Spanish Bureaucracy: A True Test of Patience

3 Oct

Getting in line at 6:00 am in Seville to hopefully get a number to pass in your documents

Inefficient + Annoying


Calling for a cita previa (appointment) here in Madrid and being told that the earliest available is in mid July (10 months from now)

= Inexplicable + Nonsensical

This morning there were definitely tears shed. I mean, I expected things to be difficult—a challenge here, long line there, unfriendly funcionarios… but a 10 month wait to renew the tiny piece of plastic that allows me to live and work like a normal citizen? How can it be? And the most frustrating thing of all is that we just became empadronados* in Madrid to be able to renew my NIE here. If we were still empadronados in Seville we could just have gone there, waited in the ridiculous line, and been done with it! Spanish bureaucracy at its best.

*Empadronarse means to register your new address with the town hall of your city. It serves to register the number of people living in each city and region. It’s necessary for other immigration processes.

In fact, our plan is now to return to El Puerto, empadronarnos in Ale’s parents’ house, and renew there. I’m super disappointed, above all because I already had an interview lined up for a really interesting job. Silly American me, thinking it could be so easy!

But what can I do? I have to stay positive. I still consider myself lucky to

  • be American and therefore have less immigration problems than many other nationalities
  • be a native English speaker and allowing me the opportunity to give private classes and earn my rent money (hopefully!)
  • have a smart and supportive husband who I’m sure will find a great job here in Madrid
  • have a wonderful and encouraging network of family and friends
  • be able to express myself on this blog, which I will treat as my job until I really have one (so keep reading—you guys motivate me!)

Any other horror stories out there? Advice for dealing with disappointment? Thanks!


16 Responses to “Spanish Bureaucracy: A True Test of Patience”

  1. Lauren October 3, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    I’m responding way too quickly to blog posts today (I’m the only auxiliar to not start on Oct. 3, wtf?) but I saw your Tweet earlier and my jaw dropped. Like you said, it -shouldn’t- be super shocking that your cita previa isn’t til next summer—we’re in Spain, after all—but still. I would have shed a few (or a lot) of tears upon hearing that news as well. Also, thank you for the definition of empadronarse. I’ve been wondering what that was all about. Good luck with the NIE and I’m sure things will work out in the interim, as they always do 🙂

    • Lauren October 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

      Thanks Lauren! It’s just ridiculous, but I’m making the best of it. I hope all is well down in Seville! I miss it!

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures October 3, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Pobrecita!!! I’m so sorry that you’re going through this, but at least you have a gorgeous hubby to hug you and make you feel all better 🙂

    Trust me, I know EXACTLY what you’re going through. To be honest the US isn’t THAT much more efficient.

    • Lauren October 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

      Very true. Especially when it comes to immigration! Oh the difficulties of intercontinental love…

  3. cat October 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Ains, mujer! The same happened to me in Madrid last year, but the second time calling, they already had a cancellation and I got in within the week. Keep calling, and see if ucatem has an opening. No te desesperes!

    • Lauren October 3, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

      Wow. I guess I’ll keep trying, although I doubt most people actually cancel their appointment. I’d bet they just don’t show up! Ahh!

  4. Erin from La Tortuga Viajera October 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Definitely still go to the interview! I had loads of problems with getting my NIE and in the end NO ONE cared that I wasn’t even a legal resident. In fact I’ve never had a problem getting jobs because of residency (although I realize that might just be me!). These days I always just expect the unexpected….so when things work out even remotely efficiently, I’m pleasantly surprised!

    Por cierto – be sure to join the Americanas group I started. (That way you can meet other cool American chicas to commiserate with 😉 ).

    • Lauren October 3, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

      Thanks hun I will definitely join the group! And I’d love to meet in person sometime if you have a chance! Thanks for the advice, I’m trying to stay positive and look for an alternate solution. And I’m still going to the interview– we’ll see how it goes!

  5. hayleycomments October 3, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Do I have any stories? Could I write you a book? I know you must have gone through all the paperwork for applying for marriage so you know what fun that can be. But aside from that I also did paperwork for arraigo social, was denied, appealed it and then, OMG, this is the best part – a letter came for me this summer while I was away so they sent it back to the government and now the only way I can see what that letter says is apparently to wait in line at 5 am in the morning in Malaga for one of the 60 citas they start giving away between 9 and 10 am. And in the meantime we’re still waiting (it’s been 4 months now) to hear back on whether or not our Spanish wedding has been approved so we can pick a date already.

    I feel your pain. Man do we need to grab a beer and quejarnos un día!

    • Lauren October 3, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

      Oh dear Hayley. I’m ready for a beer whenever you are! I had luckily heard about the horrible process of getting married here in Spain, so we got married in the US and then registered it here. Much easier… but the irregularity of all the processes is what gets me. If there is a system why can’t it be the same in the entire country? Grrr…

  6. Juan October 4, 2011 at 5:57 am #

    But you’rent an illegal Foreign Lauren 😉

    • Lauren October 4, 2011 at 6:00 am #

      You’re right Juan, I’m not, and at least that makes everything easier!

  7. Juan October 4, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    Easier? :). Depend. If you rent an Appartament in order to live, you don’t need registrer yourself as Inhabitant in another City. For example, at my Town, you can live without the Registration (empadronamiento?) in order to renting an Appartament.

  8. An Expat in Spain October 6, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    I second and third everyone’s comments. Stay strong and don’t let the bureaucracy get to you (such days like this can suck). It’s just as bad or worse for foreigners doing this in the States (it’s not just Spanish bureaucracy, my Spanish wife had hell when we went through it there). And you really should just move forward with the job interview. I know too many Americans here in Spain who don’t worry themselves with the legality of employment, and seem to have no problems.

    And I suspect that any immigration discrimination is only going to work to your advantage. I get fast tracked with most immigration issues here as soon as they learn 1) I’m an American, and 2) I’m married to a Spaniard. It’s a different story if your African or South American and immigrating for employment. Then you’ve got real hurdles.

    So solidarity with intercontinental love!

    • Lauren October 6, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

      Thanks for the comment! I did go ahead with the interview, and I’m waiting to hear back 🙂


  1. A Weekend in Extremadura: Mountains & Morcilla « spanishsabores - October 11, 2011

    […] to leave my new apartment, potential job leads, and possible new friends so quickly… but after my NIE drama I knew that my only hope was to try to sort everything out in Cadiz. We were planning to take the […]

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