Friday, September 7, 2007

Spanish Bureaucracy

I'd like to say it's that time of the year again, but this only happens every two years because the system is so not working.

Anyway I went into Malaga today to make sure I had the correct form filled out for renewing my residency permit to live in this wonderful place called Costa del Sol. Until last year this procedure could be done in Torremolinos but they have changed the system to....make it better.

When I first arrived, all you had to do was pop into the police station in Torremolinos between 9am and 2 pm and pick up your form and then show up on another day with all the necessary papers. The process of renewing your residency permit was nice and simple.

Then they did this wonderful thing and decided that they would give every person who found a job in Spain a residency permit.

This was a disaster.

Long queues appeared outside the police station. Then they introduced the 'numbers'. You had to get a number or they wouldn't even talk to you. You had to be there at 9am, then 8am, then 7am in the morning to even get a number.

After you submitted all your papers you waited for over 12 months before they issued a go ahead. Then you had to wait another 3 months or so to get your 'residency card'.

This wasn't a bed of roses but at least you could pop by before 2pm to pick up the right form and they knew which one to give you! So the only hellish part was waking up before the sun rose and waiting outside in the open air outside the police station for 2 hours and then waiting some more inside before you got to submit your application form.

Then they changed the system this year. Not only do you have to go all the way to Malaga but you are supposed to send a fax and make an appointment!

The new place was at least a 30 minute walk from the train station. And no, I wasn't wearing high heels but my beat up Nike walking shoes. By God it was far.

Anyway when I got there I was left outside the barred gates of the police station and was told to get in this queue for asking questions. This lasted for about 30 minutes. There was dog poop on the ground right where the queue was and it was difficult not to step on it, not to mention the government cars that sometimes needed to get in through that same gate.

Then finally I was let inside and given a 'number'. The policeman manning the gate was telling people at the end of the queue there were only a limited number of 'numbers' for asking questions.

I was #2 in this queue so I soon got to see a man but he didn't really want to talk to me. I tried my best to speak Spanish and only said one english phrase: "I sent this." But that was enough to get the man all worked up and he started loudly telling me that I was not allowed to speak English and I doubt he heard anything else I ever said to him again despite the fact that it was all in Spanish. He just wanted to get rid of me so he gave me another 'number'.

I went to sit down and waited for 1.5 hours. There weren't many people in my queue but they seemed to take over 30 minutes to ask their questions.

30 minutes before closing time, the big lady boss stood up and demanded what questions I had to ask. She told me to go the same guy who had told me not to speak english and gave me my number. I told her that I all I wanted was to confirm that I had the right form for renewing my residency permit and to ask how the appointment worked. She seemed to be a bit annoyed with the first guy saying: She just wanted the correct application form. Why couldn't you just give it to her?

The guy indignantly told her I had had too many application forms even though I only showed him one.

Anyhow this all happened in Spanish so I could be wrong about what they were saying, but this is what it sounded like to me.

In the end she gave me an application form which looked wrong to me but I took it and left. They didn't even want to waste 5 minutes with me and I wondered why the guy before me got to sit down and discuss his problems for 30 minutes. Then she walked away really quickly and I literally had to chase her to her desk to ask about the appointment.

"I sent the fax in July and still don't have a response."

"You just have to wait some more."

My time was up. It was time to leave.

I have a headache from sun stroke and am tired and pissed off now and I probably don't even have the right application form.

I really don't mind waiting for the reply but I do have fears that they have lost my application form for the appointment, as they have done this to me before. The first time I made an application form for my residency permit, the good people at the Torremolinos police station managed to lose my entire file and I had to submit everything all over again...

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