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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.

Comments 9
  1. And I thought UK passports were expensive (At £50 for 10 years). That much each year just seems to be extortion.

  2. Just so you know: the annual fee must be payed only if you actually use the passport to travel outside the EU _in that year_. Think of it as an “expatriation tax”.Buona fortuna con la burocrazia 🙂

  3. Where “outside the EU” means Switzerland as well.. it’s still quite silly.

  4. That’s just crazy… here the regular (biometric) passport is 15 LVL (about 21 EUR) though it takes up to 20 days to be prepared and the really fast version (within 2 days) is 50 LVL (or 70 EUR).And to top it off usually they’re usable for at least 5 years (depending on age it can be from 1 to 10 years, iirc) with no additional costs or restrictions on destinations.Also there is no point in having already taken photos with you as you’re photographed on the spot and everything is done in digital format (same for driver’s ID).In other words, Italy sounds like a major ripoff.

  5. That Switzerland part sound extremely like FUD to me.Particularly since I don’t think the Swiss are required to always carry a passport with them, so while in some situations it can get quite inconvenient, not having any passport or other ID (except drivers license) with you should be completely acceptable.Honestly, considering how little of a clue those people usually have about the regulations of their own country that should affect their day-to-day work (_very_ little for most) I think it’s reasonable to assume that whenever they say something about a foreign country it’s just plain nonsense.However the UK is really ridiculous, I wonder how many people there really think their paranoia is worth the massive cost (the few British I know at least don’t think so).

  6. Reimar, they didn’t say anything about the _Swiss_ authorities bothering me (or giving me a fine), but rather the _Italian_ ones at the border…

  7. Oh. Well, the same applies to Italy. Also, the Schengen agreement says that _national_ ID cards must be sufficient within the area, so EU-wide ones certainly have to be as well.Not to mention that any kind of systematic passport controls at the border would violate the agreement on its own.Obviously none of this means they won’t try to fine you anyway and I doubt you are very keen of wasting your time and money arguing it in court 🙂

  8. I even have to report all the invoices to Switzerland separately from the other ones, within the EU or not, because they are blacklisted. Sigh!

  9. Confermo tutto quello che ti hanno scritto gli altri: 1) per andare in Svizzera basta la carta d’identità; 2) i 40 euro di marca da bollo vanno pagati solo se visiti un paese non Schengen. Non devi pagarli quindi se usi il passaporto solo per andare in Svizzera o Francia. Aggiungo che la marca da bollo viene controllata solo negli aeroporti italiani, e praticamente tutti gli italiani residenti all’estero girano il mondo tranquillamente senza (credo che per procurarsela si debba andare in ambasciata/consolato).Per quanto riguarda i controlli alla frontiera, effettivamente alla dogana di Chiasso sono relativamente comuni (visto che comunque gli svizzeri devono piazzare la polizia per controllarti il tagliando autostradale), sia per la polizia italiana sia per quella svizzera. Ma quando ero lavoratore frontaliere mi era più comoda una dogana esterna all’autostrada, e sono stato controllato 3 volte in cinque anni (quasi sempre con la scusa che avevo un faro rotto o cose simili).(English summary: 1) no ID card for Switzerland, 2) Jacopo was right about the tax, it’s only for non-Schengen trips and is anyway checked only by Italian airport officers, 3) checks at the Chiasso Italian-Swiss border do happen with the excuse of the highway sticker, but they are not so common and hardly present if the customs is not on a highway).

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