Alright, so you’ve officially applied to the Auxiliares de Conversacion Program and now it’s on to the next fun step! Applying for your visa! As you must be aware of now, the program does not assist you with the visa application, so you’re essentially on your own here. But have no fear! I’m here to help (if I can).
In order to apply for your long-term visa, you’re going to need to have a few things handy. Here is the link to the Visa Application instructions for Americans, and here is the link for Canadians for 2016/2017. The information I’m listing below is specific to the San Francisco consulate, which is where residents of Montana apply. While most of the information is accurate for other consulates, you’ll want to check your specific consulate for any variations:
- Your Carta de Nombramiento (which you’ll receive after successfully applying to the program and waiting for months – first years usually begin to receive theirs in mid-May, assuming their inscrita number is low enough. Some might not get theirs until the end of summer!) Bring the original and a copy.
- A State or FBI Background Check – This cannot be more than 90 days old at the time of your visa application! Must be verified by fingerprints. (Update: Some consulates only require name based state background checks). Check your consulate requirements to see what your state requires. Bring the original and a copy.
- A Medical Check from a Doctor – This also has to be less than 90 days old at the time of your visa application. It must be on a doctor’s letterhead and hand signed and dated. For the San Francisco consulate, click here to see an example of what is needed. I think that the certificate is the same for everyone, but check your specific consulate just to be sure! Bring the original and a copy.
- Your Visa Application – Click here to see the San Francisco Consulate Application. For the purposes of this program, you will be applying for a long term visa (any stay greater than 90 days). Bring the original and a copy.
- Two Recent Passport Photos – Your photos must be 2″x 2″ and have a clean, white background. Click here to see a hilarious example of what is acceptable! You can get these taken at a local Walgreens or CVS if you don’t have a means to do it yourself. You can also download an app called PassportBooth if you want to try taking the photos yourself! Remember to bring 2 pictures.
- Valid Passport & Copy – Must be good for at least 6 months after your departure date to Spain. You also need one colored copy of the information page (the one with your name and picture and signature). Your passport has to have at least one blank page to attach the visa. Bring the original and a copy.
- Copy of a Valid ID – This can be a driver’s license, state ID, current student ID card… Basically anything issued by the state with your name and picture on it. Bring a copy.
- Planned Trip/Itinerary Printout – Don’t actually purchase anything until your visa is approved! Mine was a hand typed word document. This is just so they know you’re making plans. Include information like the day you’ll arrive in Spain, the program start/end date, and when you’ll (hypothetically) be headed back to your home country. It can be fairly simple. Include your full name and title it Spain Itinerary or something similar. Bring a copy.
- Self Addressed USPS Express Mail Envelope – This is so they can return your passport/visa/original documentation to you once everything goes through. They say you need to have $22.95 worth of stamps on it (as of 2016). Note that you cannot bring UPS or FedEx, it has to be the United States Postal Service. You may also pick up your visa in person at your consulate, in which case you won’t need this.
- $160 Visa Fee Money Order – This must be a money order. They will not accept checks. If you go in person, they will also accept cash, if you bring exact change. Must be made payable to the “Consulate General of Spain” in San Francisco if that is your consulate (I think it’s the same for every consulate, but double check to make sure). This amount was updated as of April 2015, so check to see your specific consulate visa fees for future dates as amounts may change over time.
Again, while San Francisco has a selection for just the Language/Cultural Program you will be going through, you will essentially be filling out the student visa information.
How soon will my visa come back to me?
Totally depends. Factors such as your consulate, date of application, etc. all play a part. Most consulates say that it takes roughly a month to get your visa back. Personally, my mailed visa from San Francisco took only two weeks to be returned to me. Some people had even better in the 2016-2017 year! It seemed like the LA, New York, San Francisco, and Miami consulates had pretty great turnaround times with some reporting receiving their visas back in as little as a week! Always err on the side of caution, however, and plan on 4-6 weeks, just in case.
As I stated above, the information I looked into was specifically for the San Francisco consulate because I am a resident of Montana. If you’re too lazy to find your visa application consulate, I’ll help you out with the following information:
The San Francisco Consulate – Alaska, Arizona, Northern California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington State, Wyoming (Visa Application) You can also click here to find out more information about the Language & Cultural Visa Application for San Francisco. You CAN apply by mail.
The Boston Consulate – Maine, Massachussets, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont (Visa Application) You can also click here to find out more information about the Language & Cultural Visa Application for Boston. You must apply in person.
The Chicago Consulate – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesotta, Missouri, Wisconsin (Visa Application) You can also click here to find out more information about the Language & Cultural Visa Application for Chicago. You must apply in person.
The Houston Consulate – Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas (Visa Application) You can also click here to find out more information about the Language & Cultural Visa Application for Houston. You must apply in person.
The Los Angeles Consulate – California (counties: Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Barbara y Ventura), Arizona, Colorado, Utah (Visa Application) You can also click here to find out more information about the Language & Cultural Visa Application for Los Angeles. You CAN apply by mail.
