Travel Comment
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Jim Eagles: All tied up with Spanish red tape

Be prepared for long waits and numerous forms to fill in if you want to work in Spain. Photo / Jamie Melbourne-Hayward
Be prepared for long waits and numerous forms to fill in if you want to work in Spain. Photo / Jamie Melbourne-Hayward

There was mild celebration last year when the New Zealand and Spanish governments negotiated an agreement on working holiday visas for young people.

Among those celebrating was Jamie Melbourne-Hayward who quickly took up the chance to get a taste of life in a fascinating new country. Four months on he's a bit less enthusiastic.

This is his report from Barcelona:

Around 30 Kiwis have been game enough to travel with the Spanish working holiday visa and over half have reported problems. Four months into our stay we are still waiting for our ID cards.

By comparison, the 200 Spaniards visiting New Zealand under the reciprocal visa, a quota filled in four hours, are all enjoying working in New Zealand.

Our journey began in Wellington where we filled in the mountain of paperwork required to obtain the visa (quite a contrast to the "smile and signature" which is all you need to enter countries like the Netherlands).

But despite all the paperwork, when we arrived at the Foreigners Office in Barcelona no one had the foggiest knowledge of the working holiday visa.

In fact, we are delightfully registered as "homeless" at the local Refugee and Social Services Office - the result of a desperate attempt by one of the numerous government offices to validate us for a Foreign Identity Card.

Two months into our Spanish experience, and at our wits' end, we contacted Julio Diaz Sevillano at the Wellington Embassy. Diaz replied that he would send a "document to [Spanish] Immigration asking them to inform the [Barcelona] police about the new system". But, he added, "I do not know how long it will take to pass all this information to all the people involved." Obviously it is taking quite a long time.

We asked the Spanish Embassy if they could also extend our visas for one month, to make up for the lost time, but they never replied.

Then it was the turn of the New Zealand Embassy in Madrid to wash their hands of the arrangement on the basis that it was up to the Spanish to implement. Their explanation for the ignorance about the new visa: "The Spanish get offended when you ask too many questions".

Next the Spanish Embassy in Wellington decided to send us an official letter to hand to the local authorities explaining how the scheme was supposed to work.

The letter didn't work, so we staged a sit-in at the Foreigners Office, and this eventually prompted a senior official to push some magical buttons in the computer system and it spat us out identities.

Now, if our Identity Cards ever arrive, and they are legitimate, we just have to convince an employer to take us on for only three months at a time, amid a European economic meltdown.

* Interestingly, Spain is not among the countries listed in the Working Holiday section on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

- NZ Herald

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