How to Get a Carné Jóven Andaluz

Ah, youth. The period of your life where everything is confusing, the future is uncertain and where you rely – perhaps more heavily than necessary – on others to stay afloat. Even as a 27-year-old living in another country, I still feel like I’m in this not-quite-an-adult limbo (like the Britney Spears song).

But don’t worry, guiri friends. The government has got your back on this one!

With the unemployment rate in Spain climbing as fast as our taxes, the Andalusian government became the first autonomy to amplify the carné jóven, a sort of discount card that can be redeemed at places all around Andalucía and Spain. Valid until the day you turn 31, shops, beauty parlors and even hotels will give you discounts by simply presenting the card and a photo ID. It’s similar to the ISIC card and can save you oodles on all types of services.

What you’ll need

  • Your NIE and one photocopy (in its absence, your passport and proof of residency in Andalucía)
  • Form Anexo 1 (available here)
  • Proof of being Andalusian or proof of residence in the Andalusian community (usually your NIE will suffice, if not, a housing contract or bill will do)
  • 6€

Where to go

The Institutos Andaluces de Jóvenes, as well as some local banks and any offices of información juvenil in your village, are authorized to process your paperwork and give you the rights to own a card. But, as with many things in Spain, you’ll have to turn in your paperwork and THEN go to a bank with form Modelo 46, wait in another line and pay a fee, called a tasa, of 6€. Cards can be processed in the same day if turned in before 10a.m., or sent to your residence.

Similarly, there’s an online portal.

Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
C/General Tamayo, 23
Tlf: 950 00 66 00
Fax: 950 00 66 20
Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
Alameda Apodaca, 20
Tlf: 956 00 75 00
Fax: 956 00 75 20
Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
C/ Adarve, 2
Tlf: 957 35 22 40
Fax: 957 35 22 41
Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
C/ Ancha de Santo Domingo, 1
Tlf: 958 02 58 50
Fax: 958 02 58 70
Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
C/Rico, 26
Tlf: 959 01 19 50
Fax: 959 01 19 51
Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
C/Arquitecto Berges, 34 – A
Tlf: 953 00 19 50
Fax: 953 00 19 70
Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
C/ Carretería, 7
Tlf: 951 04 09 19
Fax: 951 04 09 20
Dirección Provincial del I.A.J.
C/O´Donnell, 22
Tlf: 955 03 63 50
Fax: 955 03 63 60


Where it’s valid

Good news – if you’re under 27, you get a 20 – 25% discount on train tickets for the AVE and media distancia trains. Bad news: I turned 27 two months ago and no longer receive these amazing deals. Still, the card is valid all around Andalucía and in many other regions of Spain at youth hostels and hotels (10 – 15% off full price), private doctors and opticians (up to 20%), along with gyms, cafés and courses. A full list can be found clicking clicking here.

The Carné Jóven is also valid in 40 European countries if you’re 26 or under, much like an ISIC card.

If you’ve used a carné, tell me where! My main purpose for getting the card was for Renfe discounts, but I now don’t know where to make my 6€ count!

Seville Snapshots: Plaza de España

My first visit to Plaza de España was on my day of arrival to Seville after studying in Valladolid. I sat on the tiled bench of the province and wrote my observations of the city that I would later reside in and call home. Those reflections are lost in a mountain of possessions in Chicago, but the city left enough of an impression on me to call me back two years later.

I took my grandma to Plaza de España on our first day in Seville, fresh off the plane. The day was sweltering for mid September, and we mostly hung to the colonnades and in the mist of the enormous fountain in the middle of the half-moon  square crowning the María Luisa Park. I used to argue it was the most beautiful building in the city.

But five years later as a semi-jaded expat, it’s hard to see this beautiful neo-mudejár palace as anything but a place where the government has wasted far too many hours of my life. Hidden beneath the brick and marble are government offices, including police headquarters, military outposts and the dreaded Oficina de Extranjeros – the foreigner’s office.

