We Got Our Visas! (A Step By Step Guide to the Visa Application Process)
After receiving the news that I was accepted as a language assistant in Madrid, I knew that both my daughter and I would have to apply for visas. Thinking that this would be about as painless as obtaining a United States Passport, I soon realized that this was not the case.
Tip: If you are planning on traveling to Europe, a passport will only suffice for the first 90 days. After that, you will need to obtain a visa. Since we will be in Madrid for at least nine months, we had to go through the entire visa application process.
The Visa Application Process: Since I had to get several documents together for both myself and my daughter, this ended up turning into quite the endeavor. Hopefully this step by step process will help those who have questions about obtaining a dependent visa for their children.
When applying for a visa for Spain, it is important to first find out which particular consulate you will need to visit for the state in which you reside. Since I am in Tennessee, I had to go to Houston, Texas. Yep, you read that correctly. I had to drive 12 hours from Nashville, TN to Houston, TX in order to get my visa. (I checked into flying, but since I had to bring Scarlett with me in order to apply for her dependent visa, it was more cost efficient to drive.) The Spanish Consulate in Houston services the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
I was fairly salty that Chicago is only an eight our drive from me, yet I couldn’t go there to apply for our visa. Oh well, bureaucracy is everywhere I suppose.
Getting the Paperwork In Order: There are several items you will need in order to apply for a visa. Depending on the type of visa you need, these items can vary slightly. The two visas that Scarlett and I applied for were a student and a dependent visa.
Student Visa: First, I had to get a state background check and get it apostille sealed from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office. You will also need to show a valid passport, driver’s license or state ID, two recent, passport sized photos, an acceptance letter from your program, proof that you will be getting paid, proof of medical insurance in Spain, and a medical certificate from your doctor stating that you are free and clear of all contagious and communicable diseases.
Your medical certificate must include the following: The patient has been examined and found free of any contagious or infectious diseases according to the International Health Regulation 2005. Otherwise it will not be accepted. Getting the correct medical certificate was one of the biggest headaches I ran into, which was surprising since I have a clean bill of health. However, when I realized the wording wasn’t exact on the first certificate I received, I got a lot of push back from the doctor to edit the letter. I’m still not certain why she was so weird about it, but to make a long story short, I ended up going to an entirely different doctor and getting my medical records transferred. Luckily, they expedited this process, but what a headache!
Dependent Visa: If you are bringing children with you on your move overseas, you will need to get a dependent visa for them. If you are traveling solo with your child, there are a few extra documents you will need in order to get everything organized. If both parents are going to accompany the child, then it will be a bit easier, but it isn’t unthinkable if you are a single parent household.
Since I’m divorced, I had to get a power of attorney that both my ex-husband and I signed while in front of a notary public. This basically stated the country we will be living in, along with the dates, and any other countries we might be traveling to. It is essentially a “permission slip” from her dad stating that I have permission to take her out of the country. This sounds a little inconvenient, but it is a good thing to have even if you are only traveling out of the country alone with your child for a short period of time.
I also had to apply for a new birth certificate for my daughter since it has to be dated within three months of the visa appointment, and I had to get this apostille sealed. Along with these documents, I also had to get a letter from the insurance company stating that she will be covered while in Spain, and she had to get a medical certificate clearing her of all infectious diseases with the same wording listed above. Along with all of these documents, I also had to get her birth certificate with the apostille seal and the power of attorney translated in Spanish by a certified translator. I used The Spanish Group, and they were fast, courteous, and got me the certified translations I needed.
The Appointment: The Houston Consulate doesn’t accept walk in appointments, so it is imperative that you make an appointment on their website. I had to make two separate appointments for myself and my daughter. The payment for the student visa is $160, and the dependent visa for a child is $140. They don’t accept debit or credit cards, so you will need a money order to process this payment.
Everything seemed to go well until we were called back up to the window and I was informed that my daughter’s proof of medical insurance wasn’t going to be sufficient. The letter stated that she would be covered “overseas,” but they wanted it to clearly state that she will be covered “in Spain.” Remember that part I mentioned before about bureaucracy? My heart sunk knowing that I wouldn’t be able to complete this trip to Houston again due to financial restraints and timing. Luckily, if you need to amend a document, they give you about 10 days and the option to fax it. After several dead end phone calls to get this corrected, I was finally able to get in touch with someone who was able to get me the correct wording on the proof of insurance letter!
Visa Arrival: If you are not able to physically go back to the Consulate to pick up your visas when they are ready, you will need to bring a pre-paid, self addressed, stamped, priority or express USPS mail flat envelope and take it with you to your appointment. They will use this envelope to mail the visas back to you. They will keep your passport, and attach the visa to the passport.
Leaving our passports in Houston was a little disconcerting, but we didn’t have a choice if we wanted to get our visas. I received an email on Monday from the consulate letting me know that the visas had been approved, and we received them in the mail along with all of our original documentation, on Thursday. Now that we have them in hand, I can breathe a little easier and concentrate on finishing up all of this packing!