In high school many read Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey. Although I don’t recall much about these epic poems, they have provided me inspiration for this blog entry. This entry is different from the others that I have documented in my adventure following retirement and you may not even find it interesting (assuming you did with the previous ones). Regardless, I have been on an odyssey to obtain permission to stay in Spain (and thereby Europe) for more time than a visitor. Unlike Odysseus and his ten year journey, my odyssey has taken five months and promises at least one more.
My odyssey began last September when I learned that I needed a visa to live in Spain. I really am uncertain what made me think I could just show up at the gates and stay! I learned this tidbit at the Spanish embassy in DC just by chance and “fortunately” they guided me to apply for what is called a “non-lucrative residence visa” which means if I am approved to stay, I can’t work (take jobs away from Spaniards). Given I was retiring, that idea appealed to me so I set forth somewhat blindly doing my research and collecting my documentation.
Documents include a letter why I want the visa, a medical report (that I had no contagious diseases), a police report (super legalized that I wasn’t a criminal), several applications that ask essentially the same things, verification of my pension (with proof that I have enough money to survive), proof of medical insurance (which guaranteed I wouldn’t put a drain on the Spanish healthcare system as well as a guarantee that if I got really sick, I would be taken out of Spain), numerous passport size photos, translation of the documents by a “certified” translator (found one at the local courthouse in PA), and then fees.
As it turns out the US is divided into eight areas by the Spanish government so I had to deliver my documents and fees in person in New York. I had my documents in pretty good order since I communicated regularly with the consulate to ask questions. My documents made it through first shot! Many don’t and people are sent home to get additional / corrected documentation. Two weeks later, I had to return to New York to pick up my visa. This was extraordinarily fast as the time usually is two to four months! To my surprise, I wasn’t yet done!
Although I now had a visa from the Spanish Government firmly placed into my passport, it expired in 90 days! The New York consulate told me I would need to go to the police station in nearby Malaga with additional forms to get a residency card so I could stay for a year!
So on return to Spain, I quickly took a copy of my lease to the Mijas Pueblo town office and received a letter saying that I am a resident. However, they gave me additional forms to fill out and told me to go to the police station in Fuengirola, instead of Malaga. Since Fuengirola is closer, I crossed my fingers and found a person there who told me I didn’t need those forms given to me BUT I did need to pay taxes at a bank (a new form), get finger printed and apply for the residency card after the New Year holiday. An appointment was set for today. I took my application, proof of taxes paid, my passport and a copy of every page of the passport except the cover. Yes, I submitted numerous blank pages as they requested.
Today, though, the woman who told me what to do wasn’t there and wouldn’t be until next week. Her substitute said that I didn’t pay enough taxes and I had to go to the police station in Malaga, anyway. Fortunately there was a man behind me who translated for me and the substitute capitulated and said it was out of his hands and that I should wait for an officer to review my documents and take my finger prints. An officer saw me and accepted all of my forms except my photo which was passport size and needed to be smaller. Outside the office was a photoshop for this very purpose! I brought the photo to her and my next step is to report back precisely in one month. If everything checks out okay, I hope to get the residency card then!
Key things I learned… try to deal always with the same governmental official. Laws, regulations and procedures are interpreted differently between and within offices. Know that you are going to be given incorrect information and roll with it. I think it is wise to take the next step in the process as quickly as possible because time is against you. Research what others have posted on the Internet.
This is an expensive process. I think I have spent around $4000 so far (including the transportation to New York, fees, and taxes. I hope I am done!