The Miami Consulate – Florida, South Carolina, Georgia (Visa Application) You can also click here to find out more information about the Language & Cultural Visa Application for Miami. You must apply in person.
The New York Consulate – New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey (Visa Application) You can also click here to find out more information about the Language & Cultural Visa Application for New York. You must apply in person (note that you don’t need an appointment to apply, however). Update: Applicants in the 2016/17 school year reported speaking to the consulate and being told that you may also apply by mail. I would call/email for verification beforehand, however!
The Washington D.C. Consulate – Maryland, Virginia, West Virgina, District of Columbia, North Carolina (Visa Application) I’m pretty sure you must apply in person (though you don’t need an appointment).
I believe that this is a complete list of the states and their corresponding consulates! Here is a link for general visa information (specific to 2016/17, though I’m sure not much will change soon after). It’s important to know whether or not your consulate accepts applications through mail or if you have to apply in person. In San Francisco, you can apply through mail, which is a huge time saver. Check the Language and Cultural Assistants PDF found on your consulate’s website and see whether or not yours says “Apply By Mail.” As far as I know, only the California consulates let you apply through mail. Certain consulates also require you to get your documents (such as the medical certificate/background check) translated in Spanish (for sure Miami, I’m not sure about others), so you’ll want to check requirements on that too (I gave you the links, you can’t expect me to do all the work!).
You can also call your consulate and ask someone if you can’t find the info on your own.
Making Your Visa Appointment
Don’t delay on this! If you can’t mail your paperwork in, you’ll want to secure an online visa appointment (from your consulate’s website listed above) sooner rather than later. Often times, you’ll find that your consulate won’t have any “good” appointments available. Keep checking! People cancel and appointments open up all the time… It’s worth checking out frequently to get a good appointment. The best time for appointments varies so much from person to person. If you have a low inscrita number and you get your school placement early, make an appointment as soon as you’ll have all of your documents gathered. I know of some who got their carta and then their school placement a week later and made their visa appointments for early June. For certain regions (like Madrid), cartas come out much later. I didn’t receive my carta until mid-July, which meant I couldn’t apply for my visa until after! Pretty much all regions have their cartas sent out by July’s end, so if you want to be safe, make your appointment for late July or early August – that still gives you plenty of time to get your visa back before orientation in Spain in mid-late September. Again, this all varies based on your own factors: regional placement, school assignment, inscrita number, etc. You’ll also need the following documents in order to apply for your visa:
If you are able to, I recommend using a state background check. You will need a background check from every state that you have lived in for the past 5 years. If you’ve only lived in one state, get the state background check! (For whatever reason, I think Arizona is the only state that requires you to do the FBI check). The state check will be easier, cheaper, and much faster. If you’ve lived in more than a couple of states, however, getting the FBI check will be easier. Keep in mind, though, that the FBI check can take a couple of months (or more) to get back, so plan accordingly! Side Note: If you’ve lived in another country for more than 6 months in the past 5 years, you’ll need a background check from that country as well. I didn’t have to do this, so good luck if that’s you!
The State Background Check
You will need to go to a local police station (or other location) that can do fingerprinting. My police station charged me $11 for up to three sets of prints. You’ll then use the prints to get a background check. You’ll need your background check to be properly notarized in order to take/mail it to the state apostille. The state of Montana costs $10.00 to get your background check done and another $10.00 to get it apostillized. I emailed the Montana DOJ to see exactly what I needed and she told me that the easiest thing to do was to:
- Get fingerprinted at the local police station (in Missoula for me).
- Take the prints and mail them to the Montana Criminal Records Department in Helena to complete the state background check.
- Have the Montana Criminal Records department send the background check to the Secretary of State Apostille with a filled out form and cover letter explaining your request, saying that you need the results notarized and apostillized.
- Include a $10.00 check/money order for the background check and another $10.00 check/money order for the apostille.
- Include a self addressed, prepaid envelope to have the results sent back to you.
- Patiently wait as your request is processed and mailed back to you! Remember, you’ll need the original and a copy to get your visa.
Note: not all consulates require you to get a fingerprint-based state background check. Follow your consulate’s requirements to see what yours specifies (San Francisco requires fingerprint-based checks).
For Montana, you can click here to see the Secretary of State Apostilles Page. If you’re not from Montana (which is very likely), do a quick Google search for your state’s Secretary of State Apostille. The State Apostille will need your background check to be notarized before you can get it apostillized, so don’t forget that step! Like I listed above, your state will most likely require you to fill out a form explaining that this is for a visa and you’ll have to list the country it is for (Spain). Attach a quick cover letter explaining your needs. Here’s what I used:
It typically takes the Montana SOS Office 3-5 days for processing, but I’m sure that varies state to state. You can always call or email your SOS to find out turnaround time on getting yours back!
The FBI Background Check
If you’ve lived in more than one state in the past 5 years, you might want to consider getting the FBI Check. To get an FBI Check you will need to visit this page to see what you’ll need. You should also write a cover to let them know you are requesting a notarized background check to apply for a long term visa and that you’ll need it to have a signature of the official’s name, title and seal of the agency.
