Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Empathy for Foreigners Part Two- Residence Card

This is Part  II of the visa and residence card process posts. See the last post for visa details.

Once you arrive in the country of your destination it is likely you will have more steps- you certainly do in Spain.

Once in Spain you should receive at the mailing address you put on your application, a letter and some forms with fee amounts. You are instructed (all in Spanish) to bring the forms, your empadronamiento (see below), your passport with visa and 2 “passport” photos with you to the police department that specializes in residence cards. In the city I am living in the particular police department is way out of the main city area, in an industrial zone, seemingly miles from anywhere. This adds to the effect I think. They are trying to weed out the faint of heart.

Okay - here are the things NO one tells you and all must be done PRIOR to going to the police department:

1) The empadronamiento is a certificate stating where you live in Spain. It is a way for the local government to keep track of people living in their jurisdiction, and enables you to easily open a bank account and conduct other business, the most important of which is getting your residence card. Get the empadronamiento BEFORE you even think about your residence card.

You apply for the empadronamiento at your town or city hall – usually in a special office or department - NOT at the police department.You should expect to wait 1-2 hours for your face-face meeting with a Spanish administrator who will review your passports and lease, and have you fill out a brief application.

If you have an apartment lease you will need to bring the original - that is with ink signatures- with you. If you are living in someone else’s home you will need them to write an official letter stating that you are residing with them. Then, assuming you provide everything to your administrator’s liking, they will print out your certificate – make sure they know you need it for a residence card/ visa. (For further useful information see the Spain Expat site:

2) – There are two fee forms that presumably will have been sent to you at the address you listed on your visa application. These cover the charges for the residence card. You need to take these forms to a bank and pay cash (the fees for each person are currently 10.20 euros + 15 euros = 25.20 euros per person). The teller will run the forms through a machine and give you processed forms back. These are what you give to the residence card people at the police station. They will not even let you in the door at the police station unless you have these fee forms properly processed.

3) Pictures – A Spain passport picture is NOT the same as a US passport picture. Go to one of the photo machines often found in metro stops and at shopping areas and choose the “DNI” Photos” option (see pictures above). The photos will set you back about 3 euros. Before I knew this trick I was sent away twice – once for having the wrong size photo (because they do not tell you anywhere the size, they only say “passport” size) and then again for not having the pictures on the correct photographic paper. The result was far inferior photos, but what the authorities wanted.

4) – Make 1 copy of the following: passport photo page, visa, and page where it shows your date of entry into Spain/the EU.

Now remember the adage: “There will always be something - and it will never be the thing you anticipate.”

Once everything seems to be gathered correctly, you can venture to the designated police department. Bring snacks and a book to read and be prepared to wait for hours. You will be given a number and will wait in line with many others. And in Spain, don’t forget about siesta time – so in many cases the police station is open from 9:00 am to 1:30pm/5:00pm to 7:00pm. Double check the hours of your designated office if you can.

I am convinced that this is some sort of sadistic system where they bet about how many times it takes someone to get a card. Also your luck depends almost entirely on the civil servant you end up with – much of it is based on their discretion on how they interpret the rules – oh joy. If by some miracle you make it through the process in one visit consider yourself an exception and go out and celebrate. But lest you get too heady, you might be surprised to learn that even if you make it through all hurdles with no glitches, you do not walk out of the police department with card in hand. "Huh?" you say….

Once all your documents are deemed correct and in order, they fingerprint you twice and give you a stub of a receipt. This you must hold onto for dear life as this, and only this, is what gets you your residence card in 30-45 DAYS! - when you must RETURN to the police station on the outskirts of the city (by this time public transportation has been thrown out the window and you are taking taxis! ☺)

Okay – really after this, all I can say is be patient and good luck.

1 comment:

Catherine Clark said...

Oh honey, can I relate to this! I live in Madrid and have attained my residencia sin lucrativos -- which is pretty vague but works for me. Did you ever have to go to the bulding in Aluche It is for inmigrantes and located across from Franco's infamous and fave prison for torturing and killing people. Nothing says "Welcome to Spain" like that! They have since torn it down but jeez what a creepy place.