Changes in Immigration Law - Getting a Non-EU spouse a residence permit
Posted: 22 August 2012 03:14 PM  
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Joined  2012-08-21

SpainExpat’s website has greatly helped my husband and I this year while going through the process of getting married in Spain and applying for a residence permit. I’m a US citizen married to a Spanish citizen. While almost everything was accurate that we read here, there have been a few recent changes to Spain’s immigration laws as well as changes in timing and I thought other couples might find our experience helpful. So I wanted to share what we learned….


The law in Spain changed in July (although retroactive to April!) that all couples applying for a residence card for their EU spouse need to show documentation of sufficient funds and health insurance valid in Spain.

Because this law is recently changed and because the people in the immigration office are required to revisit all applications back through April 2012, they are way behind. Before this all applications were processed within 3 months. Now I am told that it will be more likely 6months.

For us, the timing of everything was a bit different than posted in this article:

Application for our civil union (from the time we asked for the appointment until the actual appointment was two months.)

After the appointment it took 3 and a half weeks for the judge to approve our civil union application.

Once we had the approval we hand delivered it to the ayuntamiento in the town we wanted to be married in and asked for a wedding date. They were able to give us a date for the following week.

After the marriage we applied for an appointment for a residence card. The earliest available appointment was 5 months later. In retrospect, we could have made the appointment even before we were married (I was told you couldn’t do this, but it turns out you can….especially because the wait for a residence permit appointment is so long.)

In the meantime I applied for a social security card and empadronamiento. These were both very quick and I recieved the papers on the spot.

Finally the date for my residence card appointment came around and we went with all the papers and copies of everything. This was important. Including copies of every page of my passport. The man informed me that because we’re married it’s a sure bet - gave me an NIE number and said congrats and told me to wait in the mail for info about getting my fingerprints made at the police station.

Two months went by and I didn’t hear anything. I went to the office and they said just to wait, everything is fine. A week later I got a letter stating I need to submit my health insurance information (and proof it is valid here in Spain) As well as proof of my husband’s financial assets. They give you ten days to submit everything and if you don’t make the deadline your entire application is void.

We faxed everything and waited. We called to make sure they recieved the fax. Supposedly yes. We went to the office a few weeks later and asked in person. Oh, no there was a confusion with their fax machine. So we gave them copies of everything again. At this point they informed us about the change in law and that no one was going to have their permits approved before the original 3 month waiting period. (Even though it says in print that they are required to process all requests within 3 months) So anyone applying now is going to be stuck in this process. Everything is backlogged. So plan for extra time.

All in all, I started gathering the paperwork needed for marriage last August (2011). We were married in January, and am still waiting for approval of my residence permit (and it’s august 2012)We have followed all the steps, have a very simple and straight forward case. So if you’re entering this process plan atleast 1.5 years of dealing with everything. If you have a more complicated situation, plan for even more time. And know that things change all the time, especially in times like these. You might be following one set of rules and regulations only to find out that politicians have changed the game (and made it retroactive to boot.)

Good luck!

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Posted: 24 August 2012 08:47 AM  
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Joined  2012-08-24

Thanks for sharing your experience. Mind if I ask where you applied for the tarjeta? Will be going through the same process soon and any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Posted: 31 October 2012 06:09 PM  
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Joined  2012-08-21

