My Experience Getting a Student Visa to Live in Spain

Living abroad has always been a life long dream of mine.
Honestly, I look at my family and wonder where in the world I actually came from. My desires and ambitions are so much different than theirs and not a SINGLE person in my family has ever ventured abroad or even had the slightest desire or courage to do so…
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So, just imagine the conversation and looks I got when I looked at my family and said,
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“I just bought a one way ticket and I am leaving my job as a nurse and moving to across the world to Spain, completely alone!”
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I had all the excitement in the world, but not a single person could understand and connect with me on why I wanted to leave my steady, well paid job in order to chase after my dream.
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I was quickly discouraged by others by listening to conversations about how dangerous the world is and how I should go back and rewatch the movie “Taken,” where the beautiful blonde was taken out of her accommodation by scary men while traveling with her best friend in Europe.
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To be honest, until that point, I had watched that movie multiple times.
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Did I fear the thought of moving abroad or stay wide awake at night thinking about the worse case scenarios?

ABSOLUTELY!

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I had NO experience traveling abroad, nor had I ever traveled extensively in the USA.
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However, that fear slowly started to turn into excitement and I made a promise that no matter what happened, I would not allow anyone or anything to talk me out this once in a life time opportunity. 
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My life kicked into fast gear when I made a set decision about leaving America. Changing cities or moving houses is difficult, but imagine moving your whole entire life over seas!
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To be honest, when I first decided to move, I thought it was going to be simple.

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In my naive mind, I just thought that I would buy a one way ticket, pack up my pink luggage and move there. I quickly realized that there would be many obstacles in my path, starting with:
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“How in the WORLD am I going to obtain a visa?”
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I did not even know what a visa was before applying. The ONLY visa that I had ever heard of before that moment was a credit card. I had to do a google search to find out what I was even going to apply for and why I actually needed it.
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PREPARING TO MOVE TO SPAIN
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If you plan on moving to Spain under 90 days, then you are in luck. You are able to travel anywhere in Europe as an American with just your passport. However, you will need to go through a long visa process if you plan on staying in Spain longer than that.

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Many of you might be thinking, “I will move to Spain and just stay past the 90 days without a visa.”
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There are lots of articles on the internet that will give you tips and tricks on how to do this, but I do not recommend it.
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Yes, it is possible that you can get away with it, but there is also a higher change that you will get caught with hefty fines. I have seen this with my own personal experience, so just be careful!

My visa process was a bit long and complex….

This will NOT be the case for everyone and each consulate throughout the USA will have different requirements of what they need, so do your own research about your consulate and do not think that everything I write in this article applies to everyone.

When I applied for a visa, I was a resident of Arkansas. I was required to visit IN PERSON the embassy in Houston, Texas, which is over 12 hours one way from my house!

You must visit the consulate of the area in which you are a resident. You are not able to show just up to just any consulate and apply (at least this is what was true when I applied).

Important: It took me over a month to get an appointment to submit my papers, so keep that in mind when planning your travel or work arrangements. 

Before you even thinking about making an appointment for a future date, you must look online for an updated list of what your consulate requires.

The 3 things that took the most time for me to obtain were:

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  • Federal Background Check: It took 7 weeks from the time I sent my request in, until I received it. I was required to have it translated to Spanish as well.
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  • Apostille from my state capital: this is a document that is attached to your paperwork to prove its authenticity. I had to drive all the way to the other side of Arkansas to pick this up in person.
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  • Full Health Check Up: You will need a full health check up and a note from a doctor saying that you are acceptable for work and study in a foreign country.

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Apart from these three things, everything else was pretty straight forward: 

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  • Money order (no checks or credit/debit cards) to the consulate: $175 total (160 euros)
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  • Updated official bank statements showing sufficient funds during the time you plan on staying in Spain. I only had to show a few thousands dollars, but you need to contact the embassy and find out how much they expect. You are able to show your parent’s bank account if you do not have enough money.
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  • 2 passport sized photos with white background.
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  • Copy of your driver’s license or some sort of ID that shows your permanent residence.
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  • Copy of official birth certificate and social security card.
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  • 2 Application forms printed from online and filled out in blue or black ink, with your passport photos glued in the corner.
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  • Original letter showing full international health insurance with at a minimum of 30.000 euros and repatriation coverage (coverage if you die and they have to send your body back to the USA).
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  • IF applying for a student visa: an official letter of acceptance and receipt of payment from the university or official language school for at least 20 hours/week of classes. You will not be able to take classes at an official language school in order to obtain a visa.
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  • If studying and working as an Au Pair: letter of invitation from the family you will be staying with, working conditions, hours and a family picture.
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  • Small prepaid UPS package: Luckily you are not expected to pick up your visa in person. If you give them prepaid package they will send it back to your home address. If you do not pay for the shipping, they will not send you anything and will expect you to pick it up yourself.
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I submitted all the documents over a 3 day time frame—- Unfortunately I made many mistakes and had to return more than once because I was missing something or had to redo my papers.  Instead of them letting me fix the problem in the moment, they told me to come back the next day—UGGG!

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All in all, it took me 45 days in order to obtain my visa in the mail.
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This was a photo of when I was 23 when I first received my visa from Houston.

This was also my first passport ever! 

 

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This is not a standard time, although they do tell you to wait AT LEAST 1 month. If you have anything suspicious on your background check it could take much longer. You just never know how long it will take, which is why it is so important to NOT book your flights before you get your visa.

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It was a long process, but it was SO worth every minute.

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In June 2013 I set off on a new adventure that totally changed my life forever. Spain is truly incredible and I HIGHLY recommend moving there to anyone!

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Don’t forget to check out: 

SUAN MOKKH: 10 DAY SILENT & MEDITATION RETREAT IN THAILAND

DISCOVERING THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND OF SAO TOME & PRINCIPE, AFRICA

THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comMy Experience Getting a Student Visa to Live in Spain
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