1 May 2022: Invisible us; Spanish nationality; The Galician ‘nation’; Ball-tanning; & Other stuff

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Dawn%2BBox%2BDay%2B2015.JPG
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza

Lenox Napier calls us foreigners resident in Spain The Invisible Tribe. This is his latest article on the subject. Some comments it provoked can be seen below.

Also below is the promised article on the pros and cons of seeking Irish or Spanish nationality. In the latter case, this is what the Spanish call un calvario, now taking up two 5 years.

Today being May Day or Labour Day, there will be manifestaciones in Pontevedra city. The placard for one of these reads Somos Unha Nación, We Are One Nation, in Gallego. I suspect this is not a reference to Spain as a whole but only to the region of Galicia. The word ‘nation’ causes considerable problems here in Spain, especially in those bits of it which used to be independent centuries ago and would like to re-achieve that status. Imagine if that were the case in Germany or Italy. Or in the UK. Oh, it is . . .


Wow . .  The first country to experience Covid-19, and the one that invented the defence strategy known as lockdown, is the only country still practising it. But the Chinese form is so much harsher than the British version, it is almost misleading to use the same term. In Shanghai, the biggest city now enduring the experience, millions have been physically barricaded into their homes, some crying out that they are starving. Those reporting infections are forced into vast quarantine camps. Vital office workers have been confined to their skyscrapers, sleeping at their desks for over a month now.

The Way of the World 

Their masculinity under threat, men are turning to some very alternative treatments — including tanning their testicles. Testicle tanning a hitherto little-known practice that involves blasting one’s balls with red or near-infrared light in the hope it might boost testosterone levels. I think I’ll give it a miss.

Quotes of the Day 

1.To pressure us to declare our pronouns – that is, to perform a belief in the fiction of an inner gender – is as obnoxious and outrageous as it would be to force a non-Christian to say ‘Christ is my saviour’. Compelled speech runs counter to the entire idea of liberty, and to the Enlightenment itself. No one should be ‘compelled by fire and sword to profess certain doctrines… to profess things that they do not believe’, said John Locke in his Letter Concerning Toleration. More here.

2. Depp vs Heard is an ugly, degrading spectacle. We should take this as a warning about where our victimhood culture can lead us. Ain’t that the truth. More here.


British TV ads display a desperate search for adjectives for the relevant product or service. The latest I’ve heard is ‘heritage’,  as in the ad for a hotel ‘A heritage coastline you can see from your room’. As opposed to just ‘a coastline’. 

Dummdoof: Lenox Napier reminds me that ‘doofus’ means dumb in American.   

Finally . .

Confined by Covid, I’ve been binge-viewing for the first time in my life. So, yesterday I watched 20 episodes of What We Do in the Shadows – using a VPN to view it on the BBC iPlayer. Although this is an American TV series – based on the film of the same name – the 3 leading players are all English. And a fine job they do too. I fear I’m falling in love with Nadja, if only because of her foul temper and bad language. Highly recommended, as they say.

For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


1. Comments on Lenox Napier’s article 

Mark Stücklin; Spanish Property Insight

The question you ask this week is one I’ve asked myself for many years. I think it’s partly due to the fact that foreign residents are not organised in any way and have no lobby. Nobody hears their voice, and the government just takes them for granted. The Modelo 720 shows how happy the Spanish government is to make life difficult for foreign residents.

An American resident down south

What you stated about the foreign residents is very true! So I thought I’d give you some feedback. We are retired Americans in Benalmádena—not wealthy, but have enough pension and savings to leave the US which is a mess.

We definitely feel ‘under-appreciated’ by the government. We love Spain, but have considered moving to Portugal, Italy or France for several reasons. We don’t even mind the famous Spanish bureaucracy—it is other issues.

1. Taxes are through the roof on our pensions, while we owe very little in tax to the USA. Portugal, France & Italy all have better tax schemes for retirees. In addition, it is extremely frustrating that Spain is issuing a Digital Nomad visa & giving these young salaried employees a tax break by allowing them to pay non-resident tax, which is much lower than resident taxation. Apparently, the government feels the Digital Nomads will spend more money on restaurants & bars! Retirees also spend a lot on going out—we rarely eat in, and try to always buy local products & use local businesses to inject money into the local economy. The government logic makes no sense & I’ll bet retirees spend more than younger digital nomads.

