Renewal Hell: Bureaucracy Lessons 2

We’ve talked before about how miserable Jaen is for us. The city of Jaen (spelled properly with an accent: Jaén) is where we have to go to get government work done. Last time we called it hell and a lesson in bureaucracy – as we had to go 5 times to do something that should’ve only taken us 2 visits.

Our current visa (the one we worked so hard to get) is technically expired, but they give people a 60-90 day (depends on who you ask) grace period to get it renewed. We’re not illegal, yet. But we will be before we want to move to our new home in the Balearic Islands (Mallorca).

To renew it we can either go to Mallorca or get a prórroga de la estancia  (extended stay). To go to Mallorca we would have to fly to the island, get a hotel, apply, then return in a month to pick the visa up. This is obviously not happening. We’re going to move there in September, not puddle jump back and forth until September. The obvious choice is to just get the prórroga de la estancia  (extended stay permission).

There is no consistency in Spain. The federal government says “all foreigners must do A,B,C, and D to be legal in this country.” Each provincial office is like, “cool, but we want 6 copies of B, no copies of C, then we also want F,G,Z, Q, 6, and your first born.” While another office (or go on a different day to the same office) they’ll say “yeah just give us A. We’ll call you in a week.”

With the prorroga, people online (and government websites) said we could do it in a “government office” (great, but which one?) or at the foreigners office. So we booked at the foreigner’s office. Since that was an actual and specific place – I’m pretty sure I couldn’t go to the office of agriculture or office of old folks care and get this done.

So we go to the foreigners office on good authority. We make “our” first mistake when we booked our appointment online. There are two options to click – what kind of appointment do you want? And both options are vague, like “Fingerprinting and Renewal” and “Authorization Request” The same chumps online who said to get the prorroga at the foreigners office said to check the “fingerprinting and renewal” so we did.

Only 2 options

When we arrived at the office (after the mandatory waking up before sunrise to get to Jaen on time) they were immediately pissed off at us. What kind of idiot would check that box kind of pissed off. “I don’t think this is going to work” the front-desk-wench said after lecturing us. “No, in fact I know it’s not going to work. See, you checked the work visa, not student visas. (We didn’t do this because there were no options to do this!!!) You’re students. When you checked that box we didn’t even bring in staff for students. Everyone here only knows how to do work visas.”

You’re telling me you only staff based on what people book online? Like the student-visa guys are at home today after being on-call all day yesterday? I highly doubt that. We hadn’t even gotten past the secretary and we were about to be sent home because we there were no other options to click online!

She left to go talk to people. “I guess we’re going to let you try. You really have all your papers? No one here knows how to deal with your situation. I mean, seriously, it was one box.” She didn’t need to say this but her entire aura screamed: God you should really be kissing my feet for letting you go to your own appointment.

We thanked her profusely then sat down. The Pantry Jesus was really looking down on us but it mattered not. As soon as we got inside they were pissed off.

We try not to curse much on this blog but some curses are necessary to describe the civil servants we were assigned to. Chris got a rather bitchy woman. And I had a straight up miserly, brutish, piece-of-shit little man who is the most uncivil civil servant to walk the earth. I truly hate this man and I hope he will have to work at his job, which he so obviously hates, for at least thirty more years.

“What do you want?” they snapped “We want a prorroga.”  The witch went right to work trying. The Brute said nothing at all to me, but clicked around furiously on his computer. Apparently they also had to enter “purpose for visit” and they couldn’t find one that worked for us. (See, it wasn’t just us! There are no options to click!)

The Brute lost his mind. “There isn’t even an option for this! I’m not doing this. This is not – there isn’t even…! Where is the option! I can’t click the option! This isn’t my job. I’m not doing this.”

“Click number 23” the witch said calmly.

“I did that! Don’t you think I tried that… Click twenty three. Twenty three! Twenty three, she says…”

The witch had calmly located 23 somewhere between 22 and 24 and had clicked it, she moved on to Chris’s documents. The Brute just kept clicking.

That thing we said about you needing A,B,C and they’ll say you need B, Q, R, S, A, Z. This, of course, happened. We needed:

  1. a copy of every stamp-page inside our passports
  2. two EX-00 forms filled out
  3. and a copy of our school’s information for next year.

We don’t play games so in addition to those things we had brought (no exaggeration):

  1. FBI background checks
  2. doctors notes
  3. our marriage license
  4. 3 copies of every page of our passports (in full color),
  5. copies of our visa application from back in October
  6. receipts from that same appointment
  7. and our applications for our visas from freaking June 24th 2017 (almost a year ago to the day).

