One of my top priorities upon arriving in Spain was to apply for the número de identidad de extranjero (foreigner’s identity number), or NIE. This is a taxpayer ID number for foreigners, and with it one can work legally, pay taxes, and engage in other transactions like buying real estate. I’m not sure of all the things I can do with it, but it was a priority because with it I could be paid legally. Since I quit my job and moved here with savings to do a Master’s, earning some money would be a great help. I also hope to find full time employment after I complete my studies.
Although I’m an American, I have a built-in advantage since I also have Italian citizenship. Thus, with my Italian passport number, I was able to schedule an appointment online with the local police. But even that was no mean feat. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the online scheduling service reports that no appointments are available. (Of course, it tells you this after you go through all the steps, including inputting your data.) But I’d heard that 9:00 a.m. was the witching hour for this online system, so on Monday morning this past week I tried to schedule an appointment. I failed. I tried again. I failed again. I repeated this, taking breaks to eat my breakfast, until 9:25 or so, when suddenly, I was brought to a page with a calendar. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t include appointments available the same week. I’d heard that waiting times were a month or longer, but I was able to schedule mine for Friday at noon. (Talk about lucky – I even got a time that didn’t require rush hour travel.)
Now, I’ve been through some bureaucratic webs before. My Italian citizenship, for example, was recognized after several years of compiling records, and five consular appointments between my parents and me. But I persevered and found success. Even if you’ve been to a DMV, you know that you have to prepare for anything. So I told myself, as I called my taxi, that I might not get the NIE today, but at least I’ll know something about the process.
The police station was a small building behind the Estación Norte in central Valéncia. Like anywhere else, you go to a window, they confirm your appointment and give you a number. Then you sit in a waiting room with one of those digital signs alerting everyone to who’s being served next. After about 20 minutes, my number 27 appeared, and I went through the door.
The gentleman who helped me was nice, but spoke quickly. I had trouble keeping up. First, he informed me that I’d paid too much for the required bank fee, 12 euro instead of 9 and change. I took this to mean I had to start over. After much confusion on my part, he got through to me: You can go back to the bank to get the difference back, or not. I laughed and said, “for less than three euro? And in this rain?” He replied, “Of course, but I’m duty-bound to inform you of this.” A-hah.
He also asked me if I really was a widower. What? I’d checked the wrong box, widower instead of divorced. But that was fine. There were a couple of other minor hiccups, but he processed everything, filed my papers, and printed a certificate and stamped it. It contained my NIE. Success.
“Toda lucha trae recompensa.” That’s what a classmate of mine told me. Every struggle brings a reward. So far this experience has presented some interesting struggles, many unexpected. But luckily, other things have been easier than expected. On to the next challenge.