Tag Archives: Frustrations with Spanish bureaucracy

Spain: Residential Visa Renewal

26 Apr

“Come back after 30 days to pick up your new Spanish visa. You don’t need an appointment; you can pick it up between 9:00 and 2:00,” she told me in Spanish. HURRAY! This was my second renewal of non-lucrative (non-working) residential visa/NIE card.

This time the renewal process was surprisingly easier than my initial visa application (the first part done in California and the completion once I arrived in Spain), as well as the first renewal. The best part of this visa renewal process was that I no longer had to travel twice from Altea to the provincial capital of the area, Alicante, which takes about an hour each way by car. Instead, I was able to get my fingerprints “huellas” appointment at nearby Benidorm, and also pick up my visa there.

Part of the reason this application was easier was because the requirements were the same as the first renewal application. I keep a file of each application with copies of all documents including what to submit and the documents I submitted. Before starting, first check the government website to make sure the requirements have not changed. The reapplication can start up to 60 days before the visa expires, and up to 90 days after it expires. For your convenience, I have included the links to the internet sites I used, which I filled out, then saved and printed. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of these links, as they sometimes change or are not working; the latter was the case for the government website when I initially looked for it.

I then proceeded to complete and print EX-01. I then asked my financial adviser to draft a letter regarding my financial status, demonstrating that I met the minimum monthly income requirement. In my case, I used my private retirement account, and also the projection of what I would receive from Social Security once I reach 62. Attached was a recent copy of my retirement account showing its monetary value, and the most recent Social Security Statement, which can be found online. I review the email draft for accuracy, and then have the original (which is required) with an original signature by the document’s author; the signature must be notarized. Once I receive the original and notarization, I take it to an official translation office to have it translated into Spanish by a certified Spanish translator.

I made a copy of my current Spanish medical insurance which shows it is in force and that there is a zero co-pay. Since I did not have a Spanish bank account, I found a local agent who could issue the annual policy with an annual cash payment rather than the standard monthly bank deductions. My annual policy is around $1100 U.S.

I also made a copy of both sides of my current Spanish visa (NIE) card, and all of the pages of my U.S. passport. Since I had just renewed my passport, there weren’t any travel stamps on any of the pages, but one has to copy all of the pages regardless. (I was able to renew my passport by mail by sending it to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid; I received my new passport in less than two weeks, paying the shipping fee to the delivery driver.)

There are additional requirements if you have minor children, which are described on the government website. The instructions are generally in Spanish, another good reason to learn it; the staff at the visa application offices often do not speak English. If you have problems understanding or implementing any of the requirements for the visa, for a fee, you can employ a gestoria, a person who is experienced in dealing with the vagaries of the Spanish bureaucracy.

Next, I went to the local Oficina de Extranjería with all of my documentation to make sure I had everything correct. I had gone online to print Modelo 790 codigo 052 and printed it, but I was told I still needed to go to the bank to pay the 15,76 Euros. Make sure your address on file in Spain agrees with the documents you are submitting.

If there are any problems or missing information, you receive a certified letter. Once all documents were correctly submitted, I received an email with instructions for setting up an appointment for fingerprints. As with the whole process, the instructions are in Spanish. However, they do show photos of which items to click on the website. They also say to leave blank the box entitled “Fecha de Caducidad de su tarjeta actual.” After you select the best appointment time, they email you a paper with the appointment date, which needs to be printed and brought to the appointment, along with printed form Tasa Modelo 790 codigo 012, which has to show paid; my fee was 18,54 Euros. While it did NOT say it on that instruction sheet, you also need to bring your passport, current Spanish visa, and photos, which are described in the visa initial application instructions. I saw numerous people turned away from the office for such things as lack of an appointment; not bringing a valid passport, current Spanish identification card, paper showing you have paid the fee; or one parent bringing a child to register him/her but not having both parents present as required. The varying 790 forms need to be paid in advance, at a bank, where they are stamped.

