A personal account of how I, a UK student (pre-Brexit), set myself up in Gijón.
I can’t speak for all regions of Spain, and certainly not for other countries, but I found getting set up in Gijón (Asturias, Spain) far easier than what I thought it would be. I wanted to share this experience to shed some light on the process which will hopefully help others going through something similar.
Whilst this post is solely focused on what I did in Gijón, there are many elements which others going to a different region of Spain (or indeed another country) can take from it.
Welcome and Orientation Day (Comunidad Posting)
Applying through the British Council to be an English Language Assistant, you could be given either a ministerio posting or a comunidad posting. The difference mainly refers to the way in which you’ll be paid. Having been given a comunidad posting, I was invited to a Welcome and Orientation Day on the 30th September in Oviedo, starting at 9.45am and finishing at 6.30pm (I received this invitation by email on 16th September).
There was about 50 language assistants from the UK, France, USA, Australia, the Philippines and even India. After signing in and being given a small folder of information, we were taken down to the event where we were welcomed by the coordinator of the Language Assistants Programme in Asturias (the same person who had been provided me with my school contract and such) as well as others working for the programme.
We then had to do a short activity to get to know the people around us and find out who was still looking for accommodation or needed flatmates. Following this, we were given advice on looking for accommodation, obtaining the empadronamiento, the NIE and the Resident Certificate (or TIE for those not a member of the EU) and were also provided more information on the Language Assistant’s programme and where we could look for more information. This is the website we were provided with. Please note: this site is only relevant for Language Assistants in Asturias with a comunidad posting.
During this section our attention was drawn to the form in our folders which we had to fill our Spanish bank details in. This form had to be stamped and signed with a name from a bank official and then handed back to the Language Assistants Programme’s office in Oviedo, so that they could pay us our monthly financial support of 700 euros. They also explained that this was a set figure and we could not receive more money if we were to work more hours at the school (although, this is not the case everywhere).
Some other key points to note are that this particular programme in Asturias tell schools that language assistants must only work 4 consecutive days (so Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday) and that, if they have more than one school, they shouldn’t work at both in one day (unless the schools are a 5 minute walk away from each other). They also said that language assistants are not to be left alone at any time with the pupils and should be given a week or two to observe the classes before taking part in them. Furthermore, they mentioned that if language assistants are sick, their timetables should be amended so that they can make up the hours (and therefore not lose money) and that schools should give us a week allowance of timetable change if, say, they need to return to our country for an important event or want to return home for Christmas a week before the school holidays start. Again, though, any hours missed need to be made up. These ‘rules’ aren’t the case in all regions of Spain and certainly don’t necessarily apply to every country; it’s worth finding out such information if you don’t know.
After a short coffee break, we were given a booklet of activities we could try in our classes, all of which were explained to us, including how we could use them in different ways.
There was then a two and a half hour lunch break (lunch not provided). In the second part of the meeting, a teacher (the language assistant’s mentor, in most cases) from each school came to receive information about the programme, similar to what we had been told earlier in the day. Finally, two teachers, who had been accepting language assistants into their school for a long time, shared their experiences and advice, and there were also two language assistants (who had already worked as one and were returning to do the same thing) that also shared their experiences and advice for fellow language assistants.
This orientation day isn’t obligatory but I do recommend going as it’s a great way to meet new language assistants, ask any questions you may have about the programme, and receive vital information that you may not have known otherwise. If you are given a ministerio posting and can’t get to Madrid, you can ask to come to the comunidad posting’s meeting – just be away that not all the information provided will be relevant to you.
Check out my Year Abroad Checklist if you need more information on what this is.
As I already had accommodation set up (you can read about how I did this in my Year Abroad Guide), this was the first thing I did after arriving. The Empadronamiento (padrón for short) is needed to get your NIE, which is needed to set up pretty much everything else in Spain so it’s worth getting it as soon as possible.
In Gijón, the town hall for the public (where you get your padrón and sort many other things) is often confused with the official town hall of Gijón right beside it. The one you want to go to is el Edificio Administrativo Antigua Pescadería Municipal (Calle Cabrales, 2, 33201 Gijón, Asturias) which faces the sea front:
The Ayuntamiento de Gijón is, as far as I’m aware, used by council members for official business and not somewhere you can just walk into without an appointment.
The old pescadería is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays (closed Sundays).
Upon entering, there is a small stand requesting that you push the button for the service you require (I clicked padrón which I think was option C) and it then prints you out a ticket. You then have to wait for the digital screen to call your number and tell you what desk to go to (it will be one of the desks at the big main counter in the room).
I walked up and said in Spanish that I was a student from the UK working in Asturias for nine months and that I would like a certificado de empadronamiento (empadronamiento certificate). I was asked for my passport and rental contract (both of which they kindly photocopied for me). Please note: you need to be a resident in Gijón to get your padrón from this town hall.
