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Hundreds of residency permit applications — needed by all U.S. civilians living in Italy — are piling up at American bases throughout the country.

A policy that took effect Jan. 1 mandates that foreigners must now go to participating Italian post offices to obtain and file the applications. There is also a 30-euro application fee. In the past, Americans were able to file and get the applications on base and did not have to pay a fee.

U.S. troops are exempt from the permit, known as a soggiorno, but their families and American civilians working in Italy are not. The change affects thousands of Americans, many with ties to military bases.

Foreigners are required to carry the permits along with their passports. They are particularly important for those leaving or re-entering the country. A soggiorno is valid for several years and must be renewed when it expires.

A Web site partially operated by the Italian interior ministry — www.portaleimmigrazione.it/ImmigrazioneNET/Nuova_Procedura_en.aspx — says the revised policy is in response to European Union regulations requiring standardized permits for foreign residents.

Short-term stays by tourists are not affected, the Web site states.

The permit applications are being held at local bases while U.S. and Italian negotiators continue to talk about the issue.

“We have been working with the Italian government on this for some time,” said Ben Duffy, a public information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. “We are optimistic we will have a resolution satisfactory to both governments in the near future.”

Duffy declined to disclose any specifics about the discussions or characterize the U.S. position.

Military officials referred most questions on the issue to the embassy and directed civilians who need a new permit to contact their local base. A quick check of bases in Italy indicated that hundreds of civilians are currently waiting for an initial soggiorno or trying to renew one that has expired.

Capt. Melissa Waheibi, chief of public affairs at Aviano, said Tuesday that about 350 applications were on hold at Aviano. The base has established a waiting list. The Navy Legal Service office in Naples said about 300 applications are on hold.

Jon Fleshman, public affairs officer for U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza, declined to provide specific numbers, saying only “many applications are pending” at Caserma Ederle.

Bases have had different ways of helping the process along in the past. At Aviano, individuals scheduled specific times to meet with Italian police on base to submit or receive applications. In Vicenza and Naples, people took applications to a central facility on base and returned later to pick up permits.

Officials at Vicenza and Aviano say they are issuing notes to customers that indicate they have applied for the permit, which should be enough to allow them to travel in and out of the country until the issue is resolved.

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