Some countries do care about children

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This is my brand new passport, with optical something and fingerprints. If you have small children and are thinking of claiming Italian citizenship because your great-great-great grandfather was born in the Belpaese, think twice. It turns out that Italian parents of children under 18 can’t get a passport without the written agreement of the person they had the children with. Which, in english, would be their…co-parent? I don’t know the appropriate word for that.

If you are married and see your husband/wife everyday it’s just a matter of paperwork and signatures as it was in my case and everything’s done in a few minutes. If you have a more complicated personal life and – say – had your children with partners you no longer talk to..then it’s better to resign to live at least a decade without much traveling.

I discovered all of this while queuing at the consulate to get my new passport and couldn’t be more surprised. First you have to consider the fact that the Italian consulate in Brussels is still the mirror of what Italy was in the 50s: a impoverished, post-war country whose less fortunate citizens emigrated to work hard jobs, as coal miners in southern Belgium. The building is frozen in the early XX century: endless queues, officials shouting, no privacy and a very mediterranean uncertainty on times and procedures. So I finally get in front of the passport official (it all looked very much as the American embassy in Teheran in the 70s as pictured in Argo) and she starts examining the paperwork. “Well, let me see…you have children…mmmh…but the father gives you permission to have a passport, that’s fine”.

I think it must be a joke. “Excuse-me, why do I need the father’s agreement? Isn’t that a bit…how can I say, pre-feminist? Or prehistorical?”

“Well, you need it in case you decide to abandon your children. You can’t leave the country without him knowing it”.

“Ehm…why doesn’t he need it though? He’s belgian and Belgium doesn’t ask my permission to give him a passport”

“Well, Italy cares very much about the future of children and aims to protect them from unresponsible parents. Probably Belgium thinks that children can end up in foster care while we want parents to take responsibility for them”. 

It’s exhilarating and deprived of any logic but the passport official is very, very sure of herself.

So sure that she doesn’t hesitate to give a cold shower to the guy next in line: he was half Italian (judging from his accent probably never lived in the country) and needed a passport. Too bad he also has two minor children with two different women residing in France and Africa. Even worse, he was barely talking to them.

“You don’t have the mothers’ agreement so I can’t give you a passport”, said the very confident passport lady.

“But…my children aren’t even italian! They have a French passport”

“Of course they are Italian! Aren’t you? Did you recognize them as your children, didn’t you? So, for us, they’re Italian and you need their mothers’ consent to have a passport”.

The guy was speechless. I felt for him, thinking of how he had to contact these past loves just to get out of the country. It is a very, very strange country.

But the good news is, I got a new passport to go to California! I’ll spend a couple of weeks between SFO and LAX, officially accompanying the husband on a business trip and unofficially scouting and visiting and discovering to see if I could actually imagine myself living there in a hopefully near future. I’ll try to post as much as I can once there, I’ll definitely have the time to. Wish me luck.

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