Immigration Part Two: The Enchufe

The enchufe is everything. It is the same in the US and in just about everywhere in the world. The verb “enchufar” is to plug in, so “enchufe” loosely translates to being plugged in. In this case, it refers to being plugged into a network or having an in. Por ejemplo, you’re going to the beach and your friend has a house there so you can stay for free? Enchufe.

So on Friday, the day after my immigration marathon / 8 hour intercambio with Jose, I presented myself once again at la oficina de extranjeros. This time my friend Andrew was with me, and we prepared ourselves for the worst. Since many of the people from Thursday were sent home and told to return on Friday, the lines are long. People are restless and it’s windy and cold outside. We are getting dirty looks for standing by the door and not taking a place in line. At about 8:20 one of the officers comes out and announces that the line is down, and it’s quite early, and we all need to relax. Yeah, no, there’s no relaxing here.

A short while later Jose rounds the corner and approaches Andrew and I – shaking hands with Andrew, and giving me the prerequisite dos besos. He asks why we are still outside and I repeat what the other officer said. Then Jose takes a step toward the door and with one hand he motions us forward through the door. Enchufe. Suddenly I’m that girl. I know someone in immigration and get this red carpet treatment at 9 am when the cola outside stretches down the block. I feel like a jerk for approximately 10 seconds, until I remember that I spent all day there on Thursday and I am getting my NIE if it kills me. Andrew and I slip in behind Jose while the crowd bristles and starts to murmur under their collective breath, and I don’t waste any time getting inside to avoid a riot.

All in all, the appointment takes an hour. I should point out that none of the officers are phased by what Jose has just done (this also applies when he leaves for a 30 minute coffee or cigarette break). They chat with us and together we lament the dependency on this faulty intranet from Madrid and how busy they will be today to make up for yesterday. Jose processes my paperwork and then Andrew’s, and we march off to the bank to pay the non-European resident tax of 15,15 euros.

A note on NIE appointment requirements:
– passport, copy of passport, copy of visa page (*if your entrance stamp is on a different page that does not include your visa, photocopy that too), two passport size photos, copy of the acceptance letter from your school, paperwork complete with your school address and the 15,15 euros (only 10 euros if you’re an EU resident! … enchufe.)

Fingerprinted and famished, we return to the office and sweep past security once again to hand over our receipts to Jose. At this point he finishes someone else’s paperwork, and when the next girl comes up he announces he needs a rest. If the atmosphere wasn’t so tense, I would have laughed out loud. The American girl turns to me and asks if he really said he was going to go take a break, and I nod. Andrew and I leave before he does .. and meet up with Jose for coffee across the street.

This experience is outrageous. I am amused, sad and happy all at once. On one hand, I’m pleased to have met Jose and on the other hand, I am dismayed that the system works this way. In the end, I have my NIE and can therefore carry on with my life in Spain. Hopefully it will include a trip to Merida, where Jose is from, and some English lessons for my new policeman friend.

Going home to Sevilla is glorious, and I cook dinner with my roommates and we go out until 5 a.m. with an expat friend. We spend Saturday lounging, laughing and coloring (for school). We take an epic trip to IKEA in the next town over. As per 500 Days of Summer, we proceed to take photo and video of our sitcom life in a department store.

I love this country.


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