One of the first things that you learn about the Spanish culture is that the bureaucracy that it’s famous for is usually much worse than you could have anticipated. There really isn´t anything that can prepare you for it. The only thing you can do is to accept it, learn to love it and immerse yourself in the frustration of having to deal with procedures that makes absolutely zero sense, whatsoever. We very often work with customers from different parts of the world who love everything about coming to live in Barcelona. However the bureaucratic way of doing things is simply overwhelming – almost to the point of sending them back to their home country!
The biggest part of the bureaucratic problem is in going to a specific office where you have to complete and hand in paperwork. Most of the time the little bit of information available in English online is either outdated or based on comments from someone who might have dealt with their situation in another town or city, where things might be done very differently than here in Barcelona. This results in people being sent away shortly after arriving at the government office, simply because they didn´t realize that they needed an appointment (which usually has to be requested online with a lot of patience). Or they do have the appointment, but once they speak with an ever-so-friendly (sense the irony) government official, they are informed that they do not have the correct paperwork, or a certain page should be translated, or this-and-that procedure has changed recently…you get the idea.
There is however something that you can do to make life just a little bit easier. It´s called a Certificado Digital (Digital Certificate) – an electronic file that is stored on your computer and which acts as a set of signature verification data, thereby confirming your identity. This certificate can be downloaded onto your computer or Mac or even onto an Android device. The only requirement as a non-Spaniard is that you have your NIE.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY DIGITAL CERTIFICATE?
There are a wide variety of Public (as well as private) administrative procedures that can be processed online with this certificate. For instance, say you are a foreign student on a 1-year student visa and it turns out you will be extending your stay. One of the requirements is to obtain a police record clearance from your country of origin, as well as from the Spanish authorities (called Antecedentes Penales). Instead of trying to figure out where to go, which documents to fill in, which supporting documents (and their photocopies) you may require, how much the tax would be, where to pay the tax, where to show that you have paid the tax, …you can simply access the government website with your digital certificate and process everything online, from the comfort of your own home.
Other processes that can be dealt with include:
- Filing tax returns or paying outstanding taxes
- Lodging claims and appeals
- Queries regarding traffic fines or violations
- Consultations and procedures regarding applications for grants
- Administrative notifications
- Using the electronic signature on official documents and forms
- Keep track of your social security profile
In order to obtain your digital certificate, you need to visit this website where it will show you step-by-step what to do. It doesn’t seem to work too well with Chrome, so stick with internet explorer to try a plugin for Chrome that simulates Internet Explorer.
Additional information can be found on this page.