Oh, and we had fail-safe forms from the Balearic Islands explaining what was going on and that it would be easy to work with the Balearic Island’s foreigners office.

So we had a grand total of a million papers on us.

When we handed all our required papers over they started with the copies of the internal passport pages. “This isn’t right. You’ve done it wrong.”  Their tones and attitudes were very rude like Don’t give me this filth. You incompetent foreigner, can’t you read? “It says a copy of every page of your passport and you didn’t copy the cover page.”

They meant the freaking blue cover of the passport that just says passport and has the seal.  Yeah, no. It said only the inside pages that can be stamped (and the photo page).

“Oh boy, you guys really are dumb. Not only couldn’t you be arsed to photocopy the cover page but you forgot the inside pages.”

These inside pages are information for Americans abroad that tell you to get vaccinated, and to register with your embassy. They are not stamp-able pages and thus are not required. But it’s not like the Witch or Brute could even read them, they can’t speak any English .

But as I said we had brought three damn copies of every page of our stupid passports. So we had more copies. Chris handed one over to shut the witch up.

The Brute had finished clicking the number twenty three on his computer and was ready to be an ass to me again.

“You didn’t copy every page.” He said touching my copies. I’m not exaggerating at all, he literally picked it up but didn’t open it.

” I said. I did so copy every page!

“You didn’t.” He said louder, he still hadn’t looked through it.

” I said louder.

“You DIDN’T copy every page!!” He demanded.

” I said firmly.

For some reason saying it three times was the magic spell that forced him to look at it. He opened it and gave it a cursory check. Everything was (obviously!) there.

So he grabbed his stamp and SMASHED it down on the table. Pens rattled, his computer screen flickered off for a moment. Page one – SMASH!  Page two – SMASH!!! Page three- SMASH!!!!! He smash-stamped every page of my passport’s copy. Like an angry child maliciously complying to a chore.

He got to one page that was “too dark.” So he exploded, “No one can read this! What were you thinking? How hard is it to copy?” I exaggerated some of the things they said earlier he pretty much said this verbatim. As if his life was the hardest life anyone had ever lived, he pried his fat mass out of his chair and walked the three feet to the copier. He aggressively copied that before skulking back.

Next he grabbed the two copies of my Form EX-00. He took the two back pages, and without looking at them, ripped them in half. No joke, he just tore them up. To pieces. To the papers he let live, he grabbed his stamp and delivered a mighty blow to both papers. When the pens and computers finished shaking he he demanded my  visa card. “And where’s the copy?” “We don’t need it.” We said. They have all the same information on their computers.

After another lecture he rolled his beady pig eyes then shoved my card in the scanner two inches from his hand. Was it really that hard? Jokes on him, it’s not even required.

We need to pause again and explain the rule of Spanish Bureaucracy: Any job that can be pawned off to someone else, will be. So if any Spanish bureaucrat looks at a piece of paper that has a single number on it they will say “boy, Jim down in accounting is more qualified for this.” And they will pass it on. You can’t even pay your fees at the government office because they figure banks already exist. I think you can guess what happens if you bring a paper from another province in…

“Give me your proof of financial stability!” He snapped.

I gave it to him. He laughed a sadistic little giggle (again, I’m not exaggerating. He really did a cold little villain laugh huh-huh-huh). I had just handed him a ticket out of doing his job. Which was literally the only reason he woke up this morning- to find any shred of evidence to allow him to not do his job. Did I mention it was 9:20 and he had only gotten to work 20 minutes ago?

“This is for the Balearics!” He laughed coldly. Then slammed it back on the table. “Not doing it!”

The witch at Chris’s table cackled as well and gave it back. “Nope!”

“We want a prorroga, that’s an extension of a visa. It doesn’t matter where-”

He interrupted and actually began to shout. “THIS IS FOR THE BALEARICS!!!!!” He had finally snapped. Stamping and huffing and being an asshole wasn’t enough anymore. It was time to shout! “WE’RE NOT DOING THIS PAPERWORK. IT. IS. FOR. THE BALEARICS!”

“It’s only a visa extension!” Chris said.

He actually stood up so he could shout down at us. “ITS FOR THE BALEARICS. IF YOU WANT IT DONE, YOU CAN GO TO PALMA!!!!”

