The day finally arrived for my appointment at the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles, and I was ready. I had been worried for a while that my great-grandfather’s naturalization certificate wouldn’t arrive in time but it had, my translations were done and formatted and I had my money order in hand. Everything was organized with a table of contents and a list of discrepancies that the Consulate had already approved a few months before. The waiting was over.
I spent a long time deciding what to wear and wound up in the first thing I had tried on: a green, Audrey-Hepburn-esque dress with heels that were a little too high to ever be totally comfortable. I went through my folder one more time to make sure nothing had disappeared magically overnight and set out, leaving plenty of time for any possible traffic.
I got there ridiculously early. The LA Consulate is located in a normal office building, not any sort of independent structure. I checked in with security downstairs and took the elevator up to the 5th floor. The reception area I entered was one long room with plexiglass windows at each end. The windows on my right were empty so I walked over to a man at the furthest window to my left and told him I was checking in for a dual citizenship appointment.
“Raffaella will be right with you,” he said and pointed to the windows at the other end of the room.
My expectations of what this appointment would be were a little off-base. I had thought I would be taken into an office and there would be a short interview, they’d review my documents, ask me why I wanted to recognize my Italian citizenship, how I would use it, etc. Nope. When Raffaella came to the window she asked for documents one at a time, starting with my great-grandfather’s birth certificate, and I slipped them through the slot in the bottom of the window.
“It says his birthday was September 19th on his birth certificate but the naturalization certificate says September 17th…,” she said. She clicked her tongue. ”If everything else is in order we might be able to make that work. Marriage certificate.” I slipped the marriage certificate through, now a bit worried. I had sent through the list of discrepancies before receiving the naturalization certificate and never even checked it once it came in!
And now there was another problem.
“It says on his Italian birth certificate that he was married in Italy after your grandmother was born, but this marriage certificate doesn’t match,” Raffaella looked at me flatly, waiting for an explanation.
“The marriage in Italy was after my grandmother’s mother died,” I hurriedly tried to give a sequence of events. ”His first wife – who he married in the States – died and he went back to Italy to find a second wife, but she doesn’t have anything to do with me or my family line.”
I honestly hadn’t even realized his second marriage would be listed on his birth certificate! That document had been in Italian and didn’t need to be translated, so I hadn’t paid much attention to it.
The rest of the documents went through the slot and were inspected without comment. Raffaella took my great-grandmother’s death certificate (which, according to the website, wasn’t required – I was glad I had gotten it anyway!) but not her birth certificate and neither of my grandfather’s documents (non-Italian line), either.
She handed me a voter registration document and then it came time to give her the check.
“This is the wrong amount,” she said. ”It’s too much. My accountant won’t take it.”
I had had it made out for the amount that was on the website. Instead, as it turns out, I should’ve downloaded some sort of spreadsheet that listed a different amount and gotten the money order for that.
“Don’t worry,” she continued. “There are a lot of banks around here. Just come back up to the window when you get back.”
At least I didn’t have to make another appointment – six months from now! I thanked her and went back downstairs.
I walked around till I found a Bank of America but it was still early and they didn’t open till 10am. I sat outside for about a half an hour till they opened and got a cashier’s check for the proper amount, depositing the old money order back into my account.
Raffaella came right back out to the window when I checked in for the second time and took the new check. ”I’m the only one processing these now,” she said, “so it will probably be about 6-8 months before you get the email saying you’re documents have been processed. Then you can make a passport appointment.”
And that was it! It had been a relatively simple, straight-forward appointment and every had been incredibly nice. Now it’s just a waiting game… 6-8 months never seemed so long!