I had less than a month to get a visa in Spain. It was 2012, and I had just received my acceptance letter as an English teacher– a position which started in less than 30 days. The panic built up quickly. How was I going to get a visa in such little time? I tore through forums, Facebook groups, countless websites. Back then, the information I found was piecemeal. But, somehow, I did it. I got my student visa in Spain in less than 4 weeks. Here’s how you can too!
Please also consult with our reading material at the end of the article – you’ll find out that getting Spanish paperwork done is rather an interesting and complicated task and required paperwork can change for each individual.
How to get a visa in Spain?
1. Don’t panic
Really. Right now you’re probably thinking something like, “don’t panic? what are you, nuts? this visa thing is serious stuff, man.”
But trust me on this. It will all work out.
2. Have a passport
Check! See step 1.
3. Check the visa requirements from your state’s Spanish consulate
Each state’s consulate has a list of the necessary documents for visa application on their website.
Because requirements or processes might change by state or depending on what type of visa you’re applying for (for example, whether you have to make an appointment to apply in person or mail in your passport and application), it is always best to check with them first. See step 1.
4. Have a contract or acceptance letter
If you made a public threat to move to Spain after the 2016 presidential election that you want to make good on, you might have to pump the brakes. The reality is that you need a legal reason to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days. So, how do you do it?
The easiest way to stay is to get a student visa. By studying or participating in one of the many paid English teaching programs currently open in Spain, you’ll almost certainly get a student visa. For those going to work as Au Pairs, there is a separate Au Pair visa available.
Work visas, while not impossible to obtain, are notoriously difficult to get. In order to get a work visa, you will have to find an employer that is willing to sponsor your visa application. For various legal reasons, most employers are unwilling to do this. While it’s not completely unheard of for Americans or other non-EU citizens to get a work visa, keep in mind that it will be a difficult process. See step 1.
5. Be in the United States
IMPORTANT STUFF: Unfortunately, you can’t already be in Spain to apply for a visa. You must be in your country of origin. This is annoying and can be financially complicated if you’re living elsewhere, but them’s the rules. See step 1.
6. Get a background check – with an apostille
In order to stay in Spain for more than 180 days, you need a background check. This can be one of the more annoying steps. Government bureaucracy, amirite?
The FBI background check is usually recommended. But, as I found out, it can sometimes take around 2 months to get. That was not going to work for my less-than-one-month deadline. The good news is that you can also get a state background check, which, in the case of New York State, took just 3 days to get back. Thanks, Albany!
Both the FBI and state background checks must carry an apostille– an international certification– which the FBI and state governments provide upon request. Don’t forget to ask them for one! See step 1.
7. Check-up time
Another requirement for the visa is a clean bill of health. You’re required to get a medical note from your doctor certifying that you’re healthy and don’t have the plague. The consulate isn’t particular about how the note is worded. As long as it’s an official note and more or less states that you are healthy, they will accept it. See step 1.
8. Proof of health insurance and financial means
If you’re working or participating in a grant program, this is usually not a problem. But, if not, you will need to look into purchasing health insurance for your stay, as well as providing proof that you can finance your stay in Spain. Acceptable methods of proof include a notarized letter from your parents stating that they will financially support you during your stay. See step 1.
9. Have patience
After turning in all of your documents, you’ll have to wait a bit. In my experience, the consulate will take your time crunch into account and do their best to get you on a plane before you have to be in Spain. If you’re starting to panic, see step 1.
10. Pack your bags
Pat yourself on the back, enjoy a well-deserved drink, cram your entire closet into your suitcase, and board that plane. Bienvenido!
The requirements shown are for stays of longer than 180 days, and may vary between consulates. Check requirements with your local Spanish Consulate. See step 1.
Did you get a visa in Spain? Let us know your process!