It’s Simple!

Last week, we went to the Foreigners Office to get information on our awaited residency card renewals (submitted in June). We were told that we were within the normal time range. Since I plan to visit the Dowager Duchess in the meantime, I asked what I need to do to ensure that I will be allowed back into Spain (without a current card). It went like this:

The guy at the desk was very nice and said I needed a re-entry application. He said I could only get that form from the woman at the other desk. I gasped. It was La Rubia (“The Blond” — the foul bureaucrat we had to deal with last year when we arrived in Sevilla). So, we waited in line for La Rubia, who San Geraldo noticed was being consistently nasty to everyone who approached her desk. I made excuses for her. Then it was our turn. Before I even said why we were there, she saw the copies of the renewal forms (already processed) in my hand and pointed to the information desk telling me to talk to him. She called, “Next.” I said, firmly, “I already spoke with him and he told me I need to get a re-entry application from you.” She went through files, gave me three forms, and in rapid Andalusian Spanish told me what to do. I told her my Spanish was a bit slow and I asked her to clarify next steps. She flourished everything at me and said, still in her rushed, Andalusian Spanish, “It’s simple!” She told me to pay at the bank with one form (I had already understood that) and then go to the police department with everything. “The police?” I asked. “Yes. It’s simple!” she muttered. She again looked behind me and called, “Next!”


Once we were home, San Geraldo went online and read that I could take the forms to any police station. I went to the bank Tuesday and paid my 10 euros. That was simple. I then went to the nearest police station, a new and beautiful building on La Alameda. The very pleasant cop looked at my paperwork and told me only one station in Sevilla did that; I needed to go to the police in Los Remedios. On a good day, that’s at least a 35-minute walk. We’re not having good days right now. Yesterday was over 110F. Also, it’s August. They’re not open in the afternoon and it was already 12:30. It had become a little less simple. But today was supposed to be significantly cooler (only about 98F), so I’d get an early start and all would be fine.


This morning after breakfast, I took a cab to Los Remedios. When I entered, a very pleasant woman met me in the hall and I showed her what I had. She said, no problem, take a seat. About 10 minutes later a man came out. He smelled like booze but (or perhaps, therefore) he was also very pleasant. I showed him what I had. He said I needed to go to the office where I started my renewal process in Plaza de España. I told him they said I needed to go to the police and that the police in La Alameda said I needed to go here. He said, no, not for this. I tried every way I could — without flat out saying, “You’re drunk! Do you even know what you’re talking about?!?” — to confirm that his information was correct. And then I politely left the office. Simple, my ass!

Before I spoke with the boozer, I listened to another staff person (sober and very kind) trying to assist the woman who had arrived just before me. She had brought in a document signed by her husband who was from Colombia. I heard the staff person explain that the document was not the correct one. It was for citizens of the United States of America. She snapped, “Colombia is in America!” He said, “No. Colombia is in South America.” “Exactly,” she replied. He continued, “The United States of America is in North America. And this form is only for citizens of the United States of America.” She said, “It’s all America! It’s one continent. Like Europe.” “Well, no,” he said. But she was insistent and continued, “Spain is in Europe. Colombia is in America. Brazil is in America.” The poor man simply smiled and asked her to have a seat. When I left, the woman was on the phone with her husband, ranting, “These people don’t know basic geography.” This all occurred in Spanish and I understood every word. I wanted to tell her how proud I was (and that she needed to get a different form for her husband to sign), but I thought better of it.

I took a cab to the renewal office in Plaza de España. I didn’t even have to wait to speak with someone. I was told I needed to go the other end of Plaza de España to the Foreigners Office (remember, this was the Renewal Office). I said, “Do I have to? I really like this office so much better.” The man at the desk laughed and said, “I wouldn’t want to go there either. I don’t even want to work in that office.” But, off I went. I waited in line and was hugely relieved to not see La Rubia sitting at one of the two desks. I showed  my paperwork and I was given a number and sent to the office across the hall, where I sat down to wait.

Although we all had numbers, no numbers were called (the machine is in another room), so we self-policed. I waited just a few minutes before being waved over to a desk. I told the man why I was there. He asked a question and I answered it. I apologized that my Spanish was not good. He said in clear and precise Spanish, “Please, compared to what I hear all day, you’re Spanish is exceptional.” He stamped a bunch of things, looked me up in the database, shuffled papers around, asked me some questions, took copies of things from me, gave them back, took them again, and then asked me when I wanted to return to the office next week. Really? I’m heading back into the lion’s den Monday at 1:30. I will supposedly be leaving with the document I need for travel.


I bought another bottle of water, walked home, and took pictures along the way. So glad it’s only going to be around 98F today, especially since it’s currently 104.

The only simple thing about this entire process? The unfortunate woman with the husband from Colombia, America.


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

44 thoughts on “It’s Simple!”

    1. Chris:
      Oh, I'm sure there's one in your nearest city, as well. A rose by any other name. It's called Oficina de Extranjeros here, which really translates to Foreign Office. But Americans (of the USA extraction) know that as something entirely different… if they know it.

      I don't know if they've changed process and don't tell each other or what the story is, but it would be frustrating in my own language. The fact that I can get things so easily confused makes it so much worse.

