If you read my previous post, Landing in Madrid, you will remember that I mentioned how is was more difficult for us to obtain our student visas than to sell our house or all of our possessions. Part of the difficulty was being located in Hawaii and having to contact the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco during their narrow window when they take calls. If you look at the Spanish consulate site at www.maec.es, it will direct you to your nearest Consulate in the US. Then, on the specific city’s website it will tell you the necessary documentation you will need to bring with you for your in person interview. One such document is a certified police record from the local police. I guess this was an unusual request for the Honolulu Police Department, because what should have taken a couple of days to complete took almost a month to have returned to us. Then, we had to get an Apostille from our Lieutenant Governor to certify our police record. After no response from the their office, my husband and I went down to his office and waited till it was signed. We even ended up getting fingerprints to send to the FBI to verify that we didn’t have a criminal record, which was a recommendation from the school because they had a student that went to the Consulate in Los Angeles, and discovered that they request this. Also, you can apply for your visa no more than 90 days in advance of when you plan to enter Spain, and you must have the Visa in hand 30 days prior to entering Spain. Plus, once you submit the paperwork it could take 4 to 6 weeks, especially if you are applying for a visa in the summer months. (ours arrived in 4 wks)
Here’s a list of the required documents that we presented to the Consulate’s office:
- Three application forms downloaded from www.maec.es
- Original and copy of passport (make sure it hasn’t expired or won’t expire while in Spain)
- Three passport size photos (we got ours at Costco, or you can go to any AAA office if you’re a member)
- Acceptance letter (this is from your school usually in Spanish)
- Planned Itinerary (your school should include the dates of your course in your acceptance letter, since they don’t recommend purchasing the tickets until you have received your visa in the mail)
- Evidence of funds (we printed out our bank statements, and included a letter from the school regarding my husband’s fellowship, and a letter from our parents saying that they supported us as well)
- Health insurance (this we didn’t have prior to entering Spain, but in the acceptance letter from the school they explained that we would obtain health insurance from Sanitas, a private insurer)
- Visa fee $100 USD for US passport holders
- Self addressed USPS and $18.30 in stamps (as a couple you only need one envelope so they send you your Visa and original paperwork back to you)
- Absence of Police criminal records (ever state is different for obtaining a local police report in Hawaii it was the Attorney General’s office)
- Medical Certificate (our doctor’s wrote a letter saying we were in good health on their clinic’s letterhead. Make sure they include the date they signed!)
- Letter of authorization (if under 18)
- Additional documents-I would highly recommend getting a certified copy of your marriage license, and submit fingerprints to the FBI, the fingerprints we obtained from a local copy who fingerprints everyone who works in the financial sector in Hawaii and then sent them to FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Divison in Clarksburg, W.V 26306)
After this, we finally made our appointment and flew over to meet someone in the Consulate’s office. After waiting an hour past our appointment we sat down with them, only to learn that we needed to provide a certified copy of our marriage certificate, which they hadn’t mentioned on their website. I ended up calling by parents in Missouri, where we got married, immediately so that they could overnight the document to the Consulate.
So, we learned something important through this process: always be prepared for anything. We found that with our consulate that if you have everything, except for one document, then they were willing to make an exception (and others have found that they will let you bring it when you pick up your visa). Also, while we were there we asked about how difficult it was to obtain a work visa for Spain. They said that you would need to be sponsored by a Spanish company in order to get an NIE number to work in Spain (and as we learned later to get a cell phone contract, bank account etc, but more on that later). The other thing the Consulate’s office went on to tell us is that once you have entered Spain with a student visa it is almost impossible to get a work visa, and we would have to come back to interview in San Francisco (although there is a process for this that has become easier since we moved here). So, their advice was if at all possible try to get the work visa prior to entering Spain. I found this to be a catch 22 because most Spanish companies wanted to see that you were already living locally in Spain, before they would even consider giving you an interview.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerio Evteriones De Asuntos y de Cooperacion)-has information about local Spanish consulates in the World, application for visas as well as Residential Certificates, Marriage Licenses, and Birth Certificates.
- If you’re obtaining a student visa through a Spanish academy, such as AIL Madrid, they have clear lists of required documents for a Spanish student visa and tons of experience helping students with this process. It will definitely make the experience a lot easier!