At the appointed police office, I had an unusually short wait compared to typical wait times at a Spanish government office. They took several fingerprints of each of my index fingers, took the photo I brought to be on my new visa, and reviewed my Spanish visa and US passport, along with the paper showing my appointment date and time. The clerk then gave me a paper designating when I could return to pick up my visa, noting the hours, and that I need to bring that paper, my Spanish visa, and U.S. passport. While the clerk told me to come back to retrieve my visa card after 30 days from the appointment with her, she did not mention that the card must be retrieved before 45 days after the appointment; otherwise, the availability of the picking up the new card expires (which I read on the bottom of the form.) This second visa renewal was completed about three months after first submitting my application, only two months after my visa formally expired, as compared to a prior renewal which took eight months.

Here are links to my prior posts on getting a Spanish residential visa: https://starrtreks.com/2015/07/09/how-to-apply-for-non-lucrative-visa-for-spain-as-us-citizen-bucking-the-trend/; https://starrtreks.com/2015/07/26/patience-and-tenacity-requirements-for-obtaining-a-spanish-residential-visa/; https://starrtreks.com/2015/08/09/you-must-be-kidding-steps-to-get-a-spanish-visa/.

What have been your experiences in getting or renewing a Spanish visa?

Inside Secrets to Spain: Top 3 Tips

19 Nov

Here is my article about Spain which was just published in Insiders Abroad:

http://www.insidersabroad.com/spain/blogs/inside-secrets-to-spain/posts/gallery-thumb-thumb-thumb-expat-spotlight-dawns-top-3-tips-for-spain

Is There Customer Service in Spain?

11 Nov

I love most things about living in Spain, but customer service is not one of them. I have even contended they should remove the Spanish words for customer service, “atención al cliente,” from the lexicon. I have previously recounted my problems in receiving packages with my personal belongings from California. When I first reported no monetary value for the old personal items mailed to me, the Spanish authorities returned the package to the U.S. I tried unsuccessfully twice more to have my belongings sent. The last time, I completed all the requirements within the mandated time period, paid nearly 100 Euros in customs fees, and they still returned my package to California. By this time, all the potentially breakable items had broken. I never received the refund I requested. One package I did eventually receive was gaping open and the contents from the top of the box were missing; the Spanish postal service was not even professional enough to tape it closed. Then the postal worker who “delivered” the box claimed it was heavy and asked me to help carry it into my apartment.

 

If I mail order something from the U.S., there are huge import taxes, but there are some things worth paying extra for that I cannot get here in Spain. I have also mail ordered items from Spanish companies, and more often than not, the couriers claim they tried to deliver my package, even when I had been home the whole day. When I call the number they provide for the supposed missed delivery, they argue with me, saying they did come to my place and ring my doorbell. They are never wrong, and never apologize. One agent insisted they had a photo of the courier at my door, but when I asked them to send it, I was told they could not.

 

My friends and I have had similar difficulties when using a taxi. Some drivers will ignore directions I provide to avoid traffic snarls. They may bark at you for having an inadequate command of Spanish. The other day, our cab driver from our town of Altea was unfamiliar with any of the streets or major landmarks in our village.

 

Most of the time the food here is great, but there are occasions when the restaurant serves sub-par food. If they ask how the food was, and you give an honest assessment, most of the time, I have received the blank “Bambi in headlights” look, with no offer of any reparations. Once, when I tried to return or exchange a podiatry device which broke after one use, the pharmacist looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said there is no guarantee on products they sell. WHAT?!

 

I recently learned of an even more ridiculous incident. A woman bought a pair of shoes, and when she got home and looked at them, she discovered they had given her two different sizes. When she went to correct the error, with receipt in hand, they insisted they had made no mistake, even suggesting she may have gone to another store to buy another pair to make a mismatched set. Her husband had no better success in attempting to rectify what should have been a simple exchange, accompanied by an apology.

And I won’t even start on confounding, changing requirements of the government bureaucracies in getting required documentation for a visa, registering your living address, getting a bank account and more. There is even a hilarious videos representative of many people’s  exasperating experiences, which I have previously viewed on YouTube, although it seemed to have been removed when I tried to find it.

My recommendation in Spain is to remember, The client is always wrong.