Rolling out of bed to get my Número de Identificación de Extranjeros meant rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m., just as day was breaking. I waited for a number until 8am, then wasn’t seen until 11a.m. Doing anything within that slack little office means rethinking your willingness to stay in Spain, but there are ways to make the experience more pleasant. The best one? Walking out into the sunshine after being in a windowless office for hours and seeing the south tower reflected in the moat of a place witness to the Iberoamerican Fair, several marches and demonstrations, and even the filming of The Dictator.

Thanks to my pal, Jeremy Bassetti, for the gorgeous photo! Follow him at:

Photo © A Painter of Modern Life (

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How to Pay Taxes in Spain (aka The Day I Became an Adult)

Today was Tax Day in America.

As I sat telling my suegra of W-10s and 29-cent hamburgers, I realized I would have to turn in my borrador de la declaración de la renta before June 30th. I cursed, having never done it before. In 20120’s fiscal year, I worked not four months, therefore disqualifying myself. 2011 was different, and my measly 2% retention rate meant I’d have to pay, I was sure.

After a quick tutorial on how to solicit the draft, I signed in using my Número de Identificación del Extranjero (called a NIE, or foreign resident card). Almost immediately, I was identified with my name and address. My mouth dropped as Kike howled with laughter. I had to claim a bank account, and from there, all of my financial information was extracted and laid out before my very eyes. Not counting the two months’ vacation or private lessons or camp, I had made under 20.000€. Sad but true.

My phone buzzed with a new message from the Agencia Tributaria. They have my phone number, too!! There was a long code, which I was asked to introduce into a text box. Within seconds, a PDF containing all of my financial information from the 2011 fiscal year was compressed into an eight-page document full of words like retenciones, porcentajes and plenty more I didn’t understand. Kike checked for errors while I held my breath, waiting for the damage.

Um, it says here you can donate to a charity, Kike said. There were two options: the Catholic Church or “bienes sociales” which was probably for beefing up political salaries. I declined, writing off the for-once efficiency that seems to be lacking in every other bureaucratic issue I’d dealt with.

At the end of the seventh page, he announced how much I’d have to pay: a whopping 0€. I hadn’t reached the threshold and have no valuables, like a house or kid. So, I paid my taxes, the government knows a lot about me (but apparently not that I moved 22 months ago), and finally feel like a grown up in Espain.

But, for realz, why do I have to pay taxes if they won’t co-validate my degree or let me have a credit card?! Spain, you wack.

An Inside Peek: The Ayuntamiento of Seville

For all of the places I’ve visited in Seville, several are behind closed doors, off-limits to me and the common folk: Palacio San Telmo, cloistered monasteries rumored to be breathtaking, that silly old pijo club in Plaza San Francisco where you need a member’s card to get a gintoncito.

Thankfully, many of these clandestine places open their doors during special feast days and holidays, and Seville is no exception. The Morón Air Force Base holds an annual public day before Christmas, and Andalusia Day means places like the Parliament and Town Hall are open during the Jornadas de Puertas Abiertas, and last year I got a peek of the city’s newest museum, the Antiquarum. No work in city offices = come one, come all.

Laying between Plaza Nueva and Plaza San Francisco, Seville’s town hall building, called the Ayuntamiento, is a 16th Century stone brick that houses the local government. Everything to budget cuts to weddings take place here, and the plaza that lies out front is home to the city Christmas tree, protests and large-scale outdoor markets, as well as where the “ball drops” on New Years Eve.

While the stately building’s neoclassical design is as beautiful on the outside Eastern façade as it is on the inside, I was more transfixed by the details, both ornate and emblematic of Seville.

What to do in Spain if: your phone gets lost or stolen

Ok, so in retrospect, it’s not the worst thing that’s happened to me ever. Or even in Spain. But flu + six-year-olds + stress makes losing a Smartphone way worse than it needs to be.

