I debated titling this post: “Auxiliares: Why Patience is a Virtue” but ultimately, it will be a source where I attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions about the program. Why is patience a virtue, you might ask? Well then, you clearly haven’t applied to the program! There is a lot of waiting, waiting, and more waiting… Listen, I get it, this is a big change for you and you’re eager to start learning everything you possibly can about your new life in Spain! But let’s be realistic… Upwards of 5,000 applicants must be reviewed every year. Then they need to be assigned a region and then a school… That all takes time! That being said, let’s review some of the questions you will inevitably have.
- What is the Auxiliares de Conversación program?
First and foremost, you should know this is a program that college students/graduates apply to in order to teach English in Spain for a school year. You can access their website here. You are a “language and cultural assistant” meaning that you do not run a classroom, but rather assist a teacher. Some classes may be strictly English, while others may assist teaching classes in science, math, or music (in English, of course). This depends on what grade level you are assigned.
- What do I actually do in the classroom?
Well that varies depending on many factors. As mentioned above, you will be an assistant to a teacher in the classroom helping with English. You should never replace the teacher! This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll only be working in English classes, rather helping with the students’ English in everyday school subjects. An important note: you’ll be teaching British English. While similar to what we use in the States, know that there may be some word/spelling differences! In addition, you will be expected to prepare cultural presentations (talking about traditional American holidays or life in the U.S., etc.). You may be expected to help plan some lessons and maybe even some games or role playing exercises! Your school will give you the most information, should you choose to accept.
- Who is eligible to apply for this program?
- Be a college junior or senior, or a graduate holding a minimum of a bachelors degree
- Have a clean background check, cleared of all violent/sexual offenses (you will need to obtain a background check)
- Be of good physical/mental health (you will need a medical certificate from an MD)
- Hold a U.S. or Canadian passport
- Have English or French (for Canadians) as your first language
- It is also recommended that you speak at a B1 Level of Spanish
- How long is the program and what does it pay?
First you should know that there are 17 different regions of Spain. In the region of Madrid, the program lasts from Oct. 1 – June 30, while most of the other regions last from Oct. 1 – May 30. Some programs may vary slightly, but you will know once you get your school placement (in your carta de nombramiento). In Madrid you work 16 hours per week and are compensated €1,000/month, and while in the other regions you work 12 hours per week and are compensated €700/month. These are four day work weeks, with most auxiliares getting either Monday or Friday off. Hurray 3 day weekends!
- That doesn’t seem like much… Is it enough to live on??
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: Spain is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to live in! If you are willing to share a piso with a few others, rent is incredibly cheap (see my average regional rent breakdown here). It’s most expensive in the region of Madrid – to make up for that, you work more and are paid more. Many auxiliares also look into other ways of making money, such as teaching private English classes. Remember, you’re over on a student visa, so it’s not exactly possible to pick up a job waiting tables or working for a company. Plus, teaching private English classes will pay the best anyway.
- When/how do I apply?
You will apply online by visiting the website here. The application period is open from early January – early April each year. The website will list specific dates. For a detailed step-by-step explanation on how to apply, check out my post: Applying to the Auxiliares Program.
- What do I need to apply?
You will need to submit the following – in PDF format – in order to apply:
- Copy of your college transcript (if not yet graduated) or copy of your diploma
- Copy of the main page of your passport
- A short, 250-300 word cover letter explaining your interest in the program (addressed to your regional advisor)
- A letter of recommendation from a University professor or current work supervisor
- What does the program cover?
- Monthly stipend of €700/month (€1,000/month in Madrid)
- Medical/health insurance – outlined in your carta de nombramiento after you’ve accepted your regional placement
- Orientation at the beginning of the school year
- A completion certificate at the end of the year from your Comunidad Autónoma (region) – sometimes you must ask for this, from what I understand
- How much Spanish do I really need to know?
