Friday, October 10, 2008

A Lesson in Patience II - How to get a Residency Card in 37 Easy Steps!

Okay, so I think the Spanish bureaucracy has finally gotten the better of me. Since we left part 1 of this post, we thought we had all the paperwork we needed for our year residency. Apparently, we had been given some bad advice (from the "Advice Center" of all places!) After several innocent calls to clarify an issue around a driver permit, I learned that we absolutely needed to establish residency formally through the National Police in Alicante. But now we were officially past our 1 month deadline to do this. Aaaarrrggghhhhh!!!!!!!! Technically we only have permission to be in the EU for 90 days without our residencia - although many people are living here without one and we are not at all clear about how strongly this rule is enforced. That being said, I did not want our adventure year to be cut short due to a technicality. What ensued was a frenzy of calls to an immigration lawyer and other residencia "specialists", notarized spanish letters, pleas to the US consulate in Valencia and several weeks of frustration and worry with no responses. At the end of the day, people do not have a lot of experience here working with US visitors, and there apparently was not an easy shortcut, save for going down in person and figuring it out. To make matters worse, nobody in the Spanish government will speak English, so I was definitely challenged given the magnitude of what we were trying to do. I had images of standing for hours in long lines begging and pleading only to hear my favorite Spanish quote... "that is not possible" fired back at me. Armed with every document in our possession, I embarked at 5:30 am to Alicante and wait with the masses. In spite of getting up so early to get in front of the line, I was shocked to find over 300 people already there, many of whom were in sleeping bags. As it turned out, almost all of them had pre-standing appointments to be there on that day. To make matters worse, I wasn't sure if I was even in the right place! After standing for 4 1/2 hours in a long line that never moved, I ended up giving up and making my way to the bureaucratic headquarters to see if I could at least talk with somebody who could give me SOME information. After waiting several hours in yet another queue, I finally got in and made my plea for help. Finally a small win - I was able to obtain additional documents that we needed for our residencia. However the glow of this win faded when I was told to go back to the place I had futilely waited at earlier. Oh, and be sure to bring your family! AAArrrrgggghhhh!!!

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