2. Driver’s licenses are a big problem here. When you’ve had a driver’s license for 50 years, it is a major pain & expense to be forced to take tests and pay for required lessons to drive. Have heard the exams in Málaga are backed up for 6 months! It has affected our whole life here. We had intended to buy a car, but now walk or use the bus. This is fine, but it totally affects where we can live as we must be near a bus route & grocery store, so are very limited in choice of areas. But the hassle of getting a driver’s license is a really big obstruction. The other countries I’ve mentioned have a driver’s license exchange program which makes a huge difference in quality of life.

3. Holiday rentals are out of control. Living by the coast is a goal & dream for many who come here. We are on our second coastal rental, but now realize it is all pretty much the same. Both buildings we’ve lived in are full of holiday rentals, with the associated noise & inconsideration of holiday makers. When the buildings aren’t full of vacationers, the apartments are being renovated to accommodate more guests and higher fees. It’s like living in a continuous construction site. We would move up the hill and away from the tourists, but then there is the problem of not having a car! The holiday rentals that many Northern Europeans are buying here are hugely driving up the cost of living on the coast. We’ve only been here a year, but the rents have gone way up in a place that only a year ago had a number of affordable rentals (we do not want to own).

I do keep up with the expat forum groups & of course, the Brits look at things different than Americans, but many Americans are deciding on Portugal or France over Spain due to the high taxation in Spain. For the wealthier retiring American baby boomers (which we aren’t), taxation is a huge part of their choice. They hate the wealth tax & a 35% – 45% tax bracket on income just does not work for them, as Americans are used to lower taxes in general. If you read the expat forums, this is a recurring theme (along with the driver’s license issue). But even for those of us in the lower income brackets—taxes are a big problem. We moved here from Florida, which is expensive, but in the end, being retired in Spain is not much cheaper, all things considered, though we prefer Spaniards and the Spanish lifestyle over Floridians! At least the currency exchange is much better than when we arrived, which helps.

We really enjoy your newsletters as they are very informative and concise regarding business & government news. We’ve been thinking of moving from Benalmádena into Málaga city as there is a lot more to do & you don’t need a car. We just renewed our non-lucrative visa for 2 years. Have not seen our tax bill yet, but if it is as high as I am expecting, we may not actually be able to afford to stay in Spain in the future, as it will end up depleting our savings.


Public policy in Spain is drafted with a mixture of the four Is: Ideology, Ignorance, Indifference, and Indolence.


During the 3 years since the shock referendum verdict of mid 2016, there’s been a lot of talk of a Hard Brexit which would – eventually – remove from Brits all the rights they’ve had in the EU for several decades. These would include access to the Spanish healthcare system and visa-free travel for Brits and their kids. On top of this, there’d be new bureaucratic hurdles, including a different ID card to reflect our inferior status. For more information on the threats to Brits, try putting “Sue Wilson” or “Bremain” into the search box of The Local. 

I’ve never believed things would come to such a pass – relying both on a belief in the power of the British Establishment to stop it and the common sense among all parties. At the back of my mind, there was also the security of knowing I could retain my rights by obtaining either Spanish or Irish nationality. 

But it wasn’t until early this year that I was motivated by Conservative party developments – to investigate the respective processes, influenced a little upfront by the fact I’d heard a friend complain – over 2-3 years – about how the Spanish option was what’s called here un calvario. And this from a fluent Spanish speaker who’d lived her for many years. An important negative aspect was that the Spanish government doesn’t allow dual nationality and so demands that you give up your British passport. 

So, I took look at the relevant Spanish web page and, finding the English hard to follow, decided to have no more to do with that option and moved quickly to investigate my Irish option. This was available to me because my grandmother was born in Ireland and, thus, my father had automatically been an Irish citizen. Ironically, I don’t think he ever knew he was both British and Irish. As very many folk born on Merseyside are.

Over the next few months, I got together all the certificates and photos required by the Irish government to allow me to go onto the Irish Birth Register. Once achieved, I could claim a passport. When all was ready, I took advantage of a visit to my elder daughter to take the papers to the Irish embassy there and duly lodged them with a nice lady. I now wait on confirmation of registration. This used to take only 6 months but, such has been the rise in applications, it could now take 9 or even 12.

This article is a (shallow) comparison between the Spanish and Irish processes and my caveat is that I’m much more familiar with the latter than the former. So, it’s not something to rely on if you’ve no choice but to go the Spanish route. The government page will be a good start as regards this – if you can figure out what the English text means – but must, I’m sure, be augmented by talking to someone who knows more than I do about it. And I’m told that many people need to take at least an interpreter with them when they go to talk to the Registro Civil about their application. Possibly even a gestor.

