Staying the Course to Become a Spanish Resident Just when everything is coming together, becoming a legal resident requires a lot of persistence and patience to stay the course. BY SARA WILSON
Courtesy of Sara Wilson
David celebrating the end of a long journey to residency for Sara.
There are times in life when everything just seems to be going right. Right now is one of those times. Not only do David and I feel like we couldn’t have found a more perfect business, but as we get to know Pepe (the business owner) and his girlfriend, Amparo, better, we’re realizing that we couldn’t have found better people to buy a business from. With Spain in crisis mode, many businesses are for sale and many sellers are desperate, which means there is opportunity but also uncertainty as you don’t quite know who you can trust and who’s telling the truth. Pepe’s also desperate to sell his business, but it’s not because he’s broke. Instead, it’s because he’s exhausted.
As the weeks have passed, we’ve learned that he’s a man of his word and has a deep set values that keep him honest. Together, David and I have marveled at our luck that we entered the scene at just the right time when this charming little business was available in a village that we adore. We hoped that we might not stray off course or lose our way from this perfect path that seems to be leading right to where we want to go, but then we received a letter from the office of immigration. It was in response to my residency application.
Getting my residency has felt like a full time job at times and at first seemed simple: just assemble some documents, make an appointment at the immigration office to submit the papers and wait a month for the official approval. So that’s just what we did.
We had our first appointment back in July. The officer looked everything over and David and I happily submitted the stack of papers, which we had carefully prepared. Simple enough. A month later, we received the letter and were impressed by the timely response. But to our utter disappointment the letter wasn’t approving my residency, but instead claiming that we hadn’t included all the necessary documents. The missing document? Our marriage certificate.
Surely we had included that! That was the most important document of all to prove that I had the right to apply for my residency. That was the document that gave backbone to my application. We wouldn’t have forgotten to include that! Frustrated, we went back to the immigration office and resubmitted the papers, making doubly sure that we included a copy of the marriage certificate. We waited another month and received another letter.
Incomplete application, the letter informed us. Again, they claimed we hadn’t included the marriage certificate. Except this time, they included a key word that had been missing in the first letter. We were required to include an actualized marriage certificate. Actualized? What did that mean? We had to prove that we were still married? Wasn’t it obvious that we were since we were filing the application together? We had a lot of questions and in our search for answers at the office of immigration, we got directed to yet another office at the police station.
By this time, three months had passed and we were determined to bring this long saga to an end so we headed over to the station immediately and asked a policeman who we recognized vaguely as a friend of David’s dad how to go about getting this document. Getting an actualized marriage certificate required a number, he informed us. Oh no! At the mere mention of the word, "number" images of early morning risings, long lines of people and limited numbers passed out per day instantly appeared in our heads. The news was bad and then it got worse.
Our Lucky Number?
Acquiring a number could take months, but just when the implications of the number system started setting in he motioned to David to step away from the other officers milling about and, in a hushed voice, delivered an important life-changing message: if we arrived at 8:00 sharp the next morning, he would meet us in front and slip us a number. Really?! We couldn’t believe it.
We made sure to be in front of the building at 8:00 a.m. sharp the next morning and awkwardly hovered around the entrance. A whole line of people had been waiting for who knew how long. We anxiously looked for the policeman and then finally spotted him within. He was walking around casually and we hoped that he hadn’t forgotten about his very hushed and secret promise. Then, just at the moment when they unlocked the doors, he slyly handed David a number and told us to go inside. We slipped in and glanced at our number. It was the very first number of the day! Oh, sweet luck! How much time we had been spared! Barely five minutes had passed before our number was called and we explained to the lady that we needed an actualized marriage certificate. Did we have family or know anyone in Madrid, she asked. No, we didn’t, but why did that matter? Well, it turns out that because we got married outside of Spain, it was actually the immigration office in Madrid that was the keeper of such documents. This office in Torrevieja could do nothing for us.
Off to Madrid
We left empty-handed and pondered this new challenge. We could submit a form online and receive the form in a couple of months or we could go to the office in Madrid and, supposedly, get it much faster. In the end, we did both. David filled out the form online and then boarded the last bus of the day headed for Madrid. And the next day, he was at the immigration office by 6:30 a.m. and joined the line that was already about 100 people long. And he got a number and saw an officer and when he found out that it should arrive by mail in the next 2 weeks. Pleased that he had not only managed to get a number but had also convinced the lady to rush the document, David celebrated his victory by staying a couple of extra days to enjoy Madrid.
Weeks passed and nothing had come. The weeks turned into months. We left Torrevieja and moved to Altea and finally received a letter in the mail. It was two copies of our actualized marriage certificate! We immediately went online to schedule an appointment for the immigration office in Altea and got one for two weeks later.
David left for the United States and then I left to attend my grandmother’s funeral, and because the appointment was so important, we both headed back to Spain the day after Christmas and arrived the night before the appointment. We soon found out that David had scheduled an appointment for the wrong type of situation. We would have to make another appointment, which would take another two weeks or longer.
We were tired, jetlagged and David simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. Could he talk to a manager? No. He was on vacation. OK, well, we weren’t leaving then. He explained how long we had been waiting for this, the hoops that we had jumped through, but she seemed apathetic and unwavering in her judgment of our case and told us that others had been waiting for years. I tried to get David to drop it, but he wouldn’t. Then, just when I felt that she was getting really annoyed by our presence and that the whole thing was hopeless, she miraculously picked up the phone, made a 2 minute phone call and told us that if we made another appointment online, the person who schedules the appointments would watch out for our names and make sure that we would get one soon.
We went home, made an appointment, and received an email confirmation that we had an appointment for 9:00 the next morning. Unbelievable. We happily headed back the next morning, submitted the papers—actualized marriage certificate and all—and we waited.
What's disconcerting is that we hadn’t received any mail since moving into our new apartment. Not a single piece of correspondence. Online, David checked the status of my residency and saw that the status switched from "In Transit" to "Resolved," and now our lack of mail became downright alarming. It was vitally important that we receive that letter. Surely, the fact that we hadn’t received mail in more than a month meant that there was something wrong with our mail service. David went to the post office to report our issue and we continued checking our mailbox with renewed fervency.
In desperation, I asked our neighbor if he had found our mail the short time he was watching our cats. Sure enough, there was. It turns out that the mailboxes inside the building aren’t the mailboxes where the mail is delivered. Instead, there’s a whole set of mailboxes outside and to the left. We had never seen them because we had always turned right. I ran out to check the mail and I found a stack of our missing mail! There were holiday cards, letters from my grandmother, and right on top, a letter from the immigration office. It was the response that we had been waiting for!
I immediately ran to see David and showed him the letter. At the sight of it, his face broke into a smile and together we ripped open the envelope. There, in beautiful print, the letter confirmed that I had been approved for a five-year residency card!
I began jumping up and down in excitement. The fact that it arrived at the moment that it did—when things are also finally coming together with the business—makes everything just feel right and seems to indicate that we’re right on course.
Now, we just need to make sure that we don’t stray.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.