Hi newinbcn,

I went through the whole process in Madrid. I used the office in Alcobendas on Calle del Fuego for my application. The National Police is right down the street and there is also a photocopy shop on the same street too….which ended up all being a huge time saver. I finally got my application approved. Went to the police station to get my fingerprints and everything, waited 45 days for the card to be ready. When I picked it up they had spelled my husbands name wrong, so then I had to go back to the immigration office to have them fix the error and then return to the police station to redo everything. Meanwhile, both the immigration office and police just argued about whose had made the typo in the first place and whether it was really even necessary to fix the mistake. Every step of the way there has been a problem. Between laws changing or funcionarios making spelling mistakes, or not knowing what to do. You have to be on top of everything and keep all your papers well organized and in one place (and everytime you go to an office, bring all your papers.) Maybe you’ll have an easier time than me, atleast I hope so. I’d also suggest getting everything in writing. Even if you just write it on a piece of paper yourself, with the date, time, location, and the name of the funcionario (clerk) and make sure that the clerk knows you are taking note of everything. Every office and personnel I talked to told me a different story and a different process. Oh and one other piece of advice, sometimes it is helpful to threaten to bring your lawyer (even if you don’t have one). Somehow that gets the funcionarios working. And also a friendly reminder to them that it’s their job to help you in this process and find answers and solutions, not to tell you they don’t know or it’s impossible. And never be too shy to ask and speak with their supervisor. It’s usually always good to be the nice guy, but for this process I’d suggest to be extremely assertive and at times necessary to be a bit challenging.

Good luck to you!

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Posted: 10 November 2012 02:35 PM  
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Total Posts:  2
Joined  2012-08-24

Hi Saminspain,

Thanks for the detailed response on your experience in Madrid. It’s actually quite surprising just how divergent our experiences were in applying for the same documentation. I’ll recount my experience in case it is helpful to others.

I submitted my application in Barcelona in the middle of September soon after my arrival; I made the appointment a few weeks before leaving the states.

Round 1 took place in C/ Murcia where I arrived at 7 am for an 8 am appointment. There were already 15 people ahead of me and by the time the doors opened at 7:45, the line was around the corner. One thing I did not expect was for the officers at the front door to demand to see confirmation of the appointment. Those who didn’t have it with them were asked to step out of line until they’d dealt with everyone who did have the appointment letter with them. The appointment was then re-verified once inside the building, which won you the first of two numbers. The first is a the general waiting number, while the second number is specific to the type of application you are making, communitario versus some other card. This system, I think, in addition to the 8 am appointment time, was the reason I was in and out of the office in 30 minutes. At the desk, the lady who helped me asked me a total of three questions: arrival date, marriage date,  and if had my partner’s original DNI: luckily I had it, even though the document check list states DNI OR the registration letter, which I took to mean the empadronaminento letter). What was interesting is that even though I had all the financial and health insurance documents (with a billion copies to boot), she barely took notice of them. She then stamped one of the application forms and gave me a letter for me to appear at the police station on C/Guadalajara exactly three weeks later. I received the “resuelto favorable” online 5 days after the first appointment.

Round 2: C/Guadalajara, where after two hours of waiting (I made the mistake of appearing at noon) I was the last person to be seen at 1400. I would strongly agree with the others who’ve posted about the waiting experience…a survival kit of some sort that includes water, books and a snack is necessary. Here, like at the C/ Murcia office, you get two numbers, the first you get once you arrive and take a sit in the car garage/waiting room, while the second will direct you to a particular office and tell you your place in line once there. Once infront of a live person, the process was pretty fast and painless: the gentleman looked at the documents, took my finger prints, handed me both the resguardo (receipt) and the Modelo 790-012 to pay the tax, and sent me along on my way. When I asked if he had any idea when the card would be ready, he said about a month. Three weeks later this I went to the bank and paid the tax. A week later I decided to go check if the card was available to pick up.

Round 3: C/ Mallorca 213. Here I arrived exactly one month after the appointment at C/ Guadalajara and within 5 minutes, had the tarjeta in my hands. The only question asked was whether it was my first card or a renewal.

In all, I’m glad and somewhat surprised to say that the entire process, from the first appointment in September to the collection of the card, took me 7 weeks. With the new requirements and the backlog that others have described on various blogs and forums, I fully expected the process to take several months. 

If there’s anything that I’ve forgotten to mention that people would like to know, please send me a message. Also, if you’ve gone through the process, please share your experience . These forums, I think, are especially helpful and give a general sense of what to expect.

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