One final point in this preamble . . . I don’t know much about the challenge of getting British nationality . other than the residence requirement is 5 years, against a norm of 10 in Spain – so I can’t compare it with either that of Ireland or Spain

All that said, this is my overview of  how the challenges differ. I won’t be at all surprised – or upset – to be told I’ve got some things wrong.


The Irish process involves, firstly, an application to go on the Irish Birth Registration and, secondly, a passport application. 

The Spanish process involves at least one (multi-stepped) stage and probably a subsequent passport application.

Who to Apply to?

Spain: The Ministerio de Justicia. 

Ireland: The Dept of foreign Affairs and Trade.


Spain: I think on the internet but suspect visits to some offices will also be involved. 

Ireland: Only on line.

Web Page Information 

Spain: http://www.mjusticia.gob.es/cs/Satellite/Portal/en/ciudadanos/tramites-gestiones-personales/nacionalidad-residencia    

Ireland: https://www.dfa.ie/citizenship/born-abroad/registering-a-foreign-birth/

Time from start to finish

Spain: 3 to 4 years, possibly even more.

Ireland: 6 to 12 months


Spain: A lot. See the web page: At least: 1. A period of residence which depends on your status; 2.Certificates of birth etc.; 3. Proof of ID; 4. A Spanish language diploma 5. Evidence of ‘sufficient integration’: 6. Proof of residence; 7 Criminal checks in both Spain and the UK. 

Ireland: 1. A parent or grandparent born in Ireland; 2. Certificates of birth etc.; 3. Proof of ID; 4. Proof of residence.

Most importantly, there’s no requirement for residence in Ireland; your entitlement is based on descendence rom an Irish native.  

Complexity of the Process/Ease of Application

Spain: High. The English of the web page is poor (What is a ‘literal certificate’?); the application form will surely be long and complex; you might have to deal with a Spanish bureaucrat and, if so, the language of communication will surely be Spanish. So, as I’ve said, you might be well advised to pay a gestor help you.

Ireland: Low. There is a short form of only 4 pages with a 2-3 easy questions on each page;  the English of both the advice page and the application itself is very clear; you’ll only have to deal with a computer. Finally, If anything more is needed beyond what you’ve sent, an email will be acceptable. I can’t imagine this being the case with the Spanish option.

Risk of Getting Something Wrong and Slowing Things Down

Spain: High

Ireland: Low


Spain: €102, plus the costs of certificates and of everything else you have to provide or do. A language diploma, for example. The fees of any gestor are, of course a piece of string.

Ireland: €270 plus the costs of any certificates you need to get in Ireland or the UK. An easy process, with  prices for slow or fast delivery. There are several sites which will help you identify the dates and details of the certificates you might need, becaause you don’t already have them.

Keeping Your British Passport

Spain: No (in theory, at least)

Ireland: Yes

Irritation Factor

Spain: High, I imagine.

Ireland: Low

Stress Levels

Spain: High, I again imagine.


Finally, my sympathies go out to anyone who has no choice but to go the Spanish route. And, if you haven’t already started on this odyssey, you might find that any transition period ends before you get Spanish  nationality.

In other words, you really should have started before the referendum was held!


  1. Hmmm. To change my American license to a Spanish one, I just had to present at the jefatura, apart from my still-valid license, documents showing I had lived in the US at least six months before getting my license.

    A “literal certificate” actually means a photocopy of the page in the book the certificate is written in.


  2. Thanks, Maria. I know that Brits now have to go through the lessons and tests and I had assumed that all non-EU drivers do. Maybe you did it a while back and rules have changed, I’ll ask my US friends here.


  3. About your lemon tree. I’ve consulted and got several leads. Steeping nettles in boiling water, and then spraying that water, was suggested. Also, that if the aphids are dead, the tree is recuperating, two sole lemons notwithstanding. The other solution was to go to a store dealing in phyto sanitary solutions. Basically, a garden center, but not one like Leroy Merlín. On the outskirts of Pontevedra there are shops that have all sorts of kitchen garden plants set out to buy. Those stores will probably have things to spray. Just take a leaf in a plastic bag to show them. Keep in mind, they might not be able to sell you the strongest spray, since now you need a special license to buy concentrated products. But they will probably be able to help. A last suggestion is to mix one part of vinegar to ten parts of water and spray with that. Apparently, it’s good against aphids, too.



  4. I switched my license around the end of the last century, no tests or exams. However, a good friend from the USA did his about 5 years ago, and had to go through the process just as a fresh faced 17 year old would, from start to finish. Funnily enough he was failed on his 1st attempt, for not quite giving way enough. He scraped through on his 2nd attempt. He had actually been driving for over 30 years at that point.

