Last week I confronted my fears of Spanish bureaucracy and
went to Estepona to apply for my Empadronamiento enabling me to be a member of
the community, vote in local and European elections etc). I went with Eugenio,
my trusted facilitator from the Cache Club, who had been so helpful in getting
my relationship back on track with my builder four months ago. Estepona was to be my
destination for this adventure since that is where I own a property. I could have also chosen Guaro, but I assumed it would be easier
to deal with Police and local politicians on the coast rather than in the countryside.
I had heard about the staff in
Empadronamiento and Residency applications – so I was pleased to have a friend
to help me.
We arrived early at the Comisario de Policia – an ugly grey
utilitarian building that could have been anywhere in Europe, except for the
small balcony over the entrance, where one could glimpse the Commissioner,
standing next to his caged canary, surveying the morning ready for the day
ahead – a very Spanish scene.
Fortified by a strong coffee from the neighbouring bar,
Eugenia and I ventured inside. I was
clutching a wad of papers including escrituras, photocopies of almost
every Spanish document I had amassed over the past two years, as well as my currect and old passport. The queue was
surprisingly short, and I passed my NIE over to the women behind the desk
simply marked “extranjeros” – foreigners. I asked her to update the address and
allow me to apply for residency. The
grey, unsmiling woman told us that she would not update my NIE, as there
was no need. Nobody bothered to keep it up to date. Instead I should go and get
my Empadronamiento and then she would process my Residency. For a moment we
both feared we might be caught in a frustrating Catch 22 – I couldn’t get my
residency without my Empadronamiento, and I possibly couldn’t get that
without an NIE with the correct address.
So next stop,
unfailing positive attitude said it would all be fine; she was later to be
proved right. We drove to the port,
where Estepona town hall has a commanding position overlooking the harbour and
boatyard. Inside, we were greeted by
friendly, smiling faces and no queues! This couldn’t be right? I walked
to the desk, handed over my escrituras, passports and smiled. Within 10 minutes not only was I officially in the town hall’s computer
system, but I had my Empadronamiento in my hand! No lengthy delay, no need for
my NIE to be up-to-date, no need to come back again!
Then, I went straight back to the Police Station, now armed
with my Empadronamiento, 3 passport pictures, my completed Residency
Application form and duplicates of everything! Good to her word, the grey woman
in the Police Station took my application, recognised I had given all the items
she had requested earlier in the morning, stamped my duplicate application and
handed it straight back. Is that it? Yes, she said. In four months my
Residency would be processed and would need to return for the final formalities
of given finger prints.
So, after all my worrying and delay, the process (well at
least in Estepona) of securing an Empadronamiento and applying for Residency
was a stress-free process. No all the
Spanish bureaucracy are true.