I have said it a couple times lately, so I will repeat it here: “you too can move to another country, but prepare to pay (a lot), request many permissions, and find yourself at the mercy of multiple bureaucracies.”
The process to obtain a student visa is generally not onerous. Most American students are traveling to an abroad program as a minor component to an American degree. When the post-secondary graduate-level degree will be Italian, not American, the story goes somewhat differently.
Enter the dichiarazione di valore. Translation: declaration of value.
Logically, it is hard to argue with the necessity of the destination country to properly vet a foreigner who will be entering, attending university, and obtaining a domestic master’s degree. With what certainty do they have that I am not an impostor? Never mind that a reputable private institution ranked 1st in Italy and 7th in the world for business degrees.
To ensure the integrity of the Italian system (and by association, the American system), one must provide four pieces of information to the relevant (jurisdictional) consular authority in the U.S.: original high school diploma, original high school transcripts, original college degree, and original college transcripts, along with various translations and course descriptions.
As a resident of Florida, that authority is the Italian Consulate in Miami. I made two trips down, the first of which had me waiting for three hours, while the second took only 30 minutes.
The overall speed and efficiency of these processes, in person or otherwise, varies widely. In Hillsborough County, I got my student records nearly overnight. Getting my original diploma required a visit to my high school registrar, who was inaccessible during the bout of extreme rain and flooding South Tampa has had over the last few weeks.
Luckily, I had my own copy from 2005, and presented it at the school for notarization with little issue. Being back at Henry B. Plant in the principal’s office was…unexpected.
New College was similarly painless, with nearly overnight notarized copies of my original bachelor’s degree and transcripts.
In a single package, all four of these items had to be sent to Tallahassee to be super-notarized (for international purposes), which is called an Apostille. Capital Connection provided two-day service for this, which was ~$250 including shipping.
Once I received these back from the Capital, I sent them to Miami for the D-V process to begin, which takes approximately one month.
Luckily, I was allowed to apply for and receive my visa before the completion of the D-V, which I am still waiting on and will likely receive once I am already in Italy. Though I was told the visa could take up to a week, the consolato turned it around in a single business day, so I received it on Monday.
Alas, the story is not over.
Once I arrive in Italy on Tuesday, September 1st, I am required to apply for a permit to stay, which involves visiting the post office first, and then the police station at a later date. Fellow students at Bocconi have forewarned that the best tone for any Italian post office is quiet persistence.
Throughout the last several months, I’ve encountered more official seals, stamps, and stickers, and been warned not to remove staples, or risk invalidating one of the controlled processes I’ve undertaken.
All told, including travel costs and several instances of overnight shipping, I spent at least $1,100 to obtain the visa, D-V, and that is with a 90% preparedness rate, working well ahead of time.
I’m lucky to have the funds to absorb these costs, and am on my way tomorrow to New York, where after a weekend in the city, I’ll be on a plane to Malpensa.
Stay tuned for updates from a different IP address! 🙂