We’re up for our second visa renewal this year. When I reached out for advice from our good friends at YesValencia, Linda asked me if I had ever considered getting a digital signature. The COVID-19 lockdown here in Spain convinced her how important it is to be able to complete most paperwork online. Then she added, “We could file your renewal from home.”
Sounds handy, no?
If fact there’s a lot of government and business paperwork you can do from home. You can use a certificado digital (digital signature) to:
- Register with the Town Hall,
- File your visa renewal,
- File income tax forms,
- contracts and many, more business and government documents that require a signature.
So, how do you get your certificado digital (digital signature) here in Valencia? It’s pretty easy and given enough chances, I’m sure you’ll get it right. We very nearly managed it error free, so it can’t be that hard, can it?
There are three steps you’ll need to complete in order to get and use your certificado digital through the city of Valencia:
- Get a secret code.
- Use the secret code to download your personal certificado digital.
- Install the certificate on your web browser(s).
The only hard part is that you have to negotiate the first two steps in Spanish. But it’s managable, even if you aren’t close to fluent.
Get your secret code from the city
You’ll start out by getting a 25-digit secret code called a código de generación de certificados de ciudadano (citizen certificate generation code). In order to get this code you have to have a cita previa (appointment) at either of the two offices in Valencia that provide this service:
- Oficina de Información y Registro de la Casa Consistorial C/ Arzobispo Mayoral, 1, 46002 Valencia (This is the back entrance of the City Hall building)
- Oficina de Atención Ciudadana de la Tabacalera C/ Amadeo de Saboya, 11, 46010 Valencia
Use this link to the Valencia city cita previa page. Cita Previa. The form is pretty basic so it shouldn’t intimidate you. Just remember the “Servicio” you’re looking for is “CERTIFICADO DIGITAL CP”. You’ll want to use your NIE not your Passport. ALSO, don’t forget to print your appointment document. You’ll need it to get in.
When we made our appointments, they were scheduled about two-weeks out.
At the appointment
What to bring with you:
- Appointment document. Double-check that you have correctly entered your email and telephone number.
- National identity card.
It doesn’t take long at the appointment. I just presented my documentation and chatted a bit in my worse than pathetic Spanish while the nice lady entered my data. She wasn’t sure whether my middle name was an apellido, but that’s it.
You will receive two printed documents:
- a Contracto de Certification, the contract.
Be sure to double check that the email address on the contract you sign is correct. Susan didn't realize there was an error on her contract and that entailed a second trip to the city office. Fortunately, my appointment was the day after Susan's and we were able to resolve the problem easily.
- a Códige de Generación de Certificados de Ciudadano
This page includes the 25-digit code you’ll need to generate your digital certificate. It also includes directions on how to generate the code. The directions are in Spanish. Don’t worry, I managed it and you can too.
Congratulations, you've just completed the first and most stressful step. At least it was for me. I'm always nervous when I imagine my language skills aren't going to be up to snuff.
So you're heading home with a Contract and a Generation code. Why not get your certificate generated and downloaded right away? You have two weeks to generate your certificate before your code expires.
How to generate your certificate (certificado digital)
By the time you get home you should have received two emails from the Agencia de Tecnología y Certificación Electrónica. You'll need the information from both of these emails to generate your digital certificate. That's why I suggest you double check the veracity of your email address when you sign the contracto.
Email 1, Subject: Correo de comprobación de posesión de cuenta de correo
This is an email to confirm that you are the owner of the email account you provided at your appointment. If you received the email correctly all you have to do is click on the link that reads: Pinche aquí para confirmar (Click here to confirm).
You need to confirm your email address before you can generate your digital certificate, which you will do from a link on the second email…
Email 2, Subject: Petición de generación de certificado
This email confirms that your request has been accepted. It includes this link https://genera.accv.es/apsc/frontal/index.htm which opens the Agencia de Tecnología y Certificación Electrónica webpage where you can actually generate your certificate.
On the webpage, carefully fill in your NIE and the 25-digit secret code and the robot blocker. You only get three chances to do it correctly before you have to start all over again with a new appointment. Then click “Authenticar código”.
I forgot to do a screen capture of the next page where you can create a password for your certificate. The password must be between 10 and 20 characters long, and you should use numbers and letters, upper and lower case, etc. You know the drill.
You can skip adding a PIN if you want to, but that means you’re leaving your signature that’s legal on all sorts of documents – including contracts unprotected!!! Really, play it safe. And write down the code in your secure password record keeping place. Click “Continuar” to generate the code and open the download page.
When the download page opens you have an opportunity to view the password (PIN) you just added to the digital certificate. That’s a good time to double-check that you are safeguarding the correct password. I double-checked mine, only to find that I had mistyped a number. Whew, glad I caught that.
When you click “Descargar” you’ll be downloading your brand new digital certificate file.
Not so fast pal, you’re not done. In order to use it you’ll have to install it in your favorite browser.
Installing and testing your digital certificate
Before you install your certificate it’s a good idea to make a backup copy and put it someplace that isn’t on your computer. I use Dropbox, but that’s a personal preference.
Another personal choice is the browser you use. I really like Mozilla’s Firefox browser and have used it for many years, so that’s where I installed our certificates. It was simple.
From the Firefox menu, I opened “Preferences” then selected the “Privacy & Security” tab in the left hand column. On the Privacy & Security page I scrolled all the way to the bottom where I found “Certificates”. I clicked on “View Certificates” to open the “Certificate Manager” popup window.
On the “Certificate Manager” I selected “Your Certificates” from the tabs at the top. Then I clicked the “Import” button from the selections at the bottom.
"Import opened my file manager. I used the file manager window to find the certificate I wanted to import and clicked “Open”. Then I had to enter the Password of between 10 and 20 characters that I was smart enough to keep in a safe location. Firefox handled the rest.
My final task was to check that the whole kit and caboodle was working.
Confirming the installation
You can confirm the installation of your digital certificate by accessing the Personal Certification Services Area (APSC) here: https://apsc.accv.es/apsc. The browser will allow you to select your digital certificate and will ask you to enter the password. Do that correctly and you will access the main APSC screen.
If that happens you’re good to go with your new certificate.
Our next task is to file our visa renewal paperwork from home. I’ll write up that process when we get it done. Meanwhile, we recently finished filing our Spanish income tax Modelo 100 and very nearly, almost, just about did it right and on time (with a little help from our friends). You can read about that here (when I actually write it that is.)
Jamie Wyant is a retired American living in Spain. After a multifaceted career ranging from ecosystem science to digital marketing, he moved to Valencia in 2017 with his wife, Susan, and their senior pets. He writes about the joys and tribulations of living overseas. Jamie also manages the technical aspects of GentleCycle.net