Today I was an immigrant. At second thought, I suppose that each and every day I live in Spain, I am an immigrant. But, today more so. It was time for me to renew my Spanish residency and work permit. This is my second renewal and consists of three stages: (i) presenting a series of documents to the competent authorities (generally a police station), (ii) getting finger printed, and (iii) going to pick up the renewed residency and work permit. But each of these stages occurs about a month a part and includes waiting in very long lines.
This morning, I got all of the necessary paperwork together and headed out for the police station (the one dedicated to immigration matters) closest to my house. The line was about 5 blocks long. Apparently, Spain is now normalizing the immigration status of all Romanians and Bulgarians due to their adhesion into the European Union. I thus changed my mind and went to work. There I spoke with Natascha (on the phone, she is out of the office sick) who recently had her permit renewed. Apparently, the police station in Alcobendas (where I work) has much shorter lines. Well, to make a long story short, I waited in line for 1 hour outside to get into the station. Once inside, I had to take a number and then wait an additional hour for my turn. Upon being attended, I was told that I now had to take another number and wait in a different waiting area in order to hand in my documents. This took an additional 15 minutes.
The great majority of those waiting to have their immigration status resolved were Eastern Europeans, but there were a few Latin Americans and Africans. When I finally turned in my documents, I told the immigration officer that I felt like I was in New York City 90 years ago. He laughed and said that I was the first US citizen he had seen in his office. While the next 2 steps in the process require me to stand in even longer lines and to do so in Aluche (very much out of the way), I was very impressed about how patient and agreeable the immigration officiers were (most of them in their mid to late 20s). One of Spain’s biggest challenges right now is how to deal with massive immigration for the first time in its history. While many people have expressed very exaggerated concerns about the nation’s inevitable demise due to the entry of these immigrants, this was definitely not the impression I got from the officers.