Preparation. Patience. Attention to detail. Those were the keys to my successful, and easy visa appointment. Like any new challenge – the better prepared, the smoother the process will go, and despite how overwhelming the initial feelings of applying for an international student visa might seem, it is actually super simple!
Thankfully for all CIEE participants, the organization has created and shared an AMAZING that thoroughly outlines each step of the process to help navigate the foreign (haha) waters. The summary – by sticking to the guide and reading it thoroughly, you are setting yourself up for an in-and-out experience that will leaving you thinking to yourself, “wow that was it? Bring it on, Spain!”
DETERMINING YOUR CONSULATE LOCATION
The first thing new participants will learn is that there are only nine Spanish Consulates located in the United States and they are based on region. For most participants this could potentially be the biggest challenge of the process. Unfortunately, if you don’t live in the same city that your regional consulate is located, you will need to travel there for your appointment. I, however, am a lucky man and live in Los Angeles, where one of the consulates is located. From mi casa in Santa Monica to the LA Consulate is 6 miles (a.k.a. one unnecessarily long hour in LA traffic time), but that is nothing compared to my friends who had to get on a plane for their appointment. Wherever your Consulate location shakes out to be, you should have plenty of time to plan transportation.
SCHEDULING AN APPOINTMENT
When it comes to scheduling an appointment, I actually have three examples to pull from. For me (1) and my sister (2), it was ultra easy – we had loads of time between when we got accepted into the program and when we were traveling, so we never felt feel overly rushed. My sister hit a minor speedbump at the appointment, which required her to go back the following day, but she was able to sort everything out in a couple of hours. YAHOO!
For my younger brother (3), his experience was a tad more stressful. The time frame between when he received his acceptance and when he shipped off was slim. Simultaneously, the LA Consulate was booked out the rest of the year which required him to check multiple times a day until a spot opened up for him to claim. But guess what? His diligence paid off – he booked an appointment with plenty of time to spare, and he is currently teaching in Madrid likely spending zero seconds of his life thinking about the last-minute visa appointment.
NAILING THE APPLICATION
This is where the preparation part comes to play. After opening the VISA GUIDE and realizing it was 19 pages long, I was less than stoked. My suggestion – READ IT THOROUGHLY…right away. After reading it once, my level of stoke was back to normal (7 of the first 9 regard consulate locations…nada!). From here, it truly was just about following the instructions. CIEE even includes a line-by-line instruction manual to fill out the visa form so if you do not feel 100% confident in your Spanish comprehension, you are still golden baby. Different consulates require slightly different documents but for the most part, the guide covers everything.
Are you nervous about your level of spoken Spanish? Do not sweat it! After I walked up to the counter all it took was a quick “hablas ingles?” and we were off-and-running. In fact, the representative and I discovered we both had family living in the same city in Indiana and immediately became best friends. My new buddy was able to process my application in less than 10 minutes and said to keep an eye out for an email in a few weeks.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS
Two weeks later…BAM! The confirmation email came and all I had to do was drive back to the LA Consulate to show them my ID and pick up my passport with the sticker of a fresh new student visa inside. Fast forward a couple of months and I am writing this article huddled under a blanket with my estufa maxed out. Looking back, my visa appointment experience was a total cake walk. Follow the steps and you’ll be in Spain in no time!