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Our Italian ID Card Epic

Tomorrow, my Italian other half, our son, and myself, have to get up early to go through the ten minute process in Milan, Italy of applying for an identity card for our son.

To obtain the ID card for our child, either both his parents must be present or one parent and a witness is required.  It is best to get to the council offices which issue ID cards as early as possible to avoid long queues and waits.  We aim to be there at around 8:30am.

All things being well, my other half should arrive at work before 10am and I should be able to start some work at around the same time, even if I will have my BlackBerry with me so I’ll be able to do something while queuing.  Not everybody has smart phones, and nor do they work from home as I do.

Why it is not possible for one parent to go, possibly even without the child, I do not know.  The ID card application process could even be completed online with a little thought.  But no.  This is bureaucratic Italy.  My Italian other half tells me it has to be done this way, basically because Italy’s citizens cannot be trusted to obtain an ID card without trying on some fiddle or other.  To prevent fiddling more or less the whole family has to turn up in person.   I was told I could go with my son and pick someone at the council offices to act as a witness.  This is OK, and, apparently, more or less fiddle-proof.  Eh?  What?  Sticks finger in ear and wiggles it.

Italy may have forgotten that with the current system, fake parents, with fake IDs and with a (fake?!) child who is not their own, could fiddle the system by applying for a real ID card, or a fake one.


The really crazy thing is that the local council already have all the information they could possibly need to know that my son is my son, aside from a photograph.  They know where he lives, they know who he lives with, and they know where he goes to school.  My son also has a ‘codice fiscale’ which everybody in Italy obtains more or less at birth.  There is also his birth certificate, a copy of which is held in some safe official location guarded by bureaucrat, I believe.  Italy even knows that I officially ‘recognized’ that my child is, er, mine.  However even with all this information at their disposal, the council still needs the child, or children (a few people do have more than one in Italy), to turn up with both parents or a witness.  What a huge waste of time, and money.

Assuming both parents work, at least one has to potentially take time off work to obtain an ID card.  Seeing as council offices do not, generally, open at weekends, children needing ID cards may even have to take time of school to obtain one.  Indeed, children would have to take a whole day off school if the queues turned out to be too long and the child or children did not make it to the school, or schools, in time.  This means one parent may need to stay at home with them, maybe.  Owing to the unpredictable nature of the queues, the parents concerned will not know whether they will have to stay at home until it is too late.  Because of this risk, it is likely that one parent would take a day off work.  Obviously the situation is simpler for stay at home mothers.  If, however, mother or father works, there will be a cost in terms of productivity.  Single parents can have real problems.

We are lucky as we live relatively close to the centre of town where the council offices are located, but what happens if someone works outside town or does not live close to a major council office?  In this case those concerned may have to take a morning off work to complete a process which, after queuing, only takes around 10 minutes or so.  Note that many council offices in Italy only open in the mornings and very few open at weekends.

Mission Accomplished – Three Queues Later

We got to the council offices in central Milan before opening time and there was already a queue of around 40 or so people waiting to get in.  That was queue one.

Next was queue two which was for the ticket to allow us to go and wait in queue three.  It only took a couple of minutes to be issued with the requisite ticket.  We had number 33.

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Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

Luckily, and as was the case when I went to renew my own Italian ID card, the wait in queue three was not a long one.  After our number had come up, we, as the child’s parents, had to show our own ID cards, hand over a couple of photographs of our son, pay around €5.50, and my son’s new, and first, ID card became reality.  All rather painless and quick too.  We’ll have to go back in five years time to renew the card.

The whole process, not including getting there and back, took around 30 minutes, despite the council worker at the counter wandering off for a few minutes for whatever reason.  Probably a visit to the ladies room.  Who knows, we were not told.

We were very lucky because we live in Milan, a city which is, by Italian standards, a model of efficiency.  Via Twitter, others, not from Milan, told me of four month waits and multiple return trips before ID cards were issued.

Italy’s ID card issuing system could be changed to avoid time wasting, sometimes repeated, trips and queuing altogether.

Schools Could Issue ID Cards in Italy

With a little thought, Italy’s schools could automatically issue ID cards (or ID card/passports – see later) for children.  The children could bring them home, or, in the case of really young children, the parents could pick up the ID cards from the school office or classroom.  Just imagine how much time this would save.

It would be hard for someone to fiddle such a system to obtain an ID card for someone who is not their real child.  I have no idea why someone would want to fiddle the ID card system in this way, except perhaps in order to carry out some benefit fraud or other.  Even so, by cross referencing address, parental recognition documents, health card and school information, plus the child’s birth certificate it would not be easy to pull off a fiddle.  The school could even take the requisite photos, perhaps when the annual class photo session takes place.  Alternatively, parents could be asked to supply a photograph.  The child’s teachers should be able to see whether the child in the photograph is similar to the one they teach every day.  Teachers could even sign the photographs to certify their veracity.

Too Simple for Italy

Simplifying the system is far too simple for Italy, a nation which seems to relish unnecessary complexity and does not trust its population either.

By the way, I have to renew my passport – I am English, not Italian.  All I have to do is fill out a couple of forms, attach my birth certificate and supply a photograph signed by a professional who has known me for some time.  I simply send the form and information off to Paris and the job is done.  My new passport will be posted to me.

Actually, Italians may actually need two IDs – an ID card and a passport.  While Italy’s ID cards can be used for travel in Europe and to some other countries too, only a full-blown passport can be used for travel outside Europe.  This means many Italians have to have both a passport and an ID card.  Why doesn’t Italy simply issue passports which double as an ID cards?  Who knows, but it would not be such a bad idea, now would it?  Incidentally, getting a passport is even more fiddly and time consuming in Italy than obtaining an ID card.  Passports also cost considerably more.  Admittedly, passports are more bulky to carry around than Italy’s small ID cards, but even so, with a little thought, surely this problem can be overcome.

Will Italy ever combine ID cards and passports?  Yes, probably, the day you see a flying pig ;)  Such is incredible Italy.

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