We love living in Spain. From the wonderful people to the incredible food, there is so much to enjoy. But, when you get here, you’ll run into some red tape. And even the most patient Zen monk may occasionally curse under their breath!
We’ve lived here for 6 years now, and we’ve chatted with many people who have made a new home in Spain. We’ve learnt a lot, and here are our top tips to avoid Spanish immigration frustration or for keeping that frustration to a minimum.
The law of “Falta Uno”.
Falta uno means ‘missing one’. The law states that in any interaction, you’ll be missing one thing you need. A document, translation, copy, or something – always one. And that means another appointment and another visit. It’s so well known that some Spanish comedians produced this hilarious video.
Behind the law is an unbending process. And the people who work in the office must follow the process, even if they know it is crazy. So how do you defeat Falta uno?
Be like the lady in the video and get prepared. We carry a folder with a range of documents plus copies and translations to every appointment. It has passports, padrón, TIEs, and more along regardless. We carry marriage certificates and birth certificates. We double-check what we need and take everything anyway. Belt and braces all the way!
We’ve always had lovely people trying to help – nothing like the guy in the video! And they’re delighted when you produce the obscure copy that you cunningly have brought along.
Nothing happens in August.
August is for living. It is for heading to the beach, spending time with your family, and getting away from it all. And government departments follow that instruction to the letter. If you try to get something done in August, there is no one around to do it.
If you need something in August, get it done in July. Because if you don’t, you’ll be waiting until September.
Not all documents are created equal.
Visa and residency applications need documents to meet specific standards. When you are gathering your documentation, check to see which of these apply.
Many documents must be no more than three months old when you submit them.
Some copies must be Apostilled. This is an international convention to protect from fraud. A copy in your home country may not meet the standard in Spain. The original and copy must sometimes be shown, and the coy retained.
Many applications need official certified translations of your documentation. You may need to provide both the original and translation together.
A good Spanish immigration lawyer should be able to tell you precisely what is required.
The difference between an abogado/gestor/notario/asesor fiscal/procurador.
A game this complex needs many players. Here are some of the jobs that you may encounter on your journey through the Spanish immigration system.
- Abogado – this is a lawyer and fulfils a similar role to other countries. Some are generalist, while others specialize in areas like immigration.
- Gestor – think of this as your red tape ninja. A gestor mages administrative and state-related paperwork. A good one will know the best way to navigate local, regional, and national bureaucracy.
- Notario – A notario is a lawyer with an additional qualification. They are private professionals who administer some of the state’s legal responsibilities. They interpret, daft, certify, and authenticate public documents.
- Fiscal Asesor – A financial or tax advisor
- Procurador – This is a legal assistant with responsibilities around preparing and presenting legal documentation.
Here are some of the Spanish Immigration terms that you’ll encounter.
- Visa – Your visa is your permission to enter Spain. Visas vary and give you different rights and responsibilities.
- Residence permit – Once in Spain, you’ll need to register as being resident. Your resident permit is proof of this. You may be able to apply for permanent residency in some cases.
- NIE – Número de identidad de extranjero (Foreigners’ Identification Number) is your number in the tax system. You’ll use this number for opening a bank account, signing for deliveries and everything in between. (Locals have a DNI, so if someone asks for your “dee-ne-ee”, give them your NIE.)
- TIE – Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero (Foreigners’ Identification Card). This card has your address, NIE, photo, and signature. If someone asks to see your NIE or DNI, show them this.
- Padrón – The Certificado de Empadronamiento. You need to register with the local municipality once you have an address. This is the document to show you have done so.
- Social security number – Número de afiliación de la seguridad social. If you work in Spain or pay into the fund, you’ll be eligible for a social security number and card. You’ll need this to access public healthcare and other public services.
- TSI – Targeta sanitària individual is your public health card. It allows you to use public health services anywhere in Spain.
- Digital certificate – The certificado electrónico is a digital ID you install on your PC. It allows you e-sign documents, access tax and social security records, and much more. It removes many hours of queues and many frustrating interactions from your life!
Now you can relax and get on with loving your new life.
We may not all be Zen monks, but we hope this guide goes some way to helping you stay cool and calm throughout. And remember, the occasional Spanish immigration frustration is so worth it to live in this beautiful country.
A veteran of six moves abroad, now happily living in Spain (but secretly planning the next adventure.) Helping other do the same with his business Where Can I Live.