Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Empathy for Foreigners trying to live in Any Country – Part 1 – Visa Application

I consider myself to be very good at filling out forms, figuring things out, paying attention to details of important instructions...but wow, dealing with a visa application and then the ensuing residence card has been both excruciatingly frustrating and extraordinarily illuminating. I have a pet peeve about being given wrong or bad information - maybe it’s because I write guides - but I really don’t like. And the norm here is to be given information but with critical details left out. And of course all the information is only in Spanish.

I hope that by writing these posts I can spare you some of the headaches I endured.

So for starters, anyone remotely thinking of applying for a visa to Spain, the first thing I will tell you is be patient and allow for lots of time at every stage. Get used to chanting the visa application adage: "There will always be something - and it will never be the thing you anticipate."

The first stage of the process is applying for a visa which you must do from within the United States or your country of origin wherever that might be. You need to determine which Spanish consulate you need to be working with. For example, I live in New England so I had to deal with the Spanish consulate in Boston. You must ask for an appointment by email, and it can take weeks to hear back just on this very preliminary step.

Prior to going to your visa “appointment” you will need the following documents. I put "appointment" in quotes as it is really a day you are assigned and even though you are also given a time, this is not as firm as you might believe. Once at the consulate you wait in line to check in and then it is basically a first come first serve system with whoever the other fifty or so people scheduled for that morning are (hours are only Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 12:00pm). Do not think because you have a 10:30 am appointment that means you will be dealt with at 10:30- leave your whole day open. Also, there is no private, sitting at-a-desk- meeting. You talk through a glass  divider in a room full of people.

You will need your original and 1-2 copies of everything below all prepared prior to your appointment:
• A 2-sided copy of your visa application
• US passport size photos
• Passport
• Statement from your State Police saying you have no criminal record - this then needs an APOSTILLE - a special paper with a seal recognized by the Hague as an international document. This needs to be done in a special department of your state government. You must find out where that is and who deals with it. There is usually a charge per document. The Apostille is attached to the original document. See sample pictured above.
• Statement from your doctor on clinic/office/hospital stationary saying you are in good health, free of communicable diseases
• Proof of housing in Spain– whether a rental or with friends or family
• If you are married and going with your spouse - your marriage certificate with APOSTILLE - see above
• If you are a student you will need your birth certificate - with APOSTILLE - see above
• Proof of health insurance for overseas coverage (find companies online)
• If you are going to work you will need special papers showing you have a job from your place of employment. If you do not have a job you will be required to show you have enough money to support yourself for your length of stay.
• If you are a student, you will need a letter from your school on School letterhead, stating that you are enrolled, you are fully paid, duration of program, areas of study, and hours of study per week, and with the school's Spanish registration number.
• Letter regarding financial means of support – they offer 4 options depending on age and circumstance of student.
• Also for students, if under 18 , a notarized letter from parents stating it is okay for them to travel

Once this is all together you can feel that you are ready for your appointment - you will need to bring cash or a money order with you to pay for the visa.

Remember the visa app adage: "There will always be something - and it will never be the thing you anticipate."

Assuming you make it through the visa application process- you then wait weeks to hear about whether your visa has been approved.

And assuming you do get approved, you then must go back to the consulate and pick up your passport with affixed visa (and bring other identification to prove you are indeed you so that they release it to you.)

If this has all gone smoothly, consider yourself lucky, get on the plane and look forward to the next steps in the process.


Haarlson Phillipps said...

Hi Dorian, sounds like a walk in the park compared with applying for a U.S. Green Card! all the best

Dorian said...

Hi Haarlson - yes I couldn't agree more - every country seems to have their share of inhospitable systems.