Spain: Travelling and Living Challenges

6 Oct
Moros y Cristianos: Altea 2015

Moros y Cristianos: Altea 2015

Life sometimes gets in the ways of one’s plans, or should I more aptly say, my plans. I intended to post about some of the interesting places I have visited near my home in Altea, Spain, during the week visit of my middle son, Michael, but with a few anticipated and unanticipated events, I felt more compelled to blog on the vagaries of the past couple of weeks.

I have found that if things can go wrong in Spain, they often do. Serendipitously, my son, Michael was arriving on the same day as my computer generated appointment was to get my fingerprints done at the National Police in Alicante to finish the steps for securing my first renewal visa. (For details on my experience with the visa process, see my posts: https://starrtreks.com/2015/07/09/how-to-apply-for-non-lucrative-visa-for-spain-as-us-citizen-bucking-the-trend/.https://starrtreks.com/2015/07/26/patience-and-tenacity-requirements-for-obtaining-a-spanish-residential-visa/; .https://starrtreks.com/2015/08/09/you-must-be-kidding-steps-to-get-a-spanish-visa/

More Moros y Cristianos

More Moros y Cristianos

Since he was arriving into Alicante on a Tuesday, on the same day as I had to go for my huellas (fingerprints) and delivering my photo for my Spanish residential visa, I booked a rental car. It took about a half hour on the local bus to nearby Benidorm, where I was able to book the car for 48 hours for only 38€, far less than what it would have cost if I rented in my little town of Altea. As it was the biggest festival of the year in Altea, Moros y Cristianos, lasting many days, many streets were closed and parking spaces were limited. Probably the only benefit to being disabled is having a handicap placard for one’s vehicle. Even then, it was difficult to find a space for the rental car. After a long search, I finally found a spot. Just to be sure, I made sure the word, minusválido, meant handicap parking; it did. I had a bad feeling about the parking spot, which was confirmed when I went to retrieve the car the next morning at 7:30 a.m. to drive to Alicante for my 8:50 appointment. The rental car was gone. I had no time to try to find it, so I walked about a half mile to the downtown taxi stand, where there were no taxis; it was far too early for most people to be out and about.

When I saw one of the ever-present street cleaners (with a shovel and plastic bucket to pick up litter,) in Spanish, I told him of my predicament and need to be in Alicante for my appointment to renew my visa. He kindly summoned a taxi via phone. I did arrive on time, for a fee of about 85€.

I had an uneasy feeling while waiting for my turn with the staff, having gone through so many errant trips to the local Oficina de Extranjería (Immigration and Naturalization Office) in Altea. However, in this case, all went smoothly, and I the worker commented on how fluent my Spanish was for being in Spain about a year, even sharing his observation with his colleague. (There are many ex-pats living in the Costa Blanca who don’t know more than two words.)

I had originally planned to take the now unavailable rental car to the Alicante airport to retrieve my son, but obviously could not. In the meantime, on his side, the phone app he had set up would not work to contact me. He finally called from a pay phone, and I advised him to take a cab and pick me up at the National Police, and then we would head back to Altea. That went well, for costing another 85€. I am supposed to retrieve my renewal residential visa somewhere around the first of November of this year, a mere four months before it expires for the year. Then I get to start this process all over again.

After he settled in by place for a bit, we headed to the police station to try to figure out what happened to my rental car. In the meantime, I tried to stop at several copy shops to scan and send some important papers, but they were closed for a fourth straight day, this day to recover from the festival partying from the prior week. To abbreviate the part of the story about retrieving the rental car, I was told by the local police that I was in a specifically reserved spot for a handicap vehicle. In Spanish, I replied I have travelled to many countries and never encountered this. Placidly, he told me it would be 136€ to get the car released. What he didn’t say was that I needed to retrieve the car immediately, that there are no regular staff on site, so it took three tries before I was able to retrieve the car, just in time to return it to the rental agency, although with a quick side trip to historic Guadalest.

