Spanish Bureaucracy – Doing It Yourself

Since we started this journey in 2017, I’ve hired help. A LOT of help. Assistants, Gestorias, Abogados. I’ve almost never had to navigate getting documents or going to a government office alone with my sad Spanish. It’s a bridge too far.

Sure, I did go to the Jefatura de Trafico (DMV) by myself. And that gave me a bit of confidence I could do it. But Spanish bureaucracy is legend. Forms, stamps, tarifas (taxes). You need the right form(s) and to pay the tax for the service in advance at a local bank branch. And finally you need to get a stamp. You need to have booked una cita (an appointment online – well in advance). Then you turn up on the day and time. If you don’t know how to do it you can’t get what you need. But I’ve watched the professionals, and I’ve learned.

Our lawyer is in Barcelona. We live in Valencia – for the next 15 minutes. Our NIE cards are issued to our Valencia address and our padron (townhall certificate) is here too. So I have to get my Criminal History report from the Ministry of Justice here in Valencia. Have I ever done this before? No. It’s not the police station where you get your NIE cards and fingerprints taken on the outskirts of town. It’s down near Colon. My lawyer said I had to go asap but they couldn’t accompany me since they’re so far away. Covid. Ugh. So it was on me to get it done. New visa requirement.

So a month ago I got the first available appointment – one month out. I print the forms the lawyer sent me and I told myself I had plenty of time to pay the tax at the bank. But life got in the way and I found myself last night realizing I hadn’t done it. And my appointment was at 9:00 this am. Oops! Luckily, my bank opens at 8:15. And they’re two blocks from the Ministry. I was there when they opened.

Banks here are where you pay all your taxes. They’ll take the income tax directly from your bank account. But any time you visit a government office you have to pay a tax via a Modelo 790 form for that ministerial department, and you indicate the amount you need to pay based on what you’re having done. You must bring this form with the proper stamp from the bank to your appointment, demonstrating you have paid it in advance. No Modelo 790 – stamped? No Dice. You’ll go to the appointment and come out empty handed because they will not give you what you need. They don’t take money at most government offices (except the Jefatura). So be prepared.

Jeff and I walked down to Colon and I got my tax paid myself. For the first time ever. Then I stood in the loose group outside. Doesn’t matter that you have an appointment. There is still the ‘Ulitimo‘ game of who do you stand behind. Finally, at 9am the security guard opened the door and took everyone with a 9am appoint to check them off the list. I went in and because my appointment was actually at 9:10 I was asked to step outside for 30 seconds before she called me back in.

Senorita?’ She said as she waved me forward.

I haven’t been a Senorita in a very long time. But it made me smile. Maybe I should wear a mask even after. I was validated on her list (and personally by the senorita comment) and then climbed the stairs to the small waiting room. Even in the small space you are, again , validated by the receptionist and told to go to the kiosk to take a number. Sitting very, very socially distanced from other people. They only allow one person per row of tightly packed chairs. After 3 minutes I was called to a window where a woman who was having a very bad Friday ‘helped’ me. I explained that my Spanish isn’t good and begged for her patience. I understand more than I can speak. She grunted, then proceeded to complain about foreigners under her breath as she typed and finally gave me what I needed. I was out of there in by 9:15.

I hear people complain about Spanish bureaucracy. But I will say, in the the midst of Covid, these people know how to do it. It’s a lesson in industrial engineering. They limit entry but keep the flow going. Impressive. And I felt pretty proud of myself that I was able to navigate to get what I needed by doing it all myself. Every time you do something new – tackle the unknown – you gain confidence. It seems difficult at first. But in reality, it’s not so bad. Next time I’ll execute it like a pro.

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