Red Tape Survival Tips

Red Tape Survival Tips

Cutting through the red tape © iStock
Cutting through the red tape.

Bureaucracy is never fun. It is even less so when you feel lost and don't know where to start in order to find the information you need and to understand why certain documents and procedures are required. Following is a list of tips and suggestions that can help you cut just about any type of red tape.



Where to go

Often the first hurdle you must jump is finding out where to go in order to obtain a specific document or permit. If you don't know anyone and don't feel comfortable approaching your new neighbours, it is best to direct your questions to either your local town hall (usually centrally located) - specifically the "foreigners's department" in the few municipalities that have one - or the local or national police station.


Throughout any bureaucratic process you should carry a map of your local area with you as you may be required to go from one government department to the next in order to gather together all the required documentation.



It's wise to embark on any bureaucratic adventure with the clear expectation that it could take much longer than you would like to think it will. However, it helps to be as prepared as possible. So, stop before you go and make a list of all the possible documents that might be required: birth certificates, residence cards, an original print-out of your "certificado de empadronamiento" showing that you are officially registered at the town hall, title deeds etc. Next, check all documents to make sure none are out of date. Remember that the "certificados de empadronamiento" have short expiration dates.


It is a good idea to have three photo copies of each document in your possession. Any photocopy that might have to be "compulsado" - or made official - must show both sides of a document on the same side of a sheet of paper. For example, you would be sure that both sides of your residence card appeared on the same side of a sheet of paper in order to be properly "compulsado" by a bureaucrat. For other purposes you will need to have card copied back to front with each side appearing on opposite sides of a paper in the same corner, in order to cut it out and create a paper version of the original card. Sound complicated? It is.


If you think you might need photos - for driver's licenses and residency cards, for example - these can be obtained in any photo shop.

Cultural Know-how

While cutting red tape in Spain can be frustrating at times, it is crucial that you maintain a calm approach and be aware of certain cultural norms that, if followed, will help you be more successful. Rule one - dress as nicely as possible. Image is very important in Spanish culture and unconsciously paid great respect. Rule two - be polite no matter how unrealistic the process seems to be. "Buena educación", or good manners, is also put on a pedestal in Spanish society, ahead of such concepts as "efficiency", or in some cases even "fairness", for example.

Basic Language Skills

While you can probably get by with very basic language skills when carrying out simple procedures, it can still be frustrating. However, you can be sure that over the course of the project you will improve your knowledge of Spanish, adding to your vocabulary. For more complex or urgent projects, those who don't speak very much Spanish might consider hiring a "gestor", who specialises in cutting red tape. This option is considered more than acceptable by government authorities and most - if not all - projects are designed to be handled by a third party professional as well as the person directly involved.

A Good Book

As you never know how many hours you might spend in queues, it is always a good idea to bring some good reading material with you.
Living in Andalucia