    Ref Spanish nationality. It took me about 15 months, and I speak fluently. Also several visits. There always seemed to be something not quite right. A few tips! Make sure all original documents are translated by a legal translator (traductor jurado). Also that they have the Hague apostille (I know I have said that wrong).

    About dual nationality. Spain does not have a dual nationality agreement with the UK or USA. In theory, when you finally get your nationality, you sign a document stating you renounce your original nationality. According to Spanish law, you are now only Spanish. The reality is that neither the USA or UK recognise the Spanish document as having any legality according to the laws of those countries. You DO NOT lose your British or American nationality, and retain the right to return to your home country. You only lose your British or American nationality if you SPECIFICALLY go to the British or American authorities and start the process. There is a caveat, however. You can lose your newly acquired Spanish citizenship, if you are found to be using your British/American passport, at least that is what I was told. The obvious thing when you visit the UK for example is to use your Spanish passport, and avoid any problems. Note: You can no longer use a DNI to travel to the UK. Fortunately Spanish passports are very cheap.

    When I got my citizenship through, I went to the Civil Registry and signed a paper. I then received a document called a Certificado Literal, with the word Tomo plastered across the top. I made an appt online with the Jefatura de Policia, took the paper there and in 15 minutes had acquired a DNI and passport. To be fair, my appt was only for a DNI, but I played the slightly dim card, with a bit of begging thrown in, and got the passport too. They have all the machinery onsite for doing this.

    I imagine the snails pace in getting all of this done is because all petitions for citizenship, while filled out and presented locally, then go to Madrid for approval, I understand by a ‘judge’ or something similar. This alone is slow, but as was my case, if there is an error it is returned to your local registry. They send you a certified letter to go in and see them. You go in. They tell you what is wrong, and you very much start all over again.

    Getting citizenship is only the beginning of a very long and drawn out process of updating seguridad social, hacienda & trafico, not to mention your bank, phone company, insurance policies and so on.


  5. Many thank, Maria. I read last year that a mixture of oil and washing-up liquid would do the trick, so I sprayed the tree with that and it seems to have worked. But my confusion arose because the leaves with all the apparently dead aphids underneath has grown since then. So what killed them????


  6. @David:

    Thanks for all that.

    Yes, getting Spanish nationality was said to take around 2 years in the early 2000s but things have obviously got slower.

    I must say it was quick and easy getting a NIF and and a NIE in 2000 and 2001 and then a TIE a year or 2 ago.


    • @ Colin. My apologies, I failed to mention the most important thing, which were dates. I had had a NIE since the end of the 90s. I started my full citizenship in Jan 2020, and completed it in Apr 2021. It has since then taken me 12 months to sort out all the other things like hacienda & trafico.

      A couple of anecdotes,
      When I picked up my new health service card at my local clinic, the receptionist told me I would need to separately visit each hospital in Coruña to update my records. If you have heard the expression ‘pereza’, this is how I feel about undertaking this task. Maybe next year, or maybe never.
      Trafico rejected my photo 3 times for my updated driving licence, yet it was exactly the same photo as the one I was replacing.


  7. Just occurred to me that, if one gets Irish nationality and so keeps British nationality as well, it’s not necessary to do what you had to do – or were told to do – by way of recording the change in various places after getting Spanish nationality.


    • All the changes in various public depts in Spain are necessary if you change a NIE status as I did to a DNI. Anything done outside of Spanish competency as such, like getting a passport from your country of origin, does not require further action in Spain. Note: I dont include any business here related to fiscal responsibilties and taxes, that is a whole new ball game, of which I understand very little.


  8. Unless it would mean problems at Immigration after using the Irish passport to go through the EU portal in airports . . .


    • Problems arise if you use a Spanish passport to leave Spain, and an Irish one at your point of arrival. That raises a red flag.
      An American friend no longer here, bought two flights separately to go back to San Diego. One to Frankfurt using his Spanish passport. Later that day he flew to SD using his American passport. The benefit being reduced waiting times, no need for filling in an ESTA for the US for example.


    • When I took my NIE in the late 90s, I changed my driving licence, registered with hacienda, did the empadronamiento, and registered at my local clinic, receiving my health card shortly after. For some reason it all seemed easy back then.

      In 2020 I started and attained full citizenship. I lost my NIE as I was no longer an extranjero. I had been granted citizenship. I then went through the whole process of getting my DNI and passport, easy. Updating hacienda done online and easy. Changing my driving licence, painful. Doing my empadronamiento again, easy. Getting a new health card, received & painful, still with difficulties as they messed up my covid vaccination status.

