Visa- An endorsement or stamp put into a passport that allows for entry, exit, and stay for a certain period of time in a specific country.
Although we weren’t looking for it, our tale of securing our visas to Spain had all the trappings of a story. Conflict, rising action, resolution, and of course, ruggedly handsome and daring protagonists. Gather round and hear the account of the Swigarts and the Quest for the Visa.
Listen here if you prefer not to read this lengthy article.
Before It Begins
Our journey to Spain started almost half a year before we arrived in September of 2018. The inception was in the form of job applications, specifically to be an English teacher or “auxiliar” as they are known in the country. Lots of generic forms were filled out, and google translate was an omnipresent tab on my computer, checking to make sure I put the right info into the right boxes. Long story short I was offered a teaching position with a company that works with the Spanish government to put native English speakers into Spanish classrooms in bilingual schools. Keep tuned for the adventures of teaching English as a foreign language, as they will pop up here later as another post!
Once said job was secured, I was given instructions from my employers and their teaching program (henceforth known as “the program”) on what my next steps were. They included when I needed to be in Madrid for orientation, and summarized the fact that I needed to get a Visa, and that securing it was really, really important. In fact, they said if I was ever at a junction where I thought I may not be able to secure it, to go ahead and contact them, and assume that my job was forfeited. “Hey, no problemo” we said, and started looking into it.
The omniscient internet helped me with my search of “How to get Spain visa” by providing roughly 7 million results (in half a second no less!) A bit of digging and finding the language selector on the Spanish Government’s website led me to the list of requirements for my visa application. Here is the rough outline of all the documents, just to see it all.
- Visa application form (Original and photocopy):
- One passport-type photo.
- Passport or Travel Document. (Original and photocopy)
- D. Card that proves your place of residence (Photocopy)
- Acceptance letter by the Regional Education Authorities
- Medical Certificate: (Original, photocopy and a translation)
- Certification of “absence of police records” (Original Apostilled, photocopy, translation into Spanish, photocopy of translation)
- Payment of the Visa Fees
- Disclaimer duly signed.
- Marriage Certificate (Apostille, translated, original and photocopy)
- Proof of adequate funds available
- Proof of insurance while in Spain
**Note: some things only were specific to Mariah or me. Example, only I needed an Acceptance letter by the Regional Education Authorities.
Now I want to return the bolded word apostille. This is basically a seal the government that issued a document which states they really did issue it. (Yeah, I was a bit confused, but I guess people could forge documents, so ok.) This process was basically sending the original document back to whoever sent it to you, and then they put a fancy seal on it. Oh, and the seal costs 18 bucks. Not including shipping. Maybe the Spanish government is colluding with the USPS to boost revenue? (File that under conspiracy theories, if Mariah lets me write those) All in all, an understandable process, but one that was quite tedious.
Also each time it says “translated document” it meant sending the documents to an officially sworn-by-the-government Spanish translator. 50 bucks a document, and our documents were 1 page. Not to mention having to ship the documents there and back. Oof.
Last interesting piece: Since Mariah wasn’t going to Spain to work or study under tuition, she had to provide evidence that she possessed sufficient funds to live in Spain for a year. How is it calculated? They take the current Spanish monthly minimum wage X the # of months we would be there and viola, that’s the magic “sufficient funds”. Roughly, it was about 6 grand. Now the consulate website listed several different methods of providing proof, one of which was cash. Yes, cash. Seriously, who comes into the consulate with 6000 dollars to wave in front of workers as proof? I wouldn’t be surprised if they would have asked for a photocopy of all the bills.
Maybe as a joke if we go through this process again we will withdraw 6000 dollars in small change and bring it along. (Southwest lets you take two free checked bags up to 50 pounds each. NO, not possible! 6000 dollars in pennies would roughly 52 thousand pounds. Forget it, too much work, actually, let’s abolish the penny while we are in the business of dismissing)
Ah, but I digress. Sorry, on to the next paragraph.
It’s a date!
