I had my immigration appointment and since Jeff had to pick up his new card he went with me to help me. We went at the appointed time, but right out of the gate they were backed up. I had to get into the line for those who needed to be fingerprinted. Jeff was in a different line for those picking cards. Our experience this time varied greatly from those in the past.
You need an appointment but you will not gather in front of the building. They make you stand far away. Its all very unorganizedly organized. It works, but since none of us go there, except every 2 years or so, we have no idea how.
My side was running a half hour behind but Jeff´s perked right along. I watched him go in after waiting his turn. Everyone came out. No Jeff. This seemed strange to me as he was just picking up the card. All the hard work had already been done. Applications, Approvals, photos and fingerprints. He´d already run the gauntlet when he’d gone last time and they didn´t want to give him the card he´d already been approved for by the Ministry of the Interior. A supervisor had to come over and intervene on his behalf.
Finally, he came out as I was still waiting to go inside on this bitterly cold day. I should have worn my Canada Goose coat, hat, gloves and warm boots. He said his card was on the top. The first one but they wouldn´t give it to him. It took three people to agree that he was entitled to receive the card. They kept telling him it wasn´t correct since his old card was ´Non-lucrativo´ and this one was for permission to work. He said there was a lot of typing going on for just checking his old card and handing him the new one. It would be foreshadowing for me.
I was finally waved in and handed over my documents. Luckily, I had brought along a spare padron, even though my lawyer hadn´t said I would need that, but in my experience I always need a fresh padron. As a reminder, in Spain or anywhere in Europe, you register with the town hall. They issue a document that says they claim you and that you´re legit. Even if it´s not required, a padron (empadronamiento) greases the skids. Go to the bank for anything important- bring a padron. Go to a government office and want something stamped? Bring your tasa (paid tax form) and a spare padron. And it better not be more than 3 months old. No. They only like fresh padrons. Jeff likes to get a fresh one every three months and he keeps it in his inbox, just in case. In Valencia it´s free, you can apply for it online and it takes about 12 hours for them to email it to you.
I handed over all the documents as she asked for them. I´d brought along extras just in case. You never know. I had everything she required. Then she told me I was too early to renew my visa. I frowned.
´No, this is a whole new visa attached to my husband´s visa. As his ´familiar´´ I cringed when I said it. It´s the official term for being his wife on his visa but I needed her to understand. Jeff has begun teasing me with this term, relentlessly. Well as my familiar. UGH!!
´No. Your card doesn´t expire until March. You will have to come back.´ and she tried to dismiss me. But I had learned from Jeff´s experience. You never leave. Come back?! There is no coming back. Getting an appointment is impossible. But I know my Spanish immigration facts and I flew through my mental Spanish legal rolodex.
`Actually, I can renew my card 60 days prior to expiry and up to 90 days afterwards. My card expires March 1st.´
Her eyes narrowed. ´Yes. And that is more than 60 days away.´
It´s not. ´Today is January 4th Actually, it´s 55 days.´ I wasn´t trying to be difficult but I´d had to stand in the cold after being so sick and I wasn´t having any ´coming back.’
She got out a calendar from her desk drawer and counted the days. Then she nodded.
´Ok.´ she told me. ´Pull your mask down.´ She studied my old passport and then my old NIE card. Multiple times. ´This doesn´t look like you?´ she said holding up my new photos.
It looks exactly like me. It looks so much like me it could almost have been taken this morning. Because it was.
´I don´t understand.´ I told her. ´The passport photo is from 2013. My NIE card is two years ago. This is a new photo.´
She seemed unconvinced
´Well, you don´t look the same as you did two years ago.´ She told me. I didn´t take it as a compliment.
Duh – I thought. ´Well, I guess that´s what having Covid will do to you. I just got out of the hospital.´ I watched her visibly blanche and move her chair back. I didn´t go into the fact that it was in the first wave. That I´m still battling the long aftermath – I did just get out of the hospital. But its the first time having Covid has cut me any slack, or bought me any peace. She told me she was going to use my old picture (didn´t know that was an option) and she immediately printed out the receipt I will need to bring back to pick up my card – they´ll hassle me that day, too, I´m very sure – and she told me to have a nice day.
When I came out Jeff was waiting. ´All set?´ he asked. I know he was worried when they wouldn´t let him go in with me and they made me stand in the cold without him in that long line.
´Yep. All set.´ And I put my receipt into my plastic immigration folder. Yes, I´ve been sick, but I can still stand up for myself. It probably seems an insignificant interaction to most, but to me, after everything it meant something. I´m still ME. Sure, I might not look exactly like I used to. You know it´s not good when the facial recognition technology on your devices doesn´t know you. All these meds have done a number on my body this year. No kidding, I barely look in the mirror anymore. But inside, where it counts, I’m there. Sometimes I´ve wondered. Today, it made me smile, because I can fix the outside, eventually. Even the lady at the policia showed some confidence in that. But the inside is where the good stuff is. And she´s in there. Still as sharp as ever. And she can take care of herself.