Visa? Check!

Two weeks ago I made the trip up to New York to apply for my visa.  My parents and I decided to make a little trip out of it so we stayed at the New Yorker Hotel on Sunday night.  We took the Bolt Bus from Philly Sunday morning around 10 and arrived in New York around 12.  Fortunately the hotel had a room ready for us so we got settled in and then my sister, who lives in northern New Jersey, drove into the city and was able to meet us.  We had a nice lunch at a diner and walked around the city.

The next day was the dreaded visa appointment!  My appointment was at 10:30, so we took the metro to Central Park and walked to the consulate from there.  I had all of my paperwork in my “Spain” folder and was all ready to go!  I had a crazy panic attack on the bus ride up thinking that I left my folder at home, but luckily I didn’t forget to pack the entire reason why we were going to New York in the first place!  The consulate was just how I remembered it.  It was an exciting feeling to be back there again because it made the fact that I’m going back to Spain that much more real.  I didn’t have to wait long until my name was called over to a window.  I spoke with a nice Spanish man who asked for my application first, then for the rest of my documents where he proceeded to do whatever he needed to do with them, including making copies of some.  He kept speaking to me in Spanish, and although I understood the majority of what he was saying, I just couldn’t formulate the words to reply, so I replied in English.  At one point he said, “why are you speaking English?  Aren’t you going to Spain?”  That was the rude awakening I needed.  At that moment, all I wanted to do was run home and crack open my old Spanish textbooks!  I realized that I need to start studying NOW.  But studying can only get you so far.  What I really need to do is practice, which it’s a good thing I’m going to Spain then, right?

I was at the window for what felt like no more than 10 minutes–everything went so smoothly!  The guy handed me back my original documents and said that I would receive my visa in the mail within 2-3 weeks, which is far less time than what I was told before (they say it can take up to 8 weeks).  But it just so happens that I didn’t have to wait 2-3 weeks because my visa arrived in the mail exactly a week after my appointment! They were ridiculously fast!

I was so excited when I got my passport with my visa in it!  It’s even more exciting that it’s my second visa because, once again, I’M GOING BACK TO SPAIN!!!  It’s a completely different excitement than before.  Since it was my first time before, I had no idea what to expect or if I would even like Spain (but, let’s be real, of course I would like Spain!)  But now that I know what it’s like, I’m that much more excited to return!  These 2 visas in my passport represent the amazing adventures that I had, and the new exciting ones that are still to come 🙂  Now that I have my visa and plane ticket taken care of, all I have to worry about is packing!  Ahhh!

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The Visa Process

I can’t believe in exactly 2 months from today I will be stepping off the plane in Madrid!! The weeks are flying by, and I’m filled with a ton of mixed emotions. I’m beyond excited but at the same time I can’t help but feel sad when I think about not seeing all of my friends and family for so long. The next 2 months are going to go by so quickly.

So for the past month or so I’ve been getting ready for my visa appointment with the New York Spanish Consulate. My appointment is for this upcoming Monday and I am officially all done! I remember the student visa process was the most painful part about going abroad the last time I went to Spain. However, that was nothing compared to what I had to do this time around because now I have to apply for the long-term student visa which goes a little bit more in depth. This visa, which the Spanish consulate stamps in my passport, allows me to live in Spain for longer than 6 months. Language assistants are told to get the student visa because we are looked at as “students” in Spain who are being given a grant to work (sort of like a scholarship). Luckily, through BEDA, I’m actually enrolled at the University of Comillas so that makes the “student” title a little less confusing.

I remember my appointment at the consulate last time was very easy and took no more than 10 minutes. It’s really just the preparation that is lengthy and expensive. Here’s everything I had to do to apply for a long-term student visa at the New York consulate:

1. Fill out 2 National Visa Application Forms: I just printed these from the consulate’s website and filled them out with the help from the Ministry’s Guide to the Visa Application.

2. Passport: Fortunately I already have one and it’s good for another 8 years or so. But the last time I got a visa, since it was my first time going abroad, I had to go through the whole process of getting a passport.

3. Provide one of the following: US driver’s license, US state ID card, or current student ID.

4. 2 recent passport-sized photos with a white background: I always have this done at AAA since I’m a card member there. They charge $8 and print them out right there for you. Then you staple these to the application forms.

5. Letter of acceptance as a full-time student in Spain: BEDA mailed me a letter from the University of Comillas that includes all of this information.

6. Health Insurance/International Insurance Coverage: BEDA e-mailed me the information regarding this. There have been speculations of whether this e-mail will be enough but it doesn’t seem like anyone has had problems thus far.

7. Proof of Financial Means During Your Stay: I chose to do the notarized letter from my parents stating that if anything happens, they will be financially responsible for me. I typed up a letter for my mom to sign and we took it to the free notary service at my district office which is conveniently located in my town. I think some people are skipping this step because our letter from BEDA should be enough to cover our financial proof but I wanted to be safe, especially since it was easy to do.

8. A Money Order for $160 made payable to the Spanish Consulate.

9. Criminal Background Check: Fortunately since I have only lived in Pennsylvania my whole life, I only needed to get a State Criminal Background Check instead of the Nation-Wide one which is a longer process which includes finger prints. With this, I just went on the Pennsylvania State Police website and paid $10 for the online background check. It gave me instantaneous results and I printed it right then and there. Then I took it to the district office to get it notarized which was tricky because there was no proof that it was an original document and there was no space for the woman to notarize it. So instead, I logged back into the PATCH website to open up the document and we printed it from her office so that she witnessed that it was an original document. Then she typed an Affidavit statement saying that it was authentic. The consulate also requires that the background check receives an Apostille of the Hague which is basically an even more legitimate notary. To do this in Pennsylvania, you have to either mail it to the office in Harrisburg, or they also take walk-ins which I was planning to do. However, my district’s office was willing to take it there for me so I wrote them a check for $15 (price to get the Apostille). A week later they called me saying it was back from Harrisburg and I could pick it up- they made it so easy for me!

10. Medical Certificate: I had to make an appointment with my doctor (who I haven’t seen in years) to essentially get a complete physical. Then he had to write a letter on a doctor center letterhead stating that I was in good physical and mental health to study or travel abroad. To be completely sure, he had me to go the hospital this week to get a blood test. Fortunately my insurance covered all of this. I’m still waiting on the results but hopefully everything came out OK. Either way, he signed the letter so I’m good to go for my visa appointment! I also feel lucky that I get to go to the NY consulate because different consulates have different requirements with this—some make you get the medical certificate translated and/or the Apostille of the Hague. Thank you, New York, for giving me less work to do!

11. A pre-paid UPS label: This is so that the consulate can ship me my passport when they’re done instead of me having to go up to get it. I went on the UPS website and filled out a “new shipment” and it costs $20.  I printed the label right there.

There are a couple requirements I left out because they did not apply to me (such as applicants who are younger than 18 or applicants who are non-US citizens).  When I first saw this list I felt so overwhelmed, but it turned out it wasn’t that bad at all! It just sucked how expensive it all was. It came to a little over $200, not including making the trip up to NY.  But luckily my parents are coming with me which means I don’t have to pay haha. But after Monday, all I’ll have to do is wait for my Visa to arrive in the mail and I’ll only have to worry about packing and the little things for getting ready for Spain!