First hand perspective: Moving to Spain on a non lucrative Spain visa less complicated than expected

Today my husband and I picked up our residence permit cards (the famous TIE) under the non lucrative Spain visa, 10 weeks after arriving in Madrid with our NLVs. I had a lot of help from people on the net and on these groups which was absolutely invaluable… but I have to say, the experience was nothing like the bureaucratic nightmare I was primed to believe it would be. I feel like a lot of advice out there can tend to scare people a bit— it certainly had me extremely anxious— so I wanted to give a moderating view.

While I am sure there are mean, miserable people everywhere, without exception everyone I dealt with, from the banker at Sabadell (who actually walked me through setting up their app on my phone, which was a little fiddly) to the real estate agent and property manager at our piso, to the people at the comisaría were all polite, often ridiculously helpful, and perfectly efficient (while the process itself, I recognize, is probably more cumbersome than it needs to be). I did not have a single appointment that was delayed (in fact most times I was seen early) or a single application that was capriciously complicated.

In fact, at the comisaría, the woman who helped me was lovely. I had asked her if I could accompany my husband inside during his appointment a few days later, despite all the signs saying just one person per appointment inside, and she said sure, just tell everyone he doesn’t speak Spanish and it will be fine. When I came back with him she was all smiles and waves and pointed me out to the woman helping us. Further, when the bereft girl she was helping that day couldn’t understand enough Spanish to take her advice, she called me over to translate and help.

Turns out she hadn’t printed out her Modelo 790 forms, or hadn’t brought them– she just had a balled-up receipt for having paid it at an ATM. And then, unbelievably (and inconceivably in the States, in my opinion), the funcionaria offered to PRINT OUT A NEW ONE for the girl so she could go to a nearby bank and make another payment before they closed, and just come back in without a new appointment. This was simply not the fanged lazy bureaucrat I was primed to expect.

This is the thing I saw over and over— people just did not make the right appointment, did not bring the paperwork listed on the website, or did not follow the directions, which are not that crazy. These instructions are all over the place, for the 790 they are ON THE WEBSITE ITSELF in BIG LETTERS where you get the code number to use to pay at all. I saw people at the comisaría turned back because they made the wrong kind of appointment, or because in one case a woman had a photo of herself with her eyes covered by her bangs.

I honestly don’t know what people are thinking sometimes. I’m sure people can (and will!) share horror stories about their experience. But if I can keep anyone from worrying themselves sick about it all, I want to do it! I still think the guide for the NLV and TIE process at Frugalvagabond’s How to Get a Spanish Non-Lucrative Residence Visa and Obtaining Your Spanish Residency Card (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) are definitive— I did everything exactly as they said and had no hitches whatsoever.

For getting your padrón in Madrid, this video by She Saves – He Invests – They Travel is great and saved me from making the mistake of choosing the wrong kind of appointment. (in Madrid, unlike on the FrugalVagabond which is aimed at Granada, you definitely have to have padrón before going for your TIE).

In addition, if you want things settled quick, you can do as I did: I chose to do the empadronamiento outside the centro in Pacifico, despite living in Malasaña (it does not matter which one in Madrid you go to and they didn’t bat an eye, contrary to what many people will tell you online about it being crucial you go near your house) and to do the TIE in Coslada, a good hike outside of town. Both offices had plenty of appointments within a few weeks. I imagine if you stick to the centro where everyone wants to go, it’s going to be a lot less pleasant.

So just give yourself a break and read on the subway out to the extrarradio where all is tranquilo. We had to wait 35 days to pick up the cards after our TIE appointments, but had everything lined up just 40 days after arriving in Madrid. Not bad at all.

Thanks to all who helped and provided resources!

Blog post and photos by John Hughes – John is a recent transplant from NYC who has had a lifelong attraction to  Spain.

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