Michael and I had a fabulous time with friends, and day trips to Guadalest, Denia, Albir and even Benidorm, which I typically detest. (More about those destinations and the Moros y Cristianos festival in future posts.) Naturally, getting the Beniconnect Bus from Altea to the Alicante airport was fraught with snafus, mostly the lack of staff answering the phone, and simply disconnecting after 20 to 30 rings. By persistence, and multiple ways of contacting them, we got a departure time late on the evening before his scheduled departure. Ever the dapper dresser, Michael turned many a head as he headed for the bus.

Michael leaving Altea en route to London

Michael leaving Altea en route to London

I love Spain, except for how difficult it is most of the time to get anything in the government and in businesses done efficiently and the first time. For me, this is (sometimes) a good lesson in patience. My advice remains: plan on at least three visits to accomplish your task, and if it is any less, celebrate!

You Must Be Kidding: Steps to Get a Spanish Visa

9 Aug

This is the third in a series of three posts on getting my initial non-lucrative residential (or retirement) visa to reside in Spain. After many challenges with both the initial application at the Spanish consulate in San Francisco, and completing the remaining requirements once in Spain, I finally received the actual visa three and a half months after arriving in Spain.

Based on my experience of the seeming indecipherable or changing requirements to get my initial Spanish visa, in the fall of 2014, I started looking into the requirements for my first visa renewal. I used the identical forms and letters for documenting the required financial ability to support oneself with their specified minimum amounts, and medical insurance. However, when I went to the local Oficina de Extraneria, office where foreigners process visas, after several hours wait, the worker curtly told me that my financial documents were not originals and not “autorizdo.” When I asked what that was or how to do that, she just kept repeating the word. I was also told that my medical insurance, which had qualified the prior year, was the incorrect type, that it was a tourist medical insurance, not that for a resident.

I was concerned about meeting the deadline for the visa reapplication, but the worker told me I had up to 60 additional days to complete the requirements. I later saw online that the deadline was up to 90 days past the expiration date of the visa.

For the financial documentation, I asked my California financial advisor, to get the letter he had written about my finances and income, notarized. As well, I asked my California banker to print an original bank statement and notarize it. I had my financial advisor mail them expedited. When the original and notarized documents arrived two days later, I took them for official translation. By then, I was within a few days of the additional 60 days to submit all paperwork. I didn’t want to take the chance of missing the deadline if the online 90 day extension was incorrect.

When I returned to the Oficina de Extraneria, I feared the requirements would be changed, as is not uncommon in dealing with Spanish government workers. In addition to the newly minted financial documents, I brought the other required documents. When I contacted my medical insurance company, they insisted their medical coverage met the Spanish visa requirement, so I brought it (with official Spanish translation). I was pleased when told that the documents met their requirements, with the possible exception of the insurance. However, they indicated they would submit the documentation and if the government did not find the insurance to be acceptable I would be notified.

Several weeks later, I received a registered letter from the Spanish government saying I needed to get qualifying medical insurance. I went online to try to find qualifying medical insurance. While I speak decent conversational Spanish, I did not feel equipped to deal with the intricacies of making sure the insurance met all of the requirements, so I called a company who had English advertisements for medical insurance. When I called, the woman who answered did not speak English. After I asked, she put on an English-speaking colleague who was helpful. He got my information and told me a representative from the specific company that met my needs would be contacting me. I was surprised when I received the call that the caller and none of her colleagues spoke any English.

After laboring through the application process in Spanish, printing out and filling forms which had to be scanned and returned, and sending a copy of my NIE card, I was told I needed to submit my bank name and account number for billing purposes. I do not yet have a Spanish bank, but I offered to pay the policy in full. That was unacceptable to their policy. Thus I had to start over and I had been given a short time by the Spanish authorities to submit qualifying medical insurance. I found a local insurance “seguros” English-speaking broker who was able to secure qualifying medical insurance with the required zero deductible/no co-pay. I could either pay monthly through a Spanish bank account or the full annual amount, so I did the latter. I returned to retrieve the actual policy a week later, which fortunately was in Spanish. I then went to the Oficina de Extraneria where I submitted the original policy, the required copy, and the whole insurance book. After a discussion between two of the workers, they decided the insurance qualified. Hurray!