As mentioned, this program recommends you have a B1 Spanish level, which is to say that you should be able to hold basic (intermediate level) conversations in Spanish. This is because there is no hand holding in this program. Once you’re accepted, you are required to get your visa, find housing, open a bank account, and set up your Spanish cell phone – mostly in Spanish. You will be living in Spain, after all. Now, that being said, knowing Spanish is not a requirement. There is no check to make sure your Spanish is up to par before you head to Spain. There are individuals who do this program who don’t speak more than Hola, Gracias, and Adios and still manage to survive in Spain! If you’re curious as to what your Spanish level is, you can take this test online to see where you’re placed! And don’t worry if you don’t score as highly as you’d like. You will have many months to practice your Spanish before you head to Spain!
- How long until I hear back? When will my status become admitida?
This wait can take forever, I know. I’ve been through it too! It really varies by consulate. I applied in San Francisco and it took a full four weeks to see my application status change! Others heard back after only a day or two. Take a look at my Auxiliares Timeline to see about dates and when you can expect things to move along.
- What about housing/plane tickets?
You’re on your own! There is certainly no hand holding in this program. From the initial application to getting your visa to living in Spain, you’re essentially doing this by yourself. I suggest joining the current Facebook Group for new auxiliares to get some help and meet fellow (potential) roommates. Once you’ve been assigned a region, you can also find a specific Facebook Group for said region.
- Are there other programs that help you out more?
Yes… For a few other options on teaching English in Spain, you can view my post here. That being said, the government program is going to be the cheapest (free to apply!) and pay the best on a per hour basis. But if you are willing to throw down some extra cash, go check out some other options!
- I want to apply with my friend/SO. Is that possible?
Yes! Many people apply with their significant others or friends. The program will place you together (in the same city/region) as long as you fill out that preference in your application and submit together. There is a section in the application that specifically asks you to name anyone you are wanting to be placed with.
- Can I bring my whole family?
Yes, you can. There are a select few auxiliares that bring their spouse and/or children along with them. It gets a bit more complicated (visas, housing, etc), so I recommend finding others who have been through that process for more information. You can search in your Facebook Group or try finding blogs of auxiliares parents!
- How about my pets?
Yes, you can bring pets to Spain. I would recommend doing some research to make sure you follow all of the rules of transporting animals to a foreign country. You can also join the Madrid Pet Lovers Group on Facebook to ask people who have successfully brought their pets with them to Spain. Keep in mind, it may be more difficult to find an apartment (piso) with a pet! If you’re only planning on staying one school year, trying to find a pet sitter/friend/family member to watch Fido may be easier…
- How early should I apply?
You should apply as early as possible. Assignments are handed out on a first come, first serve basis. Once you’ve successfully applied, you will get your inscrita number. This will determine what order you are placed. First year renewals are assigned first, then they go in order starting with inscrita #0001. For a more detailed explanation, check out my post about Applying to the Auxiliares Program.
- I applied late! My inscrita number is in the 4,000s! Will I get placed?
This is the big question! My answer: most likely. There are roughly 2,500 positions available and many people with lower numbers do not accept their regional preference and end up not doing the program. That being said, when positions start getting handed out, you might end up waiting a looooong time before they hit your inscrita number. The first round of positions end up being passed out starting early/mid-May. If your number is quite high, you might not be offered a position until July, August, or even September. In the 2016-2017 school year, they handed out positions much faster than previous years. People with numbers above 4,500 were being assigned in late June, so there is hope for you yet! Just be aware that you most likely will not get one of your regional preferences. They’ll stick you where they have an open spot.
Keep checking the website to see how far they are along the application process. This will let you know if they’ve passed your inscrita number and let you see when the first round ends. In 2016, it ended on June 10.
- I’ve been assigned a region! How do I accept?
There was a little bit of confusion in the 2016/2017 school year, as many of the emails assigning positions did not go through to applicants (myself included). Seeing as how you only have three days to accept or decline your position, this was a bit stressful! A few people missed their deadline and had to email regional coordinators explaining the situation (don’t worry, it was a common problem and all were given another opportunity to accept). Basically, to accept your position, you log in to your Profex Account. (Note: don’t worry if it says “Número total de solicitudes: 0“ as that is normal. Your application is still there, I promise).
