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I Got My NIE!
With the help of my husband, I got the document that shows I exist in Spain.

Courtesty of Sara Wilson
Sara in front of the police station with NIE in hand!

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 Iím 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; and I accomplished it in less than two weeks! It was much easier than I expected. So whatís the trick? Marry a Spaniard whoís organized and has the foresight to apply for the "libro de familia" as soon as you get married. Thatís what my husband, David, did. This book is the official document that shows that our marriage is recognized in Spain. It stayed buried in a drawer for nearly the last six years, but has now become a very important document. (Letís 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 wasnít officially legal to work until January, even though I had been working since the job started in October.

But it wasnít 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 elseís.

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 8:00 a.m. the next day to get a number by 9:00 a.m. 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 return with the stamped document to drop for processing. We did all of this on the 20th and I picked up my official number just nine days later!

But most important to mention is that I have been completely spoiled by the fact that David did all the research beforehand to find the office and figure out the process. And since my Spanish level is less than basic, he has acted as my translator. In fact, I just stand there while he does everything for me. Iím sure that this whole experience would have been a lot more interesting to read about had I not had him, but it has been a far less stressful experience for me having him by my side.

But itís not over yet. Next step: Get a residency card. And this is where my American nationality causes a slight inconvenience. Since I am a particular case, we have to head to Alicante to apply for my residency card. Since we donít have a car nor yet our bikes (which are currently in a boat crossing the Atlantic), we will have to take the bus. Hopefully, that step will go just as smoothly. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sara Wilson is currently working as a freelance writer and lives in Torrevieja, Spain with her husband. She has kept a record of her adventures living abroad, which you can find here or on her blog: http://sarawilson.wordpress.com. Contact her directly at wilson.sara@gmail.com.

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