Before we got here. The many steps to visaland.
Before we got here. Or more like, how we got here.
So, you now know of our dream of living abroad, where it started and how it became Spain, but you don’t know how difficult it was to navigate. Sure, we said to ourselves about 3 or 4 years ago that Spain was the place, but you can’t just up and move to another country. They will take you for usually a little less that 3 months but then you need some documentation, some papers. And to get those papers requires a daunting amount of work. And, for me, that resulted in many, many frustrating tears.
Like I said in my “Living Abroad” blog, this wasn’t easy. Many of you have commented on that fact. You have said that you checked it out and it seemed too much to take on. But many of you want to do this. And I want to help you. In order to do that, you should hear all about my year-long journey to get our visas. My husband and I divided and conquered our move to Spain and I was the one who took on the visa process. I feel like that is the best way to do it. There are entirely too many moving parts and documents to acquire to try to give one person a couple of documents and another a few more. In the end, if you don’t have all the papers they are asking for, your visa processing is delayed.
How to get started? Once you choose your country, you need to go to the embassy website to make sure of what the requirements include. For Spain, the list is extensive and within the list, confusing. Words came up that I had never heard of like “Apostille of the Hauge” and terms I thought I knew like, “official translator”, I needed defined. I gave myself one year from beginning of inquiry to getting my visa. I knew it would take me awhile with work and the kids and, frankly, I didn’t want extra stress. I consulted an immigration lawyer and she helped me understand what the website was saying as a lot of it is unclear, or leaves you with more questions.
First off, you need to decide how long you are going. If you are a student, this is much easier for you and you will not need everything I am telling you. Also, your school may help you with many of these things. And, if you are not going for an entire year, you could look at getting a Schengen Visa. I won’t go into that as that would have been a more complicated option for us, having to leave the Schengen region every 90 days or so. Just wasn’t for us. But you should check it out. We went for a full Non- Lucrative Resident Visa (Visado de Residente Permanente)
For a Spanish Visa you need:
- To first and foremost, find out where your local Spanish embassy is located. For instance, our Utah embassy is located in Los Angeles, CA. And while we were there, a fella from Boulder, CO was also trying to get his Visa. Once you know that, CALL OR EMAIL TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT AT LEAST 4 MONTHS BEFORE YOU NEED THE APPOINTMENT. In other words, don’t assume there will be plenty of appointments when you need one. Plan ahead. But bare in mind that you can only apply for visas a certain number of days before the desired start of your visa. Some only 90 days.
- Copies of passports (easy) and your actual passport but make sure your passport doesn’t expire for at least 2 ½ years from the start of this process. You need one year abroad plus 6 months extra. And we had to leave our passports!
- Copies of driver’s license.
- Your marriage license legalized with an “Apostille of the Hauge” which means that to you have to take your marriage license down to the state capitol from which you were married and drop it off at the Lt. Governor’s office. (this was easy for us as we were married in Utah and the office is easily accessible.) It only costs $15 and you can pay by credit card or check. It is returned to you in less than a week or you can pick it up.
- If you are traveling with kids, you need their birth certificates and those need to be legalized with an Apostille by the Huage from the state in which they were born. (which, again, was easy for us as both kids were born in Utah.)
- For the adults, you will need a background check. You can get this two ways but you only need ONE of the two (originally I thought I needed both)
- - You can get a state background check or a Federal background check (FBI). Both require fingerprinting, which can be done at your local police or sheriff’s office for free (check their hours) and need to be sent in with the proper forms to the respective addresses. The directions are easy to follow on this one. Once you receive these back, the need an Apostille of the Hauge. The state background check would go to the state capitol again. But the FBI background check needs to go to the State Department in Washington DC, the hours are specific and this requires a bit more time so allow for this accordingly.
- Your 3 most recent bank statements. This was one of the most confusing to me and it will take me a second to tell you why. First of all, they wanted “originals”, not downloaded from the Internet, but we don’t get paper statements anymore, so this worried me. Each time I asked, I couldn’t get anyone to tell me that printed out statements would be approved, so I asked our banker to print them and stamp them with something official. Also, I couldn’t get a straight answer on if they needed the ENTIRE 45 page statement or just the 4-page summary. That’s a big difference (you will learn more on this when I get to the “official translation” section. In the end, I made a gut decision and went with the 4-page summary for the most recent 3 months. (their goal is to prove that we have enough money to sustain ourselves, without working and taking Spanish jobs, for an entire year.)