Here is where you can see if you have a position waiting for you. Open the Auxiliares de Conversación tab then Gestión solicitudes and Aceptación y renuncia candidatos. Make sure your drop down menu is set to the correct year – 2016 en España in this case – and hit “Buscar.” Now, if you have a position waiting for you, it will be available and a button saying Aceptada will be there. Once you’ve accepted, your status will change from admitida to plaza aceptada (as pictured above). To view your regional placement, you’ll click on the same tab on the left, but this time go to the bottom to find Gestión de plazas y profesores and then Consulta plazas.
Like above, make sure your year/en España is selected and hit Buscar. You will then see your name and a little magnifying glass icon. Click it and it will take you to a page where you will be able to see your regional placement.
- I don’t like my regional placement… Can I switch?
Ugh, don’t be that person! Unless you have a real need (and I’m talking like something serious, like you need to be in a large city due to medical necessity or something), just accept the region you’re given. Or don’t. Wait the three days and your placement will be automatically rejected and handed to someone waiting in line. Inevitably, year after year, auxiliares complain about the region or city/school they’ve been given. My opinion: give it a shot! There are countless stories of auxiliares who were reluctant to accept their position for one reason or another, but they went anyway and had a great time. That being said, there are some success stories of auxiliares switching regions. Some choose to do it by asking if someone else will switch with them. Others email the regional coordinator and explain why they need to switch (simple want is not a reason!). So yes, it’s possible to switch regions, but only when actually necessary. Remember, if you decide to give it another go, you get priority location as a renewal applicant the next year!
- If I decide to reject my placement, will that hurt my chances of applying in the future?
No. If you accept and don’t show up, that will hurt your chances in the future. But simply rejecting your placement does nothing to any future application you may submit.
- I accepted my placement! Now what?
Now you wait! (Remember how I talked about that whole patience thing up top?) You will receive your carta de nombramiento in the form of a PDF email. Some regions may still snail mail yours, but from my understanding, most just email them. This is actually a great time to begin preparing your documents for your visa.
- When will my carta de nombramiento arrive?
Again, patience is a virtue! It’s ok to be eager and excited. You’re taking a huge plunge into a far away land full of flamenco dancing, bull fighting, tapas, and vino. ¡Que guay! But fussing over when your carta will arrive won’t make it get to you any faster. Find the specific regional group on Facebook and you’ll start to know when everyone is getting their cartas. For Madrid, you can find the Facebook Group here. For the other regions, just do a Facebook search and you’ll find it. Honestly, some regions hear back a couple days after accepting their placement in Profex. Other groups, like mine in Madrid, take much longer. Remember, the school year in Madrid doesn’t even end until June 30. Many people don’t hear back until mid-late July, and that’s ok! As long as your status in Profex is Plaza aceptada, your carta will come! That being said, if July comes and goes and you still haven’t received your carta, email your regional coordinator and they can help (just don’t bug them too much before then, otherwise they just get bogged down with a bunch of stressed out auxiliares’ emails and everything takes longer!)
- What do I do after I get my carta de nombramiento?
First and foremost, rejoice! You now know what school you’re at and can start looking into regions and neighborhoods… I highly recommend checking out this Google Doc which has a (limited) number of previous auxiliares on it. You might be able to find someone who was at your school and be able to reach out to them and ask questions like where to live, how to commute, what to expect, etc. If your school isn’t there, again, ask on the Regional Facebook Group. At this point, you can also reach out to your school since you’ll have their contact info on your carta. Be aware, however, that many teachers won’t respond to you during summer vacation! Worth a shot anyway 🙂 And with your carta, you can officially make your visa appointment! ¡Olé!
- How do I apply for my visa?
I have written an extensive post explaining that here. You can schedule your visa appointment anytime during summer, but I would strongly recommend somewhere around mid July to early August (especially if you are in Madrid!). You need your carta de nombramiento to apply and might not get that until July! Turnaround time on visas is usually about a month.
