The Zen Art Of Surviving Gran Canaria Bureaucracy

The zen art of surviving Gran Canaria bureaucracy

The zen art of surviving Gran Canaria bureaucracy

This article contains the secret to effortless paperwork in Gran Canaria. A secret that guarantees that you’ll never sit for hours in the wrong queue for a paper you don’t need. 

Then we’ll tell you where the toothless 15th Century pirate Pedro Cabrón buried his treasure.

No, we won’t. We’re only Gurus, not gods.

All we can do is help with the creeping darkness that consumes your soul when you deal with Gran Canaria’s bureaucracy.

As for El Cabrón’s treasure, legend has it that it’s buried somewhere on the east coast of Gran Canaria. Find his false teeth and you get the booty.

Know your adversary

The Spanish civil service is a sprawling conglomerate created by committee and run by middle management. The boss is on holiday and the one person who knows how it works is on Maternity leave. Forever.

The Canarian Government is a franchise that lost the rule book but carried on regardless.

Your local ayuntamiento is a lemonade stand run by aliens.

Tráfico is an out-of-control ATM that only works in reverse.

Hacienda is a bigger ATM. With a gun.

Before you give up and move to Norway, remember that nobody ever died while queueing for a form. Government offices in Gran Canaria don’t open for long enough for that.

Inefficient but not corrupt, unless you’re rich

Saying that Gran Canaria bureaucracy is inefficient is unfair to the hard-working funcionarios who dedicate their  days to making problems go away.

Unfortunately, they only accept very big bribes.

That’s a joke.

An awkward, edge-of-the-seat joke that makes people squirm. Especially if the envelope of Bin Ladens (500 euro notes) is still in their back pocket.

And it really isn’t fair to the many funcionarios who do try their hardest to help the sweating messes who sit down at their desks.

There are far more of them than you think.

Zen Tip: When you find one, befriend their families, bring them chocolates and offer them no-strings sex.

The zen art of surviving Gran Canaria bureaucracy

The first stage of survival is preparation.

The photocopier is your friend

You need the originals and at least five photocopies of every single identity document that you possess. Think five is too many? It isn’t, especially if you plan to visit multiple offices in one day. Make it 10.

Remember that while the NIE is a universal ID number in Spain, the social security issues it’s own ID numbers. Yes, it makes our eye twitch too.

And that the Libro de Familia does have a use (let us know if you discover it).

Do it write: Take a pen

Government departments don’t provide them because disgruntled folk stay sane by stealing them.

Zen Tip: Take two and make someone’s day.

Pay the price; Take money

You need change to pay for the forms that you queue to fill in. Just to annoy, the form desk never has change.

And take cash as trips down Funcionario Lane often involve popping out to the bank to pay a fee.

Where’s the nearest bank?

Ask the security guard on the door.

Zen Tip: The security guard knows everything.

Queueing is an opportunity

Since you know that you are going to spend all day queueing, treat it as an opportunity.

An opportunity to catch up on your emails, or read that book you nearly finished on the beach. Or to catch up on your meditation. Odds are that you’ll attain enlightenment just before Desk 6 calls your number.

But  you won’t be allowed into Nirvana because you forgot a photocopy.

Zen Tip: Never use headphones  in Spanish queues. Funcionarios regard them as a personal insult and will ruin your day.

Accept the inevitable

The zen art of surviving the Canarian queue is to accept that you are doomed to fail, at least temporarily.

When you find out that you’re missing a final bit of paper, or that Señor Vital Stamp is on holiday, take it in your loser stride.

Zen Tip: Always tell yourself that everyone gets their paper in the end. It’s not true, but it’ll keep you going until rum O’clock.

Pay someone to help

Italy recently made headlines because of a new breed of professional queuers. Spain invented them years ago.

They are called gestorias. For a reasonable fee, a gestoria takes over the entire process of getting your Gran Canaria paperwork sorted out.

You do, of course, have to queue in their office to sign the bits of paper that authorise them to do it. Good ones give you a biscuit while you wait.

Never lose control

If the whole process is getting you down, if queue rage is growing within you and your inner shouty guiri is about to escape, do what the locals do and go for coffee.

Scared you’ll lose your place in the queue? Get another number as you leave, or find the coffee machine. There’s always a coffee machine.

Then picture yourself walking out of the door into the sunshine. The Canaries are singing in the trees, a stranger high fives you, there’s a unicorn under the rainbow.

