Thursday, April 17, 2014

Keep your eye on it

I knew that my driving license was due for renewal this year and was expecting a reminder from Trafico to tell me when. Unfortunately that reminder never came and my license ran out on the 16th March. I spotted it quite by accident a few days late and hot footed down to one of the clinics in Torrevieja that undertake the tests needed to renew licenses.

It seems the rules have changed since Pamela renewed her license in 2012. If you wear glasses, you now have to provide an up to date prescription for them. Having had my eyes tested in March, I had that to hand. However, what I didn’t have was an up to date resident’s card and that was a further requirement.

Pam and I completed our residency application in 2005 by visiting the police station in Alicante and  were given temporary cards which lasted until 2010. These had our photos on them and so could be used for payments with credit and debit cards in shops.

In response to a EU directive, Spain dropped the identity cards for foreigners and introduced a certificate instead which did not have a photo on it. Since, all of our bank cards are now “chip and pin”, the need for identification to pay for goods has all but gone. We saw little point in renewing the residency cards until now.

The requirements to obtain a resident’s card have changed. You now need the following:

  • Application form EX-18 filled in. You can pick this up from National Police stations or download it from the Government web site.
  • A valid passport along with a copy of it.
  • A valid certificate from the town hall to show that you are registered on the padron.
  • Proof that you have either medical insurance or entitlement to free health care in Spain (form E121 or E160).
  • Proof that you have sufficient monthly income in Spain to support yourself.
  • A form to show that you have paid the relevant tax for your application (the National Police station provides this for you to take to the bank and make payment).

We exchanged our Form E121s for medical cards back in 2007 but fortunately still had the certificates from the INSS office in Orihuela that confirmed our entitlement. I had to explain that, in my case, the original entitlement was by virtue of dependency. Once Pam reached 60, she had her state pension and the right to free medical care. At the same time, I was classed as a dependant and given the same entitlement. When I reached 65, I got my own E121 but by that time did not need it because I already had a pensioner’s medical card.

Although the bank gave us certificates to show the state of our bank accounts, I knew that would not be enough so I printed out copies of the pension payments into our accounts. That was fortunate because the clerk at the Police Station in Orihuela seemed to want those. I explained, in my best Spanish that we had three pensions, one which was paid into a joint account and our state pensions that are paid into separate accounts. There is obviously a minimum you need each month and we seemed to have passed that.  

The good news was that, after an intense half an hour or so*, we were given permanent resident’s cards which meant I could go down to the clinic in Torrevieja and take the driving test.

Since I have no desire to drive vans, I simply took the test to drive a car. A few simple questions; did I take medicine?, had I had an operation?, did I smoke? and did I drink alcohol? and then it was time to take the little test.

For those who haven’t done this I will explain what is involved.

It is like a computer game. On the screen are two black rectangles on two narrow white lines. They are meant to represent cars on different roads. You have two hand controls which you rotate to control the rectangles and the idea is to keep both the “cars” on their respective roads as they twist and turn independently.

I don’t know about others but I found trying to watch both at the same time and steer them separately a challenge. Inevitably, as you concentrate on one, the other goes off the road and the machine beeps at you. Apparently, you should not worry about short beeps but try and avoid longer ones that show the car has stayed off the road.  

After two attempts, I succeeded in scoring well enough to get a five year extension to my license which at my age is the maximum. I reckon, if I had more practice at the test or if I was an ardent computer gamer, I could have done even better but that is not reality!

* The clerk at the police station was not the most friendly Spaniard we have met. To be fair it was 6pm, the room was warm and his computer was very slow to respond. He shuffled between the various papers comparing one with the other until he was satisfied. My application took the longest because I faced all the questions. Pam’s was over in a matter of minutes. Oh and by the way, he spoke no English at all.

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