Saturday, 31 January 2009

Spanish Bureaucracy

Okay, I admit it. We are stupid. We've lived in Madrid for about eighteen months now, and only just got registered with the local Health Centre. And that was only because MamaDuck needed to see a doctor. Yes, yes, we always planned to get registered before the need actually arose, but there's always something more interesting to do than dealing with Spanish bureaucracy.

We have a folder that we thought contained every document that could ever be needed for any dealings with the government, and we took it along to the Health Centre.

Here's what you need:

1) Empadronomiento. This is a document from the Census and Statistics Office, and is considered to be proof of where you live. It's important because if we lived in a different barrio they'd have sent us to the Health Centre there. We have the empadronomiento.

2) Original NIE certificate. This is your Foreigner's Identity Number, and it proves you have the right to live in Spain. I had mine. MamaDuck has lost hers. Poo.

3) Social Security Number. Yes, we both have these, but the Health Centre insists that we get a document that says what our numbers are. But here's MamaDuck's number on a payslip, and here's mine on a tax document. No good, go to the SS and request the document. Double poo.

So MamaDuck retires to bed with her cold/flu/chest infection, and I trudge off to the Social Security office in pouring rain, strong winds and freezing cold. It's on a street quite near us, but it turns out to be an insanely long street and the office is at the far end of it. I get two forms, and am called to the desk before I have a chance to fill them in. I explain I need one document for me, and one for absent wife. Oh, no, absent wife must complete the authorisation section on the back. More poo. I trudge home, wake MamaDuck from her slumber, fill in the forms, and get the Metro back to the SS office. They issue the two documents, and then I return to the Health Centre.

They do my registration, give me a temporary document that allows me to see a doctor, and eventually they'll issue a Medical Card. They absolutely refuse to process MamaDuck's application without the NIE certificate. But we know the number of the NIE, it's on her payslips, so why do they insist on this crappy bit of paper? It's the rules, that's why.

But listen, they say. Your wife can see a doctor, but you have to pay 45 Euros. If you return within five working days with the NIE certificate, we'll refund the money. I roll on the floor laughing, and explain that I don't think there's any possibility that we could get a duplicate certificate within five weeks, never mind five days.

Anyhoo, the next day MamaDuck got some photocopies of the certificate from the admin people where she works. The original is still missing. She went back to the Health Centre and they accepted the document. So she's now stoked up with antibiotics, and hopefully will be better soon, although the doc says half of Spain currently has this infection, and it can take a while to go away.

I was talking to an Irish rocket scientist (stop giggling at the back) about this. He's been in Madrid for a few months and has just got his appointment to get his NIE. In June. When I told him about the 45 Euros fee, instead of outrage, he said that in Ireland, you have to pay 50 Euros every time you need to see a doc. And it never gets refunded.

I guess we don't know we're born.


the real nick said...

Actually, I found an image of the rocket he's working on:
Irish rocket

Colin said...

Keith, Were you not aware of the Spanish saying, along the lines of "There'll always be one more document needed"?

I'm a bit surprised you weren't told at any stage they couldn't do anything because one or both of you didn't have a Family Book to prove your lineage. But I guess/bet you will if you ever try to get your son on the system.

Jayne said...

Sounds a bit like dealing with one of the Ministries of Wonders & Blunders in the Sandpit keefie!
Hope mamaduck gets better soon. Make her a nice hot toddie - guaranteed to help her sleep nicely.

Haarlson Phillipps said...

Very droll, and likely very true, but not nearly as frustrating as dealing with full-on good ol' British bureaucracy. As you'll know a UK driving licence is perfectly valid in Spain - it also doubles up as a convenient photo id (the new N.I.E. does not have a photo). I live in Barcelona,was pickpocketted and neeed a new driving licence. A driving licence is simply proof that you have passed a certain test, yes? like A levels, or a degree issued by a UK univesity. I can renew my UK passport using a Spanish address; my degrees are still valid regardless of my address - but could I persuade the UK DVLA to issue me a replacement driving licence without a UK address? No chance. I sought the advice of the Embassy in Madrid. They checked it out and, very helpfully, phoned me back the next day: "Lie," they said. "Give them your mother's address."

I'm not sure I understood when you wrote:"He's been in Madrid for a few months and has just got his appointment to get his NIE." Since nearly two years ago getting an N.I.E. for an EU national is very straightforward - no queues, no hassle, no appointments necessary any more. At least that was my experience - just downloaded the form, filled it in, photocopied it twice (just in case), took photos, empadronamiento and passport, filled in bank transfer form for 4€, took it to BBVA next door to the police station, took the receipt back to police desk, and they printed it off there and then - bingo bango - job done. (They used to insist on posting it to your address)My partner, (who's lived here for 30 years)a US citizen,still has to do the whole appointment, five hours queueing stuff. In fact it took her from December 2007, when she first phoned to get an appointment for February 2008, to June 2008 before she actually received her renewed 5 year residency card. Yep - six months.
But yes, I agree, Spanish bureaucracy can be frustrating - but that's why we have gestores.
Good blog, visited a couple of times. Always an entertaining read. Regards.

Keefieboy said...

TNR: nice rocket.

Colin: Family Book? How bizzare.

Jayne: I was expecting worse.

Haarlson: I have the replacing of my UK Driving Licence to come, but can (and will) use my dad's address.
The NIE appointment thing is beyond a joke. It was 2 months when we got ours a year ago, now it's up to 4 months. And that's for EU nationals, God knows what it's like for the rest of the world. And it *is* Madrid - maybe other cities have less of a demand? Or are more efficient.

Tim Newman said...

This is your Foreigner's Identity Number, and it proves you have the right to live in Spain.

I said this when you first told me about this when I was in Madrid: so much for EU freedom of movement.

Tim Newman said...

They checked it out and, very helpfully, phoned me back the next day: "Lie," they said. "Give them your mother's address."

Ha ha! This exactly what the girl at the DVLA told me to do, sotto voice, when I renewed my license from the UAE.

kalebeul said...

If like huge numbers of Brits here you don't empadronarte and just use your European health card the doctor should be free. On the other hand that way you wouldn't have the pleasure of meeting the functionaries.