I then proceeded to contact the original insurer that the Spanish government said did not qualify so I could cancel that policy to receive a refund. They asked me to send the documentation from the Spanish government saying their policy did not qualify. After several communications, I told them it didn’t matter if they thought their policy qualified if the Spanish government would not accept it. I finally got a refund.

Several weeks after submitting the insurance documentation, I got a letter saying my renewal was approved, that I needed to go online to schedule an appointment, and they provided yet another required payment to be submitted before retrieving the actual visa. The payments have to be made at a bank only on a limited number of days of the month within a very narrow range of hours. My appointment is set for the very end of September, again in somewhat distant Alicante. At that time, I believe I will be submitting my photos and being fingerprinted again, which means it will likely be another 30 to 45 days (as it was the first time) before I actually can retrieve my visa. Once I receive my visa, which will likely be in early November, it will be set to expire in a little more than four months.

And one final recent frustration in the dealing with the Spanish bureaucracy…I had my son send a box of personal items to my home in Spain. One prior shipment was a fiasco. When I received the usual demand from the Spanish post office to name the contents, provide a receipt for the contents or provide and swear their value, I honestly told them, they had no monetary value and were only gifts, souvenirs, and very old personal items. In spite of sending them this response, they kept dogging me with the same request, to which I gave them the same answer. I learned this week that the returned the box to the U.S. I have yet to find out where or if is completely lost. Surely, it cost them more time and money to do this than to forward the box to me. Ridiculous.

Anyone else had similar problems with the Spanish bureaucracy?

Patience and Tenacity: Requirements for Obtaining a Spanish Residential Visa

26 Jul

Get ready to have your patience and tenacity tested if you are planning on applying for a Spanish visa. The application process is like a moving target. This is my second post on my experience in getting a non-lucrative residential visa, sometimes known as a retirement visa, to reside in Spain. In my last post, I discussed my experiences with the sometimes idiosyncratic application process, which can differ depending on which Spanish consulate where one is required to apply.

Once I arrived in Spain in March 2014 with my approval for a Spanish visa, I immediately sought permanent housing which was necessary to complete the requirements to obtain the visa and get my NIE (national identification number.) As I have found with most tasks involving the Spanish bureaucracy, one can expect to have multiple attempts before successful completion. For example, when I went to the local “ayunamiento,” town hall, to register the address where I was living, I was given changing requirements. First, they said the address of my rental I gave them didn’t exist, even though that is the address used by the owners to pay taxes. The owners suggested an alternate address, which was successful, and they provided me with a statement that I was renting from them. Next the ayunamiento worker assigned me the new task of getting a copy of the trash bill which showed the owner’s name, as well as a copy of his identification. After four trips, I was successful for what I initially thought was going to be an easy task. That set the tone, or should I say pace, of the next steps.

Next, I went on the required governmental website to get an appointment to get my fingerprints and submit my paperwork. This appointment had to occur in Alicante, about an hour’s drive from where I live in Altea. Thus I either had to rent a car or take the two hour tram. I chose the former. At the appointment, I brought all of the required documentation. The worker asked why I did not come to the appointment within the required time frame, which I recollect was around 45 days. I explained that the website issued me a specific date over which I had no control, which was almost two months beyond the deadline. Thankfully, that explanation was acceptable. Of interest, the woman who was processing my application turned to her colleague saying, “California dream,” apparently a dream they both shared. She could not understand why I would want to move to Spain from California. I explained my reasons and she was apparently satisfied, but still had difficulty fathoming.

Whereas I was initially informed by local officials in Altea that I would be given my visa at that appointment in Alicante, at the end of it, I was told I needed to return in exactly 30 to 45 days in person, with my U.S. passport. On June 30, with low expectations, I returned to the Alicante National Police. I was pleased and surprised to find my visa card ready. With that, I now had my NIE number, necessary for almost everything, including such things as getting internet at home, receiving shipped packages, etc.

I noticed the expiration date on my newly issued visa was March 11, 2015, the date I initially applied after arriving in Spain. So starting in late January 2015, I began working on the application for the first renewal of my residential visa. Not surprisingly, I encountered more bureaucratic twists and turns, which will be the focus of my next post.