My details were typed up on a computer, printed out and I then had to check they had been filled out correctly before signing. Within five minutes I had two copies of my padrón (an A4 sheet of paper stating ‘certificado de empadronamiento‘, and my personal details, including my Spanish address). I was also told I could come back and ask for more photocopies if I needed them.
Before you leave Spain you must desempadronarse. The padrón is a way of showing how many citizens live in a given area. If you are no longer going to be a resident in Spain you should denounce your padrón by going back to the town hall and telling them you are leaving.
Spanish Phone Number
My primary phone while in Spain is my UK number as I have a cheap sim-only plan with loads of Internet data and have great signal everywhere. However, you may find you can only use a Spanish phone number for certain admin-type tasks and so it’s a good idea to get one if you can. I happen to have a spare smartphone which I bought in Spain the year before which had an old Vodafone Pay-as-you-go sim in. Rather than unlock the phone, I decided to go to a Vodafone shop in Gijón (of which there are many) to buy a new sim.
For 10 euros (the cheapest package) I got 20 minutes and 5gb of Internet data, which I have to pay every 4 weeks to renew the allowance and keep the sim active. I was asked for my passport and address (but not proof of it) and paid the first 10 euros in cash in store. The package can be renewed in store, online or over the phone and was overall a very quick and easy experience.
If you decide to set up a contract, consider the consequences of this for when you come to leave Spain, as cancelling a contract is not always a simple process.
Check out my Year Abroad Checklist if you need more information on what this is.
This is perhaps the most complicated part to set up in Spain but not as difficult as I thought it would be.
You need to head to the Comisaría De Policía De Gijón (Plaza del Padre Máximo González, s/n, 33212 Gijón, Asturias) which (from memory) is open from 9am to 2pm, Monday to Friday. You should aim to arrive before 9am as when I arrived at 9.05am, there was already a queue with 20 people. Please note: you must be a resident of Gijón to get your NIE here.
This is what the building looks like:
As soon as you walk in, your bags will be checked. After, you need to take a number from the small box on the counter and then walk into the main room and wait in the ‘Extranjeros‘ (foreigners) section. There is usually one or two people serving at small desks.
After waiting about an hour and a half, my number was called. I went to the desk and explained, in Spanish, that I was a UK student working in Asturias for nine months and that I needed a NIE and a Resident Certificate. The woman explained I had to get the NIE first and then the Resident Certificate (even though I had read online you could get both at the same time). She handed me the EX-15 form to fill out and I instead provided her with the one I had already done. She asked to see my passport and a photocopy of it, which I gave her.
She then gave me the payment form of 9.64 euros which I had to take to the bank to pay for the NIE application. I was given three pages and I had to put my address and phone number on for each before signing them (one copy I keep, one copy the Comisaría keeps after you return the receipt to them and the copy with the line through it is given to the bank).
You just need to walk into any bank, go up to the counter and give them the payment form. It will probably say on the payment form already that you’re paying in cash, so make sure you have the money on you. They will then give you a receipt which you have to give to the Comisaría to prove that you’ve paid it.
When I walked back to the Comisaría, I had to take a new ticket number and wait for perhaps another two and a half hours to be called up again. In hindsight I should have taken a number as I left and then it would have been about my time to be called by the time I returned (but perhaps I wouldn’t have been allowed to do it, had I tried).
After I was called up and I gave my receipt from the bank, I was given an A4 page (with an official stamp) stating my NIE. I asked again about the Resident Certificate and was told I had to come back after my contract with the school had started. I was given another payment form (12 euros) for the Resident Certificate and told that, when I came back after the 1st Octover, I would have to bring the EX-18 application form (which I was given to fill out) the receipt for the payment from the bank, my passport (again), my employment contract (and a copy), my original EHIC (and a copy), and my padrón (and a copy).
Like with the Empadronamiento, you need to go back to the Comisaría before you leave Spain to remove your foreign residency title.
Please see below for details on the Resident Certificate.
Opening a bank account
I decided to bank with BBVA as they offered a free young person’s account and there are quite a few branches in Gijón and Avilés (where I would be working).
I went into the branch and waited to be called over by someone at their desk and explained, once again, that I was a UK student working in Asturias for nine months and so needed a bank account to receive my wages.
The process was very simple. I had to provide my passport (which they photocopied for me), my NIE, my National Insurance number and then confirm my address and Spanish mobile number. This number was verified by them sending a text to my Spanish phone (but they let me set up the app on my UK phone).
They help me to set up the app and explained that I would receive my card in a week. The conditions for this account were that I had to use the card at least once a month (by withdrawing money or using my card in a shop) to avoid getting charged.
