Get organized, get prepared.

The process of (legally) being able to live and work in Italy for a year was exhausting and stressful.   I had my documents in order, organized, collated, indexed and bound months before I departed Toronto.  If you are in the process of doing the same, heed my warning.  When you arrive here in Italy, get ready for your head to spin as you hit obstacle after obstacle and so called ‘red tape’ as you attempt to get such simple documents as a Carta D’Identita and a Permesso di Soggiorno.

Let’s start at the beginning, which for me, was about 6 months ago (Summer of 2015).  I made the decision that I wanted to spend a year in Italy, get back to my roots.  I had hit a rut in life, personally and professionally, and wanted (needed) a change.  I decided that teaching English would surely be an adventure and I was ready to face the challenge head-on.  First things first, I started to squirrel away cash, knowing that the Canadian Dollar was really low and I would need a substantial amount of savings before making this leap.  I then contacted the Consulate of Italy in Toronto to figure out how I could do this all legally.  I did not hold dual citizenship, (..it’s a work in progress at the time of this blog) so I needed to apply and be approved for a visa.  The working-holiday visa, which is an agreement between the Canadian and Italian governments, offers the opportunity for young people aged 18-35 (phew, just made the cut) to legally stay and work in Italy for 365 days.  This visa is granted to only 1,000 Canadians per year and the paperwork that is needed to go along with it is quite substantial.  Off the top of my head you’ll need:

  • Proof of accommodation in Italy (either a rental agreement or proof of support/sponsorship in Italy) *Catch 22: Most people will not rent you an apartment on a long term basis in Italy unless you have a valid and legal visa for the length of your stay.  You need this proof of accommodation to qualify for this visa…round and round we go!
  • A proof of minimum 2,400 Euro (3,500 CDN $) saved or available in credit (you’ll have to show last 3 months worth of bank statements, credit card statements, letter from the bank etc.) *Please save up more than this…trust me.  Have at least $10,000 CDN available either in credit or savings before you even consider doing this
  • Have proof of  Health Insurance Plan ($5 million minimum coverage) to cover any and all health related issues that could happen while you are here
  • A decent CV * You have to show them you’re actually going to contribute to society
  • Have a valid Passport, be a Canadian Citizen, no outstanding warrants
  • Agree to register with the police once you arrive in Italy
  • Agree to pay the required taxes once you arrive in Italy
  • Agree to apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno within 8 days of arriving in Italy
  • Show proof of airline booking (either return ticket or open ended ticket)
  • Complete the application form, pay the cost of the Visa *not refundable if your application gets denied FYI

**Check your local Italian Consulate’s Website for more information (I may have missed something or some things may have changed)

The documents seem straightforward enough, but dealing with the Italian Consulate in Toronto can be a daunting task.  One tiny error on any of the required documents and you can say ciao to your application and the money you spent on it.  Forget about calling the consulate if you have questions or concerns.  They will not answer the phone and the office hours are very….European.  Use the online system to book your appointment once you have all your documents in order, don’t be late, dress nicely (devi fare una bella figura) and good luck.

Throughout this visa application process I was also obtaining my TEFL/TESOL Certificate with the International TEFL Academy based in Chicago.  There will be another blog with more detail on that, but I really enjoyed the course and took a lot away from it.  I highly recommend you get properly certified by a reputable school before heading abroad.  It will cost you a little bit, but you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later if you have a good name behind your certification.

So to sum it up, from August to December 2015 I was applying for the visa, getting my TEFL/TESOL Certification, trying to rent out my condo, then move out of my condo, preparing to resign from my job, getting other legal affairs in order before leaving the country for a year (advising OHIP, Gov’t of Canada) and having to come to terms with being away from my family for a whole year.  There were a lot of pressure and a few sleepless nights trying to ensure that all my bases were covered.

I never doubted this decision though, not even when things got a bit stressful.  Believe me when I say there was not one moment of hesitation.  I was all in.

Wrapping up my second week here in Florence (third week in Italy since I spent a week in the south with family) my mind is just as sure as it was when this all started.

Stay tuned to see if that changes…(I hope not)

Until the next blog, baci sempre a tutti.

Image credit: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/passport

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