When we came to Spain in June we had a list of things to take care of. In this post I will briefly explain all the steps that we had to take in order to start a new life here in Almunecar, Spain.
1. Renting an Apartment
I’ve already written about this: Where to Live in Spain, Part 2
So when we had decided to go for the apartment in San Cristobal, the realtor said we could move in in a couple of days. In the morning of the move we signed the rental contract which was in Spanish and maybe four or five pages. We read through it with the realtor before we met the landlord. He was laughing at us because we read it so thoroughly (Antti wanted to be really precise because he had read somewhere that there can be some loopholes). They gave us the keys and in the evening we moved in.
2. Registering Us as Residents (Empadronamiento)
When we had the rental contract we could go to the town house and register us as residents in Almunecar. This was surprisingly easy: we just went inside and the nice man behind the desk pointed us upstairs. There was another man who simply took a look at our passports and wanted to see the rental contract. It took just a few minutes and we were ready to go.
3. Signing up for School
I’ve already written about this: Going to School in Spain
4. Getting N.I.E.
N.I.E. is an abbreviation for “Numero de Identidad de Extranjero” = identification number for foreigners. You need it if you want to for example pay taxes, own a property or buy a car in Spain. To get N.I.E you need to go your police station, which for us was in Motril. It was crucial to be there early, because they only take a certain amount of people in. They opened at 9 and we were there maybe at 10. To get N.I.E. we needed to bring with us:
- rental contract
- empadronamiento (registration as residents)
The papers you need to take with you varies a bit depending on the police station and even the day of the week or the people you’re dealing with, I’ve heard. They didn’t speak any English at all, only Spanish. We had to queue maybe an hour and the whole process took quite a lot of time for us because they weren’t sure of whether we were just getting the N.I.E. or the residency as well. At that point we weren’t sure of it either. It turned out that we would have needed a lot more official papers to get the residency, which we would have to come back for later. When we had filled in the papers, we got a fee which we needed to go and pay in a bank. We found a bank quite close by, paid the fee and went back to the police station. There we had to queue a bit again, maybe 20 minutes. We were handed in a paper stating our names and the N.I.E. numbers. The papers were valid for three months. During the three months we would have to come back for the residency.
5. Phone and Internet Subscriptions
Antti knew that there was a guy in Almunecar who knows all about internet. This he had read in the Wagoner’s family blog (the Wagoners also live in Almunecar). So we went to meet this guy Nick. Antti talked to him for some time and Nick said he could get us as good subscriptions as possible. So Nick called the internet people to come to our house and set up the connection. Nick’s wife went with us to the phone store to negotiate the phone subscription. We got a package price including the two phones and the internet. So far the connections have worked just fine apart from the fact that we couldn’t make any phone calls abroad for the first three months (which we knew when we bought the package). However, I was able to send text messages abroad, I don’t know why.
6. Opening a Bank AccountWe had been recommended to open a bank account in a bank that is widely recognised in Spain. There are also some banks that are only local. It’d be easier for example to withdraw money without any extra costs from an ATM machine where ever you are. So off we went to Bank Sabadell. They spoke really good English so it was quite easy for us to deal with them. We opened a free bank account but we would have to have minimum 700 euros monthly income on the account. We signed maybe a dozen papers, the man behind the desk just pointed us the place where to sign on each paper. At this point we didn’t want to read thoroughly through each paper, somehow the people in the bank seemed really trustworthy.
Recently I’ve been having some card problems. The cards seem to be really vulnerable here. I’ve ordered a new card now three times and each time they ask me where I keep my card. I don’t keep it too near my phone and last time I even got a plastic shell for the card, so it wouldn’t get damaged again. But no. I think the problem might be my wallet which has a magnet fastener. I’ll try buying a new wallet next.
7. Setting up Antti’s Company
Antti needed to set up a company and had come up with a good name “Octo Mini”. It’s a company designing IPAD games mostly for children. Maybe when Isla starts going to school some time in the future, I can also help Antti with his business. Antti didn’t want to handle all the official business himself (taxes and paperwork), so he wanted to find a good accounting company. First he met with a lawyer, but this woman wasn’t really into helping Antti but instead questioned the fact that why Antti would want to set up a company in Spain. Antti had to pay 100 euros just to meet her once. She didn’t seem to be sincere enough, so Antti went to his pal Nick, the internet guy, and asked for advice. Nick gave him the contacts to another company so Antti visited them. The people there seemed trustworthy enough.
Antti needed to get an official document stating that he was an independent worker in Spain called “Autonomo”. This he needed for the Spanish state to recognise him as an independent business owner. It took a few months for the document to be ready. The official things really seem to take some time here, even simple paperwork.
