Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is personal view of Spain and Spanish life as seen by a Briton living in a small village in Alicante province.
The other tabs link to similar blogs when I have lived in other places. The TIM magazine is an English language magazine I write articles for.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Dogs, bulletins and cats homes

I was reading the news from the local town hall. There was information about the new hunting season. I read, for instance, that from 19 July until 25 December rabbits can be hunted with dogs. No more than eight hunting dogs though and, even if you bring a gang of pals with you to hunt, you can't have more than fifteen dogs all together. Certain breeds of dogs are prohibited and greyhounds can only be used between July and October. Oh, and hunting is only possible from Thursday to Sunday and on Public Holidays. This is pretty detailed stuff. Falconry, firearms and bows come in from the 12th October. There were lots more details about exactly what can be hunted, when and how. The piece ended though with a web address for the Diari Oficial of the Comunitat Valenciana - the official bulletin of the Valencian Community.

All of the regional governments have something similar; a publication where local ordinances, byelaws and official reports are recorded. It's the place where contracts can be put out to tender, where details of bankruptcy are recorded and where all sorts of announcements can be officially made. There is a national equivalent - the Official State Bulletin - where  "parliamentary bills", royal decrees and lots more is published. Once upon a time they were printed on paper now they are published on the Internet. I've read parts of the bulletins from time to time when I've being trying to find something out but, as you may imagine, they make dull and heavy reading.

I occasionally go onto expat forums often looking for a more human, and English language, version of the same sort of information. The information on the forums is unrelaible in the sense that people pass on what they have heard and what they have surmised as well as what they know. It's done with the best of intentions but it can cause confusion.

The thing is you see that although we live in Spain we all, well all of us older people, continue to be Norwegian or Moroccan or, in our case, British. And it's the Norwegian or Morrocan or British experience that we use as the yardstick (yes, it's a pun). Take something like a driving licence or a will (both of which I have had conversations about today). Spanish inheritance legislation is quite different to the British version. We might not know the ins and outs of the British system but we know the broad detail. You can leave what you want to whom you want. In Spain, though, inheritance law generally gives precedence to the children of the deceased. This system seems so, well, foreign, to us and obviously, wrong. I've never asked a Spaniard about it but I suspect that they would think a British will that disinherited sons and daughters was equally bizarre.

Now Maggie needs to change her British driving licence for a Spanish one. Bar room conversations about driving licences are commonplace. It doesn't seem odd to we Britons that, despite living 2000 kms from the UK, we should continue to hold a British driving licence. Anyway Maggie was trying to find out what she needs to do to exchange her licence. She asked Google but Google just pointed her indiscriminately to out of date and wrong web pages as well as to accurate and up to date stuff. She was confused by the contradictory information.

The information on the  DGT or "Ministry of Transport" website was perfectly clear and seemed straightforward but it would also involve at least one trip to Alicante. She decided, for ease, to let an intermediary, the local driving school, handle the process. The chap there told her what paperwork she would need. His list differed from the one on the DGT website but I rather suspect that the intermediary is taking the belt and braces approach. He's working on the assumption that if he has every conceivable piece of paper when he goes to the traffic office then he can't be caught out

One document he asked Maggie to get hold of is something that nearly everyone calls a residencia; residence permit. Of course Europeans don't need a residence permit because we have right of abode, well provided we have sufficient medical cover and money to ensure that we are not going to be a burden on the state, we have right of abode. The document is more accurately something that records or register the fact that an EU citizen is living in Spain. We registered years ago and, anyway, once an EU citizen has lived here continuosly for five years we apparently gain the right to permanent residence (something I learned in my search). But this chap told Maggie she needed a newer version of this certificate in order to exchange her licence.

This didn't sound right to me and I thought I'd check it out. What I think I found was that we British expats are talking about three different systems that have existed in the last ten years and all of which are called residencia by their British holders. The document format has varied from plastic cards to bits of paper and back to plastic cards with a different purpose and design. The renewal period for this documentation has varied from every five years to never. The changes to these "residencia" rules have also affected another document called the NIE - the Foreigners' Identification Number.

Someone recently told me that their NIE had a three month sell by date. I was sure they were wrong. My NIE certificate certainly has no expiry date. They were right though, at least about their documentation. The short lifespan is to ensure that, at the end of the three months, the EU citizen who is going to live in Spain has to tell the authorities. Unless the person swaps their NIE for a "residencia" when the three months are up they will find it difficult to transact lots of everyday business from getting a phone line to picking up a parcel from the post office. It's at that point too that the authorities can check that the person wanting to live here has the financial wherewithall to do so. Consequently whereas I have a white A4 bit of paper for my NIE and a green bit of paper for my registration newer arrivals start with a white bit of A4 paper which they soon have to trade in for a green plastic card.

So my experience, my information, about a key process for we foreigners is now wrong. What we immigrants need is some sort of definitive version of all the rules and regs easily accessible on the Internet. Oh, hang on a minute,. Now if only it were written in English but then we are, as I said, 2000 kms from the UK.

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