I would really recommend BBVA for students living abroad as the account is free and their app and ATMs are very modern and easy to use. I was really pleased with the service I received in the branch (although that may have just been the person who served me).
Before you leave Spain go back to the bank and say that you would like to close it. You can either transfer the money in the account to another one (such as a UK account) or withdraw the remaining euros in cash. Many non-UK bank accounts often charge if they’re not being used, so it’s advisable to close it if you’re no longer in the country. Please speak to your bank for further information on this.
Registering with a doctor
As a member of the Union European, UK citizens can present their EHIC at their local health centre to get an appointment and receive treatment. Please note: you will still need insurance.
It’s not necessary to register with a health centre to receive treatment but it can make the process of obtaining an appointment quicker if you fall ill. My nearest health centre is Puerta de la Villa (Calle Donato Argüelles, 20, 33206 Gijón). Normal opening hours are 8 am to 8 pm, Monday to Friday but it is open 24/7 for emergencies. This is the building here:
According to reception, you can book an appointment to register with a doctor on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 1 pm. As I work until after this time on both days, I decided to not make an appointment. If you do decide to register with a doctor, bring all of your documents with you in case you’re asked to present something.
Before you leave Spain make sure you deregister from the doctor’s by simply going to reception and saying that you will no longer be living in Spain. They may be able to transfer your medical notes to your doctor at home or print out a record for you to keep.
Tarjeta ciudadana (Citizen card)
This isn’t obligatory but is certainly good to have. It’s also free! It functions as a library card for libraries in Gijón, a bus pass (for transport in Gijón) and access to the swimming pools. For more information on what it is, click here.
As I wanted to borrow books from the library, I needed the card. You can apply for it online but I decided to go into the town hall to get it there and then – that is, el Edificio Administrativo Antigua Pescadería Municipal, NOT the official town hall for the city council.
I had to provide my NIE (from which they could find my details on the system from when I had got my empadronamiento) and a passport-style photo. The tarjeta ciudadana was given to me within 5 minutes but I had to wait a day for it to be activated.
CTA Abono Joven (Young person travel pass)
If you’re living in Asturias and will be travelling frequently, it’s worth getting the CTA travel pass. What’s more, if you’re under the age of 31, the prices are slightly cheaper for you! This is the link which will give you all the information on the different types of cards, passes and prices.
There are three options: buying 10 ‘journeys’, whose cost varies depending on how many regions you’re travelling between; the monthly bus pass; or the young person’s monthly bus pass. The former is if you aren’t travelling too frequently and the latter two are for those travelling often. The passes can be used on both the buses and trains.
As I’m under 31 and travelling between Gijón and Avilés for my schools, I bought the monthly pass for 2 zones (click here to see how the different zones work) which cost 37 euros a month – a big saving considering it’s almost 5 euros for a return ticket to Avilés. As well as being able to travel between these two zones freely, I can also use the public transport in these zones. Please note: if you’re travelling between 2 zones only, but you have to pass through another zone to get to the second, you have to pay for 3 zones.
To get the CTA travel pass, you need to apply online. In addition to providing some personal details, you need to upload a passport-sized style photo and proof of your NIE or TIE (I took a photo of the official document I received from the comisaría). Spanish citizens have to upload the front and back of their DNI, which is why it asks you to provide a copy of the back. This isn’t relevant if the back of either your NIE or TIE document doesn’t show an important information.
The card takes about a week to arrive. Once it’s arrived, you need to activate it at a bus station (by giving the card to a worker at the counter). You can then ask them to apply the relevant travel pass to the card or do this online. To use the card, simply tap the card on the big red circle which you’ll see when boarding the bus.
Check out my Year Abroad Checklist if you need more information on what this is.
Having already filled out the EX-18 form I was given and paid the fee of 12 euros at the bank, I went back to the comisaría on the 4th October. It was rather busy that day and even though I had arrived 10 minutes before it opened, I was number 28 in the queue.
When I was called up, I explained, in Spanish, that I already had my NIE and that I needed el certificado de registro de ciudadano de la unión. The office worker took my form and the payment receipt from the bank. She then wanted to see my passport again, another photocopy of my passport, my NIE, my empadronamiento and a copy, my school contract and a copy, as well as my EHIC and a photocopy of it.
Once she had verified all of the information, she printed out a form which I had to sign (concerning my responsibility to look after my own health, etc.) and then I had to stamp my fingerprint on the EX-18 form.
My information was then printed onto a small green piece of card, the size of a credit-card (this is the certificate!!) and she told me to laminate it to keep it safe.
Please look back at the end of the NIE section for advice on what to do with your NIE and Resident Certificate before you leave Spain.
This marks the end of the process of moving to Gijón. I hope you’ve been able to take something useful away from my experience and I wish you luck in your own journey!