Thinking back to where I was a year ago, it seems silly how stressed I was about applying for my Spanish visa. I had never applied for one before and had no idea what to expect. I was scared that if I got one small, minor detail wrong, they would reject my whole application. Clearly, this was not the case as I have been living in Spain for the previous year.
The Spanish visa process overwhelmed me initially. I was confronted with a long list of documents to prepare, including a criminal background check and proof of health insurance. I would not be able to mail it in, I had to schedule an appointment at the office in San Francisco (meaning I would have to buy a plane ticket as well).
Getting an appointment at the San Francisco consulate is no small task, as their system is a little strange. I needed one three months before I left (so June) but only appointments for July were available. I made and appointment for July and began to check back every day, several times a day. I noticed that occasionally other dates would open up, but they would be snatched before I had a chance to get them. Finally a day came when several opened up at once and I was able to get an appointment for mid June!
The documents I needed included a background check (requiring finger prints), proof of financial status (a notarized letter from my parents), a medical certificate from my doctor (confirming that I didn’t have Ebola or some other dangerous disease), proof of intended itinerary, copies of my driver license and passport, and letters proving that I had a program lined up, as well as insurance, which CIEE provided. The consulate required proof of intended return itinerary as well. Most airlines will not book flights more than nine months in advance, so my proof of intended itinerary indicated I was returning three months before my program ends. I just printed a flight I searched for, do not book plane tickets before your visa is approved.
If you are also applying through the San Francisco consulate, don’t bother trying to call them, they never pick up the phone. CIEE was very helpful with the information they provided, but I also recommend looking up other people’s experiences online too as the information changes often. For example, I thought I would have to fly to San Francisco twice, once to apply and once to pick up my passport, because the information online said they would not send it back through the mail. This was not the case, all I had to do was provide the envelope and postage (luckily a USPS was only 10 minutes away from the consulate). They will mail it to your nearest honorary consulate.
One piece of advice I have: make copies of everything. As you will find, Spain is all about the paperwork and it’s helpful to have your own copies. Also keep everything organized in the order they list on their website. This will make it much easier to go through your paperwork.
I was expecting the Spanish consulate to be a big, imposing building, but it was the opposite. It was tiny. It barely fit everyone there. Also, I was expecting them to be very strict about the appointment time. Mine was scheduled for 9:20 but I was there at 9 and they took my paperwork then. I wasn’t asked any questions at all, it was a very smooth process.
It was quite an experience going to the honorary consulate in Seattle. I got a call from the only guy there, telling me that my visa and passport had arrived. A week later, I drove there. It was confusing, the address was in the suburbs; not exactly the location I would expect for a foreign consulate. I think it’s the guy’s home. When I arrived, I was greeted by the man’s very friendly dog. Once he confirmed my name, he handed me my passport. Seeing my face on that official visa made the anxiety, hard work, and stress of the past two months worth everything.