- Help! There are no open visa appoints at my consulate anytime this summer! What can I do?
Keep calm. This happens every year. The consulates only release a few appointment days at a time. Just keep checking your consulate page every day and you will find an earlier visa appointment that you can attend. More spots will open, some people will cancel their appointments, etc.
- My visa appointment is in 2 days and I don’t have my carta/other documents!! What do I do?
This is tough. If you scheduled your visa appointment too early, before you have all of your documents ready, there’s not a heck of a lot you can do. First, you should see if there are any other open visa appointments in the near future. Since there probably aren’t, I would recommend calling your consulate (you might get lucky and find a cancellation). Sometimes the consulates will allow you to show up, have your appointment, and agree to let you mail in your missing documents once you get them. It depends on who you talk to. I have heard that others were able to go to the consulate and get a piece of paper saying that they can show up at a future time without an appointment and get their visas processed. They are not going to issue you your visa before you have all of the required documents, which again, is why I recommend looking into visa appointments sometime around mid-late July/early August, especially if you’re in Madrid. If you have a low inscrita number and are in another region, you might be fine with an earlier date, but mid-July/early-August still gives you enough time to get your visa back before you head to Spain.
- What do I fill out on the National Visa Application form?
All consulates require you to fill out this form. For visa instructions, view the program PDF for an explanation, which you can find on their website during visa application time (around May – September).
- How do I get a background check? A medical check?
Again, you can find that information in my post, here, by scrolling to the bottom.
- Does a DUI disqualify me from the program?
This one is a bit tricky. Theoretically, no, it should not disqualify you. If your history does not include violent/sexual offenses, you should still be able to get your visa. That being said, the Miami consulate used to refuse all visas to people with DUIs. This, however, was a few years ago. In recent years, there hasn’t been anyone who has said they’ve been denied for having a DUI on their record.
- Should I get a state or FBI background check?
That is the big question this year, 2016, as Spain has passed a new law to protect children. All persons working with children must provide a document clearing them of offenses sexual in nature. The question is, does a state check provide that? If you’ve lived in the same sate your whole life, yes, but the Spanish government can’t verify that as many state checks only go back 5 or so years. A federal check should encompass your whole background history in the United States. Some programs, like BEDA, are requiring all applicants to get the FBI check for this reason. As of right now, the consulates are telling the auxiliares for the government program that a state check is still acceptable. I’m not sure what will happen once we all arrive in Spain… If more information becomes available, I will update this. For steps on how to complete a state or FBI background check, click here and scroll to the bottom.
- I’m a US/Canadian citizen living abroad. Can I apply for my Spanish visa from here?
Most likely. It gets a bit tricky, however, as most consulates require you to show up in person in order to turn everything in, but there are ways around that if you are living in a foreign country, legally. The California consulates let you mail your application in, but you do need to send them your passport. Some people have had success by ordering a second passport and keeping one to travel and one to affix their visa. Try contacting your Embassy in whatever country you’re in for more information. Know that you may have to return to the States (or Canada) in order to get your visa back before heading to Spain. Sorry.
- I’m going on vacation this summer and I want to head to Spain without returning to the U.S. Is this possible?
Unfortunately, probably not. If you’re not actually authorized to live in the foreign country you’re visiting, you will have to return to the United States (or Canada) to get your visa processed. The consulate won’t mail your visa to a foreign address. The only way I could see anyone getting around this, is if you obtained a second passport and live in a California jurisdiction where you can apply by mail. Then you could maybe get your visa mailed back home and have mom/dad/roommate mail it to you on vacation… But I would just suck it up, head home to get your visa, and head to Spain after. With three day weekends and many holidays, you’ll have plenty of time to travel during the year!
Well that’s all I have for you at the moment! I hope I’ve helped answer your Auxiliares de Conversación questions. Let me just throw this out there: don’t stress too much! Be patient! Good things come to those who wait 🙂 For additional reading material, you can find the program FAQ PDF here.
Did you find this helpful? Do you have any other questions that I didn’t address? Let me know in the comments!