Sorry I haven’t been able to post. I’ve been running around this last week like a chicken without a head.
If you were expecting this to be a pippy-cheery entry, I’m sorry, but you’re gonna be disappointed.
You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about by the title. Drum roll please…
Yeah, that’s right. My visa. And you’re probably scratching your head thinking what the hell does that have to do with left and right hands.
I’ll start from the very beginning because you really need to know everything.
For those that have never been out of the US, if you are going to Spain for a vacation, you don’t need a visa thanks to the schengen visa. Basically, you can be in the country for a total of 90 days out of a 6 month period without a visa whether its for vacation or for a business trip. When I went to Spain in 2007, I didn’t have a visa because I would only be in the country for a month. I was in the clear. The stamps in my passport were all I needed.
For those of us that plan on being in the country for more than 90 days, we need to obtain a visa. It doesn’t matter why. School. Work. Retirement. Whatever.
No matter what, you have to make an appointment with the Spanish Consulate that controls your region. For me, I ended up having to make a trip to Chicago. Not really a big deal, but I feel bad for the people that aren’t so close.
For students, there are two different visas. There’s one visa for students that plan on being in Spain for less than 180 days. Basically one semester. And there’s a different visa for students going for over 180 days. Probably a full year. That’s me. I needed the same paperwork that the others needed but I also needed a doctors note and state or federal background check. I guess they wanted to make sure I wasn’t some crazy killer with a terrible disease. Because people who go for only one semester totally couldn’t be crazy killers with terrible diseases….
Whatever. Not a big deal.
So on the Chicago Consulate’s website, it says:
PLEASE NOTE THAT STUDENTS arriving in Spain for study or research purposes (+ 180
DAYS) will be granted a Visa valid for 90 days with multiple entries. Once in Spain the student MUST register with the “Oficina de Extranjeros” of the “Subdelegación del Gobierno” in order to obtain the necessary STUDENT ID within ONE MONTH of their arrival.
Exact quote. But that’s all that it says. And that’s exactly what I got. A 90 day, multiple entry visa.
So obviously, this is something I have to take care of. Last Tuesday I went online to try and figure out exactly where the heck I’m going. It turns out, there are nine Oficinas de Extranjeros’ in Madrid. Well crap. I did some more digging and I find out that each one deals with different things. My thought process was ‘Hey. I should go to the office that deals with students’. Not illogical. Right?
So Wednesday morning, I head to the Oficina de Extranjeros in Canillejas thinking I’m gonna get this done and I’ll be set for the year.
Hahahaha. Oh God, I wish.
I get there and eventually get to the front of the line where there’s a lady sitting behind a desk. I tell her what was written on the sheet from the Consulate and she looks at me , asks if I have a NIE. NIE is a id number that the Spanish give to foreigners. It stands for ‘Numero de identidad de extranjeros’. Foreigner’s ID number.
No. I knew I could register at the consulate, but I thought I didn’t need it. No one said it was needed. And it was one less thing I had to pay for.
Well she looked at my visa, looked at me and said ‘Sorry, but the visa is only for 90 days. After that, you’ll have to leave’. I told her no. That’s not what the Consulate said and that I had to register. Again ‘Sorry. You’re only here for 90 days’.
I just about wanted to punch her in the face. I did NOT work my ass off to be in this country for only 90 days.
I walked out so angry and upset. What the hell was I supposed to do? Why the hell did the Consulate say to go them if they had no idea what was going on? (hence the left hand doesn’t know what the right one is doing)
By the time Lucia came home from work, there was probably steam coming out of my ears. Half of me wanted to punch the wall, the other half wanted to cry. She called one of her friends from South America to see what they had done.
One long phone call and lots of internet searching later, we found out that, yes, I do need a NIE. Also, I have to register with the city as a resident.
A NIE requires a whole bunch if paperwork as well as a whole bunch of photocopies. I think the photocopy guy across the street is my new best friend.
But I got the paperwork together and went to yet another Oficina de Extranjeros. As soon as I walked in the door, the lady got out of her seat and in the back. Are you serious? I have stuff I need to do and you are leaving?
She was back in about 15 minutes. Ok. I take it back lady. I’m sorry. So we all get back in line. And at this point, there’s like 30 people in line. I was only number 5. But of course, the lady in front of me practically was bitching out the lady behind the desk. Finally she said ‘Lady shut up and listen to me’. Great. She was not in a good mood.
I’m next and I explain to her the situation and she tells me I have to go to yet another place and get fingerprints taken. Crap. Well by that time I wasn’t going to make it. Part of me considered hiking it to the US Embassy to see if they at least knew what the hell I’m supposed to be doing.
I end up at the university. They have people all the time with this problem so I’m sure they can help. And they do. I came back so much more relaxed.
So, Monday, I went back to the office I was at Thursday because I had seen something about mailing fingerprints and the lady didn’t say anything about it. Same lady. So much nicer. Not that she was horrible the first time, but she hadn’t just dealt with a screaming Ecuadorian.
She made a few calls and sent me to the same place she told me to go. She explained that I actually needed an appointment and that’s where I had to go. Well, the metro stop is Aluche. If you feel like going back to the metro map and looking, feel free. I was at Estrecho. I went way out into what felt like the middle of nowhere.
September 19th. That’s my appointment date. What this has to do with the NIE, I’m not totally sure. But it’s one step closer.
And yesterday, I had my meeting and I am officially a resident of the city of Madrid. What that has to do with my visa, I’m not sure.
I’m gettin’ there. No, it’s not easy, but I can deal.