About two years ago, my partner and I decided we wanted to live in Spain for one year. We both love Spain and have always wanted to spend at least a year here to learn the language and be immersed in the culture. The trick was finding out how to do it legally, and thankfully we managed to figure it out.
My partner was able to apply for a non-lucrative visa because she has income from the United States. I, on the other hand, do not have income from the United States, so I decided to apply for a long term student visa. I knew I wanted to do a TEFL program so that I could teach English while living in Spain. After doing some research and reading lots of reviews, I decided ITA was where I wanted to do my TEFL course.
I spoke with Stephen Halden who informed me that I could enroll in Spanish courses at BCN Lip after I completed my TEFL course. I opted to study for 9 months after the TEFL program which allowed me to apply for a 10-month student visa.
What are the steps?
The first step was applying to the TEFL program, and then to the Spanish language program. Once I was accepted into both, I asked them to send my acceptance letter via snail mail because you need the original stamped letter when applying for the visa (they sent it by DHS and it arrived within a week). Fortunately BCN Lip sent all of my enrollment paperwork (including the TEFL course start date) in Spanish so I didn’t need to have it translated. Next, I went online to make an appointment with the Spanish consulate in San Francisco. I made the appointment in mid July, and the first available appointment was October 16th. This is something to keep in mind when planning your trip as it usually takes about 3 months to get an appointment with the consulate (depending on where you live). Below is a list of the steps I had to take and the documents needed to obtain my student visa:
- Get a live scan to get fingerprinted and photos for the visa (same as U.S. Passport photos)
- Fill out the National student visa application form (on the consulate website)
- Original up to date passport
- Two copies of your passport
- Two U.S. passport size photos
- Two copies of the acceptance letter from ITA and BCN Lip
- A copy of an intended flight itinerary (they suggest you don’t book your flight until your visa is approved, but they need to know when you intend to leave for Spain).
- An official bank statement (you need to go into your bank and ask for this, you cannot print an online statement). The statement must show that you have at least $750 for each month you will be studying in Spain, or you can get a notarized and translated letter from your parents or someone who intends to provide for you financially while you are in Spain.
- Criminal records clearance verified by fingerprints and the Apostille of the Hague (both need to be officially translated). In the United States, the Secretary of State of each state and his or her deputies are authorized to affix an Apostille (an International certification comparable to a notarization in domestic law) to documents issued or certified by an officer recognized by the state. You must contact the Apostille of the Hague in your state to complete this process.
- Medical certificate from your doctor (you must print the one on the consulate’s website, go to your doctor for a physical exam and have them sign and stamp it with their official stamp). My doctor signed both the English and Spanish portions because she speaks Spanish, but if your doctor won’t sign the Spanish portion of the certificate, you may have to have it officially translated. You should check with your consulate about this.
- Proof of health and repatriation insurance. I used DKV Seguros for my insurance, but there are others out there that may be less expensive. You must purchase insurance and have proof of it before going to your visa appointment. I would recommend beginning this process right away as it took a while to actually get in touch with an insurance agent. One of the catch 22’s with the insurance is that you have to have an address in Spain in order to purchase the insurance. We had the help of a friend in Spain who we were staying with upon arrival, but I believe you may be able to use the address of the school you enroll in. You can check with them before you apply to the program.
- At the time of writing this, $161 cash or money order for the visa application fee (I would suggest bringing cash).
- Driver’s license and photocopy of it.
The Spanish Government has a Sworn Translators-Interpreters web page where you can find a link to a Spanish language list of approved translators and interpreters. You must use a translator who is officially recognized and certified by the Spanish government. We had a few people tell us they were certified by the Spanish government, but luckily we found out they were not before using them. If you check the “Lista actualizadade traductores/as-interpretes” document on the consulate’s website, you will find the approved Spanish/English translators located in the United States.
All the documents that you present at the consulate must be dated within three months of your appointment date. That means you have to procure things like background checks and financial documentation, and then get them notarized and translated and Apostilled and returned to you within that three-month window.
After your appointment date, if you submit all the correct documents and paperwork and are approved, you should receive your visa in about one month. You must physically go to the consulate to pick up your visa, you cannot have someone else pick it up on your behalf (at least this was the case in San Francisco, but it might be different in other consulates). If you don’t live in a city that has a consulate, you will have to travel to the closest city that does have one. Each region’s consulate has slightly different requirements so be sure to check the requirements for your specific region.
The process sounds a bit daunting, but if give you give yourself enough time to gather all of your documents and you go to your visa appointment well prepared, it is not that bad. Also, the whole process is well worth it once you arrive in Spain and get to experience all the beauty and wonders of this country!