Apart from football, if there is anything at which the Spanish excel, then it is bureaucracy.
Finally, and after just fifteen months of living in Galicia, this morning we finally obtained our ‘green card’ of temporary residence (which is not allowed to be laminated despite it being printed on green tissue paper). This might sound very lax on our part, after all we’ve had almost five hundred days to sort it, but on the frustration metre this process has registered a reading close to the one for the trials and tribulations of re-registering a UK motor vehicle.
We’d made our first attempt back in December 2014 and have had two subsequent goes, the second of which ended in tears of frustration. This morning we were almost thwarted again…twice. But in the end, and after just over ninety minutes of negotiation and sweaty palms, the nice lady at the Police station in Lugo finally ran out of reasons not to grant us temporary residence.
Our initial attempts were thwarted by a lack of proof of medical insurance. This was sorted twice; by a form S1 to the UK to get my National Insurance contributions (which I still make in the UK) transferred to Spain; and also through Amanda getting a part-time job which is so above-board that her employer pays her social security contributions.
So we went again to Lugo this morning armed with a lever-arch file full of paperwork containing copies and originals (bureaucrats often like to see the original and would have gladly sent us back 50km home to collect it if we’d not had it). We’d each got; NIE certificate, Empadronada with the local council, passport, proof of medical cover, our social security registrations, property deeds, birth certificates, my certificate of incorporation for my UK company and shareholder listing, and Amanda’s printout from social services showing that she was registered and paying social security. This was everything that we’d been asked for on the third visit, and while not feeling totally confident we were cautiously optimistic.
For the first time ever there wasn’t a queue, and Amanda presented my paperwork first. It took seconds for the lady behind the desk to try and conceal her grin as a frown. ‘We need proof of your income as you don’t work here’, she said. Amanda and I sighed as one.
Perhaps it was a new rule, perhaps the nice lady last time had forgotten to tell us, so we sought clarification. ‘We need proof of an income of at least 600 euros per month’ she advised. Then I had a brainwave, Amanda’s paperwork included proof that she was working, and as her spouse I qualified as a dependant.
We pushed Amanda’s thick wad of paperwork across the desk. ‘I work’, Amanda said. The lady behind the desk now wore the look of a beaten bureaucrat, realising the implication for my application, and I was grinning inside. She scrutinised the paperwork and then asked for a marriage certificate to prove our union. We had it, the original; I was almost feeling excited, that the end was now surely in sight. She checked the date, slowly got to her feet, traversed the room, and retrieved a large dusty ring-binder from a high shelf.
After several minutes she shook her head. We’d got married too long ago (before 2012) and we needed a Notary to validate our licence. Now she was grinning, she’d landed a strong upper-cut and we were reeling on the ropes.
We huddled, and talked in hushed tones.
‘Let’s go to the bank and see if they can print us out a statement showing my regular transfers from the UK’, I suggested, still coming to terms with the idea that we might have to marry again!
Amanda explained our plan and we said we’d return soon. The bank were very accommodating and printed three statements, two of which we didn’t ask for or need, and we walked the half a kilometre back to the police station in the now driving rain.
Once again the ‘Office of the Foreigners’ was empty and we sat straight down handing over the previous paperwork and the new bank statements. She took out her calculator and added up the income, mercifully over the threshold. I felt we were really close this time.
The lady behind the desk was beaten, she raised the white flag and we’d no more hoops to jump through….well, just one. She completed another form and instructed us that we had to do another round trip to the bank to pay 10.60 euros each and bring the stamped ‘paid’ forms back to her.
Half an hour later and we were both shocked and surprised to be holding our tissue paper green cards, which she’d issued there and then, not relying in the usual ‘This will take ten days to process, come back then and see if they are ready’.
As EU citizens we now have temporary permission to reside in Spain, theoretically for the next five years, after which time we can then apply for the permanent residence which would give us residency protection under the ‘Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969’.
We’ve done all we can. For now.