One of the dearest possessions I have in my wallet is my identity card for Spain, the N.I.E., not because it costs a lot of money to apply for it, but because it time consuming and inconvenient to do so.
For this reason, I was very positively surprised to see that the police in Vilanova has stopped the procedure with queue numbers and instead has started to schedule appointments with the applicants and want to thank everybody involved in deciding on this improvement. The new routine still allows for the police to limit the number of applicants per day, but in a much more humane way than to have us foreigners spending a big part of the night waiting in a square.
Appointments can be made in three ways: By calling phone number 93 816 90 10, by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or through a personal visit to the town hall, ajuntament, in Plaça de la Vila.
As far as I understand things, with the new way to schedule appointments Vilanova has taken a big step ahead of other towns where you still have to queue physically in order to be received by the police. But foreigners planning to live in Barcelona should be warned not to try their luck here. Although all requests are being processed centrally in the end, only the police of the municipality where you live will accept your application.
To make things even smoother in the future, I hope that the Spanish police will one day introduce a web-based application form. By letting the foreigners themselves take responsibility for getting the spelling of their application correct, the officers would not have to spend time deciphering handwriting. Someone might argue that many foreigners still do not have access to computers, but I doubt it. A fast visit to any of the locutorios, combined Internet and telephone centres which you find everywhere in Spain, will reveal that even poor foreigners have learnt to use e-mail and Internet telephone services, since that is the cheapest way for them to keep contact with home.
Finally, since the police here are surprisingly honest about not speaking other languages than the local ones, a web-based application could bring another big improvement without much of an investment since the same version could be used for the whole of Spain. Just imagine how many misunderstandings could be avoided if the application forms would be linked to translations to major immigrant languages. Today I have respect for the fact that a native Catalan officer is already making use of his second language when he addresses me in Spanish, but I must admit that when I arrived here that effort was something I rather expected than appreciated. What I wanted back then was more information available at least in English.