- A filled out application for the appropriate visa you are requesting. As stated, we needed a Resident Visa but many were applying for Student Visas. Make sure the form is filled out properly. And, if you plan leave Spain and go visit other countries, make sure to check the box that states “multiple entries”. This allows you to come and go.
- A Medical Certificate within 3 months of your visa appointment, on official letterhead and with a hand written signature by the doctor. This form basically says you do not have major, highly contagious diseases like Ebola or others. This was quite easy once I explained the letter. At first my doctor wanted to do a full physical but I had her read the form and she then signed it and I picked it up at the office the next day. You will need this for everyone who is getting a visa.
- Finally, and honestly, the most difficult was our medial insurance. This is different than travelers insurance, which is what is required for a Schengen Visa. This insurance is more like, “I live in Spain and am a local” insurance. It was super difficult because I am not fluent in Spanish and everyone I tried to call only spoke Spanish. I tried to get Skye to translate but she felt like it was too much…translating health insurance terms?! I agreed. The best way to do this is to get it during a scouting visit. Try to figure out a way to talk to a local health insurance company in the city you choose and sign up for the insurance in person. We are using Allianz. There is a list of companies that are on the ground in Spain on the embassy website to choose from. Each region is different and, frankly, each person you speak to might give you a different answer. So, if you fail, try and try again! They will require you to have a Spanish bank account which, again, makes it quite tricky. Luckily, I made a friend on the ground who absolutely saved me on this one. This part had me stressed out the most. I lost hours and hours of sleep over trying to get our insurance.
NOW FOR THE KICKER…
- After you have compiled all of these important documents, EVERYTHING, except the copies of your passports and driver’s licenses must be translated by an official translator who charges by word and document. (this is why a 45 page bank statement was a big deal vs. a 4 page summary) The list of official translators is on the embassy website. It is a long list and not easy to figure out but under Estados Unidos are about thirteen official translators. The closest to us was a woman named Irene in Boulder, CO. She was awesome. I scanned (took a picture on my phone through jotnot) every page of the documents that I needed translated and together we checked and double-checked everything to make sure I had it all. It took her about a week to translate our documents and stamp it with her official stamp. She then sent them to our house.
- At this point, you are almost done. NOW, you need to get copies of everything. In other words, you need to copy the translation of the document and the document. They will need 2 of everything. A copy of your marriage license, a copy of the Apostille of your marriage license and a copy of the translation of the Apostille of your marriage license. Got it? We didn’t have a few of the copies so we went across the street from the embassy in LA and made what we needed and returned it a few minutes later. They were quite patient with us…thank goodness.
- Lastly, you need to bring in the appropriate money order for each visa. Not a lump sum money order for all visas but each person will have their individual appointment. Only one adult is allowed at the window at a time. (this does not need to be copied)
- Bottom-line is, if you show up on time for your appointment and have your papers ready to go, your visa process will go smoothly. If you show up for your appointment and forget a couple of documents, they will most likely let you send them in from wherever you live. But if you are a complete mess and don’t have your s$#t together, they may just ask you to make another appointment, which is tough and expensive when everyone who is applying for a visa has to be present….4 plane tickets to Los Angeles or wherever your embassy is located.
So, we left our appointment on June 26th in Los Angeles with confidence after the patient man at the embassy said, “There does not seem to be any red flags.” We waited until July 12th when we received an awesome voicemail saying we were all approved and could pick up our visas in Los Angeles. Both adults had to pick up their visas in person but the kids did not have to be present. (phew!) However, the process was not complete, it didn’t stop there. I have the important forms from my LA embassy appointment here with me in Spain and I need to take them with me for the final step in my visa process, an appointment at the Oficina de Extranjeria to make my visa official. The nice gentleman (same patient guy) told us that it was imperative, muy importante that we make this appointment immediately upon arriving in Spain. So, we will do that mañana. We are almost to the finish line. Please let me know if you have any questions about the visa process. I would love to make it less stressful for whoever wants to fulfill the dream of living abroad.