Once the documents were corralled into a neat manila envelope (heavily guarded because of all the effort, time, and money we put into it), we needed to take these fine documents to our local Spanish General Consulate. Turns out it wasn’t very local (in Las Angeles), and what was also surprising was the process for setting an appointment. You see, we had to have a scheduled 10 minute appointment with them to hand in our documents and sign something. “Ok, no worries” we naively thought, as we opened our laptop to choose a day and time. Gasp. The next appointment wasn’t available until the 2nd of August, about 2 whole months away. That was a shock, so we quickly locked in that appointment and secured our time to travel to L.A.. I think the main frustration we had that NOWHERE did anyone say or write that you should book an appointment ASAP. The only information we could find said “get your documents in order and then get an appointment.”
I want to talk briefly about the distance to the consulate. We (in AZ) along with our neighbors from Utah, Colorado, and California all had to report to Los Angeles. 350 miles of driving to get there, and then the same on the way back. That’s nothing compared to people coming from Denver, or even Utah for that matter! Even that is nothing compared to those who live in Alaska or Hawaii. They both have to travel to San Francisco to drop off their paperwork. Then they have to return in a few weeks to pick up their visa (or their rejection letter along with their original letter) This is where I started to lose some patience with the process. You are telling me that in the day and age of modern technology and advancement that someone from halfway across the Pacific Ocean has to travel over 2000 miles to DROP OFF SOME PAPERS?! Oh, and then they have to do it again to PICK UP THEIR PASSPORT. I know I was blessed to have to travel only one state over to do my business, but the very principle of it makes me crazy.
So, frustration aside, because, well, it leads to the dark side, and I’m not about to let the dark side ruin things now, we hopped in the car and drove to LA. The appointments we had were for the following morning. We arrived at the consulate with plenty of time to spare, and ended up sitting around with 50 other people in a small waiting-room. It actually looked and felt more like a DMV than a consulate, and it was smaller than expected; just an office building in some large office tower. The process of turning in the papers was in fact really easy, and somewhat anticlimactic. We had just spent months amassing these papers and hours driving them, and they just took them and said thanks. Probably the only exciting thing here was when a man from Colorado didn’t hear his name called for his appointment, and came to the glass partition several minutes after it was past his time. They informed him that he had missed his appointment and would have to reschedule another one and come back. He was livid. I don’t blame him, as he just traveled much farther than we did and was being told to do it again. Thankfully nothing violent came of it, just a raised voice and probably blood pressure too. I think that just speaks to how ridiculous the system is.
Saying goodbye to the consulate, we drove back to Phoenix. Fast forward about 3 weeks and we both get an email saying our visas were ready for pickup. That was great news, and we immediately planned our trip out to LA. Instead of driving, we opted to fly. We had some vouchers left over from when we were on an overbooked flight last year and we volunteered to wait for the next plane. Our plane took off around 8 and we arrived in LA an hour later. We called an Uber from the airport (which was actually quite difficult, since our driver had a white Corolla, and there were just as many white Corollas in the terminal pick up area as there is bacteria on a kitchen counter). 30 minutes later we were back outside the consulate, visas in hand, hailing another Uber. No appointment was necessary and we were just like the burger joint; in and out. 40 minutes later we were scrambling through security to catch a plane that our friend who works for an airline helped get us on. By before lunch time, we were back home in Phoenix. It was a whirlwind, but we didn’t spend any more time in the consulate and LA than we had to.
Visas in hand, we were on the next part of the adventure, getting on a plane and actually going. So, in a nutshell, that was the process. By no means was this meant to be a vent-fest, but rather a recounting of a step in our journey. Perhaps someone can learn how the Visa process works, and benefit from the knowledge we now have by going through it. Lessons were learned and we got a chance to practice patience, quite often actually. Also, it was a story of doing our best, trusting that things would pan out, and if they didn’t, then knowing there was likely a reason for it.
Tips for Your Journey
If you ever find yourself in need of a Spanish Visa, here are my tips:
-Make a consulate appointment ASAP.
-Give yourself 1-2 months to gather all the documents.
-Allocate 1000 dollars of expenses for the process (Travel to the consulate, fees, documents, translations, etc…)
-Take it one piece at a time.