For those of us who have come to Italy using an Elective Residency visa, we know the frustrations and challenges of having to renew our Permesso di Soggiorno every year. And sometimes if you’re lucky, you might get a two year renewal, although there’s no logic or predictability to that. But after five years of living in Italy holding a Permesso di Soggiorno with an Elective Residency status, there’s the opportunity for us to apply for the “Permesso UE per Soggiornanti di Lungo Periodo”. (previously called the CARTA di Soggiorno). For simplicity in this blog, I’ll call it the “Long Term Permesso”. It requires no renewals except every 10 years a new picture must be updated.
I’ve designed this blog to chronicle my journey regarding the most important requirement in obtaining the Long Term Permesso for those of us under the Elective Residency visa- the dreaded Italian language test. (The test is apparently not required for foreigners married to Italians, or in Italy based on family relations.)
Applicants for the Long Term Permesso must demonstrate basic Italian language competency. This can be done by successfully passing an Italian language competency test at the A2 level. This is a national requirement, with the test being administered by the individual Questuras. (Note- The language requirement can also be met by taking authorized courses offered by local Questuras.)
REGISTERING FOR THE TEST
Applicants can register for the test online or seek assistance from an agency like, CGIL, Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro. CGIL helped me register to take the test. After registering, I was told I would receive a letter in the mail within 60 days with information regarding my test date and location. It took well over a month to get the letter, and my test date was approximately 30 days after receipt of the letter.
I initially bought two Italian language workbooks from Amazon.it specifically for the A2 level. I began working on the assignments in the workbooks. And I began studying with a friend.
In addition, I sought to find others that had taken the test by posting on Facebook groups for Expats in Italy. Two members responded, and were kind enough to not only message me, but to speak with me extensively via telephone. While they each had very different experiences of the test environment, both reported identical formats for the test itself. Their tests weren’t identical, but the format for the tests were. Both shared that the test consisted of two audio sections, two reading sections, and one writing section.
Finally, my study buddy discovered what appeared to be tests online that follow the format above. We found 20 tests on the internet that were paper and pencil, with the answers at the end. We also found 20 additional tests that were also online and were scored/corrected automatically online, and then four more tests in the format reported above. So online, I was able to access over 40 individual tests— each containing two audio sections, two reading sections, and one writing section.
As my test date was quickly approaching, I chose to focus exclusively on the sample tests. I did all 40+ tests, and was beginning to repeat them all again when my test date arrived.
TAKING THE TEST
The test location was about a 25-minute bus ride outside of my Questura. It was a very rural area with open land, and cows. I had to take two buses to get there. I left my town on the 5:15am bus – Just to be sure I’d get there by 9am testing time. Anyway, there were about 35 taking the test, I believe I was the only English speaker. Only about 8 women. It took over an hour for them to register everybody by calling us individually by name from their computer printout. Once they registered us in, they had us take a seat in the same room, so I was able to watch everyone else get registered. It was clear to me that most were struggling in simple Italian. Many didn’t even understand the directions given for them to fill in their name, sign, and date the registration form. We were all in a very well-appointed classroom. but extremely crowded. Three or four to a table. We were literally on top of one another. Two women were supervising the exam. They wanted the answers written in ink, and provided pens. I had also brought pencils with me.
The test was just as I had heard from others. It consisted of 2 audio sections, 2 reading sections, and one fill in the blank. It was just like the 40+ practice tests found online. And three or four of the sections were identical/similar to sample tests I’d taken from those 40+. The writing, or last section was filling out a form to request to take a camera class. Since I had completed about 42 different sample tests, I was quite comfortable with the format. And several of the test sections were similar to what I’d already practiced, so I was pleased. 😃 Note-The cheating was rampant. The woman next to me kept poking me trying to talk to me into giving answers. Test takers were talking, looking over each other‘s shoulders, and sliding papers from one to the other. It was so strange. For me it was frustrating, as I spent my career in education. Finally my seat mate gave up, and simply turned around and spoke to the people sitting behind her to get answers that she wanted. But it seemed to me it was the blind leading the blind, since I don’t believe many taking the test knew which way was up. Most seems to be struggling, even with simple directions that were given. The proctors were quite nice, but seemed to be very frustrated with the limited Italian by many in the group. The first two parts of the test were audio. They played the audio from a laptop computer. The audio quality was quite good, except that people were talking! They didn’t let us look at the questions to the audio sections until after they played the audio recording once. I found that frustrating, as we were to sit there and simply listen and try to remember all of the details, without even knowing the questions. So I took notes in the margins of the cover page in light pencil, to try remember the details of the audio. Then did the same for the second audio section, but by this time I was ahead of the game, and finish the first section early; and could read the questions for the second section before they played the audio. They played both audio sections twice.
IMPRESSIONS & TEST RESULTS
Overall, I thought I did well. At the end, they called us up individually to turn in our tests. No one questioned how they would get the results. When they finally called me, I asked in Italian, how do we get test results. They said they were NOT providing results. And I’d have to get them from my “patronato”?? When I told them I didn’t have one of those, they told me get results from the Questura. I told them the Questura never answers their phone, emails or faxes. But that I had registered for the test through the CGIL/INCA office. So they said for me to check with CGIL. Sheesh…
I returned to have lunch in the city where my Questura is located. And I waited for the Questura to open that afternoon, to see if I could get the test results. But it didn’t open. So I returned home, which put me about an 85 minute bus ride away from the Questura. But Tuesday’s the CGIL office is open in the morning— about 10 minutes from me by bus. I waited from Friday test day until Tuesday to find out the test results. The CGIL Office said results weren’t posted yet! I wasn’t able to find out the test results until 10 days after I took the test. But when I did, I passed! 😃
PAYING IT FORWARD
Special thanks to Kate, Claudia and Roberta for their kindness and generosity in sharing their experiences and resources. It made all the difference in the world to hear from others about the test, and study together, too.
And in the spirit of paying it forward- if you’d like assistance regarding the test, or weblinks to the online sample tests, email me at Lorozco14@yahoo.com