How the fuck does the Spanish appointment system work?

Sorry to those of you offended by hard language. But if you are, then this website is not for you. I think it’s entirely warranted to ask this unabashed question. The Spanish appointment system is bullshit. You cannot get into see anyone unless you reserve an appointment through the Spanish government site. Even if there’s no appointment and you were supposed to get into see them before a certain deadline, there is nothing you can do.

I’m sure there are thousands of people who have been “illegally” here because of the lack of appointments available, especially in the month of August, when so many look into getting an autorizacion de regreso.

As of writing this, I have been lucky enough to get appointments at the last minute before my time has run out, but I believe that it would not have mattered very much. I think that there is a buffer time. However, I cannot be certain and for anyone who can prove or disprove this BELIEF, please leave a comment about your experience for everyone to see.

What’s the deal with the Spanish appointment system then?

You can probably tell that I’m writing this a little ticked off. I feel cheated that I’ve had to go through the necessary bureaucracy only to have to do it all over again because of mismanagement of my petition or “expediente” by government office drones.

So. In order to do anything you need an appointment. If you screw up something, or even if they screw something up, you need to still get an appointment under “Incidencias“, and ensure that you reserve an appointment at the correct facility… for example I reserved an “incidencias” appointment at the Passeig San Juan location, but they don’t handle renewal of NIEs, and I had to go to the Murcia location another day (thankfully they gave me a little paper, a free pass to get in the following day without a cita).

It’s in your best interest to reserve an appointment as soon as you know you have to. For those who are just arriving to Barcelona, use the link to reserve an appointment for the NIE. You may not have the required documents now, but you will by the time your appointment comes up. Don’t wait.

Once you have an appointment, you’re in the system: what?

The Spanish appointment system works like this. As soon as you input your data (NIE, or passport if you have no NIE yet), a file under your name is activated. This file is called your “expediente“. It is how the Spanish call the process that you are currently completing. For example, you just get to Barcelona and need to apply for the NIE: you select an appointment date, and bam, your expediente is created for that specific process. Usually, you will get a URL where you can check the status of your “expdiente“. Something important to remember: you can only have one expediente open at once.


Dates drive everyone crazy because bureaucracy has us assume that if we miss a deadline, we’re in for it. I haven’t been party to an experience to the contrary. The safe thing to do is to not miss your deadlines. Reserve a Spanish appointment in advance. Here’s a nice piece of information: if you have exactly 3 months from the date of your NIE’s expiry to begin the process of renewal, what this means is that you have 3 months to get a cita through the Spanish appointment system. So, if October 31st is the 3 month deadline since my NIE expired on July 31st, then I have to make an appointment before that date. This does not mean that the appointment itself has to occur before October 31st. It only means that I have until October 31st to make the appointment, which can be on a date after October 31st.

The reason I know this is because this is what’s happening with me now.

If you have an ongoing case (expediente), you cannot make a new appointment

I am in the process of renewing my NIE. Some incompetent person who handled my case did not accept my matriculation papers for my university. I got a message in the mail saying I was missing documents, and later I saw on the status of my expediente online the same message. I had to reserve a cita through the Spanish appointment system under “Incidencias“. When I got to my appointment and they opened my file, they found some Russian girls document mixed in with mine, and the functionary said that the original matriculation I’d submitted was acceptable. Two blunders on their part. The only thing that was missing was proof of medical insurance. I had gone through the process of getting a social security number through my work as a student, so I had had social security. But since my company decided not to renew my contract for August, but for September, I had lost my coverage. The very day that you stop working is the day you are no longer in the social security system, for those of you who care about that.

But this post is about the Spanish appointment system, so let me get back to the story.

This is where I learned that my “expediente” was still open, but that “it could close at any time, in a day, in two weeks,” I was told. I would have to provide proof of medical coverage before the expediente closed, and I had no idea when it would close. On top of that, there were no more citas for “incidencias“, which is the only type of cita I could get as long as I already had an expediente open. The Spanish appointment system has a quota of appointments available, which is why it’s a shit system. I would have to use a register in order to send the medical coverage documents. Even then, I already knew that if you use a register to send your documents, there’s serious incompetence, and they take their sweet time. A register is a place where you do not need an appointment to present your documents, such as in Barcelona on Bergara 12 near Plaza Catalunya. But the people who work there cannot necessarily ensure that your documentation is in order.

Remember that as long as your expediente is open, you’re in the system. If you need to set a new cita through the Spanish appointment system, you must wait until your previous expediente closes, in which case they send you a letter informing you of that closure. I will have to pay the NIE renewal fee all over again for my new cita, which sucks since the incompetence was entirely theirs (at least this time around).

I hope this post about the Spanish appointment system has given you at least some insight. If you have experiences or advice, please use the comment section below.


5 Responses

  1. Eve says:

    Hi Cale!
    Thanks for putting this post even though it’s quite scary (and also the one about the things you wish you knew before moving to Barcelona)! My husband and I are moving to Barcelona in less than a month!!! We managed to get a non-lucrative visa and we’re pretty excited (and nervous)! Would you recommend to use the service of a translator if I don’t speak Spanish well? If yes, do you know any? Also, did you register with the town hall? Do you know if we have to make an appointment before going? Thanks a lot!

    • Eve says:

      I just found out one of your post where you mentioned the Empadronamiento. We will be leaving at a friend’s house for a while. This means that we’ll have to bring only its ID? Do you know someone who has done that because I’ve read different things here and there on Internet (one website even mention that the owner has to come with you). Thanks again!

      • Velabas says:

        You don’t need the owner to come with you. But you do need to get the original contract for the apartment, and a copy of their ID (I believe–it has been a while since I’ve done this). But original ID isn’t necessary I think. The empadronamiento is fast and easy, you just go to the town hall in the neighborhood where you’re living and figure out when’s best.

  2. Mayur Pande says:

    I missed my appointment for getting my first NIE card. What do you recommend?

  3. Jodie says:

    I have the answer to all your questions, there is a contemporary term called “Fake news” well in Spain there is the term FAKE JOBS, the reason an appointment is needed is to proof they work but that is not enough after making the online appointment there will be a person in the chosen bureacratic office given you a ticket with a number to be seen then when you reach the civil servant (who serves for nothing) will try to find all sort of faults in your applications, documents and paperwork why? because they want you to come back make another appointment so they justify unnecesary jobs. In Spain they do not serve the customer, they recycled the clients so you go again and again and again to do something in a country like The Netherlands will take no appointment and 15 minutes. Great example NIE a little piece of paper one cant laminate so gets damage very soon , this way they make sure you visit their office sooner than later and pay again. Spain is not up to date with European Technology is a country that lives in last century ways.

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