Think about it: people who have their contacts, photos and all-important Facebook at the touch of a button, a simple tap on a screen, become quite attached. My own love story started in March of last year when I decided to cortar la llamada with Orange, so to speak, and change to Europe’s biggest carrier, Vodafone, to get a Smartphone. I figured it would be handy to be able to Skype my mom from wherever, send tweets whenever I had the urge to and never get lost. And it was.

The greatest love I’ve ever known. That’s sad, right?

Nine months later, I’m struggling through a Thursday at work. The kids won’t behave, and it’s humid and cold out. My wooziness gets full-blown bad around lunchtime. Venga, come have something warm to eat, coax my coworkers, and I hate missing our Thursday standing date at the bar down the street. I check my phone for emails and saw that José María had messaged me. After ordering, I said goodbye to JM and put my phone in the pocket of my jeans.

Not an hour later, I’m back at school when I notice my phone missing. Not panicking (for once), I ask my coworker to call me, and her face drops. It’s off, tía, she responds, and forces me to hand over the class to run down to the bar where we’d eaten. Inquiries to the bar staff, construction workers and other patrons are met with nothing more than shrugs and sympathetic looks. It’s gone.

A few hours later, I’m in the Vodafone store in Nervion staring down a hipster named Miguel Angel. He patiently asks me what I was doing when the robbery occurred, if I have an htc account, etc. I’m dumbfounded (and still fighting a fever) that the sales rep who sold me the phone had not told me about the features built-in to smartphones to locate them, lock them and wipe the memory. I reluctantly hand over my debit card and choose a more rudimentary version of my old phone, 144 € in the hole.

Petty theft is perhaps the most common crime in Spain, so the age-old saying goes: watch your belongings. Don’t set your bag on the ground at a restaurant or keep it open while walking through a crowded plaza. Keep an extra copy of your flight information and passport at your hotel’s reception. Stay alert. I’ve been a victim of robbery twice now, and I can’t say it won’t happen again. But there’s a few things you can do to protect your phone.

Let’s start with the basics. In Spain, there’s a few options when it comes to cell phones. The major companies are Vodafone, Orange and Movistar, with Yoigo quickly becoming more popular. Major supermarket chains also offer discounted plans. I’ve had each of the majors and have never been 100% satisfied with any of them.

Companies typically offer two types of plans: prepago or contrato (pay-as-you-go or contract). Prepay will get you a SIM card, typically with a few euros of saldo (credit), and you’ll have to top-up when your credit gets low. All of the major carriers in Spain have pre-paid cards, and even European-based mobile broadband carriers are becoming popular for those who travel. Calls and messages usually cost more than a contract, which requires a residence card, bank account and 18 months minimum commitment, called permanencia. The benefit here is no pesky trips to the supermarket to get more saldo and reduced prices for calls and messages. What’s more, 3G has reached nearly every corner of the country, so you can Skype home from nearly anywhere (as long as you’re within your MBs, that is).

When switching companies, you’ll have to put in a claim stating that you’d like to change your portabilidad to another carrier. Then starts the war: for a week, your old company will call you and beg for your loyalty, even offering you a discounted iphone 4 or better rates. After a week, your choice carrier will activate your phone ans start charging you. 

V is for very inutil.

Anyway, I digress. When I switched companies last Spring, I was given a deal good for six months – my plan at 24,99 instead of 39,99, plus an htc sense for 75 euros. I took it, gleefully playing around on my phone and downloading apps. I had asked about insurance, and the sales rep joked around with me about how no one would ever think to rob it from a pretty girl, and I looked smart enough to not drop it. Ok, amiguito, but appearances can be deceiving. His flirtatious attitude made me grab my phone and run, and I now regret it.

When Hipster MA asked me how I protected my phone, I kinda just shrugged. “I bought a silicon case at a chino,” I replied, “and I don’t usually drop it.” He shook his head. “No, how do you protect it from thieves? Did you try and locate the phone? Or did you block it? Give me your insurance policy and let’s see how much we can get for you.”