We weren’t renewing anything, we were extending what we have. And what we have is, unfortunately, their domain. We were extending our stay in their province. So it was their job. “This is ONLY a visa extension!!!” Chris argued.

“YES! FOR THE BALE-AR-ICS! DO IT THERE!”

“WE CAN’T DO IT THERE! THEY SAID TO DO IT HERE-” Chris had to start shouting to be heard. The Brute wouldn’t even let Chris finish a sentence before repeating “It’s for the Balearics!” Over and over like a toddler.

“IT’S FOR THE BALERICS. YOU CAN DO IT THERE!” He shouted over Chris.

THEY SAID TO DO IT HERE!” Chris shouted quickly to get a word in. The Gorilla wasn’t listening. “IT’S FOR THE BALEARICS!” He repeated again.

Chris did a circular motion with his hands- Jaen says do it there, Balearics says do it here.”THEY SAID DO IT HERE! WHERE DOES IT END?”

This bureaucratic hell roundabout wasn’t The Brute’s concern, “WELL WE’RE TELLING YOU TO DO IT THERE!” He shouted mightily.

The Brute sat back down. It was over. I guess.

Everything they had stamped now needed to be nullified. While The Brute had aggressively stamped things, he seemed to be getting a lot of joy out of hand-writing “null” on every paper. He had just destroyed hours of our work, handwriting, printing, and copying.

Jokes on them they had to write null on every paper:

These are double sided. It was easily 40 stamps they had to null.

But jokes on us, it did destroy all our papers (including those high quality print outs of every page of Chris’s passport, which his co-workers worked so hard to make for us).

In which that was all for nothing:

“Do it there.” The witch said suddenly making a vague motion with her hand.

“We’re not going to go the Balearics to extend your visa.” Chris told her.

“Well then try it at the Office of INDETERMINABLE-RAPID-SPANISH”

These assholes at the foreigners office don’t care that they’re working with foreigners so they speak super quickly.  It’s like they want to be misunderstood or misheard.

“Yeah? The office of whatever? In the Balearics!?!” Chris countered.

“No. The office of INDETERMINABLE-RAPID-SPANISH just down the corner.”

ARE. YOU. SERIOUS?

All that shouting and insanity? There was a different office we could’ve gone to? And it’s not even 50 feet from where we’re being shouted at?! Yes please.

“Thank you” we said through our teeth. On the way out I tried to slam the door but it’s actually un-slam-able. I don’t think this is happenstance. They installed it purposefully.

We walked down the hill. All of a 10 second walk, 4 seconds if you cut through their garden.

Inside it was a whole new world. This wasn’t the foreigners office where creepy Russian men touch your butt and pretend to be shuffling papers. Where everyone cuts in line and acts like animals.  And where it stinks to high hell like body odor. No, this was a real government office. Where real Spanish people go. The floor wasn’t chipped linoleum, it was marble. There was an actual metal detector because it matters if people are killed in this office. While in the foreigners office, a murder would just be doing the employees a favor.

We passed through the metal detectors and set them off. “Cool” the security guard waved us through. Well, maybe the metal detectors were there for show.

Instead of the lecture-wench at the foreigners office a Santa-Claus-y man greeted us with a merry smile. “What can I do for you?”

“Oh, well, uh.” this was off putting, being treated like a human being. “We need to fill out a foreigners extension form.”

His jolly smile fell, “well that might not work.” (Notice he worked in possibilities not absolutes).  “They said to come here.” We said, that was enough for him. He didn’t need to lecture us or shout. He just sent us to the office. The witch had slurred the name earlier but even after going I still cannot tell you where I went. I just went.

The whole room was full of employees silently working.  The woman went right to work actually looking at our papers instead of accusing or arguing with us. The fact that every paper we owned was now stamped and then nullified was a bit of a problem. Chris’s passport had to be scanned again. My paper was completely destroyed not to mention some pages had been ripped up.

But she made it work. She put a government sticker over the null on my most important paper. She scanned what she needed and she got it done. It took less time than the  shouting had taken in the foreigners office. We were treated like humans and actually spoken to rather than spoken down at. It was pleasant.

In the end it got done. We literally only needed that magic sticker that said we applied. Then we will wait for them to bill us in the mail. Then they will mail us a special paper. So we’re still only 1/3 done, but this was the hard part. Hopefully.


4 thoughts on “Renewal Hell: Bureaucracy Lessons 2

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