08 November 2012

Views of Barcelona

That's the title of the post I wish I was writing. But actually I have spent a fair amount of my time in Barcelona looking at this:

While the interior of government buildings is not Barcelona's best feature, the part of getting a visa that hasn't been frustrating has actually been pretty informative.

I thought a visa (which is attached to your passport) allowed you to study and live in Spain, but the visa+passport combo doesn't actually serve as official ID for the purposes of opening a bank account, enrolling in school, and renting an apartment. But you can use the visa to get a residence card, which allows you to do all those things. 

Cards for people from the EU are processed in one office. Cards for the rest of the world (including the US) are processed in another. I would say that most of the people waiting this morning at the latter hailed from Latin American countries. 

So, for many of those who need to apply for residence, the language barrier is not a problem. But I honestly don't know other how people manage to figure out exactly what paperwork they are supposed to do, since the Spanish Government doesn't have much of it posted online. My source was the security guard at an immigration office who gave me metro directions to the right office and a verbal list of what documents I was supposed to bring. 

People who are applying for residency start forming a line outside the office at about 5:30 am (which in Spain is a very unholy hour ... and also just half an hour after the metro starts running). The office opens at 9am and closes at 2pm. Here is the line at about 6:45am, from the end (there are about 50 people waiting):

By 8am it was four people thick and wrapped all the way around the block. The office serves about 200 people a day. You cannot make an appointment in advance. 

Apparently work permits are even worse ... 12 hour lines that start at 3am, anyone? 

Then, when you finally get inside the building, there's this looming feeling of desperation. The waiting rooms always remind me of this Joaquín Sabina song, which talks about "salas de espera/sin esperanza."

Spanish culture is, in some respects, laid back, but deadlines and paperwork are not flexible and no exceptions are made. I feel really grateful that I was able to get my residence card today and I'm ready to see some real views of Barcelona!

Beach - Badalona - 03 Nov 2012

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