We have heard many stories in our Spanish visa journey. First, with our initial applications and then with our renewals. It’s always fun! But things are changing with COVID and the visa renewal processes. So I thought I would outline what we’re experiencing here.
First of all, we’ve heard that they’re going to ask for proof of having paid tax in the country for all those who are officially tax residents (reside more than 183 days per year). It’s been loosey-goosey in the enforcement of this for foreign residents. No more. It’s understandable. With so many out of work and drawing benefits, and with tax revenues down as all the tourists stayed away this year, they need the money. And if you’re going to live in a country, you should contribute to their tax system that pays for the health system, social security, roads, schools, the fire department. Stuff that makes life work, and bearable for the citizenry – especially in times like these.
But we were just notified – outside the renewal cycle – that we need to provide a fresh marriage certificate (apostilled) to prove we are still married. Wait, what? I mean, I know we’ve been locked up together, almost exclusively, for the past 6 months. Have there been tough days? Oh, yes! Some intermittent harsh words exchanged? ‘You changing out of those pajamas this week?’ or ‘Perhaps using a napkin may extend the life of that t-shirt past breakfast.’ Stuff like that. Days when we needed space, but there was none to be had? I knew it was bad when I started eyeing the roof top of a neighboring building and wondered if I timed it just right, and got a running start in the kitchen, if I could make it across the gap.
So, I get it. In the eyes of the Spanish Government there is a good chance that a)We’ve decided to call it quits. Or b)One of us is no longer breathing – and it wouldn’t have been Covid related. But I don’t get how a fresh marriage certificate – all the way from Washington State – would prove that we are, or are not, still together. Especially, since in the US they don’t link your marriage certificate to your divorce papers. It’s not a thing.
However, getting a fresh marriage certificate all the way from over here (stamped and certified/apostilled with a date in the last 3 months) is like finding a four leaf clover in the desert. Sure – you can order the marriage certificate. Wait for it to arrive – in this time of the US post office processing at a snails pace. But then you have to turn around and send it all the way back to the US to the Secretary of States office to get it apostilled. Then wait for the US mail to get it back. That’s a big time suck and we don’t have that kind of time to comply. And I’ve never done that from here before. But this is where the pros help.
Our Spanish lawyer got to sleuthing and she found out from the US embassy in Madrid that we could call one number back home and they would take care of it all for us – although the person on the other end of the phone in the US didn’t know this, and we went round and round for 30 minutes as I explained, repeatedly, that I am in Europe, and having her just mail me the unapostilled certificate didn’t solve my problem. Finally, I figured out that she was concerned ‘it is expensive to have us (the service) do the entire thing for you.’ I assured her that I would mine leprechaun gold at the end of a rainbow, and send it to her, if she did this for me. At long last, after a looong hold, she got it taken care of and we are in business. My advice on paying for good advice, and a good lawyer, in a foreign country is truer than ever before. Believe me.
So now we will get the proper, official docs sent off to satisfy the authorities. We are still legal residents of Spain. We have an apartment in Valencia – and pretty much everything we own is there – so we need to comply. We filed our Spanish taxes in total and on time, so no worries on that front. And, it turns out, we’re still married – after all this time. I’m sure the apostilled marriage certificate will tell us so. If you can survive a pandemic locked together in El Compartimento, you deserve more than a visa. You deserve a medal.
Update: It occurs to me why they may be asking for another certified copy of our marriage certificate. We’ve been asked so many times – at Drs appts, the eye glass place, anywhere we are together and are asked our full names – if we are brother and sister. We look nothing alike but this is because, in Spain, women do not have the same name as their husbands. Upon marriage, they keep all their own names. Their names include their mother’s and father’s last names. Maybe they think we are siblings instead of husband and wife. I don’t know if this is the reason but I woke up this am and it was the thought that popped into my head. You can read about Spanish naming conventions here