- Get your fingerprints done on a FD 258 Form, which your local police station should be able to do.
- Fill out an identify form to be sent in with your fingerprints.
- Include a credit card payment form. As of 2016, it costs $18.00 to get this done.
- Don’t forget to include a cover letter explaining you’ll need to have the results notarized, & the signature of the official’s name, title, and seal of the agency!
- Mail all your documents off to the following address:
FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
- Patiently wait for them to mail this back to you… It typically takes between 12 and 15 weeks (yes, 3-4 months).
The FBI check does not require you to include a self addressed, prepaid envelope. All of this information can be found on the first link I posted for the FBI Background Check. Because this process can take a long time, many people use an FBI Channeler, such as My FBI Report or Accurate Biometrics. Unfortunately, this can be a bit more costly! The upside is that it saves you tons of time, which might be important (especially if summer is already here). Instead of waiting 3+ months to get your FBI background check done, you can get it in about a week. You will still need to send it in to get it Apostillized in Washington D.C.
The FBI Apostille
You can visit this link to see the U.S. Department of State’s webpage for Washington D.C. on how to request authentication services for your FBI check. If you’re going to mail it in, complete this form. As of 2016, this will cost you $8.00 to have done. According to their website, you will mail your documents to the following address:
Office of Authentications
U.S. Department of State
44132 Mercure Cir, P.O. Box 1206
Sterling, VA 20166-1206
For the FBI Apostille, include a self addressed, prepaid envelope to ensure that you get your documents sent back! They say the Federal Apostille process takes about 10-15 days to complete once they start it (which may be a few days after they receive it). Plan on about 3 weeks to receive the FBI Apostille back.
Keep in mind, I used the state background check. As far as I know, the information provided is accurate for the FBI check, but do your own research too! I’m here to help if I can, but some effort on your part is required 😉
Like the background check, your medical certificate will need to be less than 90 days old at the time of your visa application. It must be filled out by a Medical Doctor (MD) with an official letterhead from your doctor. This letter should indicate that you have been examined and found free of any contagious diseases according to the International Health Regulation 2005. Click here to see an example of what the letter should look like. That link is specifically for the San Francisco consulate, but I think the medical certification is the same for all consulates. Double check your consulate’s website to see what exactly you need. It can be in Spanish or English, but some consulates will require you to have the Spanish translations.
A fairly generic letter, remember to keep it for getting your TIE/NIE in Spain!
If you have a typical doctor that you go to, simply call and make an appointment. The more your doctor knows you, the easier this will be to have completed. Some doctors might require a simple physical. Others will want blood work done… You might also need to get up to date immunizations, but this is a fairly simple process. Explain that you need this letter for your Spanish visa application and it must be on the MD’s letterhead and hand signed and dated. If you don’t have a typical doctor that you visit, just call ahead and explain what you need and ask whether or not the MD will complete this for you. I’m sure most will! Good luck!
Wahoo! You’re almost done! Now you know how to get your background check and medical certificate, so the rest is fairly simple. Scroll back up to the top to make sure you have everything (numbers 1-10) checked off your list! Don’t forget to download your corresponding Visa Application form to be sent in with the rest of your documents. Personally, because I use the San Francisco Consulate, I just mailed my paperwork in. A lot of consulates don’t allow that though, so you may have to make an appointment and go in person to get your visa paperwork turned in. Visit your consulate’s website (which I have listed above) to see how to go about making an appointment. Before you go, head to your local post office and make sure you bring with you a self addressed Express Mail Envelope with $22.95 worth of postage. Make sure you get the information to track it! This is what they’ll use to mail back your passport and visa, so you’ll want to know where it’s at, at all times! While you’re there, you can also get your $160 money order made payable to “Consulate General of Spain” in most cases (check your specific consulate website to verify – listed under “Visa Fees”). You can also get your money order from a bank or bring exact change in cash if you go in person.
And that’s it! Yes, it’s a lot of stuff to remember, but it’s really not too bad. A lot of people like to tell you how horrible and bureaucratically painful the process is, but I feel it’s more about being prepared. Know what you need ahead of time, and if you’re not sure, call! Someone will have the answer for you. Bring extra [colored] copies of everything (can’t hurt) and double-check your consulate’s visa requirements to make sure you have everything you need!
*Remember that the turnaround time to get your passport/visa back can take around a month! The consulates are especially busy towards the end of summer, so try to get your stuff in as soon as you can to ensure that you get yours back with enough time left before you head to Spain. Keep all of your original documentation too. You’ll want to have that in Spain when you apply for your TIE/NIE (which you’ll need to do in order to open a bank account and set up a cell phone). But you can worry about that later! For now, just relax and be happy because you’re one step closer to Spain! ¡Olé!*
Your first set of paperwork is done! Yes, there will be more once you get to Spain, but at least you can relax for now. You’ve stressed out and spent too much time trying to make sure you’ve got everything squared away, but now you’re done. Congratulations! Hope this was helpful. If you had any questions or nightmare visa stories, let me know below! Otherwise, I’ll see you en España 🙂