Passing the passport test

In the previous episode of my SSL odyssey I accepted that StartSSL needs a secondary ID verification, and the only sane choice I could make was getting a passport, since I wouldn’t make use of a copy of my birth certificate for anything else. On the other hand, I knew the passport would have costed me not little, and as I made noticeable I’m not currently overflowing with cash.

Luckily – or so I thought at the time – the website of the Italian Police (the entity taking care of passports here) told me that I could get the EU-restricted passport for less than €50, and then extend it to the rest of the world once needed. I only needed to show up at the local Police command, with two photos, a compiled form, a current ID and a receipt for the wire transfer of €42,50 through the Italian Postal service.

A note here: for whatever reason, most of the payment for government documents and electricity/phone bills, the default system has been the Italian Postal service; it made sense as long as it was a government institution, but it has since become a private entity and it’s now actually a full-fledged bank. Unfortunately that also means that you have to pay them at least €1.1 – much more if you want to pay online with credit card or via your own bank – whereas the standard wire costs me just €1. But whatever.

Anyway, since today I was at a customer’s whose office is in the same block as the local Police office (as well as a post office), I made some time to deliver the documents. Unfortunately, as soon as I reached the office that takes care of passports; first I had to apologise for not bringing with me a photocopy of my ID card as the sign outside the door told me to do… the site didn’t talk about that. Then I asked for the EU-restricted passport, and they frowned at me.

Turns out that the EU-restricted passport is not going to be any useful: from one side, since June, they haven’t heard yet from the Ministry how they are supposed to amend the passports that gets upgraded to be usable anywhere in the world; from the other side, they told me some very scary things. For instance, even though Switzerland should be, as much as I know, part of the Schengen Area they told me that I could be asked for a passport at the Chiasso border, and if I were to present an EU-restricted (given that Switzerland is not part of EU), I’d receive a €300 fine. Or also, that the different text on the EU-restricted passport have stopped people from entering the United Kingdom before, because their text differed from the “regular” passports (and I can attest that the London Gatwick border guards tend to be … picky: I almost was unable to pass through last November, because my – dot matrix – paper-printed ID card was difficult to read and the guard couldn’t tell whether it was 1985 or 1995 on my birth date).

With all of this considered, I ended up requesting a standard, full passport, which required me to spend another €40.29 and will require me to spend as much each year to renew the validation. Now even the StartSSL certificate starts to appear not as cheap.

On the other hand I at least am not going to have trouble with the extended ID cards that a number of other people got; up to a few years ago, Italian ID and eID cards had five years validity and then expired; they changed it by law to ten years (even though I admit I would have done something like “five, then ten”, given that it’s released to sixteen years old, which definitely changed a lot by they time they reach 26 years of age). But for once they did it in a backward-applied way: old cards emitted with five years validity can be extended at t he local administrative office, usually with a stamp on the back of it (for the paper version — the eID cards, since they cannot be stamped, force you to keep with you an A4-printed certificate, way to go when you choose the eID for the smaller form factor!).

Unfortunately, the stamps and certificates are only written in Italian, so a number of Schengen area countries are known not to accept these extensions. So you either have to get a passport, or get the ID card renewed forcefully (which means paying €25 for the eID card, which is also the original reason to extend the validity from 5 to 10 years).

Sigh. Just gotta love the Italian system.