‘Hey, isn’t this the best reason to move back to Italy?’
So in November 2017, we packed up our things and got a van to drive our stuff to Italy and we moved to Ischia, a small island in the bay of Naples, where we both work now. It’s taken me 10 years to get to this point, but I finally feel like I’m allowed to make this place my home.