Um, ¿cómo?

I felt like the dummy with a smartphone, and realized I’d broken my normal routine of buying insurance and sending in warrantee guarantees. In the end, I had to pay for a new phone (the plan would have been way overpriced without Internet), but this one has Alcatraz-style safety on it. Here’s some tips to protect your smartphone while in Spain:

Take out a security plan when you purchase the phone

Major companies offer security plans against forced robbery (robo con violencia), water damage, dropped phones, etc. for a premium each month. The 4 euros I pay monthly will just be tacked onto my bill each month, and iphones with Movistar are less than twice that (and those fancy new screens cost a loooot more to replace). When getting a phone, be sure to inquire about how much a plan costs per month, what is covered under the insurance and how to activate it. I also asked for duplicate copies of the plan to be sure I’d read it carefully this time. The charge should also come listed on your monthly factura (bill).

If you’ve got prepago or have a crappy little I’ll-never-break-sucker-no-matter-how-far-you-throw-me Nokia, I wouldn’t waste the money. No one steals those these days, anyway.

Download a phone tracker program

Little did I know that with an online account or app, I could track my phone to its geographical location. Could you imagine? Showing up at the door of the capullo who is enjoying my phone? When configuring most smartphones, you can add an account with the brand’s company and send a message asking the phone to be located. Within 15 minutes, you can find out if your phone is under your dirty laundry or if indeed someone has taken it. This account may also allow you to download more ringtones and wallpapers.

I have an htc sense account, which I found online at their website, as well as a free app called Android Lost. In the Market app, you can type in the name of the program and download it directly to your phone, or do it from a PC.

Call and block the phone

If you’ve got the box your phone came in handy, you can call customer service on most carriers and ask them to block the phone, making it useless. The operator will ask you for a code that can be found on the original box, near the bar code.

Put in a denuncia at the nearest National Police station

Just as you’d do if your passport was stolen, reporting it to the National Police can help you to get some of the value back for your lost phone, provided the robbery was committed with force. Simply head into the nearest sede, call, or take care of it over the Internet. 

Police dollars won’t get me all these, sadly.

When I went to Mexico with some friends during college, we left our bags near our chairs and jumped in the pool to cool down. Being the only one who spoke Spanish, I asked a pool attendant where our bags were a few minutes later, and he responded that he’d moved them. Lisa’s was missing, Jenn’s camera has been stolen and our room key lifted. The room keys all had the room numbers engrained on them. The five of us ran up countless flights of stairs and found the door ajar, Lisa’s bag in a nearby garbage can. I gasped, remembering that not an hour earlier, I’d wanted to come upstairs and take a nap.

The scene inside the room meant that someone had been there – overturned suitcases, change missing from the table. They’d taken our meal tickets, but we had hidden the safe key so well, our cameras and passports were still there. Sure, having someone lift your mobile phone is a pain in the culo, but I’m happy I wasn’t around to try and fight anyone for it.

Bottom line: just ask questions. I was too busy fending off a creeper to ask about anything more than when my phone would be activated. #oohguiri

How to Survive The Foreigner’s Office

Author’s Note: This post seemed fitting today, considering my first experience with the dreaded papeleo started on July 3rd, 2007, when I applied for my student visa to come to Spain. Likewise, I just picked up my five-year residence card on Friday.

On my first trip to Sevilla, six years ago nearly to the day, I was breathless at the site of the half-moon, colonnaded Plaza de España, nestled just out of the historic center and at the helm of the plush María Luisa Park. The Triana tiles gleamed in the early July sunlight as I sat writing on a bench in the mural depicting Valladolid, a city I had just moved away from. I brought my travel partner, Catherine, the very next day. While not as bowled over as I, she did know that it was the fictional Planet Naboo of Star Wars fame.

