Teresa Giudice and her kids got a sad lesson about the crappy kind of red tape this holiday season ... the kind that'll keep them away from Joe Giudice for Christmas.
Sources familiar with the situation tell TMZ ... the snag came last month when Joe was transferred from a federal prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey to another facility in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Teresa had to submit new visitor forms for her and the kids.
Problem is ... the process that goes into approving the paperwork moves at a snail's pace and won't be ready until after Christmas.
Plan B for Teresa, her dad and the kids is a trip to Mexico. If all goes as planned, they'll celebrate Christmas with Joe in the New Year.
Until then, homemade Christmas cards headed for Pennsylvania will do.