Live and Let NIE

20 April 2006

The Cheat's tale of trial and meditation: getting your NIE.

As you know, it is a legal requirement for foreigners in this country to sign up with the police and get an NIE (numero de identificación extranjero) alien identity card.  Without this you are a floating human, a nobody without access to anything.  Opening a bank account, registering a car, getting a mobile phone contract and just about anything requiring any degree of commitment demands that an identity card be shown, which is different for residents, nationals and registered aliens.

Now the deal is pretty simple, as far as bureaucracy is concerned.  You need two copies of your passport (and the original of course), four passport pictures, the filled in application and a copy (solicitude NIE), a small amount of cash and you’re off to the races.  You also need a legal reason for your request, such as studies, a job, or simply because you like it here and plan to stay past your visa.  These bits, the hardware, are altogether easy to sort out.  The hard part is physical, finding the patience and temperament to wait in a very long line with a few hundred other would-be expats to submit your application.

My personal experience was one of trial and meditation.  Trial because I had to get up and be there by 6am if I had any ambition of being served before they closed punctually at 2pm; meditative because standing outside in the cold for upwards of four or five hours requires you to be pretty self entertaining.  The first hour went by pretty slowly, because I was still fully conscious and mentally shifting back and forth between irritation and melancholy.  Then I began daydreaming of being on my racing bicycle, stamping the pedals up some challenging mountain road with the sun on my face and clean, fresh air sucking into my lungs.  This was the wrong thing to do, because all it did was serve to emphasize that cold, uncomfortable situation and made me wish I was someplace else.  Eventually I managed to mentally simulate the lung busting suffering of that climb, focussing intently on imagining every realistic detail of a physical experience.  This worked wonders, because I “tuned out” of the real world and was transported to the top of the mountain.  All of a sudden it was 9am, the doors opened, and in we went.

Inside the Oficina de Extranjeros, I took a number, found a seat and considered myself done.  The bicycle was put away; figuring that at this point it would be an hour, max, before my turn.  Sure enough, the first ten people or so were dealt with quickly, but then something bizarre happened: three of the four staff upped and left, at like 9:45.  Cheerfully, they donned their coats and wandered outside leaving one hapless dude with a bad Elvis haircut to deal with 80 immigrants.  I was flabbergasted.  Where the hell are they going, It’s not lunch yet?  About an hour later, two of them returned, and settled back into what can only be called a lethargic work pace.  Being a civil servant in Europe must be great.  My lawyer explained that they can’t be fired, and the benefits are tasty too.  An acquaintance of mine in the Netherlands once proudly boasted that she got 36 paid vacation days working for the Dutch government.  There’s motivation for you.

The truth of the matter is that getting this done is a royal pain, but do it you must.  Following this “formality”, you must then also make an appointment to request a residence permit.  I will not explain this now, because it’s 3:48, and I need a break.  I need to get out of here.  Be patient.  Settle down a while and wait.  We’re in Spain. 

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Comments on Live and Let NIE

schilly on 07 Jul, 2006
Spanish officialdom is only the same as British in that they are both ridiculous in different ways. I'm afraid that I tend to agree with the Cheat in that gaining an NIE is not easy - and if it was - you were lucky. Look at the requirements for documentation on various web sites, including the official Spanish ones and the Consulate - each differs. Each region is a law unto themselves and have different requirements. The 'lady' behind the desk, when you eventually get there, decides on your fate and there is no recourse. She makes up the rules. (I say ?she? as they were all woman and I?ve seen a few. I?m one by the way!) We have spent three days travelling Andalucia trying to get an NIE. Antequerra, Malaga....wrong address........go to Estepona, Torremolinos. Our correct province is Cordoba 2 hours away and 2 hours queuing if your lucky. The first time we were rudely thrown out as our evidence - an Escritura in our own names - we already have bought a property - was not 'evidence' of the requirement for an NIE. After consulting the local Notary who said this was rubbish we got a letter from our bank. Same trip again over six hours and this was OK but after the fuss about photos they weren't needed ? yet most ?official documentation? say they are. We were with someone else ? Spanish speaking agent (done this before) - who had properly documented power of attorney for her daughter by a notary.....same as a solicitor or anyone else that professes to provide the service of obtaining an NIE on your behalf. Not acceptable - get out - they wanted her daughter there in person. Nothing could persuade them otherwise. I have now read and heard lots of experiences in people gaining an NIE number. There is no consistency and no real organisation to the process. Our Notary is not the ?bloke down the pub? and outlined exactly what was required for us to get the number and pay the taxes due on our property. It made no difference what so ever at the Police Station. When I go for my car tax disc in the UK I don?t expect to travel for hours, queue for hours and when you finally get there be told that the MOT cert is not on the colour of paper that appeals to the person behind the counter. I would be really interested if someone had a link to the list of National Police Stations that services different areas. I found one but it was ?page not found?. When you are told to go to your local one believe me that is not always the case. Note: The rest of our experiences have been great and absolutely love the place but I?m afraid Spain you need to get your act together on this one.
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