I’m spending 2 years in Italy, and that means getting a Visa! Who would’ve thunk it would be a two-part process? Read more to find out about the first step in applying for a long-term Italian Visa!
As my first post on this blog, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about the
nightmare process of getting an Italian Visa.
To try and avoid an extremely long post, I figured it would be better for me to break this into two parts (Spoiler: the Visa process for somebody planning on doing a “transfer” type/Full Time University program instead of a regular study abroad is two parts) – I’ll explain a little more on this later.
Disclaimer #1: I am by no means an expert in the “field” of obtaining Visas. These are the steps I took in my process!
Since I’m doing a two-year program in Piacenza, I need a “long stay” Visa (any stay over 90 days is considered long stay). The form for this is called an “Application for National Visa D” (insert joke about getting the D here) and get be downloaded on the consulate website (this form was taken from the consulate in Boston – more on different consulates later).
As I stated earlier, getting a long stay Visa is a
complete bitch two-step process:
- Step 1: Declaration of Value
- Step 2: Actually applying to the Visa
Step 1: Declaration of Value
This step is to get you prepared to actually apply for your Visa. If you don’t have this step done, you can’t begin your Visa application (trust me – I tried). This is the step that I feel like I found the least information for online, so I actually ended up having to leave from my appointment in the consulate to get this step completed before returning again to a different consulate.
The first thing to do as part of this step is fill out an actual pre-enrollment form. In addition to the form, some Universities in Italy also have special requirements. Since I’m attending a Catholic University (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), they actually require a copy of a baptism certificate. Luckily, I was indeed baptized and my parents had my certificate in the house somewhere (go parents!) so this was easy for me. If you haven’t been baptized or don’t have a certificate just lying around in your house, you’ll have to meet with a priest to discuss Jesus or whatever. (Note: check with your University on this; some might not have this kind of requirement or it might differ!)
I didn’t have to do anything with this in my actual Visa appointment (I’ll let you know if that changes…), but I know that I’m going to have to bring that form and the documents listed by the University in Italy to Italy when I arrive. It’s probably a good thing just to get everything together earlier so you’re not scrambling around last minute to find all these things – especially if you have to schedule some time to meet with a priest if a Baptism certificate is one of your requirements and you don’t have one.
Ok. Now that you have God on your side, it’s time to go back to high school! Yes – high school. Remember that piece of paper you got that said you successfully completed the four worst years of your life (unless you somehow peaked in high school – in which case, I’m very sorry) that can also be known as a diploma? Yeah, you’re going to need your original diploma (and I’m serious about original… if you don’t have an original, you can have a copy made, but there’s this whole other process for it, so it’s just easier to use your original) AND an official transcript.
Now it’s time to start the party that’s called Obtaining a Declaration of Value, or if you want to get all Italian-like, the Dichiarazione di valore.
According to this website (which is pretty helpful if you’re studying in Italy, by the way):
The DV is an official document which provides a short description of a certain academic or professional qualification, awarded to a specific person by an institution belonging to an educational system other than the Italian one.
So basically, the DV is a document stating that you suffered for four years and received a diploma, and that the diploma you received is actually valid! This process is kind of a doozy, so buckle your seatbelts and hang with me.
Ok wait – before I actually get into this, remember when I said “more on different consulates later” somewhere earlier in this post? Here it is (pay attention): you’re going to have to go to the consulate that has jurisdiction over wherever you went to school. I go to college in Boston, but since I went to high school in New Jersey, the consulate that had jurisdiction over my school is the one in New York City. To find out which consulate has jurisdiction over your high school, you can go to this website.
Alright! Now, here’s the process to get a DV on your high school documents:
High School DV Process
Get your original diploma and your official transcript. The official transcript can usually be requested at your high school – if you’re not sure how to go about getting one, emailing your original high school guidance counselor to ask might be a good start.
Now both these documents need to be translated into Italian. If you’re not fluent in Italian like I am (just kidding – I can’t even roll my r’s), then you can either try to find a professor to translate for you, use a translation website, or some consulates have translation offices. I used rev.com for this – it’s kind of pricey ($33/page and their definition of a page is 250 words), but you get a certificate stating it’s an official translation and the turnaround time is 24-hours.
Take the original two documents (the English versions) to your high school. Yes, I told you earlier – you’re going to have to go back to your high school! You’re going to need to find the registrar AND a notary (and they can’t be the same person).
In order to get your DV, you’re going to need to get something called an apostille on them (I will explain later – don’t worry), and to get the apostille, you’re going to need some “fancy verbiage” on your documents from the registrar and a stamp from a notary.
Once you locate your registrar and a notary, you need to have them write out something similar to the following (taken from the website of the Italian consulate in Miami):
Example of Certification of authenticity by the Registrar:
This is the original Diploma / transcript issued by this school/University to ___ (full name of the student as it appears on the records) .
_______________________________________, The Registrar.
(Date, autograph and printed name of the Registrar)
Example of acknowledgment of the notary public:
On this day _________ of ________, 200__, before me came ___(full name of the Registrar whose signature has to be acknowledged ) _____ , to me known to be the individual who executed the foregoing instrument and acknowledged that he/she executed the same.
