As an expat American living in a European city, there are lots and lots of rules and processes that I simply don’t understand. For example, when I originally applied for my visa, when I got my stuff confiscated by customs when I arrived, and when I applied for my residency card, there was no way I could have prepared myself for the unexpected twists and turns of becoming a resident of Valencia.

So, almost a year has passed, and I am much, much wiser to the kinds of documents I needed to prepare. I carefully collected my documents, including

  • My passport
  • A copy of every page of my passport
  • A formal residency application
  • A copy of my entire insurance policy
  • All of my paystubs from work
  • A letter from my bank stating that I was, indeed, a great person to have in their bank
  • Every single document I had been given so far, from my rental agreement to my original visa application. Everything. Seriously.
  • A copy of every page of my application

All told, this was about four inches of paperwork. I have to admit, I also took a healthy set of nervous energy. I was prepared for the worst.

When I arrived at the office, I had to take a number and wait, and so I sat in the reception area with a book and the expectation that I would be there for a long time. I was quite surprised when only 10-15 minutes later, my number was called.

My blood pressure elevated, eyes dilated, and fight-or-flight reflexes on full alert, I sat down to the desk chair that was offered in front of an affable-looking Spanish man. Here I was, about to argue my case for residence for the next two years in Valencia in Spanish. I just hoped that I had all the right documents together!

You can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a short, rather pleasant experience. The man was extremely pleasant, joked with me, thumbed through my paperwork (really not reading anything), and eventually scanned the document to be sent to Madrid. He only looked at my passport and the copies of the documents in a glance.

The final triumph was a sticker about the size of a postage stamp. My residency card expires in early November, so I will have to keep the original application, along with that sticker, in my wallet to assure anyone who asks that I am legally OK to stay in Spain.

I left the office, stopped for breakfast because I was so nervous before going to the office that I could not eat, and then made my way home. Spain surprised me, again.