  1. Makes you realise that we're all just so many lab rats in a maze, doesn't it? Keep a supply of monkey nuts, bananas and dirty cash on you and remember, the cretins dishing out this nonsense actually think it's important – it's what the poor sods do all day most days. Pity them. Smile, groom them, offer them bananas and make ooh-aha-aha noises if you must, but pity them. Behind those desks, under those shiny work-suits, no matter how big their collection of well-worn rubber stamps and however much "status" their troop accords them, they all have protruding bright pink or bright blue bottoms.

    1. The Owl Wood:
      I'm at least grateful that I have never once had the sense that anyone is expecting a palm to be greased. As for shiny work suits. There hasn't been one in sight (nor un-shiney). The final guy today was wearing jeans and a Southpark T-Shirt with all the characters printed across the front beneath the words: "OMG. They killed Kenny!"

      The image of La Rubia with a bright blue bottom is riotous and I will keep that in mind if I ever have to deal with her again!

  2. Makes me kinda glad we don't stay in any one place long enough to deal with all the bull…. strike that…. crap. I don't know that I'd have the patience….. good thing you have to do this only once a year!

    1. The Odd Essay:
      Well, the residency card is still a separate issue right now. I'm going to see if I can get a status report on that come Monday. But the new card will be good for 2 years, followed by another 2-year card, and then we can apply I think for permanent resident status!

  3. Oh my, Mitch. Bureaucracy at its finest. And in Spanish, too. Well done on your patience and keeping it all in proportion. I love Owl Wood's comment – he's right!

    1. Judith:
      I will not lose the image of the bright pink and/or bright blue bottoms and I'm very grateful to Owl Wood for giving me something that is guaranteed to make me smile through the red tape.

      I must admit that after the visit to the tipsy worker this morning, I had a passing thought to just give up and go home. It looks like, tipsy or not, he knew what he was talking about. Anyway, it all gives me something to write about!

    1. Mark:
      After all this??? Besides, maybe I didn't tell the story of my four visits to the Orange County Department of Motor Vehicles in the 6 months before we left Irvine. This is going better than that and, there, I even spoke the language!

  4. I cringe when I hear those bureaucracy-gone-wild stories. It's crazy-making having to deal with a bunch of poorly functioning cogs in a outmoded machine who fiercely defend their lordly status at the expense of those they are paid to help.
    I once read about a welfare mom who was a regular client of the social services office. The agency put her into a work training program and eventually hired her to work behind a desk in the same office. Once she had some status, she was so ruthless to those who needed help, they had to fire her. It's called "rankism", a term I just recently learned about.

  5. Bureaucracies! The same, more or less, everywhere! I can't imagine going through all this in the heat and speaking another language!!!
    I'd be doomed from the start. You WILL need a rest by the time you get to Brooklyn!

  6. I think it's curious that you have a validity gap between your current card and your renewal. And why do you need a card at all to get back into Spain? No one in France has ever asked about residency cards at the airport.

    1. Walt the Fourth:
      Interesting that you don't have the same issues. Our passports have an initial temporary residency visa on one of the pages as part of our move (that residency visa expired after three months, even though a 3-month visit wouldn't require a visa anyway). That expired visa immediately makes the agent ask for the residency card. The first residency card was good for a year. The first renewal is good for 2. Another renewal, another 2 years. And then smoother sailing. I assume you have something on your passport that indicates you're a legal resident of the EU and can therefore come and go? Without something, we can only spend 3 months in Europe and would have to go back to the US for a full three months before returning. Clear as mud?

    2. Nope, we have nothing on the passport (other than the expired 1-year residency permits). No one ever asks for anything when we come and go. We have the cards, and travel with them of course, should we need to prove residency, but so far we haven't had to.

    3. Walt the Fourth:
      Oh… the mud thickens! After doing all this work, no one will probably even ask to see it. But, if I didn't do it, I'd probably get stopped… And I don't want to have to spend three months in the States… without Jerry!

    1. Peter:
      San Geraldo's sister Linda always says I'm the saint (for putting up with San Geraldo). I may just have to adopt the name San Miguel, although it's much more meaningful if someone in a position of power (i.e., the 22-greats-grandson of San Fernando El Rey) offers the designation.

    1. Victor:
      Did I mention that when I left the besotted bureaucrat yesterday, my initial inclination was to cancel the trip to New York and just go back to bed? After it was all done, I didn't leave the air-conditioned house for the rest of the day. My super-powers are very limited!

    1. Pearl:
      So glad you were entertained. Did you click on the link to the first time we met La Rubia? Equally entertaining I think! Oh, yes, Columbia, America. And one less continent. Who know?

  7. If you were Bing, you would be in prison for slapping government employees. Bing is notoriously impatient with any sort of waiting and worse, is a finger snapper. Usually, I end up on the side of the person she is yelling at.

    I think you were amazingly patient and sweet. And gallant, did I mention gallant? Did you ever read the magazine HIGHLIGHTS as a kid? Goofus and Gallant? Bing would be Goofus and you would be Gallant. 🙂

    1. Maria:
      San Geraldo never slaps anyone. He just leaves… which gets us nowhere. I DID read HIGHLIGHTS and I am so honored (I think) to be called Gallant. (The Dowager Duchess will be proud.)

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