8. Buying a CarWe had been here maybe a month without a car and managed just fine. The grocery store Mercadona is just 300 meters and Luna’s school just opposite our building. However, if we would like to scope some other places than the villages and cities close to us, a car would be nice. So we went to Motril (the closest bigger car store was there) to look for a car. Antti obviously had searched the net before that and already decided that Seat Ibiza was the right car for us. For me only the colour matters;)
The people in the store didn’t really speak English well, so communicating was a bit hard, but they were really nice. At least they tried to answer all our questions. We spent maybe an hour in the store and decided to buy a white Ibiza. This car had been an exhibit car for half a year and some people had test driven it. So it was a special deal and the price was lower than usually. We filled in a few papers including the application to get the vehicle license in our name. What we needed was the N.I.E. numbers and the passports. Buying something this big right away isn’t at all Antti’s nature (if you know him well enough) so this was really unexpected for us.
In a week’s time we had transferred the money we needed into our Spanish account and then we went to the bank to make the payment. As soon as the money hit the car store’s account we could get the car. The sales man there was kind enough to drive us around and search for safety seats for the kids. This would never happen in Finland I think. The car insurance is another thing. We applied for an insurance within a few days from the trade, but it’s still not in full effect. Yes, they came and took some pictures of the car but the final paperwork is still missing (it’s been over two months now).
9. Getting ResidencyRecidency is needed for transactions where someone wants to see a proof of your current address in Spain (i.e. in local video rentals, banks etc.) Most of all we needed residency because of Antti’s firm: we needed to pay taxes to Spain and not to Finland. We tried to get Residency already when we got our N.I.E. numbers, but that didn’t happen. Now we had Antti’s official autonomo paper, so we tried to get it with that and our birth certificates, proof of marriage (both in Finnish), empadronamiento, passports and N.I.E. Well, that wasn’t enough either, so we had to come back again. What we needed was:
- passport photos
- proof of health insurance (Antti’s autonomo paper and for me a paper that states that I also have the same insurance as a family member or a private health insurance)
- bank account information from the last three months that we’d been here proving that we have enough money to support our living here
- proof of marriage officially translated into Spanish
- the kids’ birth certificates officially translated into Spanish
- two copies of all I mentioned above for each person (excluding the photos)
We had to take a day of from school for Luna to be able to be there with us (they needed to see her). Our mistake was that we left too late, we were there at 10.30 and they didn’t let us in. So we had to come back another day and then we were there before 9. There were already people queuing, but we came in with number 6. We didn’t have the health insurance document for me yet, because we thought the proof of marriage was enough, so we had to go the public health centre to get it. We also needed to go to the bank to pay the fee and get the bank account information. We did both of those things and managed to get back to the police station in time before closing.
Getting the officially translated documents here in Spain was also a bit tricky because there are like two-three people who can officially translate from Finnish into Spanish in Spain. Finally I managed to find one in Madrid via the Finnish consulate. Part of the documents were in English so I also had to find a person who could officially translate from English into Spanish. Luckily I got the contacts to this person from the Finnish-Spanish translator. So now we are officially residents in Spain for the next five years.
10. Finding a Language SchoolI have already written something about learning Spanish before we came to Spain and about my family’s learning processes: Preparing the Move to Spain.
It was quite easy to find the language school for Luna. We were walking around in La Herradura and saw an ad somewhere advertising language courses for children. Luna took a two-week-course and it was really cheap (around 100 euros) considering that they had these different activities for each day of the week.
I also asked for some language courses for myself in that same language school, but at that time there weren’t any for adults. It would have been easy to have my language course at the same time as Luna’s. So I started asking around in Almunecar as well. I sent a few emails and got a reply from a school called TCL Languages. They wanted me to do a test in order to find out my level in Spanish. So I went there with Isla one day. Doing the test was a bit challenging because of Isla wanting to play with me at the same time, but I managed. They told me that there weren’t any groups that would have the same level of Spanish as me, but that I could take individual classes. So I made a deal with them. Two 1,5 hour lessons in four weeks.
To my surprise, on the first lesson there was another student, a Swedish woman. I was thrilled. I was not going to be alone with the teacher! Someone else who didn’t talk perfect Spanish (at least not yet), an equal partner to practice with! Then the next week came an English woman who had been living here for three years. You could hear that, her speech was a lot more fluent than mine. Now I have been studying for four weeks and I’m going to continue some more. The teacher said there are still a lot things to study so hopefully we’ll cover all that later on.