Step 2: Getting The Visa Pre-reqs

You applied, you got the email saying you’ve been placed, and you’ve finally received that carta de nombrimiento! Now what?

After some trial and error, joining facebook groups to ask questions, and reading blogs of others, I’ve decided to put together a comprehensive list of everything you really need and the best ways to get it.

Getting a visa is a pain in the butt. No wonder so many people travel illegally! It’s expensive, time consuming, and requires many steps. So let’s start with the easiest and move on to the hardest…once you get a few things squared away you’ll feel much better about tackling the hard things.

1. Passport Photos: You need 2 passport size photos, but luckily when you buy passport photos, they come in twos. The cheapest and easiest things I found was Walmart in the Photo Center. They will take the photo with the white background for you right there and print it out within 20 minutes. It’s the cheapest around at $7.88. You can take your own picture and send it in and they’ll print it, but you’re guaranteed to get the right background with the right pose if you just let them take it, and it’s fast and easy anyway.

2. Medical Certificate: This process was long for me, but easy. Schedule a physical, then have your doctor print out what they checked to prove your safe and healthy and disease-free to travel abroad. I even typed up a letter for him to sign but it wasn’t necessary. Doctors are used to this sort of thing and know what to do. Just schedule the physical and tell them what it’s for and they’ll do the rest. Make a copy.

3. Visa Application: First, find out where the Spanish consulate is that your state reports to. I went to the New York consulate, but to find the form you need to fill out, just google “spanish consulate (the town or state your consulate is in)”. You’re looking for a Long Stay Student Visa with Non-Lucrative Purposes. The form itself is pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few ambiguous questions. For example, the Main purpose of the journey is “Studies”; Applicant’s address in Spain is your school’s address; Intended date of arrival in Spain isn’t too important, but try to be as accurate as possible so they know when to get your visa back; for the Data questions, skip down to Data of the educational establishment or research centre in case of applying for a student or research visa (since you are only applying for a student visa, none of the other ones). All of the information for this question is in your carta. Make a copy of this.

4. Money Order: Get a USPS or UPS prepaid envelope for the consulate to mail your passport and visa to you. Which envelope depends on what consulate you go to. NYC consulate asks for a UPS envelope. You can get a money order at a bank or post office – don’t forget to pay for it in cash! The student visa is $160, and the money order usually costs a couple dollars also.

5. The criminal background check: the hardest and most time consuming part. First, if you’ve lived in the same state for 5 years, you can get a state background check or a federal background check. The state background check is done through the state police and requires fingerprinting. In NJ it costs $40.70 and usually takes about a week to get the results back. If you haven’t lived in the same state for 5 years, you have to get a federal background check. Once you get the results back (mine was just a piece of paper saying they completed a background check and nothing was found), you must get it notarized. Do not bring anything other than the background check to get notarized…the notary will sign right on the background check. First, you will sign the background check and the notary will compare it to the signature on your ID, then he/she will sign it swearing the signature is the same, stamp it, and put a date. It is very important that you both sign it and date it, or you will not be able to continue to the apostille. Sometimes the notary is free, sometimes they charge. In a bank, it’s usually free. In an insurance company or law office, they usually charge. It’s usually not more than $3 or $4 per document. Only get one background check notarized. You can make a copy of the entire thing (notarized and apostilled) later. Next, you will need to get an apostille. For a state background check, you can do this at the State Department of the Treasury. For a federal background check, you must get it done in Washington, D.C. I got a state background check, so I won’t comment more on the federal one. Apostilles vary in price and time from state to state. In some states, they can cost as low as $1 and take as little as 5 minutes. In NJ, it costs $25 and takes 4-6 weeks, or $40 for an expedited apostille that takes 8.5 business hours (you will need to go back and pick it up or give them a prepaid FedEx or UPS envelope and it will still take 2-3 days to get back to you). In NJ, mail does not get directly delivered to the State Department of the Treasury so if you mail it regular mail, it will take extra time. Do not get more than one background check apostilled; you can make a copy of it later. The student visa only requires 1 original and a copy of the original. If you get 2 background checks apostilled, you will pay double, which is $80 for 2 expedited apostilled documents. It’s always best to go in person so nothing gets lost in the mail, and you can’t expedite via mail.

6. Bring everything to the consulate! You will need: passport + copy, 2 passport photos, medical certificate + copy, criminal background check notarized and apostilled + copy, your carta in Spanish (which says how much you will be making and that you will have health insurance in Spain) + copy, the money order, and a prepaid USPS or UPS envelope. You can make an appointment online (if none are available, just keep checking, people cancel all the time!), although the NYC consulate stopped requiring appointments/interviews and allows all documents to be mailed in or dropped off. Double check with your consulate before making a long unnecessary trip!

General consensus is that the visa takes about 3 weeks to be returned. It probably takes a little longer if you get all your stuff in early and a little faster if you’re on the late side, like me. Remember, there is a high demand for visas right now before school starts! My inscrita number was over 4200 and I’m sure people cancelled, but I’m also sure they placed a couple thousand of us that are all trying to apply for visas at the same time. Be patient and try to apply as early as possible! And don’t book a flight until you have the visa in hand – you never know if it could be delayed or denied!

For people in NJ, I will add some photos to help you out since Trenton and NYC can be a little intimidating. Trenton is scary, so go to the Treasury building and leave; don’t wander into the ghetto. The address is 33 W State St, 5th Floor; State St is the divider between ghetto and non-ghetto. Try not to venture more than a block in the wrong direction (you will know it if you go the wrong way).

Sorry I didn’t get an actual picture while I was there – but this is exactly what it looks like (it is the brown building on the right – the big archway doors):

33 W State St, Trenton, NJ State Department of the Treasury - notary and apostille
33 W State St 5th Floor, Trenton, NJ
State Department of the Treasury – notary and apostille

The address of the Spanish Consulate in NYC is 150 E 58th St 30th Floor, New York, NY, 30th floor. Here is a picture of the outside view:

Spanish Consulate NYC 150 58th St #30, NYC, NY
Spanish Consulate NYC
150 58th St #30, NYC, NY

Somehow I got in my head that the address was 150 W 58th Street and walked into the back door of a cheap looking hotel (or run down apartments). There was a Spanish speaking guard so I assumed we were in the right place, although I thought the lobby would be a little fancier and there’d be more people around. HA! As soon as I said we were going to the 30th floor, he knew exactly what I did – I went to W instead of E 58th. Don’t make that mistake! The Spanish Consulate does have a fancy lobby with a professional looking guard and lots of people around. And don’t say “Spanish Embassy” – they didn’t seem to like that mistake either! Good luck!

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