Two years in the future, I was applying for a visa at the Chicago consulate. The deal was that Spain put a shiny visa on an entire page of my passport in exchange for 90 days in the land of toros and tapas. From there, I would need to go to local police and present a mountain of paperwork claiming I had a salary and health insurance. Seemed easy to present a few pieces of paper and stand in line.

Think again – what ensued has been a very ugly battle between me and the central immigration offices of Andalucía, a little bit of trickery (ok, flat-out lying) and finally securing a five-year residency card after thirteen months of appointments, photocopies and a lawyer.

Estés dónde estés, here’s a few tips to make your trip to Extranjeros a little more smooth:

Brush up on your vocabulary
The people who work in the oficina de extranjeros are called funcionarios. Spain, like Italy, has a high number of civil servants, and those Spaniards wishing to have job security and work short hours take an exam called an oposición to be able to be one. If selected, they are entitled to have breakfast at the precise hour you arrive to the front of the line. You’ll need to turn in all your papeleo, paperwork, to these people, so follow the advice below, too.

At the office, you’ll need to queue up and get a ticket. When your letter and number is called, you turn in your documents and receive a snobby-ass look and the word that you’ll come back for your fingerprints – your huellas, in addition to paying a tax and presenting two or three recent photos. Note that in Spain, these foto carne are much smaller than their American counterparts. After that appointment, you’ll have to wait 45 days to pick up your plastic card, and chat up a security guard to let you cut. I learned that two prorrogas in.

Know what you need to bring, and bring photocopies
Tres fotos carné? Form EX-##? Best to do your research, as every official act performed in the office has a different set of requisites. For pareja de hecho, for example, I had to present a certificate stating I wasn’t already married, signed and stamped by an official US Notary. Not necessary for an extension on your student visa. Speak to your consulate or embassy, download the forms to turn in here, ask about tasas, or fees, and bring a few small pictures. That said, made at least two photocopies of each document and have anything notarized if it’s a copy to turn in. Believe me, this will save you headaches, as this woman can tell you. Got a stapler? Toss that in your bag, just in case.

Dress appropriately, and bring a Spaniard along if you can
Showing up and looking nice can really make a difference, especially here in Sevilla, where appearances are everything. I have been in a skirt when everyone else is in flipflops and board shorts, but am generally greeted with a smile and a willing attitude.

Likewise for bringing a Spanish friend. My dear amiga Kelly told me this as she was applying for a work visa last year. She swears that having her saint of a boyfriend along meant more efficiency and no Sevillana stink face. If you’ve got a willing friend, invite them to a coffee in exchange for a few hours of quality time with you (And by quality time I mean you pulling out your hair time).

Go at the right time
Officially, winter hours in the office are like a banker’s: 9-5. In the summer, don’t expect the office to be open past 2. I remember my first trip to the office in October of 2007, clutching a paper folder with all of my documents. I left my house barely at 6am, arriving to stand at the end of a very, very long queue. At 8am, you can get your number, but our dear friends the fucnionarios won’t roll in until after 9. For this reason, I tend to show up either right at 9am, or after everyone has had their breakfast rotation at 11.30. It’s also advisable to go after 1 p.m., as the wait times are generally shorter. Note that some tasks have only a certain number of tickets assigned each day, so if you’re merely renewing a student visa, go whenever te da la gana. If it’s something like asking for your marriage book, the earlier, the better.

Be patient
Chances are you’ll be sent to multiple offices, to numerous people. The rules for every type of trámite are complex and must be followed precisely. Use message boards, other expats from your countries and the consulate to be as prepared as possible before you go, and realize there will be lines to wait in, documents missing, frustrations to be had. But, really, it all works out. I waited thirteen months to be able to hold a little red card in my hand, and now don’t have to go back (barring a residence change) until February of 2016. A little patience goes a long way in Spain, especially in the foreigner’s office.

All you expats: Have any extranjería horror stories? Tips for making the process any degree less painful? Got enchufe somewhere? Tell me about it in the comments!

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