Well, we celebrated a little yesterday afternoon as we finally have all the official paperwork we need to legitimately stay in Spain (at least, for the foreseeable future!)
Today, we received our Green Cards which means we are officially registered as residents here in Spain. Clearly, we are not Spanish citizens yet; that takes a little bit longer! However, it does give us peace of mind that we have all the necessary documents that say we exist, and can work, in Spain.
I’d like to say a big thank you to NIE4Spain, an organisation that helped us out in the latter stages and made life just a little bit easier. Let me elaborate….
When we first arrived in Spain, we applied for our NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) which is the lowest type of ID that you need in Spain, as a foreigner, in order to do anything - open a bank account, etc. We duly completed our EX-15 forms and went to Granada’s Oficina de Extranjeros and got rubber-stamped (see earlier post), but when we went to the bank to pay the Tasos (fees) we were told that we needed something, and our payments were not completed. Even our lovely English-speaking bank manager could not help further. To this day, I am still unsure as to what the problem was, but I assume it was because the Oficina de Extranjeros knew that we were due to be living here for longer than 90 days, and therefore Residency is necessary. We sat on these dubious documents for some months, and every now and again someone would point out that the papers we had were not official NIE certificates.
Last month, however, I needed to register as self-employed. I have been doing a fair bit of radio and voiceover work, and without the right tax status I found that I was unable to raise any invoices. Panic!! To register as autónomo (self-employed), I had to have the correct NIE certificate.
At this precise moment, a contact of ours on Facebook shared a mention of an organisation called NIE4Spain, a company that helps UK citizens to apply for NIEs and who may need help with Spanish bureaucracy. Some people may ask why a company such as NIE4Spain exists when anyone can apply for an NIE themselves. It is true that you can apply on your own, but then in the UK anyone can choose to do their own conveyancing when they buy a house, and anyone can choose to handle their own divorce proceedings if they so wish. It is generally advised that a professional handle such matters. This is the case with applications for NIE and Residency (although both are far simpler than conveyancing and divorce!). Yes, anyone can handle their own applications, but if you are not that confident with your Spanish, or get flustered in strange bureaucratic situations, then help can be invaluable. The UK Government has published a useful explanation of requirements.
As we were none the wiser as to why we had not been given the correct NIE certificate, we contacted NIE4Spain and they could not have been more helpful and professional. They gave us a date to meet at the Police Station in Motril to sort out the NIE. When we got there, we found the correct certificates were ready and waiting for us; all done! NIE4Spain also knew that I needed to register as autónomo (self employed) so next stop was the tax office where I was registered for tax.
That same day, we were given a date when we could come down to get our Residency sorted out. Although we knew, more or less, which documents would be required for us to be eligible, NIE4Spain gave us a comprehensive list of documents that would seal the deal. We managed to get 3 months worth of Bank Statements (separate accounts for each of us), documents to prove we are registered on the Padrón (proof that you are registered as resident in a village or district), evidence that we have health insurance and that we have consistent income or the offer of a job.
Armed with our information, we met with Pauline again (from NIE4Spain), and trotted dutifully into the Police Station in Motril once again.
Pedro, who looks after the Extranjeros desk, is a charmer! We were greeted with tongue-in-cheek comments such as “Kill me now”, as he clearly was not having a great day. He views Andrew with a degree of good-hearted circumspection as he apparently has some sort of thing against the Scots. Mention the word ‘Escoces” and eyes roll….Don’t get Pedro started on Brexit. We were treated to evidence of Pedro’s summer tan - his friends are apparently concerned that he looks so pale that he must surely be ill (he is the colour of mahogany).
Pedro verified our documents, entered information into his computer and then 20 minutes later we were handed our Green Cards!
So, if you have any doubt as to whether or not to use an EX-15 or an EX-18 form, or wonder what the difference is between an NIE/NIF and Residency is, then an organisation such as NIE4Spain is worth every penny. Solicitors can also look after this paperwork for you, but as I had emailed two separate abogados asking for help, and neither actually replied, I cannot thank Pauline and Mel enough.
When you know what you are doing, bureaucracy in Spain is no more painful than it is in the UK. If you are new to Spain, however, and have little grasp of the language, then trying to discover the documents you need to complete can be daunting, and our experience of the Oficina de Extranjeros in Granada was not easy - understandably, the staff are not keen to chat to you in English, and give very little indication as to what paperwork is needed or not. The Police Station at Motril is far more friendly and much less intimidating.
In simple terms, and from our limited understanding, the requirements are:
EX-15 for an NIE. If you are going to do anything in Spain, you need an NIE. If you need to open a bank account, you will need an NIE. This is the entry level identification number here in Spain, and the requirements are fairly simple - complete the form and verify your identity with a passport, proof of address in Spain etc.
EX-18 for Residency. If you stay in Spain for longer than 90 days, then you need Residency (remember, these are simple guidelines; if you are an expert, then you can clarify!). For Residency, the documents you need to produce are more far reaching. We produced:
- 3 months bank statements for each of us, showing regular income.
- Proof that we are entered on the Padrón (a bit like the electoral register). You need to apply for this through your local town hall.
- Proof of employment or income. I produced the documents that proved I was registered as self-employed (Declaración Censal Simplificada) and Andrew produced a copy of the tenancy agreement for the house in London that is let out, generating income. Note: all documents need to be translated into Spanish; we found an official translator to do this for us.
- We also produced our private health insurance policy. Another note: once you get your social security number here, you are eligible for state health care. However, we took out private health insurance through Sanitas (the Spanish arm of BUPA) and it is incredible value, covering normal health and dental treatments.
The idea behind the above is that you can show evidence that you will not be a burden on the state, which makes complete sense.
So, in and out in less than an hour, and with our status confirmed. To have all the correct paperwork is a relief, and at least we know we are starting on the right foot. The requirements do change fairly frequently, which is why it can be sensible to get correct advice. There are many “How to…” guides on the internet but, even when I was looking for relevant information, these often varied in terms of documentation required. For instance, when we went to apply for our residency yesterday, we were given our Green Card on that very same day, whereas before there was a delay, evidently, while the paperwork went to Granada to be approved and then the applicant would have to return 3 or 4 weeks later to get their card.
So, we are now officially residents in Spain and we could not be happier! Cava was consumed...
Link for NIE4Spain: https://www.nie4spainonline.com/