Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spanish Student Visa Process: Arkansas Style!

Wow. Today was an adventure. When I say "adventure," I really mean an exhausting drive. I was blessed to get to stay with an incredible family last night (cutting my trip in half from home, Northeast Arkansas).

I left Southwest Arkansas around 5 this morning. I arrive in Houston around 11:15, and finally navigated my way to the consulate around noon.

Here's what I brought:

1. National visa application form: The application forms must be signed and filled out in print. This (LINK!)is the form. It's pretty simple to fill out. I put my current job in the job section. The University in box 31 and one of the BEDA program directors in box 32. 
2. Original Passport and ID: Valid passport for a minimum of 6 months after the indented date of departure to Spain, with at least one blank page to affix the visa. Your passport may remain at the Consulate. Provide proof of residency with a copy of either the following: US Driver’s license, US State ID, Voter’s Registration Card,  current Student ID. I made a copy of my passport and driver's license in addition to giving them my passport. 
3. Two passport size photos: (White Background, 2x2in) One per application form. Cheap and easy at my local Walgreens. It took 1 minute and $13. Walk in and tell them you need passport photos. They'll take it from there... Unless they don't, then smile and find another Walgreens.
4. Original hardcopy Acceptance Letter: As a full-time student in Spain from the Spanish University/School or US program indicating: name, address, telephone and fax number, and registration number with the Ministry ofEducation of Spain; full payment tuition; duration of the program (date of start & date that finishes); subjects of study; hours of study per week (20 at least).BEDA hard copy letters that they sent.
5. Planned Round Trip itinerary/printout: We highly recommend you not to purchase your travel tickets until your visa has been approved. Expedia itinerary. Pretty self explanatory. 
6. Evidence of funds: Provide either of the following:
• Statement from the University/School or US program assuming full financial responsibility for room and board (commonly included in the ‘Letter of acceptance’). I think this is covered in the acceptance letters.
• Proof of financial aid or scholarship of at least $800 per month, for room and board. I don't have this kind of money in the bank, so this wasn't an option. 
• Notarized letter of parents/custodians, assuming full financial responsibility for at least $800 per month, for room and board. Suggested wording: ‘I hereby certify that I the (father, mother, other) of (...), will support her/him with a monthly allowance of $800 while she/he is in Spain and that I am financially responsible for any emergency that may arise. I had my parents write a letter and have it notarized saying they'd be responsible for me. I'm not sure it was entirely necessary, but I did it anyways as it was free and easy. 
7. Health Insurance: Provide Original hardcopy letter from your health insurance company of evidence or travel insurance with international coverage for the intended period of stay in Spain at a minimum of 30,000 Euros (or its equivalent in US dollars). Printed what BEDA sent me.
8. Police Criminal Record clearance FOR STAYS OVER 180 DAYS must be verified by fingerprints. It cannotbe older than 3 months from the application date. The certificate must be either:
a) Department of State clearance original letter form (from the States where you have lived during the past 5 years). It must be legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention from the corresponding Secretaryof the State. This is the option I chose. I've lived in Arkansas for the past five years (Woo Pig/Howl!). I just filled out a form found here and sent it in with $25 and a note that said I needed a letter for my visa. They sent back a notarized letter saying I have no criminal record for visa purposes. Apostille of the Hague was easy to get. I mailed the letter and a $10 check to these people. I can't find where they list the exact address. I'd just call! 
b) FBI Records for international purposes, issued by the US Department of Justice – Federal Bureau of Investigation. They must be legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention from the US Department of State in Washington DC. You must get a police record from the countries where you have lived during the past 5 years. I didn't choose this option. I've lived in the same state for five years, so it was easier to get a state clearance.
9. Medical Certificate FOR STAYS OVER 180 DAYS A doctor’s recent statement (not older than 3 months) in doctor’s or medical center’s letterhead, indicating that ‘the student has been examined and found free of any contagious diseases according to the International Health Regulation 2005’. Must be signed by a M.D. For this, I simply printed off this document and gave it to my doctor. He did a brief general exam and then his secretary typed it up on their letterhead and notarized our signatures. 
10. Self-addressed USPS envelope: Your passport may be returned by mail. Bring a pre-paid self-addressed express mail envelope of the US Postal Service with $19.95 in stamps. Not metered stamp. No other courier service is accepted. If you wish to pick-up your visa in person, you could do so from 1pm to 2pm. I went into the post office in my hometown and showed them this. They gave me what I needed and sent me on my merry way. 
11. Minors (under 18 years of age): Notarized, written authorization of parents/custodians to travel to Spain.   I'm not a minor :)
12. Evidence of Immigration Status in the US [Non-US passport holders only]: Provide a Permanent Resident Card or a US Visa with I-20 I'm a US citizen, no worries here.

• Be advised that additional requirements might be requested No other documents are required.

I didn't sign the forms until I was applying. Also, Houston didn't require me to set up an appointment. I just dropped by, gave them originals and copies of the above documents, smiled, and left. Simple as that. 

Now I have a month's wait to get it processed and (hopefully) approved. I checked at least 4815162342 times to be sure I met every requirement. 

I left Houston and went to the greater Waco area to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and little cousins for the rest of the week. They tackled me when I walked in the door. They stopped their hugs/hand holding/tackles/I-made-this-for-you/can-I-sit-by-you/ONE-MORE-NIGHT-HUG just now... when they went to bed. Today was exhausting, but those two girls made the entire trip worth it. 

The Houston consulate was super chill. The experience was painless. 

It's now time to relax. Best of luck to you if you're applying for a visa! Time for an adventure in Waco, Texas!

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