Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Live and Let N.I.E.

Confession: I didn't even make up this title, I found it on a Spain Expat blog.

For those who haven't contemplated moving to Spain, this is their foreign tax ID number. As far as I can tell, it conveys no advantage whatsoever to the holder besides acting as a giant "Come and Get Me" to the fiscal authorities. Unfortunately, every basic transaction you might want to perform in Spain requires the NIE, from getting a telephone to opening a bank account, to getting your stuff through customs. You would think it would be easy to get.

Perhaps it is...if I hadn't decided to engage the services of BlahBlahBlah (prestigious international audit, tax and consulting firm). When I had less, I used to fantasize about how much easier life would be if you could Pay People to Do Things For You. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn't. In the case of the immigration services provided by BlahBlahBlah, I've learned more in one hour on Google than anything they've told me or provided me with so far. My husband says that it's my fault, I should have known that BlahBlahBlah is far more concerned with its fat multinational corporate clients than private individuals, unless, perhaps, you happen to be Bill Gates. I engaged BlahBlahBlah in the hopes that it would shield me from the usual insults and injuries wielded by that most vicious of creatures--the Low Level Civil Servant, in this case employed by immigration authorities.

In my experience, the Low Level Civil Servant (LLCS) is an international breed, whose temperament tends to worsen when deployed in highly populated capital areas (conversely it can be quite nice and personable in the more sparsely populated rural settings). The typical LLCS exists in limbo between gratitude for its job for life and generous employment benefits, mixed with subtle disdain for the mind-numbingly repetitive functions it must perform, and outright contempt for the people it is compelled to serve. The Low Level Civil Servant is programmed to follow a systemic series of rules and to exist in a world with no individuals, only check-marks. Asked to perform any function not automatically subsumed in the order and exact definition of the checkmarks, the LLCS automatically spits out a "No" response. Regardless of one's circumstances, there is a two-step approach that can improve your odds with the LLCS. 1)self-abasement and recognition of the LLCS' superior authority. "Oh most powerful one whose hand rests upon the stamp that I currently need, please forgive my ignorant ways and failure to blah blah, I beseach you to look with favor upon your humble supplicant" is an appropriate tone to adopt, followed by 2) The VCH (very compelling story)

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