You have the paperwork. You are free.

Until mañana.


The Guru Guide To Getting A NIE Number & Residencia In Gran Canaria

Example of a green NIE paper

Example of a green NIE paper

 

All foreigners that live, do business or buy property in Gran Canaria need a Spanish NIE number.

Spain has made this harder, especially for non-EU and non-EEA  nationals. Even EU citizens don’t just get one these days.

What is the NIE

The NIE, or Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros, is the number that goes on your Spanish residency card.

It’s a fiscal identification number that allows the Spanish Government to coordinate your affairs. Note that the social security has its own number system and card.

The NIE is the equal of the NIF number that all Spanish citizens have on their DNI identity cards. But, EU and EEA citizens don’t get photo ID in Spain anymore. You can thank a group of British expats for it. They sued Spain in the EU courts for forcing them to carry ID, so Spain stopped issuing them.

This is a serious pain as Spanish law states that you have to carry your passport and NIE paper with you at all times.

What is the NIE for?

If you plan to live in Gran Canaria, you need a NIE to…

Get a job, pay taxes, own or sell property, sign a rental contract, start a business, register with the social security system and sign up for utilities, phone and internet contracts.

You also need it to claim the discount that Canarian residents get on travel. Residents get 50% of travel between islands and to Spain.

NIE or residencia?

This causes a lot of confusion because you need a NIE to be resident, but you don’t need to be resident to get a NIE.

If you are in Gran Canaria to buy a property, then you can apply for a NIE number alone. It comes on a green credit-card sized piece of paper.

If you plan to live in Gran Canaria, apply for residencia straight away.

What does the NIE look like

Your NIE number is the letter X or Y followed by seven or eight digits and then another letter. You’ll learn it pretty fast.

Currently, it comes on a floppy, credit-card sized bit of green paper. This falls out of passports and disintegrates when wet.

You’re not allowed to laminate it.

What you need to get a NIE

Spain used to assign NIE numbers to anyone who asked for one, but this has changed.

To get a NIE number these days,  you need one of these…

  • A work contract: This doesn’t need to be full-time but it does need to be formal. Currently you need a 20-hour contract to get an NIE. The days of getting a few hours teaching works and geting your number seem to be over (for now).
  • A pre-contract (contrato de arras) to buy property gets you a NIE. You get a number on a certificate valid for three or six months. The number stays with you but non-residents need to renew the certificate as needed.
  • Have at least €5000 in your bank account. an income of 600 per month and private medical insurance. The health insurance must cover you to the level  you get from the Spanish health service. However, there are no official guidelines about what qualifies you to. The decision seems to depend more on how your policemen feels on the day than anything else. Look smart and be polite; It helps.

How to get a NIE / apply for residencia

Go to the Extranjeria department of your nearest Policia Nacional station, (Plaza de la Feria in Las Palmas). Fill in and sign an application form (take a pen). Hand it in with your documentation, a passport photocopy and your original passport.

Then you have to go and pay a fee at the nearest bank  and bring back the receipt. You may get your NIE card on the day or have to come back in a few days to pick it up.

EU citizens now have their own queue at extranjeria in Las Palmas with short queues. Spare a thought for everyone else as they sometimes wait weeks for an appointment.

For a NIE certificate, you may need your hotel booking receipt or proof of address.

For residencia, you may need your rental contract or a paper showing your current address.

Getting your NIE at home

If you qualify, you can get your NIE before arriving in Gran Canaria. Phone your nearest Spanish Consulate as procedures vary depending on the country.

Renewing your NIE

The little green cards with NIE numbers don’t expire and the number never changes so you shouldn’t need to renew your certificate unless you lose it. If you do lose it you may need to justify that you still need it and quality al over again.

How to change a NIE

Once you get an NIE number it never changes. But you can change the name on your NIE paper (if you get married or divorced for example).

  1. Passport
  2. Document accrediting the change on your NIE. For marriage, you need a British consulate certificate explaining th custom of changing names.
  3. Receipt from the bank stating you have paid the relevant tax. (get the form when you meet the officer for the first time, pay it at the nearest bank and return.
  4. Social security certificate.

Note: Changing your name causes confusion within the Spanish government and Social Security system. Avoid doing it unless you really love your new partner or can’t stand the old one.

For more info on moving to Gran Canaria, get this ebook: Gran Canaria Living.