How to get your Spanish residency card in 5 frustrating trips.

After you arrive in Spain on a non-lucrative visa, you have 30 days to apply for a residency card. You will feel as though this is plenty of time. But time somehow loses all meaning in Spain and, before you know it, you will realize that unless you get yourself to the Foreigner’s Office, you may be one traffic stop away from being kicked out of the country.

So here is my cautionary tale on how to get this all-important ID card. Be aware that this experience varies wildly for each person, depending on some mysterious spin of the Bureaucracy Wheel of  Fortune.

Viaje número uno:

  • Research, research, research. It will make you feel better. But understand that they will always ask you for some paperwork you don’t have.
  • Show up at the oficina de los extranjeros with all your paperwork, copies of all your paperwork, extra paperwork, and all of your identification. Explain to the gentleman in a suit at reception that you are there to make an appointment for your family. Take a number.
  • Wait for an hour and a half in a room reminiscent of the DMV, full of people from a variety of countries, all staring glumly at the number board.
  • When your number comes up, proceed to the appropriate desk.
  • Wait for the man to look through your paperwork. He will seem shocked that you, a foreigner, are there at the Foreigner’s Office. Try to explain that you would like to make an appointment for your family.
  • Follow the man back to the receptionist’s desk. Wait while they talk.
  • Follow the man to another desk. Wait while they talk.
  • Stand in bewilderment as the man leaves the room. Wait.
  • Follow the man back to his desk. Sit down and watch him shuffle your papers.
  • Follow the man back to the waiting room. Wait while he talks to another random person.
  • Follow the man back to the receptionist. Take back your papers. Gape when he tells you to come back in the morning. No appointments can be made at this time.
  • Walk home.
  • Drink wine.

Viaje número dos:

  • Bring the whole family before the office opens at 9am. Wait in line.
  • Tell the nice receptionist you are there to get residency cards for the whole family.
  • Take a number.
  • Wait.  Ignore arguing children.  Wait.  Drink instant coffee.  Wait.  Discover the toilets have no seats, or toilet paper.  Wait some more. 2015-10-24 11.56.25
  • When your number comes up, proceed to the appropriate desk. The man will seem shocked that you are there. Wait as he shuffles through your paperwork, talks to his co-worker, types on his computer, and sighs.
  • Brace yourself for the news that you will have to come back because you are missing X, Y and Z.
  • Make appointment.
  • Taxi home.

Segunda preparación:

  • Spend two days walking around town trying to find photo printer paper.
  • Spend one evening trying to print passport pictures and various other paperwork at the internet cafe. Freak out because the printer paper doesn’t work with their printer.  Find another cafe and start again.
  • Organize all the extra paperwork, photos, ID and copies with the previous extra paperwork, photos, IDs and copies.
  • Go to the bank to pay for the card fees.  It’s closed.  Because it’s 2pm.
  • Go to the bank another day.  Fill out more paperwork.
  • Walk home.
  • Drink wine.2015-10-23 20.18.24

Viaje número tres:

  • Arrive with the whole family for the big appointment.  Take a number.
  • Wait.
  • Watch an expat yell at her squirmy toddler, yell at the receptionist, yank her squirmy toddler’s arm, yell at an employee, smack her squirmy toddler, yell at a security guard, and then get kicked out.  Feel only empathy for everyone stuck in this place.
  • Wait.
  • See your number.  Proceed to the appropriate desk.  The man will seem shocked that you are there.
  • Work painstakingly through several communication gaps. Get fingerprinted. Get rebuked for the sub-par quality of the printed photos. Watch the employee type, shuffle papers, type, staple papers, type, paperclip papers.
  • Finally get the ok to leave and directions to come back in a month to pick up the cards.
  • Yay?

Viaje número cuatro:

  • Avoid thinking about the oficina de los extranjeros for 6 weeks.
  • Realize you actually need this all-important card, but can’t find a time after school to drag the whole family downtown.  Again.
  • Find a Friday with no after-school activities.
  • Pick up kids, taxi to the office.
  • CLOSED.  Because it’s Friday.
  • Bus home.
  • Drink wine.

Viaje número cinco:

  • Find a time between work, lunch, school, and clubs to run downtown.
  • Dare to feel hopeful when the Foreigner’s Office is open and empty.  Dare to feel cheerful that the employees are unsurprised to be waiting on actual foreigners.
  • Get  immediately sent to a desk.
  • Get fingerprinted.  Again.
  • Watch the man type, stare at the computer, type, stare, type, stare.
  • Collect your brand new Spanish Residency card.2015-11-10 14.32.52
  • Celebrate with café con leche and dulces.  And maybe wine.

5 Responses to “How to get your Spanish residency card in 5 frustrating trips.

  • Mom/Granny
    4 years ago

    Oh boy. That sounds like a huge hassle! I’m glad its over and hope you have some wine left!

  • Barbara
    4 years ago

    Haha. Sounds a bit like Panama

  • Grandma AVL
    4 years ago

    Good Lord, I had no idea that ex-pats needed so much patience.. .. I’m glad that wine is cheap there!!

  • Reminds me of when I was trying to get my bicycle racing license in France!

    I’ve been reading your posts and I can understand how frustrating things have been. Just remember that by the end of your year in Spain, you’ll be thinking about all the wonderful things about the area rather than all the small nuisances. As you make progress, they should warm up to you guys and recognize the efforts you have made. Violet and Graham look like they are loving it in Granada!

    Have a happy Thanksgiving and our love to all of you!

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