State of ________
County of _________
Notary commission expires on ____________
_______________________________________, Notary Public
(Date, autograph and printed name of the Registrar)
Note: Make sure you double check on this statement for whichever state office you go to! For the one in Massachusetts (I’ll explain why I’m talking about Massachusetts here later), this wasn’t enough for them to give me the apostille – the notary ALSO had to write something about satisfactory evidence of identification (bolded below). It isn’t explicit, but make sure the notary also writes down when his/her notary commission expires, their state, and their county. Here’s the statement required by the Secretary of the Commonwealth‘s office in MA:
On this ____________ day of ____________, 20______, before me, the undersigned Notary Public, personally appeared _______________ (name of document signer), proved to me through satisfactory evidence of identification, which were _________________, to be the person whose name is signed on the preceding or attached document, and acknowledged to me that (he) (she) signed it voluntarily for its stated purpose.
(as partner for ________________________ , a partnership) (as ________________ for_______________, a corporation) (as attorney in fact for __________________ , the principal) (as ________________ for _________ , (a) (the) ________
_________________ (official signature and seal of Notary)
After getting these fancy statements written on BOTH your original diploma and official transcript, you need to go and get these documents apostilled (not sure if this is an actual verb, but I’m using it as one henceforth). To do so, locate some kind of state department or office that does this. I know that’s not a helpful statement, but each state office is different, ok?
In New Jersey, I just went to this website and filled out the application form. It’s pretty easy to just use our friend Google to find out where to go for an apostille in your state (it has to be the same state your high school documents are from).
Note: BOTH your documents need their own separate apostilles – make sure you don’t detach them either!
Once you have an apostille and translations on both your diploma and transcript, check the website for the consulate that has jurisdiction over your high school for the specifics of what they require to obtain the DV. For the consulate in New York City, I had to mail those documents in a pre-paid envelope (I actually FedExed it through my advisor), along with a filled out application form and a copy of the first page of my passport.
Note: for this application form I selected option B.
Ok. Deep breath. Once you get your DV back for your high school documents (it took about a week for me to get mine back once the consulate in NYC received them in the mail), it’s time to DO THE SAME THING FOR YOUR COLLEGE DOCUMENTS!
Yes, you have to do this AGAIN, but for your college documents. And by college documents, I mean an official transcript, as well as a letter from the registrar stating that you completed three years of college (or however many years you did) and are eligible to complete your senior year (or whichever year is next) at the University in Italy.
The good news is that you should now be an expert at this process. The bad news is that you’ve had to become an expert at this process.
Note: I say three years above because I completed three at my University here in the US. I’m not sure if this process is the same for less/more years completed. I recommend that you call your consulate to find out because I had to call mine to find out.
College DV Process
Obtain an official transcript, as well as a letter from the registrar, as I just stated above.
Get these documents translated into Italian.
Go to the registrar’s office and have the registrar and a notary write the same statement as they had to write on your high school documents on BOTH the transcript and the letter from the registrar.
Get these documents apostilled – your transcript and your letter both need to have their own separate apostilles. DO NOT DETACH THE APOSTILLE FROM ANYTHING.
Note: Since I attend college in Boston, Massachusetts, I needed to go to the State Department of Massachusetts (I think it was specifically called the Secretary of the Commonwealth) to get the apostille on these. Make sure you’re going to the right State Department for whatever state you’re in. This is also where the note above about making sure you have the right verbiage comes into play – the exact wording I took from the consulate in Miami’s website DID NOT WORK in MA, so again, make sure you check your state department’s website!
Once you have the translations and apostilles on both, send them to the consulate with jurisdiction over your UNIVERSITY. Again, my University is in Boston, so the consulate with jurisdiction over my University is the one in Boston.
Once you have DV’s on both your high school and college documents, as well as the filled out pre-enrollment form and whatever other documents your University in Italy require for their pre-enrollment process, rejoice! Now you can start the ACTUAL Visa process!
SOME OTHER TIPS:
- Get this process started early!
- Although you’re kind of forced to wait to book an appointment, this process can be done early. It can be kind of time-consuming, especially when you have to deal with different consulates in different states like I did.
- Be patient!
- You’re probably going to have to explain why you need this verbiage on your original diploma to the people in the office at your high school. If they’re stubborn about “ruining the art of your diploma” (don’t ask because I don’t know either) like mine were, you can tell them why it needs to be done and that they can do it on the back.
- Do your research!
- This means looking online and checking with the state departments and the consulates. Like I mentioned, the State Department of New Jersey and Massachusetts had different verbiage they required for the apostilles. Check their websites!
- If possible, have a professor translate your documents for you!
- I used Rev because they were “professional,” but they were also pretty pricey. If you know any Italian professors or somebody who can translate these for you, it’ll save you a decent amount of money in the end.
Alright! That’s all I have for the DV for now. This process might make you want to scream (à la Mr. Krabs), so preparation and a good support system are key!
Stay tuned for Part 2. I promise it’ll be an adventure.