It may sound foreign and make no sense at all but getting my NIE signifies a very important thing: I exist in Spain! My NIE is kind of like an alien number and while I really have no clue what it actually means, I know that, without it, I’m a very insignificant person. With my NIE, I can open a bank account, I can rent an apartment, I can pay my taxes (ugh!), and, most importantly, I can apply for a residency card.
I have officially abandoned my status as a tourist and have simply become someone with status! It was much easier than I expected. So what’s the trick? Marry a Spaniard who’s organized and has the foresight to apply for the “libro de familia” as soon as you get married. That’s what David did. This book is the official document that shows that our marriage is recognized in Spain. It stayed buried in a drawer for the last nearly six years but has now become a very important document. (Let’s not talk about the pages in the book for the still non-existent hijos and hijas.)
In any case, I was really bracing myself for bureaucracy. I had faced months of it in Paris when I had worked there in 2000 as an English Assistant. Even though I had entered France with a government job, it took countless hours waiting in lines, a whole folder of documents to prove my case, and the frustrating experience again and again of missing that one important document. The whole system is so unorganized and inefficient that I wasn’t officially legal to work until January even though I had been working since the job started in October.
But it wasn’t just my previous European experience that had me expecting the worst. From my research, the words “Spanish Bureaucracy” had appeared in Google more than once, so I was assuming that Spain would be the same as France. And maybe it is, but filing for papers in a small town like Torrevieja might pave the way for overall better and more efficient service. There was only a small hint of doubt and confusion since being an American presents an unusual situation (most people applying for their NIE and residency card are European), but that passed quickly and soon my case was processed like everyone else’s.
Or maybe I was just lucky. Actually, David had reported tales of having to return twice to file for his NIE because they only give out a certain amount of numbers per day and if you want to be seen that day, you need a number. He arrived too late the first day and got there by 8am the next day to get a number by 9. When I went, we got there just when they were passing out the numbers and, fortunately, there were fewer people than numbers and I was able to snag one without waiting. The only slightly time consuming aspect was the fact that, after filing the papers (a copy of my passport, our lease, and a very simple application), we had to go to the bank, pay a fee of 16 euros, and then return with the stamped document to drop it off for processing.