Please let me make this clear from the outset:
This is not a 'how to do it' guide to registering for residency in Spain. If you found your way to my blog through searching for advice of this type, I have tried to assist by providing a list of websites at the end of this blog entry. And if you do want to register as a resident, by all means feel free to stay and read about my experience of the process - it might just help to prepare you!
I should have done this earlier - I should have registered for residency in Spain a few months ago - but for various reasons, including the need to have my house sale completed, I didn't. And nothing major has happened as a result of delaying.
As we are rarely asked for identification in England, not having a number didn't seem like a problem to me at first, but as I become more engaged in life in Andalucia, I realise that the lack of an identification number - not my passport number - meant I was being excluded from a number of things. I can't sign forms for the children to go on visits and trips because the signing parent needs to provide an ID number; I can't get my contract to work at the institute without an ID number; I can't open a bank account in my own name without one; I wasn't able to book my return bus ticket online because I didn't have one; I can't even get a loyalty card from my local supermarket with out one. These ID numbers are essential in Spain.
So, about a month ago, I phoned for an appointment with the Oficina de Extranjeros in Jaen (the Foreigners Office) - and was given one for several weeks later apparently on the earliest possible date! I have a friend who has recently moved to Spain who suggested she came with me to observe the process as her Spanish is not yet good enough to manage these things without a bit of advance preparation. We decided to go on the bus together, which meant an early start in order to catch the only one to Jaen, which left at 8.30am. The return bus was at either 1.30 or 6.30 and I was determined we could get the 1.30 despite some dire warnings from other Brits in the area who had been through the process.
So, a week or so ago, on a slightly overcast and cool day, Sandra and I settled down for the bus journey from Alcala to Jaen. The first thing we discovered was that the bus called at the village that Sandra had left half an hour earlier in order catch said bus. In fact, we might even have got there before her husband arrived back from dropping her off! (These buses don't hang around and the drivers are very experienced at throwing them around the corners with maximum disruption to the passengers onboard...)
We agreed that on the way back, she would alight here and walk home - and would bear this knowledge in mind for the future.
We made a couple of other stops, including in the rather pretty town of Alcaudete - which seemed like a smaller, sweeter and rather less dusty version of Alcala la Real.
Could you spot the difference immediately if you didn't live here permanently?
And before long - or at least with Sandra and I talking non-stop all the way there, it seemed to go quickly - we arrived in Jaen. Jaen is not an exciting place and I have nothing much to say about it other than it has a nice parador at the very top of the hill, looking down on the city. It was easy to find the Oficina from the bus station and after having a rather expensive and not very good coffee, we ventured in to the building.
There is always a lot of people waiting around in these places - and, you've guessed it - all of them foreigners so the noise level is also quite high. In my turn, I reached the one reception desk and said my name, showed my passport and said I had an appointment. I was asked to fill in a form and photocopy it, together with my passport, then bring both back to the desk. I asked where I could get a photocopy - assuming that it would be done somewhere in the office.
No; I had to complete the form, then walk around the block to a shop that offered photocopying services.
So, from duly completed, Sandra and I trotted off around the block - not too far, Sandra taking notes and drawing maps as we went - got two photocopies (cost 20c) and trotted back.
Another wait for reception - this time the queue was a bit longer.
Arriving again at reception, I handed in my forms and was given a number and told to wait until it was called. This step didn't take too long - only about five minutes passed before my number came up and I went into the office to desk C4. A very nice man asked me if this was my first visit, to which I answered yes, and then he asked for my details and tapped them into the computer. I was momentarily surprised to find that he then asked me when I had lived in Malaga! And yes, all those years ago, I had registered there but it hadn't occurred to me that my details would still be on file and certainly not on a computer - hmmm - this identity thing is a bit scary. However, there was no problem and I did need to register again but I suddenly felt the eye of authority on me and I didn't like it much.
I then watched the man fill in what looked like an invoice form with the sum of 10 euros at the bottom of it - I hadn't realised there was a fee. But there was and not only did I have to pay it but I had to take it to a bank and pay it there - no handing over money in the office. I was told to go and pay - between the time it was (11.15am) and 12.30pm - and then return to collect my certificate.
So Sandra and I toddled off to the nearest bank together and waited patiently in a queue for around five minutes before I spied someone at another desk and decided to ask if we were doing the right thing.
No. Payment for a residency certificate had to be made before 10.30am! WHAT!
I suspect my mouth fell open at this point, but I managed to ask whether there was anywhere else I could go to pay - and yes, more or less any other bank would take payment at this time - just not this bank, which was the nearest. Can this be right? Distinct ratty smell to me.
So Sandra and I toddled up the hill - Sandra making copious notes and geographical references on her notepad - to find another bank. And there, all went smoothly and by 11.45, we were back at the Oficina ready to collect the certificate.
But they weren't ready for me. Genuine shock and some distress was shown that I returned before 12.30 - hadn't I been told 12.30? - demanding a certificate. Fluster on reception desk as I said I needed to catch a bus (well, it was worth a try) and to be fair, she went and spoke to nice man on C4, who confirmed he'd said 12.30 and that my certificate was now in the system and would probably not emerge until it's allotted time. We'd have to wait - again
And then as I stood at the desk, a great deal of hugging and kissing when on with the lady on reception - lots of people came out to see her, though there was no obvious reason.. no one said 'happy birthday' or have a good holiday..no, they just seemed to want to kiss her and then she left the desk. I was still standing watching - there was no queue behind me now. Kissed-Lady's replacement was a very helpful young man who actually offered some good old-fashioned (or should that be new-fangled) customer service and said he would try and hurry my certificate along.
He came out and spoke to an old, tired looking chap who was standing in the waiting room - apparently lost, maybe wandered in from a nearby asylum, judging from his shabby clothes, hangdog expression and the general impression he gave of being in the world but not of it. This man turns out to be the 'certificate stamper' - meaning that my certificate - and that of others - goes on its mysterious journey and then arrives on Certificate Stamper's desk in a yellow folder, to be checked, stamped and unceremoniously handed over to the new owner. To give him his due, he did return to his desk, look at the three yellow folders that were already awaiting his stamp, only to say none were mine. (He didn't stamp any of the three whilst I was looking - perhaps their owners were less demanding.)
By 12.10, I commented to Sandra that possibly we would be made to wait until 12.30 as a matter of principle, when all of a sudden, another man came out and spoke to Certificate Stamper, who had gone back to loitering duty, looked enthusiastically in my direction and popped back into the office. Sandra, a quiet, gentle sort, grabbed my arm and ushered me forcibly into the office, having spotted the chance to grab the certificate and leave. I saw Certificate Stamper perform his task with relish - STAMP - then he took a sheet out of the yellow folder, handed it to Enthusiastic man, closed the folder and put it on a small pile at the other side of his desk - his job was complete and he wandered off again. Enthusiastic man read out the details on the form to me and asked it if was correct - and of course I said yes. He then handed it to me with a flourish saying it was mine to keep forever, until I lost it and needed to come and get another one. He had a sense of humour, bless.
And that was that. I now have a number to identify me as a foreigner - which starts with the letters XX - and a certificate of residence. My employer was happy to get a copy and I now carry it around with me in case anyone else wants to see it. Thus far, no one has but I live in hope!
Links to residency in Spain.
Introduction to Residency in Spain
Just landed guide to residency in Spain
EU residency in Spain
I'd give you more but fear you'd just get more confused! My advice is make an appointment first - it has to save at least a bit of time - and take a friend. Good luck!!