Should Spain issue ID cards to resident expats

Published:  30 Dec at 6 PM
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Laws in Spain can be somewhat confusing and, although the vast majority of expats lead an impeccable life, it’s embarrassing to be caught out unintentionally.

The law as regards identification cards is one such example, and many long-term expats will remember an attempt by the government to provide a card to those who qualified as residents. The card showed an ID number, fingerprint and a photo of its holder, and proved useful in stores, banks, government offices and on domestic flights.

However, expat whines that having EU citizenship was quite enough were heard by the authorities, and the cards were discontinued. The Madrid government happily ignored the fact that ID cards are common in most EU states, and decided the cancellation was no big deal,
leaving expats who hadn’t received them without any ID except their passport and a piece of official green paper.

Spain issues each expat an inconveniently A4-sized green paper without a passport photograph but with an ID number, meaning that a passport must be carried for verification along with the folded paper at all times. This may not be the best idea on crowded trains and buses in Spain’s major cities, as pickpocketing is rife and passports are expensive to replace.

A credit-card sized version was introduced two years ago, still without a photo, but at least it allowed the by then scruffy green papers to be discarded. To most expats’ relief, a plan to finally issue an expat ID card was spearheaded by a Balearics expat group, and is now being taken seriously by the government.

The Spanish police and Secretary of State are considering the proposal although to date no formal announcement has been made. Things moving slowly are all part of the charm of living in Spain, but an optimistic prediction of movement on the issue by some time next year is being made.
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