Xenophobe's® Guides: The Spanish government

Xenophobe's® Guides: Spanish bureaucracy

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When dealing with Spain's bureaucratic system, you'll need a good shot of patience to outlast the Spanish paperwork process.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

It is impossible to reside in Spain without spending part of your life applying to an authority for some sort of permit. Several weeks or months should be set aside in the pursuance of obtaining a necessary official permit to do what you want, as essential queuing becomes inevitable.

You will first have to queue for a form applying for the permit, then queue to hand it in once you have completed all the irrelevant questions asked. You will then be told that the application is not valid unless presented with two or three other documents, which can only be acquired from two or three other departments where you will also have to queue. These departments will be in other office buildings, or in a different town altogether.

Having collected the necessary papers, you will be informed that the law on this particular issue has been changed because of new regulations from Brussels, which will mean that you have to start all over again.

In Spain no two official departments open at the same time, though all are closed in the afternoons. When starting the arduous battle to procure a permit you should therefore arm yourself with a list of the dates of all national and local feast days, saints’ days and holidays, the mayor’s birthday, his assistant’s wedding anniversary and, if possible, the coffee drinking habits of all minor officials.

Thankfully the Spanish became aware a long time ago of the difficulties put in the way of the average citizen by their civil service, so they invented the gestoría – the office of the gestor – which is the haven to which all desperate permit seekers should run in search of help before losing their minds. Gestors are highly paid gofers who will charge you the earth for getting all the documents you need in order to be granted a permit.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Spanish.

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Spanish by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.


Thumbnail credit: AlexanderStein (paperclips).

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3 Comments To This Article

  • Gerhard posted:

    on 8th April 2014, 17:12:56 - Reply

    [Note from the moderator: You may wish to join our community for local opinions: http://community.expatica.com or try our Ask the Expert service: http://expatica.com/ask_the_expert] Hi, how essential is Spanish fluency? And are there regions in Spain where the process is easier?
  • Dawn R posted:

    on 2nd April 2014, 17:27:23 - Reply

    Thanks for the timely post. I just started the process of completing the lengthy and difficult to understand paperwork in Spain for my residence visa. Just hoping my Spanish interpretation of the instructions is correct.
  • Richard S posted:

    on 2nd April 2014, 14:04:32 - Reply

    As stated, get to know the coffee drinking habits of all minor officials. And this means, get to know which cafe they go for their coffee and at what time. You then turn up at the same time, strike up conversation and at the same time, present your problem. For the price of a cup of coffee and a sticky bun you now have a friend and "enchufe" at city hall.