How to legally stay in Spain more than ninety days

The following is based on my experience in January of 2017.  Even if I got nothing wrong, it probably changed by the time you read this.

  1. Go to Spain.  If you’re American, you can do this with only a passport but staying longer than ninety days will be illegal.  I’ve been advised to ignore the rest of this because “they never check.”  Well, if they do, you will be put on the list that prohibits you going to any of the 26 Schengen countries.
  2. Get a place to stay.
  3. Go to the police station where various websites told you you needed to go to get an NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero).  Be told that as of last week, you have to go to la subdelegación del Gobierno, and only in the morning.
  4. Go there.  Wait in front of the metal detector until the guard shows up.  Empty your pockets, go through the metal detector, then re-distribute your things.
  5. Get a wait-your-turn number from the machine, and wait.
  6. Obtain a form EX-15 and fill it out.  Your domicile is the place you are actually staying now—you will change it much later.  In 4.2 Motivos, put the reason you need the NIE—to be able to do business in Spain.  (Not the reason you want to be in Spain.)  Find out that you need a photocopy of every page in your passport that has a stamp for entry/exit/visa, plus the pages with your name, photo, etc.  Also a phone that can get text messages because they won’t do e-mail or paper mail.  Check the box that you agree to this policy.
  7. Find a place to make the copies, and a copy of the form.
  8. Go back where you got the form.  Take the copies with you, and your passport.  Take as little else as possible (see the part about the guard and metal detector).
  9. Get a wait-your-turn number from the machine, and wait.
  10. Let the person go over the form and help you fix all the things that didn’t mean what they appeared to mean.  Get another form and find out that you have to take that a few blocks away to pay the €9,45 fee.
  11. Go to the Caja Laboral and try to pay the fee.  They’ll tell you that they can’t accept payment without a NIF.  Assume that NIF is a typo for NIE and tell them the payment is necessary to obtain one.  They’ll tell you NIF and NIE are two different things and they can’t accept payment without a NIF.
  12. Go back to the Oficina de Extranjeros. and repeat the security routine.
  13. Explain that you need an NIF to make the payment and that the Caja Laboral says it’s different from NIE.  Be told that it is the same, and wait for the agent to find out from a supervisor how to handle it.  (I later learned they are sort of the same—NIF is for a business, NIE for a foreign person, and DNI for a Spanish citizen.)
  14. The solution apparently is that when your NIE is ready, you will go through security again, find out the number, go make the payment, go through security, and pick up the card.
  15. Since it’s going to be fifteen days, look for a cheaper place to stay.
  16. Keep your phone charged and paid so you don’t miss that text.  Don’t go where there’s no cell coverage, and don’t let the phone be lost, stolen, or broken.  (From here on is my prediction for the future, based on my research.  I will edit it when I find out I’ve been misinformed.)
  17. When you get the text, go get the number, pay the fee, and get the card.
  18. Now that you have the NIE, you can open a local bank account.
  19. Now that you have the NIE and a bank account, you can buy or lease a place to live and arrange for utilities.
  20. Now that you have a less temporary place to live, find out how to get the address changed on your NIE, and do so.
  21. Find out where to go to register your empadronamiento and do that.
  22. Now that you have all these things, you can purchase Spanish medical insurance, unless you have traveler’s insurance that provides it.
  23. Go back to your country (make sure you take proof of all of the above) and find out which Spanish consulate serves your address.  Look up that consulate’s requirements for the type of visa you want.  Each has it’s own version of the rules, though there are a lot of similarities.  Mine is Houston, which is unfortunately the strictest.
  24. Get an official fingerprint card.  Get a police department to put your prints on it.  Send it to the FBI for a letter that says you are not a criminal.  Get the State department to put an apostille on the letter.
  25. Get a doctor to certify that you are not contagious.  Try to persuade the doctor to use the exact wording on the Consulate’s requirements.
  26. Obtain official statements of income from all sources, or three months of bank accounts showing regular deposits.  If not over €25,000 per year, all the previous steps are probably wasted.
  27. Get any other required documents I have forgotten to mention.
  28. Get “certified translations” of all the documents into Spanish that aren’t.  (Certified may mean merely that the translator must certify he/she is fluent enough to do a good translation.)
  29. Make an appointment with the Consulate to bring all the documents and translations in person.
  30. Give them all the stuff, find out what else you need that their website didn’t say, etc.  Pay the fee.
  31. Find out how they will notify you.  Wait two to four months for approval.  Don’t leave the country (because they kept your passport).
  32. Go back in person to get your visa and your passport.
  33. Go back to Spain to live in the place you’ve been paying for all this time.