      In terms of my activities abroad. This has nothing to do with the Spanish state where bureaucracy is concerned. I retain UK citizenship, simply because the UK like any other country does not recognise any documents from Spain. If they sent a copy of my signed form accepting citizenship, to the UK, it wouldn’t get a 2nd look. Anyone with doubts ought to ask the embassy.

      Hacienda itself is a slightly different story. Spain has many double taxation treaties and as part of the EU there is also cooperation amongst the partners. Also Spain has improved massively in this area. I dont have much knowledge in this area, but in the past my accountant said if you have significant amounts overseas ie in overseas savings or stocks, declare it. You don’t pay taxes by dearing, but by being open and honest you will not have any problems. You will likely pay capital gains tax when you cash in these overseas savings, if it is paid in the overseas territory
      the most important thing is to get a tax certificate to prove it and show it in Spain. She didn’t state a specific amount, but I got the impression that anything over a couple of thousand euros. Anyone with doubts in this area should find a reputable gestora.

      But activities that are non fiscal such as a passport change or acquisition, or maintaining nationality in another country is not Spains business. And should not be shared.


  9. OK but I’d be using a British passport on exit from Spain and an Irish one on arrival. So, was wondering if this would complicate matters.

    As it might even if I used a Irish passport fro both exit and re-entry, given that I have a TIE as a Brit.

    Assuming they’d check this . . .

    In other words, having got an Irish passport, would it be advisable to go through the rigmarole you described?


    • Sorry. Yes. You may have issues. Serious issues if you use a Spanish passport to depart and an Irish on arrival and vice versa.

      This is because your passenger details should be the same right through the journey. If you travel out on a Spanish passport and then in Ireland don’t use it to enter the country, the red flag is there. The question is ‘hey, where is this person?’. If the Irish flag it, and pull you,at best you get a bit of a rollicking, and it ends there. At worst, it gets back to Spanish authorities, and you risk losing your Spanish citizenship.

      If you fly from Oporto go with the Irish, but make sure when you buy your flight you register the flight with the Irish passport.


  10. Thanks again, again, David. Yes, I know all bout Modelo 70 and declared my overseas assets years ago. Advice from gestors can be inconsistent. A Dutch friend of mine was advised by his he didn’t need to declare after I’d told him he did, as he was above the max of 50k.


  11. Thanks. OK but do you think the risk is as high if I don’t have Spanish nationality, only British and Irish. And I do what would make the Irish passport useful, i. e. depart Spain on my British passport and re-enter on my Irish one via the EU queue?

    Of course, I wouldn’t have Spanish nationality to use in these circumstances, so am not sure what the sanction would be, if any, if challenged.

    Of course, having both passports with me, I could proffer the British one, if challenged. And blague my way through . . .

    As you’ll guess, my hope would be to avoid the calvario you described after you changed to a DNI.


  12. No, if you don’t have Spanish nationality, as in DNI then there is nothing to worry about.

    If you take Spanish nationality, then all of the above comes in to play.

    If you do have a Spanish DNI, but no passport, then all the prior risks still apply.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Note: because of the length of time I have been here, although on a NIE, my green paper stated I had permanent residency. But because of Brexit, I still wanted to retain my FOM in all of Europe amd right to work in all of Europe, hence I took citizenship.


  13. Spanish law, allow foreign non-eu driver’s license holders to drive here for the first 6 months, after which, one skills and knowledge magically disappear and needed to be re-tested. I just went through this charade in Galicia, while holding a clean driver’s licence for 30 years. Stupidity never cease to amaze me, unfortunately it exists everywhere and not just in Spain. I wish it was just a question of money, ie. tax, as I would have happily paid it to obtain the Spanish Carne de Conducir, but I don’t think it is. From my brief experience here, I think there is a mentality of deliberate action to maintain inefficient and complicated system in order to maintain people’s work. Call it Bureaucracy, Socialism, you name it. There are pros and cons. There are so many automated, online, hassle-free services provided in the UK that make life easier. However, cost of living is much higher than Spain and a criminal government waste on ‘on-line IT systems’ is rife. Both are quite annoying to accept and live with, but we go on…


  14. Thanks for that. I suspect your suspicion is correct. Spain has a long record of high unemployment and, until recently, low benefits. As in other similar countries, there is a relic of this in ‘under-employment’ especially in public services, where 2 people are allowed to do the job of one and no one is thanked for suggesting productivity improvements. Which is why I say Spain is sometimes in the 19th century and sometimes in the 21st.


  15. @TenaciouD. Ah, great. I have heard a few stories of people being failed for the silliest things.


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